140. Memorandum of a Conversation, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York, June 17, 1955, 2:10–4 p.m.1



  • The Secretary
  • Mr. MacArthur
  • Mr. Merchant
  • Mr. Bowie
  • Mr. Macmillan
  • Sir Roger Makins
  • Sir Harold Caccia
  • Lord Hood
  • Chancellor Adenauer
  • Ambassador Krekeler
  • Ambassador Blankenhorn (NATO)
  • Mr. Weber (interpreter)
  • M. Pinay
  • Ambassador de Murville
  • M. Sauvagnargues
  • M. Crouy-Chanel
  • Mr. Andronykov

The Secretary opened by explaining to the Chancellor that the three power talks had considered primarily procedural matters.2 He referred to the Molotov dinner, the selection of chairmen, rotation of chairmanship, translations, etc. The three Western powers will try to conduct the meeting on a serious basis and not as propaganda. The heads of government will keep their speeches short and businesslike. These matters will be discussed with Molotov in San Francisco.

We expect that the heads of government will consider as the main problems German unification, European security, and global disarmament. They would also bring up as principal causes of tension (1) the activities of the Communist parties in various countries and (2) the deprivation of freedom in the satellites. While we recognize the Soviets are not likely to agree to discuss these topics or to create any forum for pursuing them, we could not omit bringing them up for they constitute, at least for the United States, the most serious sources of tension. The Soviets will doubtless raise issues in the Far East and propose a Five Power Conference which the West will reject. In our opinion it will be more practical to make progress through informal efforts on both sides rather than by formal conferences which would raise serious issues as to composition and subjects.

[Page 233]

The three powers intend to set up a working party in Paris to begin on July 8. We hope that the Chancellor will designate someone for liaison with the Federal Republic for this Paris working group and for the Geneva meeting. In addition, we hope to have a meeting of the NATO Ministerial Council on the 16th in Paris to review with the other NATO countries the plans for the Geneva conference and to reassure them that matters affecting them will not be considered without consulting them. In addition, we may ask their advice on the best methods for consultation in any subsequent conference on such matters as European security.

We would also like the views of the Chancellor on how he wishes the Federal Republic to participate in later discussions of German unity and of European security as it may become involved. As the Secretary has previously reported to the French and British, he had asked the Chancellor in Paris about how he wished to handle this question. Since the Soviets would insist on GDR participation if the Federal Republic took part, the Chancellor had then said that he preferred to be consulted behind the scenes by the three powers rather than to take part directly in later meetings on German unity. The Secretary hoped the Chancellor would comment on this.

European security which will become entwined with the unity issue will also interest other NATO members as well as the Federal Republic. A method for consulting those interested must also be worked out for if the West proposed that the NATO members take part directly, the Soviets would probably request participation of the Warsaw group, including the GDR. That would raise the same problems for the Federal Republic.

Upon being asked whether they had anything to add on these points, M. Pinay and Mr. Macmillan said that they did not. The Secretary then said that we were all anxious to hear the views of the Chancellor.

The Chancellor said that he considered two points essential for the conduct of the meetings with the Soviets: (l) to keep down the number of participants, and (2) to avoid complications. He felt that neither of these could be fulfilled if the Federal Republic participated directly. Hence he would prefer to take part “behind the scenes” (to use the Secretary’s words). The Secretary said that we would be guided by that preference. He asked whether the Federal Republic might wish to make a statement at a meeting on German unity recognizing that the GDR would then claim the same right. The Chancellor said he would also prefer to avoid this procedure which would tend to conflict with the Western position recognizing the Federal Republic as the only legitimate representative of the German people. He would rather have the Federal Republic take full part in preparing for the meeting and in being consulted intimately during its progress. [Page 234] The Chancellor indicated that he would be glad to have representatives in Paris and Geneva and that Blankenhorn would probably serve in this capacity.

Recognizing that the Chancellor’s view covered any Western proposal, Mr. Macmillan asked how the West should handle a Soviet proposal to hear representatives of East and West Germany. We could, of course, say that it was not appropriate to hear statements of this sort. The Chancellor responded that the answer should depend on the atmosphere of the conference. If the two sides confronted one another rigidly as heretofore, statements would serve no purpose. But if the Soviets should show signs of wanting to reach agreement, then the question should be reconsidered. The Secretary suggested that this could best be handled by consulting the Federal Republic at the time. Mr. Macmillan agreed. The governing factor said the Chancellor would be the intention behind the proposal. It could be considered sympathetically if the purpose were serious, but not if it were merely for propaganda. If the Soviets proposed at the start that the Federal Republic and the GDR take part, M. Pinay asked whether we should reject the proposal out of hand. In that case, said the Chancellor, it might be better to postpone an answer until Soviet intentions were clearer. Their making such a proposal at the start would imply that they were not serious, but it might still be better to wait before answering.

In answer to the Secretary’s question, the Chancellor indicated that he did not have any further information about the autobahn situation. The Secretary said that the three powers might raise the question with Molotov in San Francisco.

