145. Memorandum of a Conversation, Washington, July 1, 19551



  • Germany and European Security
[Page 253]


  • United States
    • Mr. MacArthur
    • Mr. Merchant
    • Mr. Bowie
    • Mr. Kidd
    • Mr. Wolf
    • Mr. Sullivan, Defense
    • Mr. Galloway
    • Mr. Appling
  • Great Britain
    • Ambassador Makins
    • Mr. Adam Watson, British Embassy
    • Mr. F.J. Leishman, British Embassy

The Ambassador said that further thought had been given in London to the German problem in relation to European security. They continued to adhere to the basic assumption that a re-unified Germany would remain in NATO. They sought proposals which would assure security in Europe and, at the same time, appeal to the Soviets. On consideration, and noting the views of the American Chiefs of Staff, the British Government thought that the political and other objections to a complete withdrawal of all foreign forces from Germany were insuperable.

The Foreign Office was now thinking of two similar plans: a “zone plan” and a “de-militarized strip plan”. These were very tentative ideas not worked out in their details:

Zone Plan—Zone A

The “zone plan” contemplated a line from Stettin through Prague to Vienna on either side of which a de-militarized zone would be created. This zone (which would be referred to as Zone A) would include all of East Germany and appropriate parts of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Austria. In it there would be no military forces permanent or temporary, no military installations or training areas, no military airfields, no emplacements for launching of rockets or guided missiles, no arms industry and no military overflights.

Zone B

Although there would be no military forces in Zone A, there would, of course, have to be internal security forces over which there would have to be international inspection and control. Both to the east and west of this Zone A would be a Zone B each of approximately equal depth. The western Zone B would included Western Germany and eastern Zone B would include the rest of Poland and Czechoslovakia. A possible and desirable variation would be to have the western boundary of west Zone B follow the Rhine. This would give us greater area for re-deployment. The Ambassador said that, for reasons which were not clear to him, the Foreign Office thought this variation would not increase the disadvantages for the Soviets. [Page 254] In these B Zones conventional forces would be permitted, having approximately the same character and equal strength on both sides. Tactical air forces would be permitted but no rocket or guided missile launching sites or atomic weapons.

Zone C

To the east and west of Zone B would be Zones C each of approximately equal extent. On the west this would include France, the Low Countries, and Italy, but not the United Kingdom or Spain. The C Zone would include part of the USSR itself (as far as the Dnieper). In this Zone there would be no military restrictions, except that forces would be of approximately equal strength. Mr. Merchant asked whether the zonal boundaries would follow political boundaries or terrain, or would simply be straight lines. The Ambassador said this had not been fully worked out, but in the west the lines generally followed political boundaries.

The Ambassador saw in such a plan the advantages that (a) it separated Communist and Western forces widely but at the same time permitted us to maintain forward strategy, (b) it would envisage no major change in NATO infrastructure and would thus avoid the great expenditures involved in a major withdrawal of Allied forces from Germany, (c) it would create a de-militarized zone with the West gaining the right of inspection in the satellite areas, (d) it would put the heaviest burden of re-deployment on the Soviets and satellites. (The Ambassador noted that the Skoda works and certain industrial areas of Poland would be included in the de-militarized zone.) The plan would not lead to reduction of NATO forces in Zone B.

Responding to Mr. Merchant’s question, the Ambassador said he assumed that uranium mining in Eastern Germany would probably not be blocked under this plan although the specific question had not been considered. The Ambassador also noted that there would have to be civilian airfields in the zone but that this was a risk to be taken.

The Ambassador said that the British Chiefs of Staff had been asked to examine the question of the size of forces in Zone B. The question arose whether this should be the present 18 NATO divisions plus the 12 prospective German divisions, making a total of 30, or whether a NATO division might be withdrawn for each German division created to give a total 18 divisions in the zone. British thinking was guided by a desire to avoid anything which, in the short or long run, might lead to withdrawal of US forces from the Continent. The Ambassador noted that redeployment from Germany would be expensive, could lead to withdrawal of US, UK, and maybe Canadian forces and would leave German forces preponderant in Germany. It [Page 255] was taken for granted that military aspects would have to be studied by SACEUR and that there would have to be, in Zone B, room for British, US, and Canadian land and air forces now assigned to SACEUR. Responding to Mr. MacArthur’s question, the Ambassador said he did not have specific information but believed this meant total US, UK, and Canadian forces presently assigned to SACEUR and now in the area which would become Zone B.

