Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

No. 529
Memorandum of Discussion at the 186th Meeting of the National Security Council, Friday, February 26, 1954

top secret eyes only

Present at this meeting were the President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Secretary of State; the Acting Secretary of Defense; the Acting Director, Foreign Operations Administration; and the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission; the Under Secretary of State; the U.S. Representative to the United Nations; the Secretary of the Army; Mr. Smith for the Secretary of the Navy; the Secretary of the Air Force; the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army; the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force; Robert R. Bowie, Department of State; the Director of Central Intelligence; the Assistant to the President; Mr. Cutler and Mr. Jackson, Special Assistants to the President; the Deputy Assistant to the President; Bryce Harlow, Administrative Assistant to the President; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

Following is a summary of the report and discussion at the meeting and the main points taken.

1. Meeting of the Four Foreign Ministers

Secretary Dulles indicated that he would not make his report in narrative form, even though this would be the most interesting way, but would single out those elements in the picture which would be of particular interest to the National Security Council.

The frequent meetings at Berlin provided an opportunity for the United States delegation to learn a great deal by direct contact—even with Molotov himself. Molotov had spoken with an evident show of personal authority. The Soviet Foreign Minister no longer appeared a mere subordinate, as he had when Stalin was alive. He appeared, comparatively at least, free to make his own decisions, with a minimum of reporting back to Moscow for instructions.

i. europe

In the first instance, said Secretary Dulles, one thing was made crystal clear. There is no disposition on the part of the Russians to accept any terms which would relax the grip on the areas of Europe that they now control. They may pretend to be willing to relax this grip, but only as a means of extending it. This very shallow [Page 1222] pretense deceived only those who wished to be deceived by it. Thus we anticipated before the meeting that we would be obliged to make certain very difficult decisions if the Russians actually offered the basis of a genuine settlement with regard to East Germany and Austria. In point of fact, however, we were not obliged to face such tough problems as the neutralization of a united Germany and an independent Austria. Neither now nor in the foreseeable future will we have to face up to the possibility that these countries will be neutralized. The Austrians were quite prepared to agree to neutralize their country if this proved the only way to secure a treaty and rid themselves of the occupation forces. They would have preferred to have incorporated their neutral status in a specific declaration, but if they had been pressed they would have even incorporated their neutral status in the treaty itself. However, the Soviets dismissed any and all such suggestions out of hand. At the last meeting at which the Austrians were present, their delegation strongly hinted Austria’s willingness to neutralize itself.1 Molotov brushed aside the hint in the most brutal fashion. Chancellor Figl and his colleagues walked out of the room almost in tears. The whole episode was shocking, but it was a clear revelation of Soviet intention. After killing the Austrian treaty the Soviets did try to give the corpse a decent burial by suggesting further study of the peace treaty at the Ambassadorial level. Secretary Dulles said that he prevented this decent burial by making it perfectly clear to the Soviets that he was unwilling to refer the problem to the Ambassadors until the Russians agreed to the removal of their forces from Austria.

The net result of this phase of the discussions was to make it clear that neutralization is no substitute for the European Defense Community, as many Western Europeans believed or would like to believe. A study of the record shows that the Soviets will not accept neutralization, and there is accordingly no use whatsoever to consider it as a substitute for EDC.

There was one other significant point, said Secretary Dulles, which came out in connection with the negotiations on Germany and Austria. The Soviets made no effort to play up to public opinion in these countries. Indeed, they appeared almost contemptuous of the thinking of the Germans and the Austrians. A trend in this direction had been apparent in the exchange of notes prior to the Berlin conference, but the trend became very clear at the conference itself. From this, Secretary Dulles deduced that the Soviets proposed to hold on to East Germany for a very long time and by [Page 1223] means of force. They do not expect to depend on public opinion as a means of retaining their hold in these areas.

In the course of the meeting it became apparent that Molotov increasingly focussed his efforts on the defeat of the EDC. In his mind this was the principal purpose of the Berlin meeting and the chief means to the end was to create disunity among the Western powers. Initially, Molotov’s attacks on the Western powers had been of a very general nature, including East-West trade, U.S. bases in Europe, and NATO. At the end, however, he focussed his efforts almost completely on EDC. The line he took was that EDC was the great obstacle to a solution of European problems. If the Europeans would give up EDC, all these problems could be readily solved. Eden and Bidault grasped this very clearly.

