Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 203

No. 354
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Bohlen)1

  • Participants: The Secretary of State
  • Mr. Charles E. Bohlen
  • Mr. Michael B. Lustgarten (Interpreter)
  • Mr. V.M. Molotov
  • Mr. Andrei Gromyko
  • Mr. O.A. Troyanovski (Interpreter)

Subject: Procedural questions relating to first meeting of CFM

The Secretary stated that he had wished to talk to Mr. Molotov concerning procedures for the first meeting today and other questions related thereto. It had been suggested by the French and British Ministers that inasmuch as the building they were meeting in was in the American sector that Mr. Dulles might be the Chairman [Page 810] at the first meeting, the Chairmanship then to follow by rotation in the order established by previous four-power meetings (which would mean Mr. Bidault would come next, then Mr. Eden and then Mr. Molotov) but that a change in the rotation might be made when they moved to the Soviet sector so that Mr. Molotov would chair the first meeting there.

Mr. Molotov expressed his agreement with this suggested procedure.

The Secretary then, turning to the conduct of today’s meeting, said that in general the first meetings have been devoted to a general statement by each of the Ministers as cared to do so and he thought it would be advisable to follow this procedure. He said that he had been informed that Mr. Bidault and Mr. Eden would speak about 20 minutes and he hoped this would be agreeable to Mr. Molotov.

Mr. Molotov said he agreed with the procedure but in view of the fact that he would probably have to answer at least two speakers he hoped the Secretary would be indulgent if he ran somewhat over the 20 minutes.

Turning to the question of translation, the Secretary said that equipment for simultaneous translation had been installed in the ACA building and he had thought that in order to save time some use might be made of it, or did Mr. Molotov prefer consecutive translations.

Mr. Molotov said that this was a question he had not thought about and that he felt, with ear-phones, simultaneous translation sometimes caused inconvenience particularly in verifying the accuracy of the translation. He thought this question should be studied by their representatives before changing the method previously used at such meetings.

The Secretary then inquired if Mr. Molotov had any objection to having the English and French done simultaneously while the Russian was consecutive.

Mr. Molotov’s first reaction was that it was better to stick to the consecutive translation but when it was explained in detail to him how this would work—that only French and English would proceed simultaneously while translations to and from the Russian would be consecutive—he agreed to it.

The Secretary said that they could try it out today and that if it was unsatisfactory they could return to the consecutive translation in all languages but that this system would save one-third of the time.

It was then agreed tentatively that the meetings would start at 3 p.m. and would last up to 7 p.m. or thereabouts but that this [Page 811] would, of course, be subject to the decision of the Ministers at any given session.

During the discussion Mr. Molotov made a number of heavy joking remarks about the fact that the three other Ministers had been consulting separately.

Charles E. Bohlen
  1. This conversation took place at the ACA building in Berlin at 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 25.