220. Memorandum of a Conversation, Palais des Nations, Geneva, July 21, 1955, 2:30 p.m.1


  • The President
  • The Secretary of State (part of conference)
  • Prime Minister Edgar Faure
  • Mr. Armand Berard
  • Lt. Colonel Vernon A. Walters

Prime Minister Faure opened the conversation by saying that he was very happy to visit the President as the conference developed.2 The President replied that he felt that the afternoon session was so important that he was going to read what he would say. He was very anxious to see a system of inspection set up and he felt that one might point out certain possibilities in the budgetary approach. He would say that we, ourselves, had not been able to find a way of gaining real confidence. He felt that in the budgetary approach there might be some value as a check for some other system of control. If this could be developed, so much the better. What he would like to see done was the issuance of new instructions to the U.N. Subcommittee on Disarmament to examine all possibilities in this field. He would like to make a plea for the inspection system. He did not mind if Mr. Faure also put in a plea for budgetary controls. He did not feel that this would be mutually antagonistic. If a system for control of armaments were set up, it would require many checks in order to become a system in which the world would have confidence. The President said that the budgetary control system might be explained by Mr. Faure in a general way while he would make a plea for inspection, and felt that the budgetary control approach might be explored. He himself would personally make his plea for an adequate system of inspection and reporting.

Prime Minister Faure said he felt that there was no opposition between the President’s ideas and his, and that something might well be worked out which would combine the system of inspection which [Page 443] the President advocated, and his system of budgetary control and a common fund. He did not want to do anything that would be in contradiction with an idea. The President said he would not like to see this idea develop so far in detail that it would lead us into doing anything more than to issue instructions to the U.N. Subcommittee on Disarmament, to study all the possibilities in this field. The President said that the point which Mr. Faure made concerning the sanction of extra expenditures for nations violating the agreement would, he felt, not be as forceful in his country as in Europe because in the United States there was a certain reserve taxable strength that without any invidious comparison, was greater than in Europe, and that if a violation were intended by paying additional amounts into the common fund, this would not be a prohibitive control. He felt that this should not be stressed as much as working out some arrangement which would provide for common inspection including that of the budgetary expenditures, as well as other phases of any armament program.

Prime Minister Faure said that if the President agreed, he would proceed as follows: He would present a memorandum setting forth his ideas and the conference might refer it to the U.N. Subcommittee on Disarmament where he would have the French representatives present it. He would give this draft to Mr. Dulles to make sure there was nothing that was in opposition to our ideas in it. He felt that the conference would not necessarily be called upon to accept it, but merely to refer it to the U.N. Subcommittee.

The President said that he believed that there had been some disagreement among the Foreign Ministers during the morning.3 The Soviet Foreign Minister wanted to handle the agenda today in the same way as yesterday with the problem of German reunification way down at the bottom of the list and treated very lightly. He hoped that at the afternoon session, all of the Western Powers would stand firm in urging major consideration of the problem of German reunification. He believed that the Secretary of State had talked to Marshal Bulganin on this.4

At this point, Secretary Dulles joined the President and Prime Minister Faure. He said that he had talked to Marshal Bulganin on the matters which they were discussing now and on the question of disarmament. He had indicated that the Soviet Union was quite ready to permit the fullest inspection and we could know all we wished about the Soviet Union on the basis of reciprocity. The President said this would indeed be a tremendous thing if it were carried through. The Secretary of State indicated that Marshal Bulganin had [Page 444] taken the initiative of discussing this with him. Khrushchev and Zhukov had joined at the luncheon table after he raised the question of German reunification. He had explained to Marshal Bulganin the difference between the two points of view. The Soviets wished to talk about European security first and the German reunification only in a secondary way; whereas, we wished to discuss German reunification primarily, and felt that the only need to discuss European security was to establish a framework under which German reunification could be implemented. If progress were to be made, neither thesis could prevail and some middle ground must be found whereby the two could be discussed concurrently with equal dignity. Marshal Bulganin had said that he wanted to study the matter and he would ask in the afternoon session that speeches not be made on this subject, but that it be allowed to go over until the following day when he hoped the Foreign Ministers might present something in the way of an agreement. Secretary Dulles had replied that he felt that from the U.S. side, it might be justifiable to expect that the President would be willing to let this go over until the following day, and the President then confirmed this.

(Secretary of State Dulles left)

The President said that he felt that if we met at 3:30 to discuss these matters, he would hope that the business might be done today and this would give more time in the buffet. He had definitely received the impression that the Russians were very anxious to be treated as equals and welcomed. He felt that it was fun for them and that they were doubly anxious to be treated as equals by all the others. These buffets gave them an opportunity to meet and get together other than the opportunity they had around the table. Yesterday, they had said in the discussion, on inspection, that they wanted to belong to NATO. This would, of course, involve a common inspection. Mr. Faure said that he had not previously believed that inspection was practical, until he heard the President explain it, and then for the first time he believed it could be possible. He felt that this inspection should be tied into something, and if there was to be no limitation, he felt it might be tied into publicity and the control exercised by world opinion which would know the figures and expenditures. The President felt that this thought might well be helpful. Mr. Faure then said that before limitation could be worked out—and it was an extremely complicated thing—the idea of publicity might be helpful and combined with inspection to show that the figures submitted and made public were in fact true. He felt that an analogy might be drawn in this connection to labor management conflicts. The French were working out a new statute patterned on what existed in England and might well also exist in the United States. In cases of labor management conflicts, a mediator was appointed [Page 445] who had no power of decision himself, but he drew up a document which was made public concerning the conflict which gave the public a complete idea as to the wages of the workers and profits of management and all other pertaining data. This might, he felt, be applied to the question of disarmament, so that public opinion would at least be able to tell whether armaments were increasing or decreasing. The President felt that this idea might be valuable in the discussion.