The big Soviet move, then, was their all-European security plan.2 This, said Secretary Dulles, was modeled on the Rio Pact and was represented by Molotov as a Monroe Doctrine for Europe which would exclude the influence of the United States. Molotov had indicated that 32 different countries would have membership in the pact, but it never was possible to get him to specify the actual countries. Since 32 independent states would obviously have to include not only the Soviet satellites but a number of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union, it was easy to deduce that the Soviets would have so rigged the European security organization as to ensure a working majority for themselves. The Soviet leaders, continued Secretary Dulles, really believe that the United States completely dominates the Latin American countries and that the Rio Pact is the instrument by which we effect this domination. Accordingly, they wish to use the Pact as a model for achieving their own domination of Europe.

While in a sense this all-European pact was the big Soviet move, back of it one could see their real conception of how the world should be divided. There were to be two great powers—the United States controlling the Western Hemisphere, and Russia dominating the Eurasian continent. As this conception became clear, Secretary Dulles said, he was at once reminded of the meetings between Hitler and Molotov at Berlin during the Nazi-Soviet collaboration. At one of these meetings Hitler and Molotov had discussed dividing up the world much in the fashion of Russia’s present conception. Accordingly, Secretary Dulles was tempted to point out to Molotov that he had learned his lessons well from Hitler. With difficulty Secretary Dulles had refrained from saying so.

Molotov proved himself very clever and artful throughout the meeting. He is one of the shrewdest and wiliest diplomats of this [Page 1224] century or, indeed, of any century. He spared no efforts to sow discord between the United States and its allies. One of the most potentially dangerous of these efforts related to the question whether or not a unified Germany was bound to remain a member of EDC. This could have posed a serious dilemma for us. Our general understanding with Adenauer is that legally, at any rate, a unified Germany could exercise the option of accepting the commitments of the present West German Government or rejecting them. This legal technicality was exploited by Molotov to prove that all the rest of the EDC countries were bound by their commitments but that Germany was free to do as it chose. In counteracting this Soviet line, Secretary Dulles took the position that while this was an interesting legal point to discuss, it was of no practical consequence. Nevertheless, Secretary Dulles predicted that there would be repercussions of Molotov’s argument when the French Parliament entered its discussions of ratification of EDC.

Secretary Dulles said that we had learned a lot also with regard to the attitude of the British and French on the Berlin question. They are not nearly as convinced and determined as we are that it is essential to maintain the position of the Western powers in Berlin. Secretary Dulles said that he had tried very hard to induce Eden and Bidault to make public statements which would reassure the population of Berlin that it would not be abandoned. With great difficulty he did succeed in inducing Eden and Bidault, at the end of the conference, to make a call on the Mayor of West Berlin. Bidault had even been willing to make a very nice statement on this occasion. Nevertheless, the difficulties he encountered were significant. It was, for instance, particularly difficult to induce Eden and Bidault to reaffirm the specific language of the Tripartite Declaration of 1952 on Berlin.3 The best that we could do, said Secretary Dulles, was to get the British and French Foreign Ministers to reaffirm the Declaration in very general language. Secretary Dulles himself made a specific reaffirmation, but his experience on this issue confirmed the doubts that had been expressed in the National Security Council meeting which had discussed our policy in Berlin prior to the Foreign Ministers conference.4 Clearly, a difficult educational job remains to be done with the British and French on the importance of the Western position in Berlin.

ii. asia

Molotov’s big proposal with regard to Asia was, of course, to call for a five-power conference including Communist China. This proposal [Page 1225] had been embodied in the Soviet note of last November,5 in which the five-power conference was set up as a condition precedent to any discussion of German and Austrian problems at Berlin. After Secretary Dulles had made absolutely clear from the outset that he would have nothing to do with any conference including Communist China except as it related to the specific problems of a settlement in Korea and Indochina, Molotov backed down from his insistence on a five-power conference to discuss world problems. He then indicated his willingness to accept a five-power conference on Asian as opposed to world problems. When we refused this also, Molotov came up with a formula for a conference which would discuss Korean questions, etc. As we knew from experience, said Secretary Dulles, the “et cetera” was merely a trick to enable the Soviets to drag into the conference any and all Asian matters.

After much argument, we finally boiled down the terms for a conference to deal with Korea to pretty much what we ourselves wanted, namely, a free, independent and united Korea. The Soviets had tried to insert the term “democratic” into this formula, but since everyone was aware of the special meaning of this word in Communist mouths, we refused to accept it, together with the “etc.”. The long and short of it was, therefore, that all the problems with respect to membership and agenda which we had encountered for so many months at Panmunjom, were finally settled. While it is very unlikely, concluded Secretary Dulles, that the Geneva conference would achieve a free and independent Korea, at least we did not lose anything by agreeing to take part in this conference. Secretary Dulles stated his belief that if we handled ourselves skillfully at Geneva—and he was sure we would—we should be able to make the same kind of gains that had been ours at Berlin. If the Communists turn down every decent and reasonable proposal which we make at Geneva, this will prove an asset to our cause in the long run.

