270. Memorandum of a Conversation, Palais Schaumberg, Bonn, August 31, 1955, Noon1


  • Chancellor Adenauer
  • Foreign Minister Brentano
  • State Secretary Hallstein
  • Ambassador Blankenhorn
  • Mr. Merchant
  • Mr. Dowling
  • Mr. O’Shaughnessy
  • Mr. Kidd
  • Chancellor’s interpreter

The conversation which had been desultory and disorganized in the anteroom immediately became organized and to the point under the Chancellor’s direction.2 He was in a sunny, gentle, and confident frame of mind, pleased at the greetings Mr. Merchant conveyed on behalf of the Secretary and gratified at the Secretary’s approval of the German plans. In explaining the framework in which he intended to touch upon the subject of German unification in his discussions with the Russians, the Chancellor asked Mr. Merchant to report to the Secretary that he would speak strictly as John the Baptist in the wilderness, making it plain to the Russians that they would receive the true gospel at Geneva. He would do all that he could not to prejudice the Geneva talks and not to give the Soviets a chance to point out the differences of opinion which might exist among the Western powers. He did not intend to make reunification the main topic in his Moscow talks because it is an item which properly belongs to the Geneva conference; besides, the reunification of Germany is the responsibility and obligation of the four occupying powers.

Mr. Merchant replied that the Secretary had heard from Ambassador Krekeler on the subject of the Moscow talks3 and he fully approved the proposed tactics, and general approach which the Chancellor had in mind. The Secretary believed that reunification should be discussed and should be kept in the forefront of our activities and statements. The Secretary also agreed as to the responsibility resting on the Four Powers to achieve reunification and was glad to see the Chancellor attempt to reinforce and support the Geneva conference.

Mr. Merchant said that there was one minor point in the German plans, which Ambassador Krekeler had reported, that might require careful presentation, namely the Political Commission to deal with reunification and the establishment of diplomatic relations. Mr. Merchant said that although the reunification point should of course be pressed home, some misunderstanding might be created if this subject were named especially in the directive for the Political Commission, as though it were henceforth to be within the scope of bilateral [Page 568] negotiations rather than within the jurisdiction of the Four Powers at Geneva. The Chancellor said that he was glad Mr. Merchant had mentioned the point. Although Ambassador Krekeler had reported correctly as of the date he had left Muerren, there had since been an evolution in the German thinking on this detail, precisely to take care of the point raised by Mr. Merchant. They had decided to omit specific mention of reunification in the directive for a Political Commission, and to confine the stated purpose to establishment of diplomatic relations. Any political considerations, such as the German views on reunification and reservations regarding recognition of the Eastern frontiers, could be introduced as appropriate in the course of the Commission’s deliberations.

Brentano said that the Political Commission would not be one in the true sense but only a device to discuss the establishment of diplomatic relations and other matters such as the recognition of the GDR and related problems.

The Chancellor said there was another problem which he would like to discuss. The Soviets would probably talk of a security system in which case the German delegation could only express good will but obviously could not enter into details of such a system until agreement had been achieved between the Four Powers on the form of it.

With regard to the question of economic relations, the Chancellor said that they would approach this matter with caution and reserve. He pointed out that some economic groups in Germany thought that the economic side of the talks should be emphasized. These individuals were not particularly pleased to see other western countries consolidate their economic relations with the Soviet Union and the Satellites at West Germany’s eventual expense. On the whole, however, there was little in the Soviet trade that Germany needed.

Blankenhorn thought it would be of interest to the Chancellor if Mr. Merchant reported the conversation of the Soviet and Greek ambassadors in Paris, which de Margerie had mentioned. When Mr. Merchant reached the point about Vinogradoff’s belief that the Soviet Government had already offered three substantial concessions—diplomatic relations, a trade treaty, and a cultural convention—the Chancellor laughed out loud. What, he demanded, could the Soviets offer them? The Germans were interested in two things, the return of German prisoners of war and detainees, and reunification. The Germans had not asked for diplomatic relations; they did not need Russian trade; and as for receiving cultural benefits from the Soviet Union—!

With respect to diplomatic relations, the Chancellor said that he was quite clear in his mind that if all the Soviets wanted to do was [Page 569] to normalize the abnormal situation of the two Germanies, there was not enough in it for the Federal Republic. He would be prepared to establish a contact and to appoint an agent with diplomatic powers, but there could be no true normalization as represented by full diplomatic relations so long as the Soviet Union maintained the GDR regime.

. . . . . . .

Mr. Merchant said that we agreed that the Soviets were having their difficulties in trying to balance agriculture and industry, nuclear weapons, and ordinary weapons as well. He added that the combination of pressures on the Soviet system and the failure of their European policy requires continuing pressure to be applied on them. Geneva created the climate which made negotiation easier and it is up to the West to get into a position to make the Soviets pay a high price for any settlement. If no progress is made at the second Geneva conference and in the UN disarmament talks and the Russians continue to refuse to move in the right direction the Geneva spirit will evaporate. We must therefore continue to press them in the negotiations.

