Eisenhower Library, Dulles papers, “1951–1959”

No. 258
Memorandum by the Ambassador to the Soviet Union (Bohlen) to the Secretary of State1
secret personal and private

In furtherance of our conversation at the British Embassy the other night2 concerning the possible nature of the Soviet reply to the Note on the Four-Power talk,3 while obviously we cannot anticipate its exact nature, I believe the following are the possibilities:

It is conceivable the Soviet Government would accept without qualification a Foreign Ministers meeting and choose for its own reasons to ignore the implications of the “questions” listed in our Note. In this case, there would of course be no problem to a further communication to the Soviet Government.
Judging from the main lines the Soviet Government has been stressing of, (a) the desire for negotiations, and (b) an apparent unwillingness to accept what they regard as “pre-conditions” or “dictation”, et cetera, the Soviet reply might indicate an acceptance in principle of a Four-Power meeting on condition that the questions listed in our Note which they might choose to consider “pre-conditions” or conclusions prior to negotiation be dropped and all participants come to the Conference without any pre-conditions.

I believe we should be considering the best method of dealing with their reply along these lines, since to abandon at Soviet insistence the five points outlined in our Note might be construed as an abandonment of the principles in the Bundestag Resolution.4 Conversely, an insistence on Soviet acceptance of these points as written prior to a Conference might place us in the position of seeking to block any conference with the Soviets while they would be in a position of merely insisting on “equality” for all.

The possible line of answer might be to reply that the Soviet Government had misinterpreted the contents of our Note, which did not contain conditions but merely gave them advance warning of the positions we intended to advance and support at the Conference and that it goes without saying that each participant will be fully free to advance their own positions at the meeting. In any [Page 604] event, in view of the difficulties of tripartite coordination and the great disadvantage of a period of delay in answering the Soviet reply, I would suggest that we should at least have clear in our own minds our line in the event that the Soviet reply was of the nature indicated above.

As a secondary point, I have heard that Vienna was being considered by us as a possible site. It seems to me that Austria, being a deeply interested party, would not be the best site for a Conference and that Geneva or some other place in Switzerland would be more suitable.

Charles E. Bohlen
  1. Copies of this memorandum were also sent to Under Secretary Smith, Matthews, and Barbour.
  2. Presumably Bohlen is referring to a dinner at the British Embassy during the Foreign Ministers meeting at Washington, July 10–14.
  3. Supra.
  4. For text of the June 10 Bundestag resolution, see Papers and Documents, pp. 117–118.