Smith–Molotov Meeting, Geneva, May 10, 7:30 p.m.: Memorandum of Conversation, by the Adviser to the United States Delegation (Keppel)1
- W. B. Smith, Under Secretary of State
- Molotov, Soviet Foreign Minister
- Troyanovski, Soviet Delegation
- J. Keppel, US Delegation
Place: Molotov’s Villa, Geneva
General Smith arrived at Molotov’s villa for a courtesy call at 1930 and was greeted by Molotov, Gromyko, and Kuznetsov. Molotov then led General Smith into a small sitting room and, with Troyanovski and Keppel being the only others present, opened the conversation with a few remarks about Geneva.
When the conversation turned to the subject of the Conference, General Smith remarked that while he did not have Mr. Molotov’s experience in international conferences, it seemed to him that the present conference was “the worst” he could remember. Molotov exhibited mild surprise at this and General Smith amplified his remark by pointing to the extreme seriousness and explosive possibilities in the Indochinese situation. He indicated that while the US had come to the Geneva Conference hoping that progress could be made on the Korean issue, at least there was no fighting in Korea. The Indochinese situation, on the other hand, he said, was fraught with dangers.
Molotov agreed that the Indochinese situation was much “hotter” than the Korean question. During this part of the conversation he gave every appearance of understanding what General Smith was talking about and adopted a similarly serious manner. Molotov then said that it was too bad that Secretary Dulles had had to go home so early. He said that there had been all sorts of rumors in the press as to the reasons for the Secretary’s departure but added that, of course, one shouldn’t necessarily believe all such stories. General Smith agreed and explained the Secretary’s departure in terms of preventing certain [Page 756] extremists in both parties from disrupting bi-partisan support for US foreign policy. Molotov then indicated the hope that since General Smith was a military man rapid progress could be made at the Conference.
Returning to the Indochinese question General Smith said that the situation was made complex by the absence of clearly defined lines. Molotov agreed that this was so and asked what kind of a solution General Smith had in mind. The latter said that this was something about which he had thought a great deal but has as yet no final ideas. Molotov indicated his belief that something could be worked out. He said that despite the excitable nature of Pham Van Dong’s speech he thought that the proposal which it contained represented a real attempt to find a solution. In particular, he said, it sought to solve the question of Indochinese-French relations, “up to and including participation in the French Union.”
Molotov then asked General Smith how long he thought that they should all stay at the Conference. The General replied that he thought they should stay as long as there were any chance of making progress toward a solution of the Indochinese problem. He indicated that a certain number of speeches of a general character had to be made before one could get down to business and Molotov indicated his understanding and implied that these were of no real significance. General Smith then said that things were after all not too bad so long as they “were talking,” a remark to which Molotov subscribed.
Toward the end of the conversation General Smith said that Eden had mentioned his anxiousness to have both Vietnamese and French wounded evacuated from Dien Bien Phu. The General said he had agreed with Eden to take the matter up when he saw Mr. Molotov that afternoon. To evacuate both the Vietnamese and the French, instead of just evacuating the French as Pham Van Dong had apparently proposed would, the General said, be one step that could be taken to relax the tension somewhat. Molotov said that it was inconceivable to him that Dong had not had this in mind when he made his proposal. He said that he had discussed the matter with Chou En-lai after the session and that it had been Chou’s understanding that Dong’s proposal had contemplated the evacuation of both French and Vietnamese seriously wounded. A member of his own delegation, Molotov added, had also discussed the matter with the delegation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Molotov and General Smith agreed that the press on both sides should be kept from building this question up into an issue owing to a misunderstanding of Dong’s proposal.
After a few remarks of a courtesy nature General Smith took his leave. The conversation throughout was translated by Troyanovski.
- Summary of the conversation transmitted to the Department of State in telegram Secto 165, May 11, not printed. (396.1 GE/5–1154)↩