Prime Minister Faure said that as the President would speak first and give particular emphasis to the importance of inspection, he would then, if the President agreed, introduce the idea of publicity as something that would facilitate frankness and confidence. The President then said that this seemed all right to him. Mr. Faure then said that after that he would make a passing reference to his plan for a common fund and state that his memorandum would be submitted later, however, he would want us to see it, to make sure that there was nothing in it in contradiction to the U.S. position. The President agreed to this.

(Secretary of State Dulles rejoined the Conferees)

Mr. Faure then said he would like to say one word on the subject of Indo-China. The French were worried by Diem5 whom they were trying to support in common with the United States, but he was an extremely difficult man. He had been forewarned of these recent outbreaks.6 He had been offered help by the French which he had refused. He felt it would be helpful if the U.S. and France could act in concert to overcome the problems presented by the fact that Diem was such a difficult person. The second matter was that Diem wanted the French out and wanted no collaboration of any kind with them. Mr. Faure said he was quite willing to withdraw all French troops there, but it must be understood that under those circumstances the French could not be later expected to defend anything. Regarding the elections, Diem still had one year before him, but his attitude now was that he was not going to hold them. Mr. Faure felt that this was not a good idea and that it would be far better if Diem would give the impression that he intended to hold these elections even if he did not. Mr. Faure said he received a telegram from Nehru criticizing the situation in Viet Nam and protesting against the French failure to provide adequate protection for the International Armistice Commission.

The President said he knew Mr. Diem was sometimes difficult, but we had been seeking for many years to find a figure who could [Page 446] be directly connected with popular aspirations. We needed someone from this area who could personify for Viet Nam that they were fighting for independence, and regardless of his faults, it would not be helpful to eliminate him as who else could be found. He has achieved independence but he hates the French and this weakens the whole structure. The President did not feel that it would be helpful to attempt to solve this problem by threats to undermine Diem, as it would be difficult to find someone who could replace him. The President, while saying he understood Mr. Faure’s difficulties, felt that we did not have a free hand, because if we removed him, communism would triumph. He hoped that the Prime Minister could talk to Secretary Dulles right away, as Admiral Radford and Secretary Anderson, who were both very well informed on this situation, were in Geneva. He did not wish to do anything which would embarrass Mr. Faure in any way, and he felt that if we handled this matter skillfully, we would obtain better cooperation from Diem who was admittedly difficult.

Mr. Faure said he had started to talk to Secretary Dulles on this matter and against the advice of some of his councillors, he had decided to support Diem. It was his desire to carry out a policy of association, not only in Viet Nam, but also in North Africa. He wanted to thank the President for the helicopters which had been given by the United States for use in North Africa. He felt it was very difficult to fight communism unless we could associate ourselves with the national aspirations. Mr. Faure said he felt it would be helpful if the U.S. could intervene with Diem to get in touch with North Viet Nam on the question of holding the elections and secondly, on the question of the French Expeditionary Corps in Viet Nam if he could be made to rally to a position which the U.S. and French would work out in common. The President said he felt it would be well if this matter could be studied. Mr. Faure said he would meet with Secretary Dulles, Mr. Macmillan, and Mr. Pinay.7

The Secretary of State then said we had already pressed Diem to make a more positive attitude toward the elections but had not obtained any results. An anomalous situation existed in that the French had signed the Accords, undertaking to hold the elections and that Diem who was the party that would hold the elections, had not signed. France had made the undertaking and Diem who had the power to carry it out did not want to do so to signify his disapproval of the Geneva agreement.

Mr. Faure said he had discussed this matter with Mr. Eden who had said that Diem was against the Geneva agreements, but if there [Page 447] had not been any Geneva agreements, there would not be any Mr. Diem. Secretary Dulles commented that Diem was not always logical.

Mr. Faure then said he felt that his talk with the President had been extremely helpful and he did not wish to detain him any further. He again apologized for arriving late and took leave of the President and the Secretary of State.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, White House Office, Geneva—Notes and Observations. Drafted by Walters.
  2. Prior to this meeting President Eisenhower met at his villa with Anderson, Radford, Gruenther, Stassen, and Bohlen at 11 a.m.; with Radford, Stassen, and Major Eisenhower at 1 p.m. for a luncheon; and with Stassen, Rockefeller, Dillon Anderson, Radford, and Goodpaster at 2 p.m. No records of any of these meetings have been found in Department of State files or at the Eisenhower Library, but they are described in Goodpaster’s notes on the Summit Conference and appear as entries in Eisenhower’s appointment schedule. (Ibid.)
  3. See Document 217.
  4. See supra .
  5. Ngo Dinh Diem, President of the Republic of Vietnam.
  6. On July 20, student riots in Saigon endangered the safety of the International Control Commission.
  7. See Document 223.