269. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, August 31, 19551


  • Preparations for the Geneva Meeting of the Four Foreign Ministers


  • US
    • The Secretary
    • The Under Secretary
    • Mr. MacArthur
    • Mr. Bowie
    • Mr. Phleger
    • Mr. Beam
    • Mr. Galloway
  • French
    • Ambassador Couve de Murville
    • M. Jacques Vimont, Minister
  • UK
    • Sir Robert Scott, British Minister
    • Mr. Adam Watson, Counselor

The Secretary said that he had asked the French Ambassador and Sir Robert Scott to call because he thought it would be useful to discuss in a preliminary way the problem of European Security in the context of the forthcoming Geneva meeting. He noted that the Department had received some papers from the British Embassy which set forth the present British line of thinking.2 He said that he and his principal advisers had also been giving thought to this problem and had produced a draft European Security treaty which might be considered on the assumption that Germany is reunified.

The Secretary said he thought that we should contemplate putting forward a definitive proposal for the reunification of Germany at the Geneva meeting and that the discussion on European Security should take place only within this context of German reunification. As for the proposal on German reunification, it would be necessary to bring the Eden Plan up-to-date, with such additional specifications as might be necessary.

The Secretary then gave copies of a draft European Security Treaty, together with a commentary thereon and a paper setting forth general U.S. views on the European Security problem (POM D–1/1, D–1/2 and D–1/33), to the British and French representatives [Page 561] and briefly explained the background considerations of some aspects of the draft treaty. He said the draft treaty really had two main parts. The first part was designed to carry out that provision of the directive to the Foreign Ministers4 relating to renunciation of the use of force and providing for denial of assistance to any state violating the obligation not to use force. The draft treaty actually goes further in that it contains a provision of the directive to the Foreign Ministers relating to renunciation of the use of force and providing for denial of assistance to any state violating the obligation not to use force. The draft treaty actually goes further in that it contains a provision that an act of aggression would be considered as a danger to the peace and security of the Parties and that the Parties would take action in accordance with their constitutional processes to meet the situation. In devising this provision, care had been taken to make clear that it would be operative only in the case of an attack against the NATO powers which were Parties to the treaty or by the NATO powers against any of the other Parties to the treaty. The provision would not apply in the case of an attack by one of the eastern Parties against another eastern Party.

The second main aspect of the draft treaty was designed to meet the other part of the directive to the Foreign Ministers regarding the limitation, control and inspection of forces within a given area. The draft took as a starting point the present area covered by the Brussels Treaty, assuming a reunified Germany as part of this area, and added to this an area contiguous and approximately equivalent in size to the east. In the western part of this area, the forces would be limited in accordance with the limitations prevailing under the Brussels Treaty, and US and Canadian forces would be limited approximately in accordance with existing strengths in the area. There would be agreed limitations on forces stationed in the eastern part of the area. (At this point the Secretary explained that in the draft that he had passed out, we had been careful not to deal with the Warsaw Pact as such, since that would imply an equality between the Warsaw Pact and the Brussels Pact or NATO, which we wished to avoid.) The draft provides for initial and periodic reporting on levels of forces and changes in dispositions and strengths, with a provision for consultation in regard to changes. It provides for verification of this reporting by means of aerial and ground inspection. The Secretary [Page 562] noted that the treaty would place no limits on UK, US and Canadian forces not in the area defined, nor would it place any limitations on Soviet forces outside the defined area. He said he thought the concept of the area was a justifiable one, and although a case might be developed for changing or contracting the area, it had seemed logical to start with an existing zone, the Brussels Treaty area, and specify a roughly equivalent area to the east.

To Sir Robert Scott’s question, the Secretary explained that Austria and Yugoslavia were not in the defined area, nor were any of the NATO countries except for those which were members of the Brussels Pact.

The French Ambassador asked if the limits on forces in the defined area would apply to all forces in the area, noting that under the Brussels Pact, the limits applied only to those forces in the area assigned to SACEUR. The Secretary replied that under the concept of the present draft, the limits would apply to all forces in the defined area but not to French forces in North Africa.

Sir Robert Scott said that he had been instructed to make clear certain points in relation to the two British papers which had been given to the Department and to the French Foreign Office. These papers presupposed a reunified Germany or at least that the act of reunification would be completed before any European Security pact or treaty would enter into force. In this connection, Sir Robert noted that it had been agreed by the three governments that a reunified Germany should be free to make her own alliances. Referring to the draft treaty which the Secretary had just given to him, Sir Robert noted that it made explicit that a reunified Germany would be a member of NATO as well as the Brussels Pact.

