143. Memorandum of a Conversation, Pacific Union Club, San Francisco, June 20, 1955, 10:45 p.m.1



  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. MacArthur
    • Mr. Merchant
    • Ambassador Bohlen
  • France
    • Foreign Minister Pinay
    • M. Couve de Murville
    • M. Andronikov
  • United Kingdom
    • Foreign Secretary Macmillan
    • Sir Harold Caccia
    • Sir Pierson Dixon
    • Mr. Wilkinson
  • U.S.S.R.
    • Mr. Molotov
    • Mr. Fedorenko
    • Mr. Zarubin
    • Mr. Sovolev
    • Mr. Troyanovsky

The Secretary suggested that they should exchange views on certain technical matters involved in arrangements for the Four Power meeting. He had sent Mr. Molotov a memorandum on behalf of the Three Ministers listing certain of these questions.2 Mr. Molotov said he would be glad to exchange views but he did not have a written translation of this memorandum. He inquired if it was intended to discuss only these points. The Secretary said “yes, for the present” but that any other matters could be taken up subsequently if Mr. Molotov desired. The Secretary began with the first point in the memorandum concerning the seating arrangements at the Geneva Conference. Mr. Molotov said he thought that the Heads of Government could decide the points raised in the memorandum, but that he saw no particular difficulty since it would be normal to follow the usual procedure. There was one point, however, which was not clear and that was the duration of the Conference, concerning which the views of the Soviet Government had already been expressed in its notes. He assumed that that question would be decided also by the Heads of Government. The Secretary said he would like to explain again the special position of the President as compared with the other participants. The President could not delegate his powers and that therefore the length of his absence was strictly limited by this fact, especially while Congress is in session. Some acts of Congress automatically become law with the President’s signature, others are vetoed by failure to sign within the fixed period. This meant that the President could not be absent from the United States for more than one week at the most. The President indicated that he might stay on a day or so beyond the four-day period if the work of the Conference justified it, but that in any case it could not exceed a week. He remarked that, while these were details, time was important since there was less than a month before Geneva. He said he thought it [Page 245]was necessary to explain the particular circumstances of the President. Mr. Molotov said no doubt the Heads of all Four Governments were very busy and had many constitutional and practical matters to deal with and hence their time was valuable. He felt, however, that the Heads of Government could settle this themselves. He thought the other questions in the memorandum might be worked out through diplomatic channels in any one of the four capitals and he did not believe that there would be much difficulty. Mr. Macmillan said he thought it would be easier to settle these points in one of the capitals if they had had preliminary discussions here. Mr. Molotov jokingly said that perhaps the hardest question would be that of the seating as the memorandum had even contained a picture. He believed that if they chose Washington and that if that was acceptable to all this matter could be settled without difficulty, that is unless it was too heavy a burden for Mr. Dulles. Mr. Macmillan then said he thought they could all agree here that the President of the United States as the only Chief of State should be the first Chairman. The other question he had in mind for discussion was the press problem. Mr. Molotov agreed to an exchange of views and repeated he saw no difficulty in this question as well. Mr. Macmillan said the question was whether they expected to issue a communiqué after each day’s meeting. He personally felt this was not desirable since what was to go into the communiqué might take a lot of time but it was a problem of dealing with the thousands of press representatives who would be at Geneva and who without guidance might indulge in all kinds of rumors and speculation and instead of helping the success of the Conference might cause damage. He felt the question was not easy but a preliminary exchange of views might be helpful. He said the only question was what would be the best method to adopt. The Secretary said it was more a point of what method would be the least bad. Mr. Molotov stated that he felt it was better to issue communiqués but was prepared to discuss other alternatives. Mr. Macmillan said he felt that if there was to be a daily communiqué the Heads of Government could go away leaving to the Foreign Ministers the task of working it out. Mr. Molotov replied that he agreed the Ministers would have a job of work to do. Mr. Macmillan said that even if a daily communiqué was issued the press would still seek further accounts from various sources and it was better to have them receive a generally coordinated account than dealing in conflicting versions of what had taken place.

The Secretary mentioned that in past meetings of the Four Governments, beginning with the first meeting in 1945, the Ministers had been making preparations not so much as to persuade each other but for publication in the press. He felt that if that developed at the Geneva meeting it would not be a success and would suffer the fate [Page 246]of previous meetings of the Foreign Ministers. He felt that at this meeting the statements should be short and to the point. Mr. Molotov said he could see no objection to that view.

The Secretary then said there was one related matter not included in the memorandum and that was the question of official entertainment. The President of the Swiss Republic had suggested that a dinner be given for the President and the Heads of the other Three Governments on Thursday night, July 21st. He felt they should accept but that this should be the only formal official entertainment. In order to permit informal contact and discussion a buffet might be arranged which would permit the Heads of Government and the Foreign Ministers to have informal and possibly more successful exchanges even than those at the regular meetings, but that formal official entertainment should be limited to the Swiss dinner. Mr. Molotov said that he felt those observations would not encounter any objection. The Secretary then stated that if agreeable to the Soviet Government they might indicate to the Swiss Government their acceptance of the invitation for Thursday, July 21st. Mr. Molotov said that having had a preliminary exchange of views that final decision might be made in the manner suggested, namely in Washington.

The Secretary inquired if there were any other matters of a formal nature to be taken up. Mr. Molotov said that he hoped it was understood that the last point in the memorandum concerning the duration of the Conference had not been accepted. The Secretary agreed but said, as he pointed out, he wished to leave no doubts on the point that the President’s constitutional responsibilities made it impossible for him to be absent for more than a week. He said that this was a statement and he did not ask that Mr. Molotov agree. Mr. Molotov asked if there were any other questions on this general subject to be raised.

The Secretary said there was one further point and that was that in the invitation of the Three Powers reference had been made to the possible desirability of a preliminary meeting of the Foreign Ministers at Geneva. He wished to inquire if Mr. Molotov thought the meetings here and at Vienna were sufficient or if another meeting of the Foreign Ministers at Geneva before the Heads of Government meeting was necessary. Mr. Molotov replied that he thought the Ministers had already done what they had to do and that it was now up to the Heads of Government when they meet.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 487. Secret. Drafted by Bohlen on June 21. This conversation took place following Secretary Dulles’ dinner for the Foreign Ministers. Also discussed following dinner were Austria, the Berlin Autobahn situation, disarmament, and a declaration for the U.N. tenth anniversary meeting. Memoranda of these conversations, PMCG (SF) MC–3 through MC–6, are ibid. For Macmillan’s account of the dinner, see Tides of Fortune, pp. 609–610. For a French account of this conversation, see Documents Diplomatiques Français, 1955, Annexes, Tome 1, pp. 223–228.
  2. See the enclosure, supra.
  3. On June 21 and 23 Eden and Dulles each discussed the conference at Geneva further with Molotov. At both sessions Molotov stressed that the Soviet Union would want to discuss disarmament, European security, and economic cooperation during the conference. (Memoranda of conversations, PMCG (SF) Memo–2, June 23, and PMCG (SF) MC–10, June 23; Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 487)

    On June 24, Molotov told Dulles that the Soviet Union accepted the procedural arrangements proposed in the Western List (enclosure, supra) except that it wanted a quadripartite Secretariat rather than two separate ones. (Memorandum of conversation, PMCG (SF) MC–12, undated; Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/6–2455)