The single most difficult issue with regard to Asia was, of course, Indochina. The French felt that it was politically indispensable for them to secure some reference to the possibility of a truce. Most of the French can’t or won’t understand why they must persevere in their struggle against the Communists after we have achieved an armistice in Korea. Bidault, however, clearly understands the great difference between the conditions for an armistice in Korea and those in Indochina. He has no illusions on this subject at all, but he also knows that the Laniel Government will fall if he cannot make some kind of gesture.

[Page 1226]

Molotov himself had not put forward any proposal for negotiations on Indochina. Indeed, for a long time he refused even to refer specifically to Indochina, and chose to play “very hard to get” on this subject. He played the game very smart, and at the end it was Bidault who was trying to force Molotov to include a reference to Indochina. Molotov had finally suggested that the formula include reference to Indochina in parentheses. When Bidault complained that it would be no use to take Indochina back to Paris in a parentheses, Molotov finally agreed to remove the parentheses. Secretary Dulles had made an earnest effort to include in the terms of reference for the discussion of Indochina, conditions relating to the good behaviour and decent intentions of the Chinese Communists prior to the meeting. These statements were acceptable enough to Bidault, but Eden became a problem. He did not wish to have the resolution contain any language which appeared to impugn the good faith of the Chinese Communist Government. In the end, the language with respect to Chinese behaviour was omitted from the resolution, although the condition can be read implicitly in the language if not explicitly. Secretary Dulles said he believed it to be apparent that if Bidault had not gone back to Paris with something to show on Indochina, the Laniel Government would have fallen at once and would have been replaced by a government which would not only have had a mandate to end the war in Indochina on any terms, but also to oppose French ratification of EDC. In general, said Secretary Dulles, the French are divided into two main categories—those who are prepared to write off Indochina but want France to join EDC, and those who wish to have France remain in Indochina, more or less as a colonial power, and are opposed to EDC. Furthermore, Secretary Dulles couldn’t see the makings of a French government which would replace Laniel and continue the fight in Indochina. Accordingly, if we had vetoed the resolution regarding Indochina, it would have probably cost us French membership in EDC as well as Indochina itself. Our present position, therefore, at least offers the fair probability of salvaging both French membership in EDC and the continuation of the struggle in Indochina.

There had been no agreement, said Secretary Dulles, on the exact composition and form of the discussion on Indochina at the Geneva conference. It was his guess that we would encounter difficulties in this matter every bit as bad as those we have experienced in the past with regard to the composition of a conference to settle the Korean problem. For example, the French desire to keep out the representatives of the Associated States, lest their presence at Geneva also bring in Ho Chi Minh. Accordingly, both Bidault and Secretary Dulles are approaching the forthcoming Geneva conference [Page 1227] with considerable equanimity. Secretary Dulles didn’t believe that the French would push too hard for a negotiated settlement provided there was no real military disaster in Indochina prior to and during the conference. Moreover, the heat would be off when the fighting season ended in May. If the present French Government can hold on, and there was no serious military reverse or apparent military reverse, Secretary Dulles did not anticipate too much difficulty.

One of the most interesting aspects of the meeting was the light thrown on the relationship between Communist China and the Soviet Union. While this relationship was still obscure, it did seem clear that the Soviets do not feel in a position merely to hand out orders to Peiping. They treat the Chinese Communist regime as a partner who has to be consulted and, in certain instances, even restrained by persuasion and by economic pressures. It seems quite possible that the Soviet Union is worried over the possibility of new aggression by the Chinese Communists. The Soviets are anxious to avoid a major war, and they realize that the Chinese Communists are in a position to initiate such a war if they choose to do so. Secretary Dulles said that he had tried to make clear to Molotov that if the Chinese Communists used their military power for aggressive purposes they were bound to clash with the vital interests of the United States, and that he was not in a position to estimate the consequences of such a clash. It had seemed worthwhile to seize this opportunity thus to pressure the Soviets, who in turn might put pressure on the Chinese Communists to behave themselves.

