No. 785
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Perkins)1



  • The Austrian Treaty


  • B. A. B. Burrows, Counselor, British Embassy
  • George W. Perkins
  • Francis T. Williamson

Mr. Burrows called to discuss the difference in the U.S. and U.K. report of the Secretary’s conversation with Mr. Eden on the tactics to be utilized in the initial meeting of the Austrian Treaty Deputies on January 21. Mr. Burrows stated that he felt this difference was confined to the approach to be used in the opening remarks of the Western Deputies. He felt that Mr. Eden wanted the Deputies to begin the negotiations by saying that they desired to conclude the present draft treaty, that they are prepared to examine the unagreed articles, and inquire whether the Russians are prepared to conclude the Treaty. He felt, however, that in any initial approach of this kind it must be indicated to the Russians that we would go a long way in meeting their terms on the unagreed articles.

I stated that this was largely a matter of negotiating tactics and that the Western Deputies should first feel out the Russian position. If the Soviets were adamant and refused to discuss the treaty because of extraneous issues, the Western Deputies should make no move to offer concessions. If, however, the Russians indicated a desire to discuss and conclude the present treaty, we should state that we would be interested in their views and that we were prepared to examine their proposals sympathetically. I stated that if we started the negotiations by offering concessions the natural question for the Russians would be to inquire what concessions we had in mind. We would find it difficult to specify articles which we would adopt in the Soviet text. I stated that this procedure would thereafter involve the Western Powers in a commitment to make concessions. Mr. Burrows replied that we could leave the Western reply about “going a long way” vague and unanswered unless the Russians demonstrated a willingness to sign the present draft and stated that they would not introduce extraneous issues. I replied that this would be difficult to do and that we would be forced to specify what concessions we are prepared to make.

[Page 1725]

Mr. Burrows stated that this difference of interpretation indicated a fundamental difference between the British and U.S. position on the Austrian Treaty. He said that the British Government was prepared to sign the present Treaty and to accept the Soviet terms to bring about its conclusion. He said that the British Government did not favor the introduction of the abbreviated text because British opinion did not accept it unless all steps had been taken to conclude the present Treaty.

I informed Mr. Burrows that I had checked this matter with Mr. Matthews and the Secretary. The Secretary considered that we should begin the meeting by asking the Russians if they had any new ideas and if they planned to conclude the present Treaty. If the Russian Deputy indicated a willingness to discuss the present draft with a view to its conclusion we should inform him that we are prepared to examine his proposals sympathetically. However, if the Russian Deputy refused to discuss the present draft we should not offer to make concessions and should proceed with the tripartite discussion for a new basis for negotiations.

I told Mr. Burrows that I did not think that this was a serious problem and that the exact negotiating tactics could be worked out by the three Deputies. I told him that we would show him the instructions which will be sent to the U.S. Deputy so that there will be no difference of opinion.

George W. Perkins
  1. Drafted by Williamson.