Turning to Mr. Merchant, the Chancellor said he would like to ask a direct question. He was going to Moscow with little hope of success; he thought that four days would be long enough to disclose whether there were any possibilities; and he did not wish to cut the thread which now connects them to the Russians since all the problems were interrelated. If, however, the Russians refused to satisfy them with regard to the prisoners of war, remained intransigent about reunification, or otherwise proved themselves impossible during the negotiations at Moscow, the Chancellor was prepared to break off the negotiations and return to Bonn; would Mr. Merchant approve? Mr. Merchant said Yes; it was his personal opinion that one should never enter into any negotiations with the Soviets unless he had some minimum acceptable point in mind beyond which he would be prepared to break. Mr. Merchant believed it improbable that the Russians would create such a situation. It would not be in their interest nor would they have extended the invitation if this had been their purpose; but he agreed that if the Soviets were adamant on these points there was no reason not to break off the negotiations. The Chancellor appeared very pleased with this answer.

Summing up, Blankenhorn said that it was not the German intention to reach final decisions, certainly none that might in any way prejudice the work of the Foreign Ministers at Geneva; and if the Germans met with an entirely unsatisfactory response, to break off negotiations if necessary. At the same time, they hoped that the [Page 570] latter contingency would not be necessary, and that they might establish a means of continuing contact with the Russians. This was what they had in mind with regard to the four Commissions which they would propose (Economic, Cultural, PWs, and Resumption of Diplomatic Relations). Their aim, thus, was something in between the two extremes of full relations and the present state of affairs where there were no relations whatsoever.

Hallstein thought that there was a possible middle solution between the two extremes of breaking off negotiations and establishing full relations. After the establishment of commissions to do the preparatory work for the establishment of diplomatic, cultural and economic relations, an agent with quasi diplomatic status could be established in Moscow. This would not represent normal diplomatic relations but it would provide for some form of relations while the commissions went about their work.

The Chancellor then raised the question of how to maintain contact with us, first, during the Moscow talks and, secondly, after they were terminated. Mr. Merchant suggested that relations could be easily maintained either through Ambassador Krekeler or through Ambassador Bohlen and since Dr. von Brentano is going to New York this might provide a good opportunity to exchange ideas following the Moscow talks.

Mr. Merchant then said that he would like to outline the Secretary’s thinking with regard to a European security treaty, and leave a copy of the draft text,4 if that would be of interest to the Chancellor. The Chancellor replied that they would be particularly grateful, as this would provide guidance for their talks at Moscow, not as something to be repeated to the Russians but to bear in mind in presenting the German case. Mr. Merchant then went over the treaty, point by point, as he had done for the French in Paris. He explained that the Secretary was transmitting copies to the British and French Ambassadors in Washington, and that the matter should be treated in confidence for the present. The Chancellor gave orders that the document was to be made known only to those officers in the room, plus Dr. Grewe. Weber should translate it.

The Chancellor listened to Mr. Merchant’s exposé with careful attention and with several exchanges of a glance with Hallstein, who was obviously delighted. It was evident that the subject matter and some of the ideas had been anticipated by the Germans and had been the subject of previous discussion. Mr. Merchant’s explanation confirmed their views.

The Chancellor inquired as to whether the Pentagon had given this plan its approval and inquired as to its duration. He also asked [Page 571] whether negotiations on disarmament would go on independently of this pact. Mr. Merchant said yes, and explained the point of duration.

At the end, the Chancellor said that it seemed very good to him; the draft treaty would be studied with attention so that they might present their views in due course. The Document was entrusted to Hallstein (by the afternoon it was in Grewe’s hands), and the Chancellor suggested that the meeting adjourn for lunch.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627, CF 551. Secret. Drafted by Kidd and O’Shaughnessy. Merchant was in Europe August 30–September 1 visiting Paris, Bonn, and London to discuss the U.S. draft European security treaty and Adenauer’s upcoming trip to Moscow. Twelve memoranda on his talks, including this memorandum which is number VI, are included in a 36-page composite document that was circulated as POM MC–12 (Europe) within the Department of State. (Ibid., CF 547) The first four memoranda cover the talks in Paris, memoranda V–X cover those in Bonn, and the last two describe conversations in London. Memoranda I and II are summarized in footnote 6, supra; memorandum XI is printed infra.
  2. This conversation was covered in memorandum V of POM MC–12 (Europe). (Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627, CF 547)
  3. See Document 268.
  4. Regarding the draft European security treaty, see footnote 3, supra.