176. Memorandum of the Conversation at the Tripartite Luncheon, President’s Villa, Geneva, July 17, 1955, 1 p.m.1


  • United States
    • The President
    • The Secretary of State
    • Mr. Douglas MacArthur II
    • Mr. Livingston Merchant
    • Lt. Col. Vernon Walters
  • United Kingdom
    • Prime Minister Eden
    • Mr. Harold Macmillan
    • Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick
    • Sir Norman Brook
  • France
    • Prime Minister Faure
    • Mr. Antoine Pinay
    • Mr. Armand Berard
    • Mr. Roland de Margerie

The President said that he would like to ask Secretary Dulles if he had any remarks to make.

Secretary Dulles opened by saying that the opening meeting would probably be held tomorrow. As he understood it, an agreement had been reached among themselves as well as with the Russians at San Francisco that the President would preside. The President plans an opening statement that would last about ten or fifteen minutes. He would touch briefly on the topics that might normally [Page 344] be expected to come up, without going into anything which might be controversial nor making any effort to suggest solutions. The thought was that if the opening remarks were general in nature, it might be possible to get all the opening statements over on the first day despite the need for consecutive translation. Then on Tuesday morning the Foreign Ministers might get together and pick out the topics on which there seemed to be common thought and the conference could then get underway at that time. He felt that it would be useful if they had thoughts as to what should be in the opening statements; they might exchange them among the heads of governments. The President had an outline but it was only an outline and he might not adhere literally to it.

The President then said that he thought that the Foreign Ministers could get together and pick out those matters which were common and study the procedure to see how these might be discussed subsequently. If any delegation had a plan they might present it at the time when the plan was to be discussed rather than now and see by whom it should be discussed and how.

Secretary Dulles then said that regarding the mention of a plan it had been informally agreed in Paris to make a difference between a formal plan and illustrative suggestions, and it was felt that no plan should be suggested prior to being studied and agreed upon among themselves and they had not yet had an opportunity for such prior study on any plan.

Prime Minister Eden then said that he felt that a great deal depended on how we assessed Russian intentions. Regarding procedures, he too would make a short statement at the opening of about ten minutes’ duration and said that ideas for it might be discussed later. Behind our assessment of Russian intentions, by far the most important issue at this conference was the question of German unity and how we could help a friendly German government and make sure that the NATO front was firmly sustained. He felt sure that he could say that the Russians would not want to talk about German unity now, any more then they had wanted to talk about it at Berlin. We should do all we could to make them talk about the German problem. This was important for Germany. He did not know what the Secretary of State thought but on the matter of Austria, he had held the view that the pressure at Berlin on the Russians for a treaty for Austria had finally had a delayed effect. He had felt that the Russians would not sign an Austrian treaty before a German treaty or at least not until after a German treaty had been signed. The Soviets had been embarrassed over Austria. He did not feel that it was inconceivable that something similar might happen in the case of Germany. He felt strongly that we should keep up the pressure. There was one other thing that he wanted to mention and that was [Page 345] that we should not discount the fact that from the Russian point of view they might wish to delay the discussion on German unity. They might feel that Adenauer was seventy-eight, and that time was on their side, and that if they did not allow East and West Germany to come together, they might be able to keep them apart, Adenauer might die and a weaker government follow. Sir Anthony felt that if progress were to be made on the question of German unity, this conference would be a success for the West. If it was a draw, it would be a success for Soviet diplomacy even though it might not immediately appear to be so.

The President then said that when we discussed this question we should be certain of Chancellor Adenauer’s views on any riposte that the Russians might throw at us so that we would not agree to anything that would embarrass him. In discussing the question of Germany, we should not make any blunders where Adenauer was concerned as he was, so to speak, our “ace in the hole”.

The Secretary then indicated that there was a representative of the Chancellor right here in Geneva.

Prime Minister Faure then said he would like to know whether the opening speeches would be kept secret or published. Secretary Dulles said that it had been our idea that the opening statements might be made public and Mr. Faure agreed to this. The President then said that you had to put out something and if it was not the opening statement, what could it be. He felt that the opening statement should be weighed carefully. Prime Minister Faure said that it made quite a difference if they were to be published as they would have to rephrase them if this were the case. Prime Minister Eden then said that he thought the Russians probably expected these to be published. Secretary Dulles said this had not been discussed with them and that later that same afternoon, the four press officers would meet in a conference and this question might be raised with them at that time.2 The Secretary then added that Molotov had asked to see him at eleven o’clock. He had been unable to agree to this time because of his prior commitment for the meeting then underway, but he was to see him right after lunch.3 If they all agreed, he might indicate to Molotov the general character of our opening speech, which would be brief, would outline the topics and the approach to them but would not go into their substance or discuss them. The fact that he might agree on this character of our opening [Page 346] statement did not mean that the Russians would follow suit. It was almost conventional with them to make a long, elaborate opening statement frequently filled with accusations. Bulganin was not as bad in this respect as Molotov. The Secretary then said he was not certain that there was agreement among ourselves as Prime Minister Faure seemed to have a slightly different opinion.

