179. Memorandum of a Conversation, President’s Villa, Geneva, July 17, 1955, 5:30 p.m.1

PRESENT

  • The President
  • The Secretary of State (for latter part of conversation)
  • Prime Minister Faure
  • Mr. Antoine Pinay
  • Lt. Colonel Vernon Walters
[Page 359]

The President opened the conversation after greeting the two French ministers by saying that he had re-read his statement and not found anything substantial to change in it, and that he would deliver it in very much the form that the French ministers had seen.2 Mr. Faure said he had read the draft of the President’s statement with great attention and care and he felt that it was excellent and struck just the right note. He then inquired whether the President had seen his projected statement. The President said he had not, that he had been extremely busy in the afternoon and that it was in the hands of his staff who were translating it and would give it to him shortly. Mr. Faure said that he would make his projected statement considerably shorter. The President then said he felt that we should be very careful in mentioning anything concerning international organization as such. He did not feel that we should be specific in this respect and Mr. Faure said that he would express himself in this respect in extremely general terms.

Mr. Pinay then said that he had seen Mr. Molotov and the President indicated that Secretary Dulles had also seen the Soviet Foreign Minister.3 Mr. Pinay then said that Mr. Molotov’s visit was entirely a courtesy one and the President said that the same had been true of his visit to Secretary Dulles. Mr. Molotov had wanted to invite the President, and had appeared somewhat disappointed when the Secretary had explained why this could not be done. He had said that he would pass it on to his colleagues. The President said that he felt that it was important not to give the Russians the feeling that they were being discriminated against, and that these social contacts could have great value in creating an atmosphere of confidence. Mr. Pinay said that Mr. Molotov had also stressed to him the importance of these social contacts. The President said that he agreed that these private meetings and social contacts could do a great deal to create confidence. He had been dealing with the Russians since 1941 when in the War Department he had been working on helping them rearm themselves, and had worked with them frequently since then. He could recall in his previous contacts on several occasions, that when he asked the Russians exactly what they wanted, they had replied on these various occasions, “to be treated as equals in every respect”. He said that he hoped that they would realize that their desire to be received into the family of civilized nations could only be realized if they began to behave like the civilized nations. The President felt that if an atmosphere of confidence could be created, and if we could feel that they were being honest, our problem would [Page 360]be solved. Mr. Faure said that the problem was to know when they were acting in good faith and when they were not. Up to the death of Stalin they had always acted in bad faith. Since then, the situation had been somewhat in a state of flux, and sometimes they had acted in good faith and sometimes not. Mr. Pinay said that the fact that they were behaving relatively well should not induce us to having unlimited confidence in them. The President said he would not want Mr. Pinay to believe that he was over optimistic, but he merely wished to quote a famous commander who once said, “Pessimism never won a battle nor a war.” He said the problem was to know at what point they were acting in an honest way. If we could create a proper spirit among the chiefs of delegations, the confidence could develop in a satisfactory manner. If we could only have confidence in them as we have, for instance, in Mr. Eden, it would be an easy matter. If Mr. Eden would promise the French Ministers or us that he would do something, we would know that he would do it. If we could ever reach a situation where we have this kind of confidence in the Russians, the solutions to our problems would be relatively easy. The President said he felt that if they were negotiating in bad faith, we should carry on the talks because their evidence of bad faith would rebound against them, and if they were in good faith, we should encourage them along this path.

Mr. Faure said that he had recently received Mr. Ilya Ehrenburg, the Soviet writer, at his home in Paris as he had known him previously and Ehrenburg had been attacking the Paris Accords. Mr. Faure had explained to him that we must show confidence in the Germans now that they had good leaders. If we did not, we would get someone like Hitler who would ask for everything, and Ehrenburg had indicated that we should encourage the Russians in the same way. The President said it was interesting that Ehrenburg had been so frank and Mr. Faure said that the Russian’s frankness had not really extended this far. He had only said that we should not limit that confidence to the Germans alone.

The President then said that in his opening statement he would speak briefly and frankly urging the development of friendly understanding and good faith between the conferees. Mr. Faure said he had read the President’s speech and felt it was very good. As President, he spoke from a higher level and could set the tone of the conference. The President said that we should establish the proper spirit and let the conference develop. He was looking forward to the buffets that would, he understood, be served at the meeting place following the official sessions, because there they would be able to have long informal talks. The President said that as far as he was concerned, he hoped that the official and formal sessions would be short as possible, and that the informal and unofficial ones as long as possible. [Page 361]Mr. Pinay reiterated that Mr. Molotov had mentioned to him the importance he attached to these social contacts.

At this point, Secretary Dulles joined the conferees.4 Mr. Faure said he did not wish to detain the President and would shorten his speech. He would not specify definitely concerning the organization he had mentioned in the morning, though he did not feel it should be in the framework of the United Nations. Some United Nations members did not have to disarm because either they were already disarmed, or they had very small armed forces. This proposal would affect only those nations who were armed to a point where a reduction of armament expenditures would have major implications for their budget.

The President said this was true, but he would not want to see us commit ourselves to any specific organization or method. Mr. Faure said he would phrase his statement along these lines.

The President, Secretary Dulles, and the two French ministers then spoke for some fifteen minutes on purely social topics.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File. Drafted by Walters.
  2. President Eisenhower had shown Faure the draft at their luncheon meeting earlier in the day; see Document 176.
  3. See Document 177.
  4. Secretary Dulles’ memorandum of this part of the conversation, USDEL/MC/5, July 17, is in Department of State, Central File 396.1–GE/7–1755.