Secretary Dulles warned that one could not be sure that the above was the correct diagnosis of the relations between the Chinese and the Russians, but from a number of impressions and little signs, this appeared at least to be a likely appraisal.

iii. east-west trade

This issue was not discussed to the extent that Secretary Dulles had anticipated. The Soviets, of course, had dangled the bait and prospect of a greatly enhanced East-West trade before the British and the French, but Molotov had never come forward with any concrete proposal, as we feared he would, in his effort to create disunity among us. Indeed, the American delegation got together every morning at nine o’clock to try to figure out what bombshell Molotov would drop in the course of the day’s discussion. But he wasn’t as aware of our own weaknesses as we ourselves were, and accordingly could not exploit them to the degree which we feared. Nevertheless, Secretary Dulles had taken the opportunity to urge Eden not to retreat hastily from the agreed controls on East-West [Page 1228] trade, but to remove the controls, if necessary, only gradually. Eden agreed to this. Incidentally, continued Secretary Dulles, in talking about this matter with Senator Capehart, he was astonished to have the Senator take the position that the United States would either have to loosen up on East-West trade or face the loss of all its major allies.

iv. atomic energy matters

Secretary Dulles said that he had had two full talks plus a dinner talk with Molotov on the subject of the President’s speech to the United Nations on the peaceful uses of atomic energy.6 The next step will be the submission, through normal diplomatic channels, of a fairly elaborate statement of our plan to follow through on the President’s proposal. Molotov had pointed out that if we were to have any conference on this subject, it would have to include Communist China. So, said Secretary Dulles, we can anticipate all the usual procedural hurdles before we ever get into a real negotiation with the Soviets on this subject. At every step the USSR invariably drags in Communist China, in order to convince the world that it is only our stubbornness on this issue which blocks the solution of all the great problems that afflict the world.

The French, and especially the British, are very anxious to get into these talks on atomic energy more fully. We hope to have our own plan completed soon, a statement which Admiral Strauss confirmed. Secretary Dulles said that he had already agreed that the British and the Canadians should be brought into the talks when they had reached a certain level, since they were actually engaged in the production of atomic weapons. The French, the Belgians, and the South Africans, as suppliers of raw materials, would have to be brought in at a different level. But in any event, said Secretary Dulles, we must move ahead on this front very rapidly if we are to avoid embarrassment.

Ambassador Lodge confirmed Secretary Dulles’ position by noting that he was under constant pressure to get this matter before the UN Disarmament Commission.

Secretary Dulles explained that the disarmament plan to which Ambassador Lodge was referring was quite a different issue from the President’s proposal with regard to the peaceful uses of atomic energy. He had made this distinction very clear in his discussions at Berlin, though the British had pointed out that if the two problems could be combined and submitted to the UN Disarmament Commission, the issue of Communist Chinese participation could be [Page 1229] avoided. Secretary Dulles, however, doubted whether the Russians could ever be induced to agree to this procedure.

The President expressed some doubt as to whether the problem was as urgent as Secretary Dulles seemed to think. Secretary Dulles replied that he believed world opinion was very anxious to hear the follow-up on the President’s proposal, and he very much hoped that our own U.S. position would be clear in no more than three weeks.

The President, pointing out that the problem was a vast one to deal with at one blow, inquired whether it could not go forward in a series of phases. Secretary Dulles said that this might be possible, but that the matter had already progressed so far that it was more desirable to rely on the present plan and to complete this plan as a matter of urgency.

v. edc

On his way back home, Secretary Dulles had talked with Chancellor Adenauer for an hour and a half.7 The Chancellor was extremely pleased with the outcome of the conference and, oddly enough, expressed the most particular pleasure over the inclusion of the reference to negotiations regarding Indochina, since he thought that this would assist in bringing EDC into existence. Chancellor Adenauer’s view, said Secretary Dulles, was a reflection of the widespread concern in Europe over the diversion of French military strength and the consequent difficulties which it posed for French ratification of EDC.

With respect to the status of EDC, Secretary Dulles indicated that he had reached an understanding with Bidault that the debate in the French Parliament would be pushed ahead at once and not await the conclusion of the Geneva conference. Whether Bidault would actually be able to deliver on this commitment was, of course, a serious question. Bidault had informed Secretary Dulles that four points needed to be clarified at once. Three of these were external—the Saar, the British relationship to EDC, and the U.S. relationship with EDC, with assurances that we will not pull our troops out of Europe when EDC is ratified and that we do not intend to terminate our membership in NATO when this option is presented to us at the end of the first twenty years. Secretary Dulles said that he would do what could be done to provide the desired assurances. The fourth point, which was internal to French politics, was how far and how fast to push for the European Political Community. The French Socialists were seeking commitments [Page 1230] that the French Government would move ahead vigorously to bring the EDC into existence. Bidault pointed out, however, that if a French Government were to do this in order to gain Socialist support, it would involve a loss of votes from the right-of-center parties in favor of EDC.