Prime Minister Faure then said that he had in fact prepared a longer statement than ours but he would work on it this afternoon in an attempt to shorten it. He had sent his draft over to the President and Sir Anthony and would like to know how they felt about it.4

At this point, it appeared that the President and Prime Minister Eden had not as yet received this document. He felt that it was very important that they should all act in agreement. It would be good if they could exchange their drafts so that they would all be in harmony. As for substance, he agreed with Prime Minister Eden that the most important subject would be the question of German unity. He felt that they should discuss this subject frankly in the following manner—primarily give emphasis to the re-establishment of German unity because the division of Germany creates tension and engenders unrest in Europe. There was no valid reason for maintaining a divided Germany. All powers had agreed on the desirability of the restoration of German unity even though they might differ as to the methods to achieve this. A second point which should be developed is that the neutralization of Germany would be an impossible condition for us as a price for the restoration of German unity. This had been expressed previously by the Soviets. There are many arguments of law and fact against the maintenance of German disunity. If Germany were reunited as we advocate and not neutralized, she would probably stay in the Western European and NATO organizations. Only if she refused to stay should a real security problem arise, and this is not probable. What real objection could the Soviets present if they were acting in good faith. If all of Germany were included in the Western organization rather than two-thirds as is the case presently, this would, of course, increase the capabilities of the Western organization, but would this be a new danger for Soviet security? Mr. Faure said he did not believe that it would constitute a danger as the Western European organization is a defensive one only. The increase in our capabilities might well be compensated by the fact that a cause of tension would disappear. If the Soviets were to ask for security guarantees we could take these under study provided we were not asked to give up the Western defense organization. He felt it was extremely important that our position be firm at the outset and that no neutralization could be accepted. This being said, he felt [Page 347] that we could not conclude a bargain without being prepared to make some concessions and in examining this we should move to the only ground where we could make such concessions and that would be the field of assurances even if the Russians made exaggerated demands for them. The Soviets might well ask for security guarantees if Germany is reunited and stays in the Western European and NATO organizations. He said that this advantage for us might compensate by [for] these guarantees. In all the different studies that have been made on the question of security guarantees for the Soviets, they have been presented as follows: (We can speak on this later and agree among ourselves on tactics to be followed.)

We might renew or express in another form the guarantees that already exist on the part of the Western powers and Germany. For the West we might agree not to support any recourse to force and Germany might agree not to resort to force. These are juridical ideas that might be confirmed or expressed in a different form. The second idea was that he felt that if all of Germany were to be included in NATO instead of only West Germany, we might agree that this should not change the military potential of Germany and that a reunited Germany would maintain the same force levels in NATO as had been foreseen for the Federal Republic only. A third idea which had been expressed in England was that East Germany might be demilitarized if the country were reunited. Fourth, an over-all security organization in which Germany would be included might be superimposed on existing organizations without abolishing them. In his opinion, it was of interest to examine and discuss these matters to show that we had thought them through seriously and hiding nothing. If there were general agreement he felt this thought might be expressed without going into detail. If not, he would go along with whatever was agreed among themselves.

The President then said that he was not quite clear as to how much detail Mr. Faure felt should be included in the opening statement. He feared that if each statement expressed an identical idea and went over the ground in detail that this might give rise to a Russian rebuttal which would last all day Tuesday and would cover the whole world, including the Far East.

Prime Minister Faure said this was the reason why he had sent over his draft in order to obtain the ideas of the other delegations. The President then said that neither he nor apparently Mr. Eden had seen it. Mr. Faure said that his speech was quite long and boring but that he intended to shorten it. (The President then handed Mr. Faure an outline of his proposed remarks and Mr. Faure’s draft was then handed to the President.) The President said he expected to speak for about 10 or 15 minutes. Mr. Faure then said that his first draft was quite long—as the French writer, Rivaol, had said—he had not had [Page 348] time to shorten it. He then suggested that their assistants could get together, read the speeches and indicate where they felt helpful changes might be made.5 Prime Minister Eden then said that he felt this had been very well handled under paragraph 2 of the proposed draft. We should seek action on unity in such a way as not to endanger the security of anyone. One or two illustrations might be put into the opening statements without going beyond. It might be indicated that some security arrangements might be reached and some armaments arrangement might be possible without going into detail.

