396.1 BE/1–2554: Telegram

No. 355
The United States Delegation at the Berlin Conference to the Department of State 1

confidential priority

Secto 17. Department pass OSD. First session of four Foreign Ministers was declared open by Secretary Dulles, acting as Chairman, at 1518 hours this afternoon.2 (First 17 minutes had been taken up with photographers and technical explanation to delegates of how to operate simultaneous translation equipment.) This telegram will summarize course of session up to 1650 hours, at which point Molotov proposed short recess.

After declaring meeting open, Secretary said he would preside at first session at suggestion of his colleagues, since conference building was in US sector. After referring in general terms to hopes held by entire world for success of conference, he turned to number of technical and procedural matters, all of which had been agreed in principle by Molotov in immediately preceding 30-minute private conversation.3 He said principle of rotating chairmanship had been agreed upon and that in ACA Building chairmanship would rotate in same order as that of speaker (US, French, British, Soviet) but that new order of rotation would begin when meetings held in Soviet sector to permit Molotov to chair first meeting there if he so desired. Secretariat would keep general record of meetings (time of start and adjournment) and formal record of any decisions reached. Secretary suggested all meetings start at 1500 hours and endeavor adjourn around 1900; by mutual agreement certain additional [Page 812] private sessions might be held, limited to four Ministers and principal advisers. Secretary then suggested that if his colleagues had no other technical or procedural points to bring up, each in turn might wish make substantive statement of general character; he called first on M. Bidault.

Bidault, who spoke for 19 minutes, sounded at outset keynote of hope present conference would lead to lasting improvement in international relations and put end to present division of world; he stressed importance of doing nothing at conference to destroy this atmosphere of hope and of open-mindedness on part of delegates. He referred to two recent developments as already having contributed to some relaxation of international tension—cessation of hostilities in Korea (which proved similar development not impossible elsewhere) and bold offer of President Eisenhower, which gave first glimpse of how to solve grave problems arising from atomic threat.4 Bidault also made passing reference to (1) need for big power accord on limitation and international control of armaments, but said this problem should continue to be handled in UN and (2) pressing current problems in Asia but said these should each be treated on own merits and not mixed up with problems of Europe.

Bidault then stressed that present conference should be devoted entirely to European problems, with regard to which French long-term objective has always been a general settlement in which free peoples would bring about end to present division of Europe. Latter situation, while deplorable, had nevertheless made necessary certain defensive associations which were threat to no one. He said at this point that it was indispensable to establish firmly that this defense effort could not be made a matter for negotiation. On other hand must take into account legitimate aspirations of others for their own security and this French Government was prepared to do, on basis of assuring security for all and creating conditions for an enduring peace.

Bidault then stressed present discussions should bear on concrete problems capable of early settlement—peace treaties for Austria and Germany. Austrian treaty in particular should present no great difficulty, he said, in view advanced state of present draft treaty; if it proved impossible clean this up here, it would be bad omen for other more difficult problems. As for German treaty, Bidault said essential pre-condition was a government representing Germany as a whole, which could emerge only on basis of free elections; “It is the elections which make the government and not the government which makes the elections”. Once agreement reached [Page 813] at this conference on necessary conditions to assure free elections, it should be possible to pass on rapidly to matter of peace treaty with participation of true representatives of a united Germany. As for general character of German treaty, he said it should not be based on revenge or on a strict interpretation of Potsdam agreement; also it should not be such as to leave Germany isolated or make possible renewed German aggression. To accomplish such result, French Government felt that experience had shown that principle of free association was much better formula than that of coercive control and that therefore Germany should be permitted to enter an association of a strictly defensive character which by its very nature would make impossible any aggressive act on part of its members; it was undesirable in any case to restore situation where country in center of Europe could play off East against West and develop from a pawn into the umpire.

In conclusion, Bidault stressed special interest of France in a peaceful, stable and united Germany and asserted that French Government had drawn conclusion from recent evolution of West Germany that destiny of democracy in Germany was linked to association of Germany with the West.

Mr. Eden then spoke for 14 minutes, endorsing at outset “constructive and conciliatory spirit” shown by M. Bidault. He said it was sincere wish of British people that contacts re-established at this conference could be maintained and that our objectives here must be (1) to break down barriers within Europe and (2) to encourage “more confident” relations between West and Soviet Union. Emphasizing that he believed in doctrine of “limited objectives”, he urged that conference concentrate its efforts on the two major European problems of Germany and Austria. He said Austrian question was simple one and there was “no conceivable reason” why agreement should not be reached on it here. He then made reference to problem of security and said that if despite guarantees afforded to Soviet Union by British Government’s commitments under UN Charter and its treaty with Soviet Union, latter should still feel further assurances are needed re British defensive purposes, “we shall be ready to examine that problem with them”.

