148. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, July 5, 1955, 2:30 p.m.1


  • The Secretary, Mr. Alan [Allen] DullesCIA, Mr. SullivanOSD, Messrs. Murphy, MacArthur, Merchant, Beam, Phleger, Kidd, Wolf, Galloway, Appling, McAuliffe

Mr. MacArthur reported that in this morning’s meeting the Soviet representative had agreed to the Western proposal for a single Secretary General with three deputies for the Geneva meeting.2 The Soviets had no response to our inquiry with respect to the President being Chairman on the first day of the conference.3

Having in mind his subsequent meeting with the British and French Ambassadors,4 the Secretary pointed out that if we assume a minimum of ten subjects for consideration and allow ten minutes for the Soviets and five minutes for each of the Western powers on each subject, the four days of the conference would be fully used. There would simply not be time to get into substance. It was believed that Sir Anthony Eden would insist on putting forward some new version of the Eden Plan, and that the Soviets would be anxious to deal with matters of substance. The Secretary proposed to emphasize to the British and the French Representatives the original terms of our agreement on this meeting.

The Secretary believed that the Soviets wanted acceptance of their social and moral equality and would press the theme of treatment as equals. He suggested that our position should be one of [Page 263]principle and not based on the concept of power blocs. We could, for instance, emphasize individual and national liberty. Recognition of the Soviet Union as an equal would increase their power over the satellites and their influence towards neutrals. Mr. Allen Dulles commented that the very acceptance of the conference was a step toward recognition of the Soviet Union’s equality.

In a review of the Secretary’s list of Soviet priorities,5 Mr. Merchant suggested reversing the first and second items, and moving the sixth to fourth place. The Secretary said it was perhaps a mistake to try to impart a strict order of importance on these items. Mr. Allen Dulles commented that they could be simply taken as a package. He suggested adding to the Soviet objectives the strengthening of the international position of the satellites.

Mr. Bowie suggested that our objectives in the conference were not immediately attainable. He thought we should try to convey to the Soviets some of the simple facts of life with which they would have to live, such as our determination not to abandon the principle of collective security. We should also try to explore the hierarchy of their values to gain for ourselves a knowledge of how they are thinking. We will also want to create machinery for dealing with problems which we have. Finally should give a fillip to those forces in the Kremlin which may be trying to work constructively within the framework of the facts of life suggested above. Mr. Bowie suggested that we exploit the conference as far as possible in these directions. The Secretary agreed generally, and said that we were faced with an immediate problem of making the conference appear to be a success.

The Secretary recommended that his papers on Western and Soviet objectives at Geneva,6 appropriately revised, be presented to the British and French without personal attribution, in order to obtain their reactions. He agreed that Mr. Beam should do this in the working group.7

Mr. Allen Dulles suggested that any declaration of principles at the meeting would be dangerous and undesirable. If any statement were necessary, it might better be a statement of practices. The world was full of declarations of principles which were meaningless since there was no agreed definition of the words on which they were [Page 264]based. Mr. MacArthur noted that the French draft on declaration of principles rejected the possibility of simply refusing a declaration.8 He believed this was a regression from the position the French had taken in the Working Group here.9 There was general agreement that the West should hold to the position that the UN Charter is an adequate statement of principles. Any other statement would raise the questions of what should be added to or omitted from the UN Charter. The Secretary noted the difficulties of a communiqué limited merely to saying the problems would be taken up on other fora. Mr. MacArthur said the British and French were nervous about this. The Secretary again expressed concern about maintaining support and public opinion about the Western position at the conference.

Mr. Allen Dulles said that it might be a breath of fresh air simply to say that the powers participating at Geneva recognize the principles of the UN Charter and in accordance with them they have considered the means of tackling the following problems. Mr. Bowie suggested adding to that the need for time and patience in reaching any resolution of the great issues between us. The Secretary agreed generally and approved Mr. Merchant’s suggestion that this question should be thrown into the working group early.

Mr. Allen Dulles suggested that the US could insist that the Soviets remove the Iron Curtain. It was noted that it is probably more difficult for Communists to get into the United States than it is for Americans to get into Russia. The Secretary suggested that it would not seem desirable certainly, that there should be a mutual stepping-up of restrictive measures just as it would be undesirable to propose that the activities of international communism and our counter measures should be mutually accepted and promoted.

Mr. Merchant and Mr. Sullivan agreed that we would have to keep hammering in public statements on the idea that the Geneva meetings were to be procedural and not substantive in nature. The Secretary commented that this was somewhat difficult since this is the first time that the President has ever left the United States except for the purpose of winding up a war.