The Secretary replied that we fully understood that a reunified Germany would be free to make her own choice, but that unless Germany elected to be in NATO and the Brussels Pact, a new situation would obtain and a treaty such as the present draft would not apply.

Sir Robert then referred to the paper prepared by the British Joint Chiefs of Staff relating to inspection of forces within a specific zone. He explained that the concept of this paper was that the proposal could be carried out whether or not Germany was reunified. The paper was limited in scope and had been intended to suggest only a practical experiment in disarmament in the context of inspection and control of forces within a specified area. It was the UK view that if real progress were made on the question of European Security, then the pilot inspection proposal would be unnecessary. Sir Anthony Eden had in fact explained this proposal before the House of Commons and drew attention to the fact that it was very limited in [Page 563] scope.5 Sir Robert went on to say that the UK Government was alive to the consideration that this proposal should not be handled in any way that might compromise the negotiations on European Security and was aware of the need for coordination between the three governments. The Secretary said that he understood that Sir Anthony Eden had put forward this suggestion as a pilot test case in disarmament that might be undertaken. However, he asked that Sir Robert let Mr. Macmillan know that he felt it was dangerous to contemplate that such an experiment might take place in the area proposed. He feared that since such a proposal would in fact deal, although in a limited way, with the matter of European Security, it would be interpreted by the Russians as meaning that the question of European Security could be developed apart from the reunification of Germany. A second drawback was that such a project would have to be conducted under conditions of a divided Germany, thereby encouraging the Germans to feel that we accepted the division of Germany as a more or less permanent fact. The proposal might also give sanctity to the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet hold on East Germany and the satellites. The Secretary felt that if such a pilot project were to be conducted, it should be in an area not subject to political hazards such as are inherent in the German area. It might be done in relation to Norway or Turkey where there were national boundaries to deal with rather than divided countries.

There was then discussion of how the representatives of the three governments should proceed in their further preparatory work. The Secretary noted that not much time was left and that it would be necessary to move quickly so as to draw together the lines of thinking of the three governments. Mr. MacArthur noted that the Department, after further study, would wish to comment on the UK papers, and he assumed that both the British and French Governments would wish to study and comment on papers which we had given to them. He thought it would be useful for further exchanges of views to take place between now and September 19 when the working group was due to convene.

The Secretary remarked that he thought it would be most useful for the discussions to proceed as quickly as possible and that every effort be made to work out common approaches to the various questions in advance of the Foreign Ministers meeting in New York. The more the various views could be brought together in advance, the more useful would be the Foreign Ministers discussions in New York.

[Page 564]

Mr. Watson then said he would like to ask a question in regard to tactics. He wondered whether a draft European Security Treaty should be put forward at the outset of the Geneva Conference. He said he thought that the British Foreign Office saw the problem in two aspects: the first was the development of a European security pattern which the Western powers would hope ultimately to achieve, and the second was the tactical question of just what and when anything specific should be put forward at Geneva.

The Secretary said he thought Mr. Watson had identified a very real problem. He said that he had felt in the past that the Soviets, on numerous occasions, had gained the initiative by laying specific proposals on the table, even though these proposals were designed more for propaganda purposes than otherwise. The Western powers were less prone to act in this manner. Actually, it was more difficult for them to do so because it was necessary to reach agreement among the three before definite steps could be taken, whereas, for the Soviet Union it was simple since a proposal could be put in for propaganda purposes and then quickly changed in any way they deemed necessary simply by the decision of one man.

The Secretary believed, however, that the Western powers should be ready to put in a specific proposal on the reunification of Germany. He thought that such a proposal would not be difficult to develop since the Western powers had progressed to an advanced stage on this question at Berlin. The only further work required would be to bring the Eden Plan up-to-date.

The Secretary thought further consideration needed to be given to the tactical problem of whether the West should accompany the proposal on German reunification with a European Security plan or let the Soviet Union come forward with proposals on European Security. It might be desirable that the Western powers develop a skeletonized proposal on European Security rather than a specific draft treaty. The Secretary thought, however, that whatever the decision in regard to tactics, it was necessary that the three Western powers reach agreement among themselves on the substance of the European security questions. It would be dangerous not to reach full agreement among the three powers just because for tactical reasons the full substance of the Western position might not be used at Geneva. In this connection the Secretary noted that it might possibly prove unnecessary at Geneva to put forward specific proposals on European security, since the Soviet Union might not move past the initial premise of the Western position, i.e., a reunified Germany within NATO and the Brussels Pact as a precondition to a European security arrangement. On the other hand, we must be prepared to put forward positive proposals. As for possible results at Geneva, the Secretary noted that he did not expect that agreement would be achieved at Geneva [Page 565] to reunify Germany but he was hopeful of making real progress along this road.

