Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 203

No. 351
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Counselor of Embassy in Austria (Davis)1
top secret
  • Participants: Mr. G.W. Harrison, British Delegation
  • Mr. J. Sauvagnargues, French Delegation
  • Mr. Mille, French Delegation
  • Mr. Richard B. Freund, American Delegation
  • Mr. Richard H. Davis, American Delegation

I Troop Withdrawal

We stated that some thought had been given on U.S. side to need retreat positions beyond Paris tripartite agreement2 should the Soviets insist upon their proposal or should the Austrians make a similar proposal at some time during Berlin or after, as the Austrian Chancellor has already stated publicly he would do.

The French argued that a distinction should be made between a proposal for complete withdrawal of troops and a proposal for reduction to symbolic token forces. Complete withdrawal would leave Austria defenseless and a military vacuum. They would oppose complete withdrawal but would be inclined to favor a reduction. Both British and French were agreed that the NATO Treaty plus the Greek-Turkish Protocol3 brings Austria within the NATO umbrella as long as we have any armed forces there. Both British and French asked whether we had the idea of taking the initiative in proposing a reduction to token level and appeared to favor the idea in certain circumstances. We said we had no official U.S. position on this.

We discussed the conditions which we were thinking of attaching to any agreement with the Soviet Union in response to a Soviet proposal for withdrawal or reduction:

Insist upon Agreement that Austria Be Permitted to Raise Armed Forces as Contemplated in Article 17 of Treaty: British agreed that this condition should be advanced, but French while recognizing need Austrian defenses were worried over the principle [Page 801] of permitting a pretreaty army (presumably concerned over a precedent for Germany).
Insist upon Agreement for Disposition of Former German Assets More Favorable to Austria Than Presently Contemplated in Article 35. The French opposed making this condition and the British were doubtful, although they saw a possible propaganda advantage in making a plea. The French felt it would be asking the Soviets to make another concession for having made what they already regarded as a concession. We suggested that point on disposition of German assets could be put forward by the West as something additional that Austria deserves now and possibly include mention of the undesirability of the Soviet extra-territorial position after troop withdrawal.

We also explained that in connection with a proposal for withdrawal or reduction, we should obtain an Austrian commitment to raise an authorized army or, failing Four Power agreement on an Austrian army, to increase the Austrian gendarmerie to provide adequate internal security. No withdrawal or reduction would take place until Austrian security forces were adequate. British went along on this but French appeared to have some doubts as expressed above under 1.

Both British and French agreed that if the Soviet proposal for withdrawal or reduction is conditioned upon a limitation on Austrian security forces, we can reject the proposal as leaving Austria defenseless.

We mentioned the propaganda advantage of an actual Soviet withdrawal or reduction in Austria, which would be the first Soviet withdrawal in Europe since the end of the war.

Conclusion: Both British and French must ask for instructions as they had no position beyond the conclusion of the Paris Working Group that we should reply to a possible Soviet proposal by insisting upon conclusion of a treaty; should refuse complete evacuation and consult the Austrians before responding to a demand for reduction to token levels.

II Security Declaration

We referred to the Paris Working Group discussion of this point which did not result in any agreement. We said that at the moment we were only interested in getting French and British agreement in principle, that a security declaration on Austria by the three Western Powers would not be needed until after ratification of the treaty or perhaps should be considered in connection with the Soviet demands for neutralization or perhaps should be made in event of agreement on complete withdrawal of troops. We also thought it should be mentioned to the Austrians if negotiations on the treaty at Berlin go far enough and that NATO should be informed at an appropriate time.

[Page 802]

The French and British agreed in principle that Austria was part of the free world and that a way should be found to express the firm intention of the West that it should remain so.

The British asked in what form NATO would be notified and agreed that while other NATO powers should be invited to associate themselves with a Three Power Security Declaration, they should not be given veto power over its issuance.

Mention was made of the Austrian idea advanced once by Foreign Minister Figl that Austria would, in the face of a Soviet demand for neutralization, insist upon an “iron clad guarantee” from the Four Powers. The French opposed any idea of a quadripartite guarantee. The British saw objections but also pointed out that a Three Power security declaration might not be suitable. British opinion was that an Austrian treaty would probably be concluded only when the international atmosphere had greatly improved and the Ministers might not then consider the time and circumstances appropriate to a Three Power guarantee of Austria. We expressed the opinion that decisions could best be taken in light of the situation at the time, but cited our doubts about a quadripartite guarantee tying our hands.

