266. Letter From Secretary of State Dulles to Chancellor Adenauer1

My Dear Chancellor: I have your letter bearing date August 9.2 I am indeed happy that you feel free to write me so intimately about your preoccupations. I value it highly that we should always keep in close and understanding contact with each other.

It may not be entirely beside the point for me to recall sentiments which I had when, shortly following the Armistice, I saw the destruction which had been wrought in Germany. If I have told you before, it nevertheless bears repetition. I had at that time been reading Toynbee’s Study of History, in which, reviewing the ages, he develops the thesis of “challenge and response”. I felt that few people had ever confronted a challenge more severe than that which confronted the German people at that time. I said to myself that if the Germans met that challenge, then indeed they will have proved their greatness.

The challenge has been met, largely under and through your leadership, and I bestow the tribute of greatness.

I also have great confidence in the dependable qualities of my own nation.

I believe that if our two peoples can work together for the future as, happily, we have during recent years, then we can look hopefully to the future.

Your letter portrays one interpretation of the Geneva Conference. It may be, no doubt it is, the interpretation which many are [Page 548]giving it. It is not, however, the interpretation of the President and myself, and I do not think that it is the correct interpretation.

Let us first of all remember that the present policies of the Soviet Union are born not out of its strength, but out of its weakness; not out of its successes, but out of its failures. It was they, not we, who made extraordinary efforts to bring the Summit Conference about.

Mr. Molotov, in his San Francisco speech, listed the steps which they had taken—the Austrian Treaty, the pilgrimage to Belgrade, the May 10 disarmament proposals, the invitation to you and the offer to make peace with Japan.3 Also, concertedly, all Soviet officials changed their demeanor to one of cordiality toward Western officials. It may be said that much of this was spurious and without substance. Of course it was. But even so, the sum total is a striking measure of their anxiety for a change of pace.

Why did they want this?

The reasons, I think, are fairly obvious. Their foreign policies of toughness and hostility had failed. The resiliency and unity of the free nations had been increasingly demonstrated through eight years of cold war. The climax was their effort to bring about the defeat of the London–Paris Accords,4 and when this effort failed, it was obvious that they had to resort to different policies.

This need was accentuated by their domestic situation, where there was obvious strain. They were trying to maintain a military establishment which would equal that of the United States in terms of modern weapons and means of delivery, and they were also trying to maintain a vast army of foot soldiers. At the same time, they were trying to develop, in a spectacular way, their capital plant.

All of this involved an abnormal diversion of productivity away from consumers’ goods—manufactured and agricultural. While perhaps no immediate crisis existed, it was obvious that they could not maintain their present pace indefinitely, and that they needed at least a respite during which they could give their people more of what they craved. They needed what we in NATO two years ago called a “long haul” policy as against emergency policies which were an excessive drain on the economy.

If it was the Soviets who particularly wanted the “spirit of Geneva”—and that, I think, is demonstrable—it is probable that they will pay something more than the prepayments Molotov listed in order to preserve this spirit. How much they will yet pay remains to [Page 549]be seen. But it is certainly the intention of the United States to press them in this respect.

The President and I do not consider that the “spirit of Geneva” means acquiescence in the status quo or the perpetuation of present injustices, notably the partition of Germany, the satellite rule and the reduction of hundreds of millions of people to what, by our standards, is slave labor. It is our intention to make our views in this respect perfectly clear. The President will, I think, soon speak out on this subject. Above all, we expect to make the unification of Germany the touchstone. If it is not possible to make some concrete progress along this line at the October Geneva Conference, then there will be a serious question as to whether “the spirit of Geneva” can be preserved so far as we are concerned.

You mention the fact that the present Soviet mood is less favorable to the unification of Germany than it was at Berlin.5 That is not my estimate of the situation. The “spirit of Geneva” has deprived the Soviets of their stock arguments for holding on to East Germany for purposes of “security”. The fact that the Soviets are announcing a large reduction of their armed forces because, they say, tension has been relaxed not only proves their need for a greater productive labor force, but also provides us with a cogent argument for the unification Of Germany because, by the Soviets’ own admission, the “security” situation has been improved.

I do believe that the Russians are worried about how to dispose of the GDR and are fearful that, if they pull the rug out from under the GDR, that will greatly weaken their position in all of Eastern Europe. They are, I think, the more concerned because their “peace” with Tito may encourage Tito in the thought that some of these satellites, e.g. Hungary, may be brought to follow his example and establish, in association with Yugoslavia, a Communist nationalistic bloc competitive with the bloc that Moscow rules.

I believe that the unification of Germany is, as I put it at a recent press conference, “in the air” and that we must keep it there. I was struck by the fact that, in Chou En-lai’s recent major speech of July 30, he talked about the unification of Germany in terms quite different from that of the Soviet Union. He put the unification of Germany first and European security second. I enclose a copy of that part of his speech in case you do not have it.6

Let me mention, in passing, that we do not have any confirmation of what you refer to as the news that the Russians are stationing [Page 550]troops in Hungary and in Czechoslovakia. Even if this were true, which we doubt, it would be an evidence of fear not of confidence.

I, too, have spent some time in studying Russian history, particularly since 1917. I agree that they reckon with long periods—as Lenin and Stalin often put it, an entire historical era. But it is also true that they teach the tactics of retreat, in order to gain a respite, and if they now want this respite, which seems to be the case, we have, I think, a possibility of getting the unification of Germany as the price they must pay. Whether, and how quickly, they will pay that price remains to be seen. But I think there is a good chance that unification, on your terms, can be achieved in a couple of years if we are stout.

So far as the United States is concerned, we do not intend “the spirit of Geneva” to mean either that the Soviet rulers can conduct covert aggression with impunity, or that we should abandon our strength and vigilance and thus expose ourselves to future overt attack, or that we should abandon our collective security arrangements, or that we should accept the status quo of injustice, of which a most glaring example is the division of Germany.

I do not yet know how fully the United Kingdom and France will make their policy accord with ours but so far there is every reason to hope and believe that they will, particularly if you yourself give the lead. If we can all work together in this spirit, then I feel confident that we are on the eve of better things.

It occurred to me that it might be useful if Livie Merchant should come to Bonn to have private and informal talks with you before you go to Moscow. He is very experienced in these matters and played a leading part in the Geneva Conference, ranking on our Delegation only after the President and myself. I would like to come myself but I am afraid that would be a bit too conspicuous, and embarrassing rather than helpful. But Livie can speak from intimate knowledge of our highest-level thinking.

If you think Merchant’s trip would be useful, I suggest you send me a private message as to what day would be convenient for him to be with you.

I talked over all of these matters with President Eisenhower yesterday (Sunday) before he left for Denver. We are in complete accord on the point of view which I express here. The President has asked me to transmit to you his very warm greetings and his expression of great confidence.

With my own best wishes, I am, dear Chancellor Adenauer,

Always faithfully yours,

John Foster Dulles7
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Strictly Confidential. Secret; Personal and Private.
  2. For text, see Erinnerungen, pp. 478–480.
  3. For text of Molotov’s speech on June 22, see Tenth Anniversary, pp. 103–115.
  4. For text of the Paris Agreements signed in October 1954, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. v, Part 2, pp. 1435 ff.
  5. For documentation on the Four-Power Conference held at Berlin in January and February 1954, see ibid., vol. vii, Part 1, pp. 601 ff.
  6. Not printed; for text of this speech, see People’s China, August 16, 1955, pp. 3–8.
  7. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.