12. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, March 25, 19551


  • Austrian Treaty Problem


  • The Secretary
  • EUR—Mr. Livingston T. Merchant
  • Ambassador Karl Gruber
  • Dr. Ernst Lemberger
  • WE—Mr. William R. Tyler
  • WE—Mr. Richard B. Freund

Ambassador Gruber, who had requested the interview with the Secretary, asked for the Secretary’s views on two subjects prior to the Ambassador’s departure for Vienna tonight, where the Austrian Ambassadors from London, Paris and Moscow as well, will be on consultation. The two problems are a) the recent Soviet proposals regarding a Treaty, including guarantees against Anschluss and of Austrian neutrality and the question of time limits for troop withdrawals after a Treaty is signed and b) the Soviet invitation to Chancellor Raab to visit Moscow for Treaty discussions.

[Page 17]

On the question of Chancellor Raab going to Moscow, the Secretary observed that it is a dangerous place to go alone but supposed that there might be some reason to hope for some constructive purpose and that it might be difficult for the Chancellor to refuse the invitation. The Secretary said that he assumed that if the Chancellor went to Moscow, he would make no commitments or say anything on behalf of the U.S. that would be prejudicial to its position. The Secretary reminded the Ambassador that the West withdrew its offer, made at the Berlin conference, to sign the draft Treaty and that while the offer had been renewed on November 29, 1954,2 it had not been accepted and should not be considered to be on the table indefinitely. The U.S., he said, is in fact ready to renew the offer at an appropriate time, but the decision to do so could not be made for us. The offer at Berlin had included concessions the U.S. did not like to make and as more time goes on without a Treaty those concessions become more undesirable. The Soviets continue, for example, to drain the Austrian economy while the present draft Treaty would require the Austrians to pay the same price upon signature of the Treaty.

The Secretary said his main point was that he assumes Chancellor Raab would not go to Moscow under the impression that he could speak for the U.S. It would not be possible for him to voice the views of the British or French as well as those of the U.S.

So far as a guarantee against Anschluss is concerned, the Secretary stressed that any proposal must be examined very closely. The Soviets he said, tended to use such guarantees as excuses for intervening in the internal affairs of other nations. He cited Molotov’s claim at Berlin that articles in Austrian trade journals indicated preparation for Anschluss and Molotov had failed to reply to the Secretary’s question as to whether the Soviets would insist on continuous supervision of the Austrian and German press. Therefore, the Secretary said, one must watch to see that decisions to assure against Anschluss do not lead to communist domination of the entire life of Austria.

Turning to the idea of a four-power conference on the Austrian Treaty, the Secretary informed Ambassador Gruber that we could consider a conference of the High Commissioners or Ambassadors at Vienna, since it would be possible to hold the discussion to Austrian matters, the Ambassadors not being competent to discuss problems elsewhere. At the Foreign Ministers’ level, however, a conference would present problems, as it would be practically impossible for Foreign Ministers to exclude discussion of other problems, such as [Page 18] Germany and China. The higher level conference might of course come after the deposit of all ratification instruments of the Paris Accords and when other considerations are met, providing a reasonable prospect for success of the conference. The Secretary stated that we are not prepared to have a Foreign Ministers’ conference solely on Austria.

Ambassador Gruber having asked about the timing of a visit to Moscow, the Secretary remarked that he could see advantages in moving a bit slowly. Events relating to WEU are, he said, moving rapidly and will be crystallizing over the next few weeks. After that, chances of a useful visit to Moscow might be better. He added that we are unwilling to have a high level conference on Germany as long as the Soviets would be in a position to use the conference as a means of breaking up the position of the West. The same factor applies to a conference on Austria.

While the U.S. might be willing to enter a conference of Ambassadors in Vienna on Austria, the Secretary said he doubted that the Soviets would agree to it, as their motive seems to be to use the present approach on Austria as a back door to the German problem. Perhaps, it would be better if the Austrian question were delayed until the situation is ripe for a Foreign Ministers’ conference. The Secretary further advised that it would be desirable not to press for a conference on Austria so as to avoid likely frustration of Austrian hopes and the victimization of Austria by the addition of new conditions to a Treaty.

Ambassador Gruber thanked the Secretary for his views and said that while he had no instructions, he wondered whether the West or Austria should propose a Vienna Ambassadors’ conference. The Secretary replied by reiterating his statement that the Austrians should not consider themselves in a position to speak for us in Moscow. He went on to caution the Ambassador against the Austrians referring in Moscow to the idea that the U.S. might consider an Ambassadors’ conference. That was for the information of the Austrians alone, so that they will, if the results of the Moscow trip justify it, make a recommendation on the subject to the three Western powers. The Secretary emphasized that he was speaking entirely without prior consultation with the British and French and that such consultation will be necessary before any basis for action will exist.

Ambassador Gruber agreed that it is too early to judge the question of a conference and inquired whether the Secretary would be in Washington when he, the Ambassador returns in about ten days, so that he may report the results of his Vienna consultation. The Secretary believed that he would be in Washington at that time.

Ambassador Gruber also asked whether if a conference of Ambassadors would be convened it would exclude a higher level conference [Page 19] later. The Secretary said that it would not be excluded, and that if agreement should be reached to hold a high level conference at some later date and the Austrian problem had not already been settled, we would, of course, wish it included in the agenda.

Ambassador Gruber asked whether the Secretary intended to reopen points in the present draft Treaty. The Secretary replied that if the Soviets resume bargaining on the Treaty, the West would wish to be in a position to do some bargaining of its own. There is, he said, an unfortunate history of concessions granted to the Soviets without ever attaining a Treaty. The Secretary stressed the need for the West to retain freedom of action so as to obtain the best terms possible for Austria.

Finally, Ambassador Gruber inquired as to what to say to the press. It was agreed that he should merely say that there had been a general review of the Austrian problem between the Secretary and the Ambassador as a prelude to the latter’s forthcoming consultation in Vienna.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 663.001/3–2555. Secret. Drafted by Freund. The source text was initialed by Merchant. A summary of this memorandum was transmitted to Vienna in telegram 2658, March 25. (Ibid.) A briefing memorandum for the conversation with Gruber, prepared by Merchant on March 25, was the basis for Secretary Dulles’ remarks. (Ibid.)
  2. For text of the tripartite note of November 29, 1954, see Department of State Bulletin, December 13, 1954, pp. 901–902.
  3. On March 27, Barbara Salt, a First Secretary of the British Embassy, told Freund and Allen that Foreign Secretary Eden had also warned the Austrian Ambassador in the United Kingdom, prior to his departure for Vienna, about the dangers involved in making any concessions at Moscow. (Memorandum of conversation, March 27; Department of State, Central Files, 663.001/3–2755)