As for Germany, Eden said its present division was “unnatural” and that as long as it remained there could be no unity or stability in Europe; on other hand peaceful reunification of Germany and conclusion of peace treaty would relax international tension throughout world. He then laid stress on free elections throughout Germany as essential first steps, since only through such elections could an all-German government be formed with necessary authority to act for German people and accept peace settlement. Eden went on to spell out sequence of free elections, preparation of constitution, [Page 814] formation of all-German government which should be free to assume any international rights and obligations of either previous German regime, and negotiation of peace treaty with this representative all-German government. He said a peace treaty drafted by four powers and imposed on Germany would be entirely unacceptable. On above principles, Eden said, he could not compromise, although he was ready join in seeking all acceptable ways of achieving what he hoped was our common aim—reunification of Germany as a free, peaceful and democratic state and conclusion of peace treaty with such a Germany. (Full texts Bidault and Eden statements released to press).

Course of session following brief recess proposed by Molotov will be summarized in subsequent telegram.5

Following is summary of second part of today’s meeting:

Immediately after interpretation of Bidault’s statement at 1655 p.m. Molotov asked and received unanimous agreement for brief recess. Meeting reconvened at 1725, at which time Secretary called on Molotov.

Molotov began his 40 minute statement by pointing out that present meeting has attracted widespread world attention. Some circles expect important results, but others already have been predicting failure. The Soviet Government is of the former opinion and hopes the other participants are also. Despite differences of opinion between France, the UK and USA, the USSR, as expressed in a lengthy exchange of notes before the conference,6 all parties are agreed that there should be a conference. The conference will fill the expectations of millions of people in the degree to which it strengthens peace, reduces world tensions and guarantees European security.

Soviet delegation, Molotov continued, believes question of agenda of meeting must be regarded “not formally but according to its substance”. It must be arranged that agenda should include questions, consideration of which would aid the strengthening of peace and a further arrangement of international relations, in connection with which definite results have been achieved during the past year. Not to be underestimated is the armistice in Korea, largely achieved as the result of the initiative of the Chinese People’s Republic and the Korean People’s Democratic Republic. Positive results of this development have been expressed in Asia, Europe and America.

[Page 815]

As respects German question, which all believe should be on agenda, Molotov said, it is clear that German problem is related to European security and peace, and cannot be considered in isolation. It is well known that German militarism started World Wars I and II. The Soviet people cannot forget the sufferings and sacrifices of themselves and others, including German people in World War II. The German question must be solved so as to prevent a third adventure of German militarism. This was the purpose of agreements at Yalta and Potsdam and coincides with the interest of the German people themselves. These agreements point out the path to be taken by the Berlin conference in the interests of European security. They signify that neither a unified Germany nor part of Germany should be attracted to a grouping such as EDC, which represents a military bloc of some European states directed against other European states. Attraction of Germany into EDC not only would prevent attainment of German national unity but would also seriously increase the danger of a new war in Europe. If the door is opened to German militarism, danger of a new world war is inevitable. It is not surprising that the peoples of Europe are deeply worried over which road will be opened for German development: Peaceful collaboration with other countries or preparations for a new war which might lead, incidentally, to fratricidal strife among Germans themselves.

One might ponder one other serious result of renewal of German militarism. Creation of a European army, of which Germany would be strongest member, might call forth a new alignment of power in which the countries of Europe would form two mutually opposing military groups and still further increase the danger of a new war. Such continental European powers as the USSR and France would have to consider that their interests coincide with those of France, Poland, England, Belgium, Czechoslovakia and all other peace-loving peoples. This is why the USSR legitimately raises the point that the solution of the German question should meet the demands of security guarantees in Europe, and this can be done only by unifying Germany as a peaceful and democratic state and by barring from power German militarists and revanchists.

In the above connection, Molotov then made recall of the Franco-Soviet treaty against German militarism, the Anglo-Soviet treaty of 1942 and the Franco-British treaty of 1947, as well as the Potsdam agreements, arguing that they represent useful bases for guarantees of European security. All this, he said, show closely the German question is related to a reduction in world tensions.