The President said that this was correct and he felt that while we should have unity on principle this should be done in such a way as to insure that we were not repeating the same words. If he spoke in general terms and very briefly he might plead for the proper spirit and mention this problem and whoever was next to speak might add some illustration. He felt that there should be basic unity between them but that they should not parrot one another’s words.

Prime Minister Faure said he fully agreed. The question was not one which should be discussed in the President’s speech as he was speaking at a higher level. Then his own, which would be next (for politeness sake he had mentioned Mr. Eden first but chronologically he would be the second to speak) might add an illustration without going into detail. He felt it was important that they should agree in advance as to avoid contradictions and fastidious repetition. The President expressed his agreement with this.

Prime Minister Eden then said that he might suggest that in making an illustration we should be careful not to be specific in speaking of any demilitarized zone. Otherwise, we would be held to what we said. No indication should be given as to the area or zone in question if the topic were mentioned. We might, for instance, say that there “could be some area between the troops” but no definition should be given as to size or area.

The President said that he felt that we should be careful in expressing these ideas to make them simple and put them simply. He realized the difficulty of translating some of these thoughts into Russian and from previous contacts with the Russians he had found that they had often innocently assumed a meaning which he had not intended. He had one additional word to say concerning the neutralization of Germany. He had not talked this over with the Secretary but he was confident of his own judgement in this matter and he felt there was no possibility of having 80 million hard-working people in the center of Europe as neutrals. It simply could not be done. He did not feel we could accept this for intelligent discussion.

[Page 349]

Secretary Dulles said he would like to add one remark to what Sir Anthony had said regarding the need for caution in approaching the matter of demilitarization. He felt similar caution should likewise be used in approaching the matter of the Warsaw organization and treaty. We should be careful not to treat it as a real counterpart to NATO. If the Warsaw organization were composed of truly independent states with a will of their own, some comparison might be possible. In point of fact, the Warsaw organization was a device whereby the Soviet Union projected its frontiers into the center of Europe. The West should not say or do anything that would sanctify or consolidate a situation which he felt was abnormal and must change before peace could be consolidated.

Prime Minister Faure said that personally he shared Secretary Dulles’ opinion and he thought that Mr. Pinay also agreed even though the French Government might previously have taken a different position. Evidently it was an attractive idea to establish a similarity between the Western bloc and the Warsaw organization and consider them as organizations of the same type and seek contracts between them. For the reasons which Secretary Dulles had expressed he would be reluctant to accept this conception. He felt we should mention the eastern organization as little as possible, the more we spoke of it the more this would tend to give it the appearance of a real security system. The President expressed his agreement with this.

Mr. Faure then said that in his projected statement he had also considered the German question as the principal problem but he had also discussed a second matter, which was the problem of disarmament. He had been extremely impressed by an exposé of President Eisenhower in 1953 on the connection between the reduction of armaments and economic and social questions.6 He would like to take up this idea again, while apologizing to the President for borrowing it from him. He would like to give the idea more precise form by suggesting that disarmament might be entrusted to an international organization. He felt that the only practical means to control disarmament would be of a financial nature rather than by attempting to exercise technical controls only. Taking up once again the President’s idea of a reduction of military expenditures he felt that reality could be given to disarmament efforts by a contribution of the countries committed to a common fund for the development of underdeveloped areas. He felt that only along this path could a solution be found as otherwise disarmament could never be implemented. Furthermore, the idea had excellent propaganda value for the Western [Page 350] powers and would avoid giving the Soviets a monopoly of generous and charitable ideas.

The President said that the biggest trouble in this report was the impossibility of finding out from the Russians’ budget exactly what amount they were really spending in the military field. They scattered their expenditures through different appropriations, chapters, and ministries and it was extremely difficult to ascertain the real amount being expended by the Soviet Union for military purposes. In our case, our newspapers, magazines and free discussion and travel made it almost impossible to maintain secrecy of this type, and if we attempted to disarm merely on the basis of military budgets, the free world would be taking what he felt was an unjustifiable risk. Because of that, he did not believe that disarmament could be disassociated from inspection. Here there was an important point he wished to make, inspections alone would not be satisfactory as today it was possible to conceal enough explosive material to defeat a nation in a relatively small space. But other things could be observed, among these was the means of delivery of these weapons. We might start off by devising a method of inspection that would be mutually acceptable, picking out items to be inspected. If this could be done, a great area of confidence could be created which did not exist at the present. A large item, such as 4-engine bombers could be checked on as it required large fields and factories to produce it. The same was true for atomic cannon, warships, and there might be other things that could be added to this. If this were done, what would be left to a potential aggressor. His capability for surprise would be severely limited. The President by no means rejected the idea of reducing military budgets and building up a world fund to assist undeveloped areas.

