PPS files, lot 64 D 563, “Chronological 1953”

No. 260
Memorandum by Jacob Beam of the Policy Planning Staff to the Director of the Staff (Bowie)

Subject: Soviet Note on Four-Power Conference

[Page 608]

Following is consensus of meeting of S/P, EUR, GER, R, etc. held this morning on the Soviet Note:1

(1) The Korean armistice is taken as point of departure for campaign to play up need for relaxation of international tension. Requested participation of China is in accord with communist peace congress line and is played up to aggravate division of opinion between us, British and Asiatic bloc. However, while designed to serve larger propaganda purposes, references to China do not seem to be made a condition for four-power talks.

It is interesting to note that the Russians now adopt as their own the line we took at the conclusion of the Palais Rose Conference,2 namely, that a general relaxation of tension is required for the solution of important problems. The U.S. reversed this trend in President Eisenhower’s April 16 speech calling for specific performance.3

It is significant that the Russians still make specific mention of the question of foreign military bases and armaments.

(2) The U.S.S.R. expresses precise agreement to examine the German question at a Foreign Ministers conference. The Russian position on Germany, however, is much the same as before, stressing unification and a peace treaty but making no proposals on the holding of elections. In contrast to the last note on Germany, no mention is made of taking Potsdam as a basis.4 In objecting to the western previous proposal of a UN investigation of electoral conditions, the Russians are on weak ground in the light of German reaction to current developments in the eastern zone. The Soviet protest against German remilitarization is directed toward French opinion and the opinion of the satellites.

The order of the agenda suggested by the Russians indicates that they may attempt to lead off at a conference with the question of lessening of international tension as a precedent to discussing Germany. Although the Note is ambiguous, it does not preclude the possibility that German questions can be discussed separately and without Chinese participation.

(3) For the first time the Russians indicate that an Austrian treaty is dependent upon a German settlement. This cut the ground from under Gruber who has been attempting an independent Austrian settlement and the new Soviet public approach can be exploited in Austria.

It was recommended that a separate reply be sent to the Soviets on Austria, and before a reply to their August 4 Note on Germany and other matters. It was suggested that we indicate we would agree not to table the short draft (but would not specifically withdraw [Page 609] it) on the understanding that Russia would not introduce extraneous issues.5

As regards the August 4 Note, it was suggested we await German and British and French reaction. Our preliminary feeling was that we should tell the Russians that we are willing to take first things first and to discuss the German problem at an early date (however after the German elections6). While not making Russian acceptance of our proposal on the holding of free elections a condition for a conference, we would nevertheless play up election and human rights issues as being most important points in a settlement.

In our initial press reaction, we will take much the same line as the reported attitude of the British Foreign Office that the Russian Note does not seem to constitute a rejection of our proposal for a conference on Germany but that the larger and complicated issues introduced by the Russians require much further study, in consultation with the British and the French.

According to R, Russian press reports mention the probability of a four-power conference being held in the near future.

  1. Supra.
  2. For documentation on Palais Rose Conference, Mar. 5–June 21, 1951, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. iii, Part 1, pp. 1086 ff.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 183.
  4. For text of the Soviet note, dated Aug. 23, 1952, see Document 125.
  5. For documentation on the short draft of the Austrian Treaty, see Documents 784 ff.
  6. The Federal elections were scheduled for Sept. 6, 1953.