No. 262
The Special Assistant to the President (Jackson) to the Secretary of State
top secret

Dear Foster: While you were away, the Soviet Union sent notes1 to the U.S., Great Britain, and France in reply to the July 15 notes2 of those Governments proposing a meeting this fall of the four Foreign Ministers. I found the Russian reply an interesting document for several reasons:

Despite earlier Pravda fulminations,3 which were tantamount to an insulting rejection of the proposal, they now agree to the principle of such a meeting. There is undoubtedly a whole complex of reasons for their decision. My quick reaction is that there were three main reasons:

Whereas the Russians had expected us to react strongly, we virtually ignored the Pravda editorial, thereby depriving them of either a cue or an excuse.
The Russian position in East Germany, with its continuing deterioration has upset their entire German gambit. The strong-arm methods to which they have been forced to resort have ruined their plan to monopolize the unification cum neutralization theme, as well as their plan to play up to the Socialists in both East and West Germany as a political force to delay or wreck EDC. As of the moment, their main chance of partially rectifying their present poor position, and getting the Germans to stall on EDC, is to accept the principle of the Four Power proposal later this year, and reestablish the bait of hope for unification without EDC or rearmament.
At a time of widely rumored or actual internal Kremlin difficulties, it was necessary for them to make a noise like a smoothly functioning, unified Government capable of embarking on a serious discussion of matters of international importance.

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The note, though it took the standard cracks at the West, and accused the three Western nations of conspiring against them, and raged at the “Fascist adventure in Berlin of June 17 …4 an act of foreign hirelings and criminal elements”, was actually rather mild, and plausibly serious in tone.

Speaking from the standpoint of public opinion both here and abroad, it is sufficiently serious and plausible to make a reply of ours which simply referred them back to previous notes, and did not move a little forward, at least by intimation, appear arbitrary and unimaginative if we are really sincere in our expressed desire for a German and Austrian solution.

The new elements which the Russians have introduced in their reply as conditions of participation in a new conference to discuss Germany and Austria are (a) Chinese Communist participation, (b) placing the lessening of tensions in international affairs at the top of the agenda, (c) reduction of armaments and “impermissibility” of Foreign military bases.

Besides this they have gone into a big smoke screen operation on the question of German unification by picking up the reference in our note to the earlier September 23, 1952 note.5 This note suggested a Four Power meeting, “to discuss the composition, functions, and authority of an impartial Commission of Investigation with a view to creating the conditions necessary for free elections”. (I can only assume that this was a tongue-in-cheek stall at the time, as the proposal could not conceivably have been accepted by the Russians then, and probably not now.)

Naturally, Washington, London, and Paris will be conferring on this, and an appropriate reply will be forthcoming one of these days.

Incidentally, I have just seen a cable from Germany saying that Adenauer hoped we would not be too hasty in our reply, in order to avoid the possibility of upsetting his election apple cart.6 In this connection, if we followed Russian practice and delayed our reply the exact number of days that they took to reply to our July 15 note, we would have until August 27. If we again followed their practice of adding on a few days just to show that we had our pride too, the reply could easily be postponed until after the German elections, and in the meantime, what with their food problem and police defection, their leverage on the elections would not improve, and could very easily deteriorate still further.

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However, no matter what skill we display in technical maneuvering, I think, again from the viewpoint of my particular business, that their note calls for our most thoughtful reconsideration of our German position.

Does it have to be EDC, unification, free elections, or else? This was a very smart position for us to take at the time, because it backed them into giving us some leads. If we persist now in that “or else” position, it becomes very much like “unconditional surrender”—giving them no room for the slightest maneuver, and what we are asking them to agree to, in their eyes and in the eyes of the world would be complete, total, crushing defeat.

I am all for complete, total, and crushing defeat if we really have the leverage to bring it about. But we haven’t, and they know it, and therefore all they have to do is to lay their ears back, and no real progress will have been made except raising hatred of Russia a notch or two in German minds.

You will know far better than I if there are any possible alternatives which would allow the Russians at least a small piece of face and yet move us some steps nearer to our ultimate objective, bearing in mind that concessions work both ways, and whatever improvement is brought about in the lot of the East Germans will simply make them hungrier for more, and make the Russians less and less able to deny them the further steps.

… Maybe tossing the mixed Investigating Commission called for in the September 23, 1952 note out the window would be something we could do quickly and at no actual cost.

… Maybe phasing the overt EDC rearmament of Germany while at the same time making up for the delay by unofficially organizing and arming our People’s Police would be a negotiable device.

… Maybe there is some effective and at the same time acceptable interim political move that could precede unification, free elections, and an all-German Government.

… Maybe, … maybe.

It occurred to me that in advance of a tripartite reply, you might consider it a good idea to send up an American trial balloon. The occasion of your Korean trip gives you a perfect opportunity, in that you will probably want to report by radio or television to the American people on Korea. At that time you could introduce into that talk, on the peg of “While I was away, the Soviet Government delivered a note” … some personal reactions to the Soviet note.

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I am attaching a rough “as dictated” draft7 of some of the points that might fit into such a talk.8


C. D. Jackson
  1. Document 259.
  2. Document 257.
  3. Under reference is the Pravda editorial of July 23 which, while generally negative in tone, did indicate that the Soviet Union might put forward a counterproposal.
  4. All ellipses in this document are in the source text.
  5. Document 138.
  6. Telegram 528 from Bonn, Aug. 5. (396.1/8–553)
  7. This 12-page draft is not printed.
  8. On Aug. 13 Secretary Dulles sent a memorandum to Jackson stating that his memorandum contained “some good thoughts on the German situation and the Russian note.” (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, “1951–1959”)