Mr. Faure said he did not believe there was any opposition between their two positions but rather that one complemented the other. He had had a study made of the Russian budget to see if his thesis would be applicable, and this study had brought out an extremely high figure so that even if the Russians were hiding sums, the figure would remain about ten thousand billion francs. On the other hand, he felt like the President, that they might combine both the control and budgetary methods. The budgetary method had the advantage of imposing a financial burden. If a reduction of ten percent were agreed to, this would be a thousand billion francs and if the Russians agreed to this, but did not in reality reduce their military expenditures, they would have to expend an additional thousand billion francs. The President remarked at this point that the Russians might be perfectly capable of doing this.

Prime Minister Eden then said that most of us—the United States on a large scale, and the others according to what they could [Page 351] afford—were giving considerable assistance to other nations under the Colombo Plan and under other forms. If a disarmament agreement could be achieved, we would of course be in a better position to do more for these nations, but he would not want to exclude some relief for the British tax-payers from the heavy burden they were carrying.

Mr. Faure said that he had foreseen this as a former finance minister and so had Mr. Pinay who had also been finance minister for a long period of time. If he had entered into detail, it was in an attempt to find a formula for redistribution within the countries, and he felt that control was an essential part of this plan. Prime Minister Eden then said he felt this should be handled pretty carefully. We were all free countries in principle, and it was quite true that the greater the reduction in expenditures, the more there would be available for private investment to use as well as for the governments. He did not feel that we could lay down here that they would automatically contribute to this fund the amount that would be saved by any reduction in expenditures. The President said that he could not get away with that either, but that we should not give up the idea that we do want to help others, otherwise we would go back to where we were 20 years ago. All of us would like to do more but he did not feel that we could lay down firmly exactly what we could do.

Mr. Faure said that each State had the right to reduce its arms expenditures and taxes but they did not do so because of the menace of Soviet military power. If an agreement could be reached for a reduction of armaments, each country could of course do more. The President felt we should express our desire to do more.

Secretary Dulles said he felt we should bear in mind what Prime Minister Eden had suggested, that government action should not be the only measure of what we could do as in our own society private enterprise and capital played an important part. We had mutual aid plans which had concentrated on Europe and Asia. We had not had any for South America, but this did not mean that we were not interested in this area. But the political climate was such that private capital could be invested there. In fact, over two billion dollars had been invested in Venezuela in the last five years. The measure should not be entirely government action as in a free society private enterprise also played its part. With a reduction of disarmament expenditures, this would mean a diminishing of the burden of private income and the lower the taxes are on private income, the more capital would be available to flow out for investment to these underdeveloped areas.

Mr. Macmillan then said that the French Prime Minister had referred to methods of control. The physical control and the budgetary control. He had discussed the limitations on physical control and had [Page 352] outlined the possibilities of budgetary control. He felt that what was done with the proceeds was quite another subject. The matter of disarmament, by financial control, could be used for what it was worth to ensure that reductions actually took place. What would be done with the savings was another question. He would be hesitant to bind ourselves to placing the resulting savings under international control. This was not relevant to our major purpose, which was to secure a reduction of armaments. They were two different subjects.

The President then said there was a very important thing called “world opinion”. For a long time it had been felt throughout the world that the atomic bomb was of interest to only two places—Washington and Moscow, as an instrument of destruction and the whole field of atomic science had been similarly regarded. The United States had spent a great deal of money to show that this new science, instead of being devoted to the destruction of man, might prove to be his saving. They had tried to make this clear from Timbuctoo and South Africa to Spitzbergen. This science could be devoted to the good of man. This brought pressure on the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., and the idea of sharing the savings with others than the spenders was important, bringing home to Brazil and Burma an understanding that disarmament was important to them. We did want to do more.

Prime Minister Faure then said he had a word to say about Mr. Macmillan’s remarks. He felt that the originality of his own thesis lay in the fact that it gathered together two separate ideas. Budgetary control and the contribution for a common fund. This was important because budgetary control by itself might not be effective and if the Russians today were to agree to a reduction of military expenditures and not carry it out by trickery, there would be no penalty, so to speak for them, but under the idea of the contribution to a common fund, they would have to spend this additional amount in order to make their contribution. He felt that his whole idea rested on the matter of the common fund. He would go further than the President and say that his idea transformed a negative idea (disarmament) into a positive idea (common fund), and would make an unrealizable idea capable of realization. He realized that there were many difficulties in this plan and that it was not something that could be achieved tomorrow, but he felt that if the idea of an economic organization could be tied to the idea of disarmament, something new and valuable would have been done. The President then asked if there was not some such organization within the framework of the United Nations. Prime Minister Faure replied that there was an organization of this type but he felt that this common fund could better be handled outside of the United Nations. Prime Minister Eden then asked if we did not have enough administrations already. Mr. Pinay then said that [Page 353] the idea of the common fund might be combined with the control of items as suggested by the President, and this might enable the countries to contribute more.