As regards the various drafts discussed by the Paris Working Group, the British representative prefers B but British legal experts prefer A. The French definitely preferred A. The British thought perhaps a combination of A and B embodying the idea of a threat to the security of the Western Powers as well as providing for consultation on measures to be taken would be best. We said there was no necessity for agreement on the text of the declaration now.

While British and French were agreed in principle that a security declaration on Austria should be considered, they thought the three Ministers would wish to consult on the proposal at an appropriate time depending on developments.

III Military Talks with the Austrians

A. Use of Austrian Manpower: We referred to the plan recommended by the three High Commissioners in Vienna approximately a year ago to consult with the Austrians in regard to the use of Austrian manpower in the event of an emergency. The U.S. High Commissioner had received his instructions but the British and French High Commissioners were not authorized to go ahead with tripartite consultations with the Austrians.

The British said that it had been decided to authorize the British High Commissioner in Vienna to go ahead on talks with the Austrians if the situation has not changed after Berlin. The British [Page 803] High Commissioner would be authorized to make only an oral approach and only in general terms.

The French have reached no decision being reluctant in principle, afraid of leaks and Soviet retaliation going so far as to split Austria. The French must ask for instructions.

B. Austrian Commitment to Raise Post-Treaty Army: We said we thought it necessary to obtain from the Austrians a definite commitment to raise a post-treaty army. We would also need Austrian agreement to accept military assistance for their forces.

The British have already authorized their representative in Vienna to go ahead on this. The French are in agreement to raise question when near conclusion of treaty but still must obtain instructions from Paris. Both British and French were opposed to having talks with the Austrians before further developments at Berlin.

According to the British, these commitments should be sought orally. We said we were not certain whether they should be oral or in writing, though they could be sought orally and confirmed later in writing through a memorandum of conversation.

IV Article 35

The French and British continue to be opposed to proposing the revision of Article 35 if the Austrians fail to make a plea for its revision. However, they are in agreement with the tripartite Paris Working Group decision which requires the three Foreign Ministers to consult if the Austrians fail to plead for the revision of Article 35.

We said that even if the Austrians did not raise Article 35, we would want to, but we were aware of the danger that our plea for revision might result in the Soviet Union being able to place the onus on us for failure to conclude a treaty unless we exercise care.

The British thought that we could safely plead in general terms for reconsideration of the economic burdens placed on Austria by the present Article 35 and perhaps suggest certain possibilities for revision but they were opposed to any definite proposal being made for revision, such as tabling a redraft of Article 35 in a ministerial meeting.

V The Working Group

There was general agreement that the three Ministers should seek to obtain Soviet agreement on the instructions on the principal treaty issues particularly Article 35 which should be issued to any working group which might be set up to discuss the Austrian treaty. However, it was evident that the British and French were restricted to making the attempt rather than insisting upon instructions before the Austrian treaty could be referred to a Working [Page 804] Group. They did agree that both reference to a Working Group and discussion of specific issues by the Ministers would not be worthwhile unless the Soviets showed serious intention of concluding a treaty.

VI Possible Soviet Charges Against Austrian Gendarmérie

It was agreed in view of recent Soviet press articles attacking our support of the Austrian Gendarmérie, that we must be prepared to reply. We said we had a paper prepared on this subject and we would get together to consult at an early date.

VII Yugoslav Observer at Berlin

In reply to our question, the French stated that the Yugoslav Ambassador in Paris informed Parodi last Wednesday or Thursday that Yugoslavia would send an observer to Berlin and wanted to be consulted about the Austrian question. The Yugoslavian Ambassador did not know why or in what form the Yugoslavian government desired to be consulted.

The British had not been approached and thought Yugoslavia’s action might have some connection with the question of Trieste or might have been stimulated by the report that the Italians were sending an observer to Berlin. It was pointed out that the three Ministers had already agreed there could be no question of consulting with the Yugoslavs but we could inform them of matters affecting their interest in preparation of the Austrian treaty. We stated we were still awaiting information from our Embassy in Belgrade regarding the Yugoslavian move. All agreed that no further action was necessary unless the Yugoslavs raised the question again.

  1. This meeting took place on Jan. 24; the U.S. Delegation reported the discussion in Sectos 21 and 23 from Berlin, Jan. 26. (Both 396.1 BE/1–2354)
  2. Under reference is the Final Report of the Tripartite Working Group, which met at Paris Dec. 16–21, 1953. For a summary of the conclusions of this report, see Document 320.
  3. For text of the protocol to North Atlantic Treaty on the accession of Greece and Turkey, Oct. 17, 1951, see AFP, vol. i, pp. 853–854.