Molotov then raised question of failure of three powers and USSR to agree on a five-power conference, including CPR, on measures to reduce international tensions. He proposed that this question [Page 816] be considered at Berlin conference and expressed readiness to offer concrete proposals on it, particularly that it should take place soon. He argued that only efforts of all the great powers can guarantee reduction of tensions and referred to responsibilities of UNSC and provisions of UN Charter in regard to responsibility of the five great powers for maintenance of peace. At this time, he said, these provisions are thwarted by US which prevents CPR from assuming its rightful place in the UN.

A meeting of the five powers is necessary, Molotov continued, to put an end to the armaments race which is so burdensome economically. Billions of dollars and pound expenditures on one side has only the effect of stimulating new measures on the other side. The same observation applies to American foreign military bases which, Molotov said, discredit themselves and whose underlying policy is headed for failure.

It follows therefore that one must recognize the urgency of such measures as reducing significantly all armaments and the adoption of measures for the abolition of atomic, hydrogen and other weapons of mass destruction; the institution of effective international controls on their abolition; and as a first step toward this the refusal of governments to employ atomic weapons. Included among other problems whose solutions are pressing is that of admission of the CPR into the UN. Such action would have great effect in the settlement of important international political and economic problems, including the question of Korea.

As is known, Molotov continued the Korean political conference has run into serious difficulties. Agreement on its membership has not yet been reached. Sharp differences between the two sides have found their expression in a crude violation of the armistice agreement provision concerning prisoners of war. All this in no small degree traces back to the absence of normal relations between several great powers. There can be no doubt that a five-power meeting would help resolve not only the Korean but also other current international problems.

Some countries refuse to recognize CPR but refusal to recognize facts and important historical developments has never given positive results. Twenty-five governments, whose population approximates one billion, have established diplomatic relations with CPR. Many more governments would have liked to follow their example, and the reason they have not done so requires no explanation. The Soviet Government believes this situation cannot continue much longer. A five-power meeting would greatly aid in improving the international situation.

Another measure to relieve international tension, Molotov claimed, would be to improve trade relations between states. He referred [Page 817] to the American-led blockade against USSR and peoples democracies, saying its only result had been the formation of a second world market and closer economic relations between the Soviet-bloc countries. Many countries, Molotov predicted, would be interested in a five-power meeting leading to normalization of international trade. Soviet delegation would therefore like to hope that Berlin conference will reach agreement on a five-power meeting.

Besides the five-power meeting and the German problem, Molotov thought, present conference should also examine Austrian question. Strengthening of peace in Europe and national rights of Austrian people require rapid settlement of Austrian question in accordance with the four-power agreement and in such manner that independent Austria becomes neither a tool of aggressive forces nor an instrument of German militarism.

All this, Molotov said, lead him to make following proposals for agenda of Berlin conference.

  • First, measures for reducing international tensions and to convene a five-power Foreign Ministers meeting.
  • Second, the German question and the problem of guaranteeing European security.
  • Third, the Austrian State Treaty.7

In adopting such an agenda, Molotov concluded, conference would have opportunity to concentrate its attention on the questions which are at this time the most current and essential. Molotov’s statements of Eden and Bidault and with introductory remarks of Secretary regarding hope that meeting will yield positive results, safeguarding security of peoples of Europe and consolidating peace of world.

Immediately after interpretation of Molotov’s statement, Secretary proposed that because of late hour meeting be adjourned until tomorrow. Molotov announced that he wondered if it would not be unfair for Secretary not to have opportunity to make his statement today, as other three Foreign Ministers had done. Secretary explained that Molotov’s strong criticisms of and attacks on US required answer, but that he would prefer to sleep on them tonight rather than to speak extemporaneously at this time. Molotov said that in that case he had no objection to adjournment. After reaching quick and unanimous agreement to meet again January 26 at 1500, meeting was adjourned at 1855.

  1. Transmitted in two sections, the first covering the statements by Eden and Bidault and the second covering Molotov’s statement. Repeated to London, Paris, Bonn, Frankfurt, Vienna, and Moscow.
  2. The U.S. Delegation verbatim record of the first meeting, USDEL PLEN/1, is in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 193. For the texts of the three opening statements, see Cmd. 9080, pp. 1–14, or Berlin Discussions, pp. 5–24. For the text of Dulles’ opening remarks, see ibid., p. 4.
  3. For a record of this conversation, see the memorandum by Bohlen, supra.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 326.
  5. The report on the remainder of the meeting was also sent as Secto 17, but was dated Jan. 26, 11 a.m.; the two parts of Secto 17 are printed here as one telegram.
  6. Regarding the exchanges of notes with the Soviet Union during the summer and fall of 1953, see Documents 257 ff.
  7. For the final text of the agenda, as adopted at the second plenary, see FPM (54)4, Document 508.