The British, said Secretary Dulles, were apparently prepared to go quite far in making commitments to the French with regard to their own part in EDC. As far as the Saar was concerned, Secretary Dulles told Adenauer that he really knew very little about the problem and didn’t know what the best solution was, but that he merely desired from Adenauer strong assurance that somehow or other the Chancellor would reach an acceptable agreement with the French on this subject. This, Secretary Dulles told Adenauer, was the German contribution to getting EDC ratified, comparable to the U.S. and British assurances to the French. Accordingly, Secretary Dulles asked the President for his approval for the designation by the Secretaries of State and Defense of representatives to work together over the next few days to see what could be formulated in answer to the French request for new assurances.

The President reluctantly agreed, indicating that the whole thing made him feel a little tired. After all that we have done to try to help Europe to help itself—and that, of course, was what EDC was—the Europeans come back to us seeking further commitments. They are absolute masters of the art of getting us to do for them things which they ought to do for themselves.

Secretary Dulles said that of course he agreed with the President that this was exasperating, but that after all, it was a big step for the French to submerge their national identity in the new European Defense Community. Moreover, he assured the President that we really would not have to do very much more by way of new assurances to the French than we have repeatedly said we would do in the past. Actually, all we need is a new package tied up with a new ribbon. Secretary Dulles said that he had pointed out to Bidault, who was seeking ironclad assurances, that there could be no question of a treaty or an executive agreement, since the deployment of United States military forces was a prerogative of the President and not of the Congress. The French seemed to understand this argument, and it really boils down to furnishing them something that looks like a new package, however old the contents may be. The whole issue was extremely critical from the standpoint of our own policy.

The President said he understood, but he was certainly getting sick and tired of being blackmailed into performing services for the French.

[Page 1231]

The President then inquired who actually was responsible for the formulation of the plans to follow through on his UN speech regarding peaceful uses of atomic energy.

Admiral Strauss replied that he had already prepared the Plan and that it had been cleared up to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had had it under consideration for only one week.

Then the President inquired whose job it was to keep pushing to ensure progress, and Admiral Strauss replied that the primary responsibility was his. Secretary Dulles reminded Admiral Strauss to inform him at what point the British and Canadians were to be brought in.

Secretary Dulles then stated that this was about all he had to say with respect to the Foreign Ministers conference, except to point out the admirable performance of Bidault. The latter had done a much better job than Eden, who seemed to have lost some of his boldness and conviction, and who appeared to be seeking a compromise which would assure a political triumph when he returned home. Bidault, on the other hand, behaved courageously, as one who had burned his bridges behind him.

The President inquired, with respect to Secretary Dulles’ conversations with Molotov, whether anyone ever got up and accused the Soviets of having their own EDC in the shape of the satellites which they held together by brute force. Secretary Dulles indicated that such remarks would have had absolutely no effect on the Russians.

The President replied that he rather wished that Secretary Dulles had made his allusion to the Hitler–Molotov discussions on dividing up the world. An occasional dig like that might scare the Russians into believing that we had a lot more information on this point than we actually had.

The National Security Council:

Noted an oral report by the Secretary of State on the meeting of the four Foreign Ministers at Berlin.
Noted the President’s directive that the Secretaries of State and Defense each designate a representative to prepare, for Council consideration at its next meeting, recommendations as to assurances which might be given the French, in connection with the European Defense Community, as to the retention of U.S. forces in Europe and continued U.S. participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Noted the President’s desire that the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, be responsible for expediting the completion of the report outlining the program to carry out the President’s proposal in his speech to the United Nations on the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

[Page 1232]

Note: The action in b above subsequently transmitted to the Secretaries of State and Defense for implementation. The action in c above subsequently transmitted to the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, for implementation.

  1. For a record of the last plenary of the conference, see Secto 176, Document 505.
  2. For text of this proposal, see FPM(54)47, Document 517.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 526.
  4. For a memorandum of this discussion on Jan. 21, see Document 343.
  5. For the Soviet note of Nov. 3, 1953, see Document 280.
  6. For a record of Secretary Dulles’ two talks with Molotov on atomic energy matters, see Dultes 23 and 71, Documents 393 and 471.
  7. For a record of Secretary Dulles’ conversation with Chancellor Adenauer at Wahn Airport on Feb. 18, see the memorandum of conversation, Document 527.