Memorandum of Conversation, by the Special Adviser to the United States Delegation ( Page )1
- Mr. Molotov, Mr. Kuznetsov, Mr. Troyanovsky, General Smith, Assistant Secretary Robertson, and Mr. Page.
After an exchange of amenities, General Smith inquired whether it might not be useful to explore possible compromise solutions to the question regarding the composition of the Indochinese Supervisory Commission. He stated categorically and in no uncertain terms that his government could not accept the Soviet proposal that the Commission be composed of India, Pakistan, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Our experience with the NNSC in Korea proved that such a composition was absolutely unworkable.
He did not wish to get into an argument over “neutrals” as compared with “impartials”—he was primarily interested in finding nations to serve on the Commission which would make it operate efficiently and which would not bog down its activities. He had suggested that a group of impartial nations in association with India and Pakistan could be formed. Such a solution was not so favorable to the West as one might think, as it is clear that India, one of the few Asian powers which could provide supervisory military personnel, is not on our side but, in international matters, seemed more often more on the Soviet side.
The Colombo powers were rather impartial nations with direct interest in Southeast Asian affairs. Another possibility might be to let the Vietminh and Vietnam each choose a member for the Commission and that three European members, neutral and impartial such as Norway, for example, be asked to serve on the Commission.
Mr. Molotov replied that although the Czech and Polish membership could be re-examined, he could not agree to any membership not on a 50–50 basis, that is 50% Communist and 50% non-Communist. Furthermore, at least two of the members of the Commission must have diplomatic relations with the Vietminh. He was absolutely adamant on this question. At one point he even sarcastically suggested that NATO be given armistice supervisory powers in Indochina. He maintained that one must take into consideration the will of the Vietnam people, at least 50% of whom support Ho Chi Minh, that the French were too late in giving limited independence to Indochina and that this [Page 1060] should be taken into account. He then strongly attacked Bao Dai “now vacationing in Cannes” whom he said was supported by the United States. General Smith said that ⅓ of the Vietnamese people supported Bao Dai, ⅓ supported Ho Chi Minh and “⅔” were on the fence. Molotov replied that even if this didn’t add up correctly it did not correspond to Soviet estimates. In any event he could not recede from the Soviet position that the composition of the Commission be on the 50–50 basis.
At about this time, Kuznetsov interjected that he had read reports that President Eisenhower had said that the US might intervene in Indochina with naval, air and marine forces. General Smith replied that such action was the last thing the US Government desired to take. Also, in designating areas for troop assembly, a hundred square miles of jungle was not worth making a crisis over that might involve serious results. The Vietminh were entitled to just consideration, but if their appetites were too great and if they over-reached themselves a crisis could ensue which, he inferred, might well lead to US armed intervention. It was the duty of the US and the USSR to reduce friction in the area, not to increase it, and that was why he was now seeking a compromise solution of the question of the composition of the Supervisory Commission which was of the utmost importance. Unless a reasonable solution of this question were found there were grave risks inherent in the situation in Southeast Asia and Mr. Molotov realized the consequences of this.
Mr. Molotov seemed completely unimpressed. He merely remarked that perhaps the Vietminh deserve more than we were willing to give them, that perhaps they were entitled to more than 50% of the spoils of war—even up to 75%. (General Smith strongly contested this claim.) In any event, he could not yield on the principle that the Commission be half Communist and half non-Communist.
Throughout the entire conversation Mr. Molotov was relaxed, yet absolutely unmovable, courteous, friendly, in excellent humor. (It was my [Page]2 opinion that he was even more relaxed than during the Berlin Conference.)
General Smith terminated the conversation by remarking that if agreement at Geneva could not be reached on such a matter as the composition of the Supervisory Commission, how could agreement be reached on anything. It would be questioned whether there was any real value in holding international conferences with the Soviet Bloc.
It was agreed that no comments whatsoever would be made to the press on this evening’s meeting.