Mr. Merchant said that the British remarks that Adenauer might be over-optimistic about Soviet weakness were possibly aimed at us. He thought this might reflect concern about the tone of the Secretary’s presentation during the New York meetings.10 The Secretary recalled that he had spoken generally along the lines of Mr. Macmillan’s memorandum to him in this regard.11 Mr. Allen Dulles believed [Page 265]that while there were certain economic, political and military strains in Russia, they were not at the breaking point. They were being pressed to complete in a few years what they had planned to achieve in ten or more. Mr. Sullivan suggested, and the Secretary agreed, that the Soviets might also be concerned that their relative progress in industry and military strength was less because Germany and Japan were being brought in on the Western side. The USSR would certainly hope to slow down the overall Western progress by an attitude of sweetness and light. The Secretary thought that we might have to accept a sweetness and light mood for the Geneva meeting.12

The Secretary emphasized that we should try to keep the British and French in line with the terms of the invitation to the Geneva meeting. They should be steered away from substantive discussion. There were many important problems of mechanics such as the means of consulting Germany, our relations with NATO and problems of universal security. The Secretary, in general, approved Mr. MacArthur’s paper on coordination with our NATO allies13 which also passed on the idea that we would consult with them regularly although they would not be participants in further four power meetings on European security. This was particularly important because the Soviets might now try to bring the Warsaw Pact into such a meeting which would be most undesirable.

Mr. MacArthur reported that the Italian Government wanted us to take up the question of their prisoners of war in Russia. It was agreed that such issues could not be discussed by the heads of government at Geneva, but that they might be raised on the side. Mr. Beam was asked to mention this in the working group.

Mr. Barnett14 outlined the British and US papers on trade, and noted that our conclusions were the same although reached from different premises.15 The Secretary said that it was his view that the Soviets were most anxious to increase trade with the West, and that this was an important bargaining counter. He asked that this be kept in mind in drafting papers on economic questions. It was agreed that we should not raise the question of trade at Geneva. If the Soviets raised it we would not advocate their taking it up in the UN, but would rather say that Soviet policies precluded any relaxation of our [Page 266]controls at present on strategic goods. There was, however, a wide range of non-strategic materials in which we would be glad for the Soviets to increase trade. The British argumentation seemed adequate to support this. Mr. Barnett said that without a complete upset, the Soviets would not qualify for membership in GATT.

With respect to the settlement of pre-war debts which the British mentioned in their paper, the Secretary said that he did not think we could keep them from raising this, but we should not allow our economic position to be thrown into bargaining on this question.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 527. Secret. No drafting information is given on the source text. A note on the source text indicates that it is a draft.
  2. A report on this meeting was transmitted to Geneva in telegram 13, July 5. (Ibid., Central Files, 396.1–GE/7–555)
  3. On July 6, Soviet Chargé Striganov informed MacArthur that the President’s chairmanship for the first day was acceptable. (Memorandum of conversation, July 6; ibid., 396.1–GE/7–655)
  4. Secretary Dulles talked with Makins and Couve de Murville along these lines some time following this meeting, however, the only record of the conversation is a summary transmitted to London (and Paris) in telegram 46, July 6, which gives only a brief outline. (Ibid.)
  5. Entitled “Paper II, Soviet Goals at Geneva”, this document listed nine items which the Soviet Union might seek to discuss at Geneva. (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, International File)
  6. Regarding the paper on Soviet objectives, see footnote 5 above; the paper on Western objectives is presumably “Paper I, U.S. Goals at Geneva”, dated July 6, which listed seven items including Germany, European security, armaments, the Soviet satellites, and international communism, as issues to be discussed at Geneva. (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, International File)
  7. See Documents 158 ff.
  8. The French draft was transmitted from Paris in telegram 28, July 2. (Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/7–255)
  9. See Document 136.
  10. See Document 140.
  11. Not further identified.
  12. The following phrase was deleted by Galloway at this point in the memorandum: “and only in subsequent meetings ‘take the gloves off’”.
  13. Not further identified.
  14. Robert W. Barnett, Office of European Regional Affairs, Department of State.
  15. The British paper, “Tripartite Working Group, East/West Trade”, dated July 4, consists of seven pages and was circulated within the Department of State as SUM D–6; the U.S. paper, “Trade With the Soviet Union: Expanded Trade as a Bargaining Measure”, dated June 30, consists of three pages and was circulated as SUM D–6a. Copies of both papers are in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 498.