No. 437
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador to the Soviet Union (Bohlen)1

top secret
  • Participants:
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. MacArthur
    • Ambassador Bohlen (toward the end, Mr. McCardle joined the group)
    • Mr. Molotov
    • Mr. Gromyko
    • Mr. Zarubin
    • Mr. Troyanovski

Mr. Molotov, after an exchange of amenities after dinner,2 asked the Secretary what he thought the prospects of success at the Berlin Conference were and on what particular points they might reach agreement.

The Secretary replied that he thought possibly there was more chance for agreement on the Austrian question because Austria, after all, was a little country which could not appreciably affect the balance of power in Europe. Mr. Molotov replied that he thought there was a possibility of some success on Germany. The Secretary asked Mr. Molotov what he had in mind and where he thought progress on Germany might be made. Mr. Molotov, in reply to the Secretary’s question, inquired whether there could not be some progress made along the line of a small German army, with a German government which would be directed neither against the United States, France, Great Britain, nor the Soviet Union. He wondered if that possibility was totally excluded.

The Secretary said that in our view, the European Army constituted the best device we could think of to prevent the revival of German militarism, and he wished to assure Mr. Molotov with all the sincerity at his command that this idea not only was not directed against the Soviet Union, or any other country, but provided the best means of preventing Germany from threatening Soviet security. Mr. Molotov stated that the Soviet Union had great apprehensions [Page 985] concerning the European Army, and inquired whether the Secretary did not feel it was setting one part of Europe off against the other. He said that despite all the assurances and arguments he had heard, the Soviet Union was seriously disturbed over this development, and that this was not just an idea of his but one that was held very widely in the Soviet Union, and not only in the Soviet Union.

The Secretary outlined in considerable detail why in our view the European Army concept afforded the greatest possibility of guaranteeing European security as against any other means of dealing with this problem. He pointed out that discrimination and control in the past has been of little value over the long run in preventing the rise of German militarism; that the great advantage of the European Army was that it did not discriminate against Germany, but on equal footing made it subject to the restraining influence of the countries in Europe who had, along with the Soviet Union, suffered from German militarism.

Mr. Molotov repeated his view that a limited German army, with a government which was directed against none of the four powers, was a possible line of development. The Secretary then stated that he felt this was not a very workable solution, since it in effect raised the main issue which had been brought out here at this Conference. In the first place, any such system would involve a high degree of control from without, which all experience had shown was unreliable as a means of controlling Germany. Secondly, he stated that it in effect brought into conflict the difference in our physiological type of government. He did not believe you could dictate nor guarantee the type of government a country would have without violation of our deepest principles concerning free elections.

Mr. Molotov repeated the serious concern the Soviet Union felt from the point of view of its security over the concept of a European Army including German armed forces. He said they were asking for no privileges for the Soviet Union, but they did not wish to be discriminated against, and quite apart from statements he made at the Conference, there was real concern not only in the Soviet Union but elsewhere, over the prospect of Germany’s rearming. He said you had only to read statements which have appeared in the press in West Germany, and especially those of General Kesselring, who was practically being accepted by the former German Officers’ Corps as their leader. He inquired whether a German Army would not, under the leadership and control of men like Kesselring, soon be running both Germany and the EDC. He added that what the Secretary had described might be the beginning of EDC, but what would be the end? He doubted very much whether [Page 986] the other members of EDC would have sufficient power to restrain the German militarists, which in the end might come to dominate not only Germany but the EDC as well.

The Secretary repeated his arguments concerning the EDC, stating that this was indeed a difficult question; that this concept was in no sense directed against the Soviet Union, but on the contrary its chief purpose was the prevention of revival of German militarism; that it was only within a Western European framework that we felt this purpose could be achieved; and that any German armed force on a national basis, however limited at the beginning, would inevitably lead to the same results that had followed the Treaty of Versailles. The Secretary reiterated the belief that a Germany in EDC was the greatest safeguard the Soviet Union could have. He said some elements in France which opposed the EDC did so on the basis that they did not wish to see France in EDC because it would mean the elimination of a French national army, as it would the elimination of a German national army. These elements would prefer to see Germany in NATO. Germany in NATO, the Secretary said, would in his own personal view give less security to the Soviet Union than Germany in EDC. In NATO there were not the restraints on national forces that there were in EDC. If, however, the EDC did not come into being, the United States could not exclude the possibility that an acceptable alternative might be the entry of Western Germany into NATO.