The Chancellor then said he would like to make some general remarks about the Four Power Conference. He felt that it was most important to educate public opinion in our own countries and especially the press to avoid impatience which would already strengthen the Soviet hand. He attached the utmost importance to this point because at the Berlin Conference and the Geneva Conference last year great differences in public opinion had existed in the several countries and had helped the Soviets. If the Soviets find our public opinion is not united, they will be more inflexible since they have no need to take account of their own. In his view, the best way would be for the Three Powers to conduct the press relations regarding the conference jointly so as to avoid cleavages or differences in treatment which could be exploited by the Soviets.

On general disarmament, he felt that the United States as the strongest power should make another offer. While the prospects may not be hopeful, he felt that the US offer would make a great impression [Page 235] just as the President’s speech in April 1953 had done.3 That had left the Soviets without any adequate response.

The Chancellor referred to the repeated statements of the Soviets that they considered themselves threatened by German rearmament. While he does not believe this, he still feels that one could consider a certain balance of forces in central Europe as a means of reassuring the Soviets.

The Chancellor expects the Soviets to try to push German reunification into the background in the hope of thereby putting pressure on the Germans to buy unity later on at the price of major concessions. To counter this, he strongly favors pressing the Soviets on German unity at the Four Power meeting in order to force them to take a position. If their attitude is negative, it will provide the answer to those who are optimistic and will safeguard against the later use of the hope for unity as bait to parties and groups in the Federal Republic over the head of the government. Referring to the Soviet invitation for him to visit Moscow, the Chancellor said that he had heard that they wanted him to come before the Geneva meeting, but that he had no intention of doing so before September. Meanwhile, the German Ambassador to Paris would talk with the Soviet Ambassador there regarding (1) the German prisoners of war and D.P.’s now held by the Soviets, which total 190,000 for which the Germans have definite proof, and (2) economic relations. These talks will fill out the time until September without seeming to procrastinate which must be avoided. The Chancellor feels that Europe security cannot be achieved by contractual means until Germany is unified—only then can order and stability be secured.

In conclusion the Chancellor feels that we should judge the Soviet situation in the light of whether they will be able to overcome their economic and agricultural difficulties. He feels that it would be useful to exchange data on these matters. In his view, the agricultural difficulties may create the greatest pressure for some adjustment. The German experts who have studied this issue carefully consider that the Soviets have only limited areas which they can devote to added food output. This fact may force the Soviets to reach agreements, but the West should be prepared to negotiate for a long time and to have patience. Otherwise any gains may be only apparent.

On his trip to Moscow in September, the Chancellor hopes to get some ideas about the Soviet situation and policies. It might be useful to put off any Foreign Ministers’ meeting resulting from the [Page 236] Geneva conference until after his trip in order to take advantage of such information.

M. Pinay agreed with the Chancellor’s statement. In particular, he agreed on (1) the need to prevent public opinion in the West from being exploited by the Soviets and to work together for this purpose and (2) on the desirability of the United States initiative on disarmament, and (3) on the general analysis of the Chancellor regarding the Soviet motivations which corresponds closely with the views exchanged among the three Foreign Ministers.

Mr. Macmillan said he had listened with great interest to the views of the Chancellor and was in general agreement with them. In particular, he approved the way the Chancellor proposed to handle the Soviet invitation to Moscow. He felt that it would enable the Chancellor to steer his course between the twin dangers of seeming either reluctant or premature in making the trip.

In Mr. Macmillan’s view, the Soviets may prove to be less sure of themselves and less strong at the Geneva meeting than the public thinks. If so, the West should not be in an undue hurry to settle, but still should not hold back too long if the chance appears to achieve German unity and European security which is so closely related to it. In his view, it might not be wise to introduce a sudden new disarmament plan. It might be better to follow the line of exploring the Soviet proposals and especially trying to separate disarmament from the political aspects in their May 10 proposal. After Geneva, this might best be done in the UN Subcommittee, but we must recognize that this is a very big issue.

Mr. Macmillan suggested that not at the July meeting, but later on we may find a way of making progress by advancing the idea of a balance of forces in Europe which would provide some assurance to the Soviets without depriving us of the powerful weapons so important for Western defenses. Those weapons may be a major factor as well as agricultural difficulties in the current Soviet attitude and should not be thrown away.

The Chancellor suggested that he may have given a false impression by being too condensed in his comments on disarmament. Referring to the President’s speech of 1953, he did feel that a similar proposal might be renewed at the Geneva meeting. The United States might best do this, both because the earlier initiative came from it and because the Soviets most fear the US.

While agreeing in general, Mr. Macmillan wanted to emphasize several points. The Soviet objectives were first to break up NATO and second to drive the US and Canada from Europe. Both aims should be defeated. But short of that, it might be possible to work out something in Europe on the balance of forces idea. The Chancellor fully agreed with Mr. Macmillan regarding both NATO and the [Page 237] presence of the US and Canada in Europe, but it was essential to convince public opinion in the West of our good will and of our good intentions. The proposal on disarmament would serve both purposes and would provide propaganda to offset that of the Soviets.