Secretary Dulles then said we should bear in mind that money saved domestically through budgetary reductions was not exactly the same as making available foreign exchange. There was a difference between money spent internally which was kept in the country and a fund which would be sent abroad and would impose a contribution of goods and services, and that we should recognize the difference between these two.

Mr. Faure said this was very important and he had not mentioned it in order not to go into too great a length on this subject. If a government reduced its military expenditures, there should be a corresponding increase in national production so that disarmament would not become a cause of recession. It was a very complicated problem and if that country were to reduce its military expenditure by ten percent, as an example, consumer goods should be given rather than foreign exchange. Trucks instead of tanks and transport aircraft instead of military aircraft.

Mr. Pinay then said the organization might not be as complex as the President envisaged. It might be even fairly simple. It could list the requirements of each undeveloped country, and place orders for shoes, textiles, trucks or other items in contributing countries and then see that they were delivered to the undeveloped countries. He felt that the question of control item as extremely important. Mr. Faure had not perhaps brought out sufficiently its relations to budgetary economies. If ten percent were saved, there might be a five percent tax reduction and a five percent contribution to the common fund.

The President then said that this detailed discussion illustrates how if the four heads of government go into such detail, the discussion of this one subject might take two days. He felt that the heads of governments should establish a spirit and leave the details in the hands of technicians and professional specialists.

Secretary Dulles then said he was about to commit the sin that the President had just condemned. He had one other thought, if you put shoes, textiles and other goods into an area as free exports, giving them away, this would have disastrous effects on international trade. We have unhappily been engaged in a business of trying to dispose of surplus agricultural goods, and this had a disastrous effect on normal trade.

Prime Minister Faure then said that he would also commit sin but would then go to confession. He felt that Secretary Dulles’ objections might be overcome by having the international organization sell these products to the undeveloped nations and then use the [Page 354] money for their own improvement by digging canals, building dams, and other similar projects. He would now leave sin and return to the light. He understood the objections to his thesis but he thought it was a good one. The Soviets had promised disarmament and happiness to the peoples of the world. They had given neither and had never proposed anything practical. Under his idea they would be offered the choice of contributing to the welfare of under-developed nations without being able to sandwich in Communist ideology. If they accepted this, they would be bound up in a system other than their own. If they refused, this would have an extremely adverse effect on world opinion towards them.

The President said he felt it was a good idea and we did have to help the rest of the world. He was not sure that shoes might necessarily be the way. He could cite a case in the Philippines where if you gave a man a pair of shoes, he would tie them on a stick and carry them over his shoulder. When he saw you and realized you were his benefactor, he would put them on, but as soon as you went away, he would put them back on a stick over his shoulder.

Mr. Faure said that the wife of one of the French governors in Africa had gone around giving baby carriages to the natives and the native women had merely strapped the babies on their backs and had pushed the empty baby carriages around.

At this point the discussion began to break up and Mr. Pinay said that we should not agree with anything that would in any way weaken NATO. The President said he had worked so hard to build up NATO, that he could certainly agree with that, and Mr. Pinay said that it was not only a question of not giving up NATO, it was a question of doing nothing that would in any way weaken the NATO defensive organization. At this point the President invited his guests to join him at lunch.7

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/7–1755. Secret. A notation on the source text reads: “Informal record dictated by Colonel Walters—not reviewed or cleared.”
  2. Hagerty reported on the meeting of the press officers at a U.S. Delegation briefing at 3:15 p.m., indicating that general agreement had been reached on the publication of the opening statements and other press arrangements. (Briefing No. 1, July 17; ibid., Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 502)
  3. For a report on Dulles’ meeting with Molotov at 2:30 p.m., see USDEL/MC/1, infra.
  4. Not found in Department of State files.
  5. See footnote 4, supra.
  6. See footnote 3, Document 140.
  7. At 2:30 p.m. Merchant briefed the U.S. Delegation on the tripartite meeting. Dillon Anderson’s record of the briefing, which is substantially along these lines, is in the Eisenhower Library, White House Office, Geneva—Notes and Observations.