396.1/9–1053: Telegram

No. 269
The United States High Commissioner for Germany (Conant) to the Department of State 1

978. Re Department to London 1259; repeated Bonn 794 September 8.2 Venture to suggest that a fundamental problem to be settled before French, British and ourselves are ready for four-power conference on German question is differences revealed between Chancellor’s views and ours in my argument with him on Monday, August 31.3 Although a satisfactory sentence was found for inclusion in note to Soviets, there was no real agreement between Chancellor [Page 633] and position I was instructed to present on behalf of three powers. Chancellor’s position seemed quite clear that any four-power meeting concerned with Germany should be restricted entirely to question of free elections and formation of an all-German Government. Only after such an all-German government has been formed and representatives duly appointed should there be any discussion with Russians of nature of peace treaty or any other aspects of German problem. If I understood him correctly, he believes that if any four-power conference is held and Russian representative endeavors to discuss in any way anything but free elections and formation of all-German government, allied representatives must adjourn meeting or rule discussion out of order. Position I was asked to present to him as vigorously as I could on behalf of three governments was to consider any discussion of four-power conference in a much wider context. I suggest that this difference of opinion must be settled at the highest level and if possible agreement obtained with Chancellor before much progress [can be made] in meeting suggested for Paris early in October. As this month French are in the chair and I should not be able to speak, except on behalf of US Government, it might be advisable to consider a meeting of three HICOMers and Chancellor to explore this problem. I have reason to believe he would prefer this to dealing with French HICOMer or British as representative of three-powers.

If Chancellor’s views are accepted by three governments, preparation for any four-power talk on Germany would be almost exclusively at a technical level and might well be best accomplished here by three HICOMers and their staffs in collaboration with Chancellor and his staff. For example, what methods are to be employed to ensure that Bundestag conditions are met before a free election is a problem which can best be explored here in Germany. Likewise, question of whether or not international inspection of actual free elections would be required is matter on which there seems to be possibility of difference of opinion between Chancellor and ourselves. A discussion of these problems in absence of representatives of three HICOMers and of Chancellor might prove to be rather sterile.

  1. Repeated to London and Paris.
  2. Telegram 1259 reported that the Department of State believed there should be careful tripartite preparation for the four-power meeting and presented a timetable for the circulation and discussion of position papers. (396.1/9–253)
  3. Conant reported on this meeting in telegram 846 from Bonn, Aug. 31 (396.1/8–3153), essentially along the lines indicated in telegram 978. This was the meeting at which the Chancellor finally agreed to the text of the reply to the Soviet note.