Mr. Sullivan asked whether the 18 divisions mentioned took account of additional supporting forces, lines of communication, and the like. Mr. Watson said that the British thoughts had not yet been worked out in terms of numbers. He added that his Government had been alert to the possibility raised by the US in earlier discussions that the Communists might try to force a US withdrawal from the Continent by proposing reduction of forces in the satellite area. The British estimated that there were now 22 Soviet divisions in eastern Germany, none in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, and six in other satellite areas.

Mr. Bowie suggested that the British proposal would appear to the Soviets to provide for a continued build-up of German forces and for Western forces to remain indefinitely in Germany. The Ambassador said that the Soviets would be given some security by the “thinning out” operation and that the total number of forces to be in Zone B was accordingly something which, on the assumption that Western security would not be impaired, could be negotiated between 18 and 30 divisions. To Mr. Sullivan’s question the Ambassador replied that they envisaged re-positioning of 12 divisions to Zone C if the total forces in Zone B were 18 divisions. This would not escape all the difficulties and expenses of withdrawal from Germany but would be much less than the total withdrawal which had earlier been considered and was now rejected. Furthermore, if the western boundary of Zone B were the Rhine some of the forces could be repositioned in Germany south of the Rhine.

Mr. Merchant asked what provisions might be made for dual purpose conventional weapons in Zone B, for instance, 280 mm artillery and tactical aircraft which could be used for either conventional or atomic weapons. The Ambassador said he had no instructions on this point, except that NATO would presumably have to withdraw all atomic weapons and rocket launching sites from Zone B (Germany).

The Ambassador said no ideas had yet been put forward about naval strength.

Responding to questions about areas north and south of the zones described the Ambassador said that no agreement was now contemplated for those areas. The UK thought it essential, however, that Norway and Denmark be treated like parts of Zone B. Demilitarization [Page 256] of those countries was unacceptable. Mr. MacArthur asked what balancing limitations might be made in the east for this treatment of Norway and Denmark. The Ambassador noted that Norway and Denmark now had only conventional weapons. He agreed that some corresponding limitation could be sought from the Soviet side.

Mr. Merchant asked about the southern flank of NATO. The Ambassador said they had not gone into this very much but noted that, if the Balkans were not in the plan, the Soviets could have forces there which would threaten the flank of Greece, Turkey, Yugoslavia. They therefore contemplated the future extension of the general idea to the Balkans.

The Ambassador said that there would have to be internal security forces in the demilitarized zone over which there would be inspection and control. The plan also envisaged control and inspection in the militarized zones (Zones B and C) and this raised the question of control machinery. They had in mind reciprocal inspection by control teams in Zones A, B, and C.

Finally, the Ambassador wished to emphasize that the acceptability of this plan depended entirely on maintaining the line from Stettin through Prague to Vienna. Any change of this line to the west would spoil the plan. He added that the above plan had been considered from the military view by the British and that from a political standpoint it appeared very complicated and ambitious. There were, of course, questions as to how attractive it would be to the Soviets who would be asked to give up territory, forces, and important industries. With this in mind he added that the British chiefs had considered but were not yet prepared to put forward a plan which would put all of Austria into Zone A. Mr. Merchant noted that this would impose neutralization on Austria.

Demilitarized Strip Plan

The Ambassador said the demilitarized strip plan amounted simply to a demilitarization of Eastern Germany and reunification of Germany. This was without the complexities of the zonal plan and might be more inviting to the Soviets. It was simpler to present for public opinion, however, it did not have the flexibility of the zonal plan. His Government planned to proceed with the study of both and would be grateful for an early indication of American reactions.