The Secretary commented briefly on the views expressed by the Chancellor. First he agreed on the necessity of preventing public opinion forcing us to do things we think unwise. This matter is a hard one to deal with under a free press which likes to create excitement and the expectation of great things. These factors make it hard to cultivate a mood of patience and create limitations which cannot be ignored. Thus, while doing everything feasible to dampen undue hopes for quick action, we must try to produce some results within about a year. The public will probably be tolerant for that period, but will expect concrete results within it. The President tried to create a sense of the time and patience which will be required. He has referred to “years” and even “generations”, but in practice we will have to produce results in about a year more or less or break off on the ground that the Soviets are not serious. At present the West may have a stronger negotiating position than can be reasonably expected to exist later on. Our own political and economic situation is relatively stable in contrast to the Soviet difficulties. This should enable us to negotiate effectively now. Our position is not likely to improve materially over the coming years. Secondly, the Secretary wished to comment on the matter of disarmament. From a propaganda view it is necessary to revive and keep alive the fact that the West desires progress in this field. In his UN speech, the President may refer to his earlier proposal (the Secretary has not seen the latest draft) but as a practical matter there may be great difficulties in making progress.4 Our experts advise us that the possibility of diverting nuclear material poses serious problems for effective control and may require new concepts. Mr. Stassen is studying the matter and trying to bring together the divergent views within our government, especially among Defense, State, and AEC. Today the US is not in a position to make concrete proposals but we can reaffirm our general support for disarmament as in the 1953 speech. This problem is extremely complex not only technically but in its political consequences. Some measures for disarmament might protect others more remote from hostile areas like the United States, but not benefit those more exposed to hostile land forces. He is not optimistic about achieving global disarmament for a considerable time, possibly years. [Page 238] It may even be that no progress will be possible until increased confidence brings about de facto reductions in military forces.

He considers, however, that European security measures can be separated from global disarmament. Some move toward balance of forces in Europe is more manageable. Indeed it is probably essential to achieve German unity. The Soviets are not going to agree to turn over East Germany to be armed against them as part of the Western alliance. Hence German unity may be closely tied to some balance of forces concept which will remove the Soviet fear of being damaged by agreeing to unity. Now is probably the best time to push ahead on these two related ideas of German unity and European security. He hoped that the heads of government might produce a new effort in either a single forum or in parallel forums. Perhaps the matter of trade could be used as a lever, as part of a package involving German unity and European security, especially freer trade in primary materials and food stuffs as distinct from manufactured strategic materials.

The Secretary joined M. Pinay and Mr. Macmillan in approving the Chancellor’s proposed method for handling the Soviet invitation. He felt that it would not be difficult to schedule any Foreign Ministers meeting after Geneva so that it would follow a visit to Moscow and leave an interval to explore Soviet intentions in that way. M. Pinay and Mr. Macmillan seemed to acquiesce in this view.

The Chancellor wished to comment briefly on the view that the Soviets would not agree to German unity if it increased German war potential. In his view while unity would add 18 million Germans to the West, it should not result in an increase of German divisions above the twelve now planned. This should not be stated however, unless negotiations with the Soviets were making some progress. Moreover, unity would not add to real German strength for many years. West German resources would have to be used to improve conditions in the East Zone. This task would absorb large resources for many years. The net effect of unity would be to reduce, not increase, West German strength during that period.

The Secretary said that the four of them appeared to be in general agreement on the matters they had discussed. M. Pinay said that he shared the views of the Chancellor and had been delighted to hear them. Mr. Macmillan had nothing to add and considered that the meetings had been most useful.

The four then approved the draft communiqué which had been circulated and authorized its issuance at once.5 The meeting ended at four o’clock.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 481. Top Secret. Drafted by Bowie. This meeting is also described briefly in Erinnerungen, pp. 461–462.
  2. The Foreign Ministers of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France had discussed the report of the Washington Working Group (see Document 136) at 2:15 p.m. on June 16 and at 10 a.m. on June 17. The decisions they reached are summarized in the briefing that Secretary Dulles gave to Adenauer in this memorandum. Memoranda of the Foreign Ministers discussions, PMCG(NY) MC–3 and MC–4, are in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 481. For Macmillan’s account of the meetings at New York, see Tides of Fortune, pp. 605–607. For a French account of these meetings, see Documents Diplomatiques Français, 1955, Annexes, Tome 1, pp. 169–194.
  3. For text of President Eisenhower’s speech on April 16, 1953, to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953, pp. 179–188, or Department of State Bulletin, April 27, 1953, pp. 599–603.
  4. Presumably reference is to the speech which President Eisenhower was scheduled to give at the Tenth Anniversary of the United Nations at San Francisco on June 20; for text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1955, pp. 605–611, or Department of State Bulletin, July 4, 1955, pp. 3–6.
  5. For text of the communiqué, see ibid., June 27, 1955, pp. 1030–1031.