137. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, June 13, 1955, 4:30 p.m.1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Chancellor Adenauer
  • The Secretary of State
  • Ambassador Blankenhorn
  • Mr. Merchant
  • Herr Weber (the Chancellor’s interpreter)

The Chancellor by prior arrangement called on the Secretary at 4:30 this afternoon and remained for almost two hours.2

The Chancellor first referred to the invitation to visit Moscow which he had recently received.3 He said that in his opinion this had been designed to achieve two purposes. The first was to sow distrust among Germany’s Western allies with respect to Germany’s trustworthiness, and the second was to maneuver him personally into such a position that he would bear the personal blame and responsibility for any failure of the negotiations with the Soviets. The Chancellor said that domestic considerations made it necessary that he should go to Moscow. He did not, however, feel pushed as to the timing and therefore the question arose as to when would be the best time. He was inclined to think September and in any event after the Geneva meeting of the heads of government. Meanwhile it was his [Page 225]thought that his Ambassador and the Soviet Ambassador in Paris should conduct the preliminary discussions since he felt it was important to have the groundwork carefully laid Parenthetically he said that Italian Foreign Minister Martino had urged him to go before the Geneva meeting but that he was clear in his own mind that it was better for him to wait until that was over. This was a subject which he would want to discuss with Macmillan and Pinay in New York. Meanwhile he would be grateful for any thoughts which the Secretary might care to express on the subject.

The Chancellor then raised the question of the President’s reference at a press conference some weeks ago to neutrality from which it had been inferred that a position of neutrality for a unified Germany was open to consideration.4 He said that something similar had happened again at the President’s press conference on June 8.5 He had been told that at the close of the latter press conference John Hightower of the Associated Press had told the reporter of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that, “The President has given you full liberty and his neutrality statement three weeks ago was no slip of the tongue.” He said that a French reporter who overheard this looked aghast and a TASS man broke into a broad grin.

The Chancellor went on to say that last week Ollenhauer had publicly said that the United States was ready to steer a milder course regarding Germany but that the Chancellor was stiff in his opposition. Then a few days ago a representative of the United States Embassy in Bonn in discussing the military legislation with a German official had suggested that if trouble was met on the legislation providing for volunteers, the legislation should be postponed until after the summer recess.

. . . . . . .

… The Department at times did not participate in the formation of foreign policy. Certain figures on the White House staff were responsible for advising the President. These were alleged to be Milton Eisenhower (who was portrayed as a former associate of Harry Hopkins who was asserted to have been responsible for the naming of General Eisenhower to the Supreme Command in Europe during the War), Sherman Adams and Senator George. George Kennan was also considered influential in this group. The initiative for direct talks with the Soviets had come from this White House [Page 226]group which had a direct connection with Ambassador Bohlen. Senator George was portrayed as favoring the establishment of a neutral belt in Europe. Senator Knowland was depicted as thinking of resigning because of the appeasement course of policy. Far Eastern matters were said to dominate all Washington thinking.

At the conclusion of the reading of these reports the Chancellor said that he could not say if they were true. The sources, however, he considered good and he had thought it his duty to inform the Secretary frankly. He went on to say that if the United States loses interest in Europe then the Communists will take over control, including control of the German army. He concluded by saying that in his opinion the Soviets are now weak and we should not grant them the time to recover.

The Secretary responded by saying that there was no foundation for the suspicion that the President was carrying on a foreign policy of which he was ignorant nor was there, to his knowledge any difference in view between them. The Secretary said that he had every reason to believe that he had the President’s complete confidence. If this were not true he would resign. There had been in the past Secretaries of State who had been placed in the position of being ignored by the President in the conduct of foreign policy but he was not of that breed. There were of course constant rumors such as these which the Chancellor had cited but he was absolutely certain that there was nothing to them. He cited as one example a reference in the report to the alleged intention of the President to take Senator George to Geneva. He said this was not the case. He then expressed his gratitude to the Chancellor for his frankness in having spoken as he had.

The Secretary then said that the Chancellor might be interested in his thoughts as to the reasons why the Soviets had changed their policies.

