Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 205

No. 365
Minutes of a Meeting of the United States Delegation at the Berlin Conference, January 27, 1954, 9:30 a.m.

  • Present: The Secretary
  • Special Advisers
  • Advisers
[Page 837]

In opening the meeting the Secretary expressed the view that it would be desirable to hold a morning delegation staff meeting for an informal exchange of views, the exact time of the meeting being adjusted to the schedule of the principals.

The Secretary said he was concerned that most delegation members might become so occupied with their particular substantive problems that they would not be in a position to give reflective consideration to the conference as a whole. He observed that most of the members of the delegation came to Berlin feeling that the conference would not accomplish much and that the most we could hope for was that the status quo would remain undisturbed. This in itself would be an achievement, since the Soviet Union is obviously attempting to upset the status quo, particularly with respect to NATO, EDC, and collective defense programs. However, he felt that we should continually attune our mind and spirit to the higher objectives of achieving positive and constructive results from the meeting. With this in mind he designated Mr. Bowie and Ambassadors Bohlen and Bruce as the working group to keep the total situation under review and to attempt to come up with suggestions for achieving positive results. He suggested that they should follow any line that shows promise: for example, they might review carefully the verbatim records, pull together and analyze remarks made by the ranking Soviet delegates to members of the US, French and British delegations, etc.
Afternoon Quadripartite Meeting. The Secretary asked for views as to what might transpire in the afternoon quadripartite meeting,2 particularly whether Molotov could be expected to make another long speech. Mr. Bohlen replied that the Soviets have a proposal outstanding with respect to the convening of the Five-Power Conference. Molotov could be expected to dwell on this question for a couple of days and would probably touch again on the Secretary’s statement of yesterday.3 Mr. Bohlen said he was surprised that the Soviets had proposed a date for the Five-Power Conference so far ahead, in May or June. In this connection, Mr. MacArthur referred to Malik’s bland statement to Nutting (UK) to the effect that the Soviets did not want a long discussion on the Five-Power Conference but merely agreement that such a conference would be held.4
Consultation among the three Foreign Ministers. The Secretary pointed to the desirability of having a regular exchange of views [Page 838] with Eden and Bidault and the present problem of the time consumed in traveling from one official residence to the other. He requested that consideration be given to this problem and expressed the wish that procedures be worked out for a regular meeting of the three foreign ministers before each quadripartite meeting.
Press Reactions. In response to the Secretary’s request, Mr. Jackson reported that the German press was in general giving the Secretary the upper hand with respect to the first two quadripartite meetings. Although the Soviets might shift their tactics abruptly, Molotov’s present tactic of assiduously courting the French has received an unfavorable reaction among the Germans. Mr. Tyler reported that reactions of the morning papers in France had not been received, so he could not report on French reaction to the Secretary’s statement of yesterday. However, French correspondents in Berlin have expressed the view that the Secretary’s speech should receive a favorable response in France. French reaction to Bidault’s opening statement was good.
Indochina. The Secretary asked Mr. Nash for his views on the extent to which a discussion of Indochina by the representatives of France and the USSR would adversely affect the military situation in Indochina. He added that the Indochina situation was a mixed political-military problem and that discussions of the subject would have to be handled properly if we were to avoid an unfavorable reaction in France and in Indochina. Mr. Nash replied that the French appear insistent on exploring with the Soviet Union the possibilities of an armistice in Indochina and the US is in no position to stop such efforts. While there are undoubtedly grave risks involved, they were risks that the U.S. must accept. The important thing was to keep such discussions in the proper framework. The Secretary agreed and added that the U.S. must not appear before the French public in the position of vetoing negotiations for an armistice in Indochina when we have negotiated an armistice in Korea. If the U.S. were placed in such a position we would lose not only with respect to Indochina, but also with respect to EDC and other important policy questions. Furthermore, it is necessary to keep any French and Soviet conversations within the proper framework to avoid a feeling on the part of the Associated States that they were being sold down the river. Mr. MacArthur agreed and pointed to the relationship of such talks to the French political scene and their reciprocal effect on the military effort in Indochina, particularly on the part of the Associated States. Mr. McConaughy summarized the evaluation of Ambassador Heath in Saigon that the effects of armistice talks would be catastrophic and that the U.S. should strongly oppose the French withdrawing to their “retreat” position.
  1. For USDEL MIN–1, see Document 345. USDEL MIN–2, dated Jan. 26, 1954, reported briefly on the second U.S. Delegation meeting on Jan. 26. (Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 205)
  2. For a record of the third meeting of the Berlin Conference, see Secto 35, Document 367.
  3. For Secretary Dulles’ statement, see Secto 24, Document 360.
  4. Regarding Malik’s conversation with Nutting on Jan. 26, see Secto 26, Document 363.