He inquired of Mr. Molotov whether he had read recently the Treaty of Versailles, and said it was very interesting reading. Mr. Molotov said he had. The Secretary then stated that Marshal Foch, who was a very good general, had written into the Treaty of Versailles almost every limitation and control you could imagine, including prevention of sporting associations, use of rifles, etc. Nevertheless, this had permitted the rebirth of German military forces, and he felt that an attempt to repeat this process would have the same results. He said there may be other alternatives, but he had not been able to think of them, and felt that possibly Mr. Molotov would have some ideas on the subject.

Mr. Molotov said that the trouble had been that the Allied Powers did not keep control over the German Government. If the wrong kind of government got into power, then it was difficult to control what it did. The important thing was to be sure that it was a government that we could control and that would not work against any one of the Four Powers.

Mr. Dulles said that this raised a basic ideological point on which we split. The Soviet Communist belief was that the people generally could not be trusted, and therefore it was necessary for a smaller group to keep control of the election machinery so as to assure [Page 987] that the “right” people were elected. We did not believe in that system, and were willing to trust the people and give them real freedom of elections. That seemed to be a very basic issue between us as this Conference developed.

The Secretary went on to say that he could understand very fully the preoccupations of the Soviet Union; that there were people who believed that the armed forces of the Soviet Union and the countries allied with it, which were still considerably larger than those of Western Europe, were directed against the West and constituted a threat to other countries. He personally did not believe this, since he felt the Soviet leaders had created this force for defense, and he, therefore, hoped the Soviet Union could take the same attitude toward the EDC. He said if this was the chief Soviet preoccupation, it should not be impossible to find a formula whereby a correlation of actual military forces between the EDC and the Soviet system would be so adjusted as not to constitute a threat in either direction. He said that in the past and at present the forces of the Soviet system were considerably greater than those of the Western powers in Europe. He believed it might be possible to develop some formula for a ratio between the ground forces of the Soviet Union and its associated states on the one hand, and the ground forces of the EDC and other Western nations which are stationed in Europe on the other. Since the Soviet Union, because of its large territory and many frontiers, had multiple responsibilities, such a formula would mean that the strength of the ground forces of the Western states, including the United States, stationed in Western Europe, would be numerically less than the forces of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European states associated with it.

Mr. Molotov said the question involved not only the forces of the proposed European Army and the Soviet Union, but forces on a worldwide scale, which would involve all the great powers. He said the Soviet Union was prepared to consider a reciprocal reduction of armaments, as it had already made plain.

The Secretary stated that by the forces of the EDC he, of course, had in mind all of the forces, including those of the United States, which were stationed in Western Europe. He added that the United States was already in the process of reducing its own forces, and that shortly the ground forces of the United States would be materially curtailed.

Mr. Molotov stated that this problem was one of deep concern in the Soviet Union, and he felt that any German army was a “very unquiet” army. He repeated his belief that a small German army with a German government directed against none of the four powers might be possible, but he left the impression that if this was excluded, other courses might be considered. He made no specific [Page 988] reference to the Secretary’s formula statement, but he seemed to imply that this could at least be examined.

The Secretary said Mr. Molotov should think this matter over, and if he had any thoughts on the subject, he would be very glad to talk to Mr. Molotov again before they left Berlin, adding that he felt the German question was the most serious one that confronted them.

Mr. Molotov agreed and said he thought they should both think over their whole conversation this evening and give it the attention which its importance merited.3

  1. This memorandum of conversation was drafted jointly by MacArthur and Bohlen.
  2. According to another memorandum of this conversation, Molotov and the other members of the Soviet Delegation had arrived at the Secretary’s residence at 8:30 p.m. The predinner conversation had centered around authors and journalists in the United States, while the conversation at dinner had revolved around the political experience of the two Foreign Ministers before they entered the diplomatic service. (Memorandum of conversation by MacArthur, Feb. 6, Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 203)
  3. On Feb. 7 Secretary Dulles transmitted to President Eisenhower a one-page summary of the discussion following dinner. (Dulte 45 from Berlin, 110.11 DU/2–754)