  • First of all he felt the Russians were faced by many serious problems and that they were anxious to relieve the pressures building up against them. One of these was the problem of leadership. The structure of government was that of a dictatorship but they now lacked a dictator. Khrushchev had power but impressed him as a man who talked without thinking. Bulganin was a stuffed shirt who could neither think nor talk. Molotov he felt was in a weakened and uneasy position. He had been impressed by his lack of sure-footedness at Vienna as compared to past occasions.6
  • Secondly, the Soviets faced a most difficult economic situation. The burden of armaments was heavy. Atomic development was extremely expensive. Russian agriculture was in a serious state.
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Finally the demands on the Soviets from China for armaments and the means to industrialize their country must be extremely heavy. The satellites had been squeezed and exploited. They were now economic liabilities rather than assets.

For all these reasons the Secretary believed that the Soviets had decided that they needed a pause to reduce the burden of armaments and to open up world trade, thereby permitting some increased satisfaction of consumers demands. He felt that recent actions such as their reversal on the Austrian Treaty testified to the urgency of these problems. Likewise the pilgrimage to Belgrade7 which he thought comparable to a visit by the President and himself to Mao Tse-tung in Peking with advance admission that the troubles between China and the United States rested on our doorstep. The question then arises, do we press the Soviets hard now or do we give them the relief that they seek. He feared that our allies were growing tired and might not be inclined to press strongly at this time. He believed, however, that if we stay strong and resolute it will be possible to accomplish the unification of Germany, the peaceful liberation of the satellites and thereafter accomplish something substantial in the limitation of armaments. He was opposed to any proposal which seemed to confirm the right of Soviet domination of the satellites. He was anxious that we should not sell out our strong position cheaply.

The Chancellor interjected that he agreed fully with the Secretary’s estimate of the Soviet position. He assured the Secretary that Germany was not tired.

The Chancellor said that he will discuss the general situation with Eden in London on his return from New York. He agreed that the danger is that the West will abandon its positions unnecessarily and cheaply (“ The Soviets don’t deserve it.”). He added that this was why he had been horrified to read of one speech by a high United States official to the effect that if the Geneva conference ends in failure then all is lost. The Secretary said that this was not the view of the United States Government.

The Chancellor referred again to his invitation to visit Moscow and said laughingly that he had only read the text of it on the aircraft coming over to this country. He expressed his happiness at the frankness of this talk,

The Secretary then inquired as to the prospects of the legislation for military volunteers in Germany. The Chancellor said that the Bundesrat had had no right to reject it. One of his Ministers had talked too much. The matter will be straightened out and the bill will be passed before the recess of the Parliament on July 18.

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The Secretary said that he thought it extremely important that it be passed before the Geneva conference and the Chancellor’s visit to Moscow. The Chancellor assured the Secretary that he could count on its passage by mid-July, on which note the discussion closed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 033.62A11/6–1355. Top Secret. Drafted by Merchant.
  2. Chancellor Adenauer was in the United States to accept an honorary degree from Harvard University. A supplementary memorandum of this conversation is infra . For Adenauer’s account of this meeting and the one with President Eisenhower on June 14, see Erinnerungen, pp. 455–461.
  3. On June 7, the Soviet Embassy in France delivered a note to the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany inviting Adenauer to visit the Soviet Union in the near future. For text of the note, see Documents (R.I.I.A.) for 1955, pp. 245–248. Under Secretary Hoover briefed the Cabinet on the invitation on June 10, saying that it was not a surprise and fit the general pattern of Soviet approaches to Austria and Yugoslavia. Hoover stated that he was “confident that Mr. Adenauer will not make any commitment adverse to the free nations.” (Eisenhower Library, Cabinet Minutes, June 10, 1955)
  4. According to Erinnerungen, p. 443, Adenauer was referring to President Eisenhower’s press conference on May 18; for the transcript, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1955, pp. 505–518.
  5. For the transcript of President Eisenhower’s press conference on June 8, see ibid., pp. 578–592.
  6. Reference is to the signing of the Austrian State Treaty at Vienna on May 15.
  7. Khrushchev and Bulganin visited Belgrade May 26–June 2.