Mr. Merchant and others noted that the demilitarized strip plan was simply an invitation to the Soviets to leave Eastern Germany with an assurance that the Germans would not arm that area. Mr. Bowie commented that Mr. Molotov had implied that German forces subject to limitation only by the West were not acceptable. Mr. Watson suggested that a parallel Soviet-German agreement might help. The Ambassador said that they had not gone beyond thinking [Page 257] that the demilitarized strip plan might be less unpalatable than the other proposal. It was noted that any plan would have to be acceptable to the Germans. Mr. Merchant suggested that the demilitarized strip plan would hardly be acceptable to the Soviets unless they believed that East Germany were lost to them anyway or unless they were pushed to desperation by internal stresses. Mr. Watson agreed that the Soviets could hardly be expected to be coming to a conference to surrender. He added that it was an old trick of the Soviets to relieve the strain in one area when they were preoccupied with another. They might wish to create in Europe an unwillingness to quarrel with the USSR at a time when they wanted a freer hand in the Far East. Mr. Bowie and Mr. Watson noted Soviet long-term concern about Germany and that this was perhaps counterbalanced by Soviet desire to get the US out of Europe.

The Ambassador said finally we should decide how far either of these ideas was acceptable to us and if so, how much we should say at Geneva. His Government was anxious not to stand pat on the Eden Plan2 in its present form but to make some further proposal which would appear to make progress. They were thinking of saying something to reassure the Soviets that they would not suffer from a military or security point of view by accepting some variant of the Eden Plan. Mr. MacArthur said that the complexity of these questions prevented their being explored adequately for discussion at Geneva. We could suggest to the Russians at Geneva that we were willing to discuss European security but should not lift the veil on any substantive discussion at the Geneva meetings. Mr. Watson suggested that we might vaguely call attention to many proposals such as the Van Zeeland plan3 and ask the Soviets their ideas. Mr. MacArthur said this too might invite the Soviets to lead us into discussion of substance. The Ambassador said that whatever we said would have to be guided by knowing ourselves what we had in mind ultimately with respect to European security. Mr. Merchant suggested that we might say that, in any subsequent forum agreed for discussion of Germany and the related question of European security, we would be willing to consider these subjects in terms not endangering the security of either the USSR or ourselves. Mr. Bowie added that we need not have specific details of the plans in mind but would have to have a general notion of our objectives with respect to European security. Mr. Merchant said that we could buy an “unrequited” Soviet withdrawal from Germany. It seemed equally certain that we would agree not to move into areas from which they withdrew. Mr. [Page 258] MacArthur suggested that this would require study and that there was not sufficient time to work out more complicated plans before Geneva.

Mr. Merchant noted press reports from London about British consideration of a non-aggression pact. The Ambassador said he just did not understand these reports. Mr. Merchant said that the Secretary in his press conference on Tuesday had indicated that the UN Charter was the best agreement of this sort and this seemed a sound position.4

Mr. Watson said that his Government was concerned that Germany was over-optimistic about the pressure of internal strains on the Soviet Government. They intended to speak to the Germans about this. He asked if we had similar intentions. Mr. Merchant noted that the recent conversations in New York5 had suggested a harmony of views although there had been no effort in New York to narrow down the general agreement to a specific shading of meaning. Therefore, while there was a harmony of views, there might be some difference of emphasis.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 640.0012/7–155. Top Secret. No drafting information is given on the source text.
  2. For text of the Eden Plan, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. vii, Part 1, p. 1177.
  3. Regarding the Van Zeeland plan, see the memorandum of conversation, September 29, 1953, ibid., vol. v, Part 1, p. 813.
  4. For excerpts from Secretary Dulles’ news conference on June 28, see Department of State Bulletin, July 11, 1955, pp. 50–54.
  5. See Document 140.
  6. On July 7, Ambassador Makins discussed the British plan again with MacArthur and officials of the Department of State. At this meeting he stated that the British Government had “cooled off a bit” about it since it was very complicated and would have had little appeal to the Soviet Union. In response to his question MacArthur stated that the United States believed it should not be put forward at Geneva. (Memorandum of conversation, SUM MC–4; Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 527)