The British and French representatives signified their agreement with the Secretary’s remarks.

The Secretary reverted briefly to the U.S. draft treaty to say that it had received the concurrence of the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also noted that various details, such as those relating to inspection, verification, etc., obviously would need to be more fully developed.

Mr. Phleger then said he thought it would be useful if some thought were given to the other matters with which the Foreign Ministers would be faced at Geneva. He had in mind the question of German representation at Geneva. Also, there was the problem of how the actual work would be carried on. Should panels be set up to work on the various items on the directive?

The Secretary said that with relation to the question of German representation, he believed the three governments should not attempt to form any definite views until Chancellor Adenauer had returned from his Moscow visit. He thought the Chancellor’s views on this question would be determinative and that the three governments would be able to agree with whatever arrangement the Chancellor desired.

With respect to the possibility of setting up panels to deal with the different items in the directive, the Secretary believed that in regard to item 1—European Security and German reunification—there should be no separation of the two problems. They had been combined only after great difficulty at the Heads of Government meeting, and it would be most unwise to separate them for study by different panels since that would weaken the position which we had gone to such great pains to establish.

With respect to the second item—disarmament—work would be proceeding in the United Nations Subcommittee. The Foreign Ministers were directed only to take note of the developments and see whether there was something further they could contribute. If progress were being made in the United Nations Subcommittee, the Foreign Ministers at Geneva might deal with this item very quickly. One possibility would be to have the four governments’ representatives on the Disarmament Subcommittee report to the Foreign Ministers, and the matter might be disposed of in a perfunctory way unless the Soviets tried to shift the emphasis away from the United Nations back to the Foreign Ministers. They originally tried to do this at Geneva and finally agreed to proceed in the United Nations forum only after determined resistance to their original proposal was encountered.

[Page 566]

With respect to the third item—East-West contacts—the Secretary thought it might be handled by a panel of experts or deputies. He said that we were now trying to organize our own work within the U.S. Government on this matter and would have clearer ideas about it later. The French Ambassador pointed out that the directive authorized the Foreign Ministers to deal with this item by means of experts. He supposed that the Foreign Minister might wish to appoint experts who would proceed with their work after the Foreign Ministers had met. Mr. MacArthur said that there were two possibilities: Experts could be appointed immediately after the opening of the Geneva Conference and instructed to meet while the Ministers were discussing the first two items and make a report before the Ministers finished their work, or experts could be appointed to meet after the Foreign Ministers had completed their work. The Secretary thought that some work should be done on this item during the conference, otherwise public expectations might not be adequately met. The general consensus was that the preferable course probably would be to have experts begin their work during the Foreign Ministers conference and perhaps continue, if necessary, after the Foreign Ministers adjourned.

The Secretary made clear that the views which he had expressed indicated the present line of his thinking and should not be taken as final and definitive.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627, CF 551. Top Secret. Drafted by Galloway. Circulated as POM (Wash) MC–10, September 1.
  2. Reference is to a British paper on a European security pact and a draft five-power treaty, dated August 15, handed to Merchant by Makins on August 18, and a paper on the limitation and control of forces and armaments and a demilitarized zone, dated August 20, given to the Department on August 29. Copies of these papers, circulated as POM B–1/50, August 18, and POM B–1/53, August 29, are ibid., CF 547.
  3. The draft European security treaty, POM D–1/1, dated August 29, contained 14 articles and included Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States as signatories. The U.S. views on the draft treaty, POM D–1/2, dated August 29, started from the premise that a general European security treaty was justified only when Germany had been reunited and had joined NATO and WEU. The commentary, POM D–1/3, dated August 29, reviewed the draft treaty article by article and provided an explanation for the language or ideas in each. Copies of these documents are ibid.
  4. Document 257.
  5. For text of Eden’s speech in the House of Commons on July 27, reporting on the Geneva Conference and describing the inspection proposals, see H.C. Debs., 5th series, vol. 544, cols. 1212–1221.
  6. On August 30 Merchant discussed the draft European security treaty with Pinay, de Margerie, and Crouy-Chanel in Paris. Merchant outlined the major points of the proposal and then talked about Adenauer’s upcoming trip to Moscow. Memoranda of his conversations are included as Items I and II of POM MC–12 (Europe). (Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627, CF 547)