396.1 LO/10–1953: Telegram

No. 310
The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Aldrich) to the Department of State
top secret priority

1674. Eyes only for President and Secretary. Secretary and I lunched yesterday with Churchill, Eden, Salisbury, Bidault and Massigli. As was case at dinner on October 15 (see Dulte 1, October 161), conversation confined entirely to question four-power top-level talks with Russia, but this time discussion revolved around second paragraph of text of proposed communiqué to be issued to press by Foreign Minister yesterday afternoon. This paragraph as drafted referred to the fact that the three governments in their new notes had renewed their invitation to the Soviet Union to attend an early meeting of the Foreign Ministers and continued: “They believe that such a meeting is the most practical step toward a reduction of international tension and a solution of major European problems. They exchanged views on the question of high level talks.” Everyone present had, of course, heard the Secretary’s views regarding question of four-power high-level talks as stated by him to Churchill at dinner October 15 and reiterated fully for benefit Bidault at tripartite Foreign Minister meeting afternoon October 17 (see Secto 25, October 172). Bidault stated that if last sentence above quoted remained in communiqué it would give opportunity to opponents in French Parliament of ratification of EDC to state that they wished to postpone action until four-power top-level talks had been held and that inasmuch as he only expects a majority of 21 in Parliament for ratification, this might prove fatal. Churchill replied that he was not impressed by this argument and commented facetiously that he had majority of only 18 in his own Parliament and he stated he wished to have sentence remain in. Bidault then shifted his ground and said he believed that communiqué as drafted placed the three Ministers in an extremely weak position because while they were issuing an invitation to Russians to attend a meeting at Foreign Ministers level in the same paragraph of the communiqué they were stating that they had exchanged views on an entirely different type of meeting. He said that this left the door wide open for the Russians to suggest a meeting at the top level which could not be a satisfactory result.

[Page 717]

Comment: It had already been pointed out by the Secretary at tripartite meeting of October 17 that conference at top level would not solve Bidault’s problem because it would be impossible for President to spend time necessary to participate in conference which would itself work out concrete settlement. End comment.

It was apparent when Bidault had finished argument in favor of elimination of last sentence quoted above, everyone present except Churchill was convinced of correctness of his position. Eden then sent for text of statement and when it arrived, Eden said it is obvious that sentence should either be eliminated or moved to some other part of the text. Churchill then accepted elimination of reference to high level talks but took the position that preceeding sentence should be altered to read as follows: “They believe that such a meeting might be an invaluable step towards a reduction of international tension, et cetera.” He said that he was not in agreement that a Ministers’ meeting was the most practical step for reduction of international tension because he thought that a meeting at the top level would be more desirable. There was considerable discussion as to whether the word “might” in Churchill’s suggestion should be changed to “could” or “would” and finally the word “would” was adopted after Eden had indicated considerable annoyance at the reflection by Churchill upon usefulness of Foreign Ministers meeting.

Churchill’s physical condition was much less good than at dinner on 15. Toward end of luncheon he had some difficulty in concentrating and his remarks to Bidault on attitude of French toward EDC and his own preference for national armies in NATO and the fact that he would put British troops in line with American and French again if Germany should become aggressor tended to take on character of set speech and were not closely integrated with subject under discussion. He did not give in on wording of characterization of the proposed four Foreign Ministers’ meeting as it appeared in the final communiqué until after Salisbury had intervened in the discussion to say that the word “would” seemed to him to be satisfactory.

I have given so much detail regarding what took place because I believe that Eden and Salisbury were able to convince Churchill to alter his position only because of firm attitude taken by Secretary at dinner October 15 and at Foreign Minister meeting on October 17 plus able argument advanced by Bidault at luncheon October 18. Whether Churchill will stay put is, of course, another matter. I am afraid he may be still turning over in back of his mind the possibility that he might embark on “a lonely pilgrimage” to Moscow.