275. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

618. Eyes only for Acting Secretary. Blankenhorn, who was meeting with three Western Ambassadors at 10 p.m. this evening at Spaso, called early to say that he would like to talk with me before arrival of other two. He arrived at 9:30 and informed me that there had been a new and very serious development in talks here on which Chancellor wished my reactions. After a completely negative day between Molotov and Brentano in morning and between Delegations this afternoon at 4 o’clock during which Soviets had not given an inch on anything Bulganin at reception had made following proposition to Adenauer: Release of all German nationals at present detained or imprisoned in Soviet Union in return for diplomatic relations with Federal Republic and exchange of Ambassadors. This proposition was made originally by Bulganin at Kremlin reception at which German Delegation and Soviet leaders were seated. Bulganin then turned to Khrushchev who was sitting on other side Chancellor and asked Khrushchev if he did not agree. Khrushchev after some hesitation said he was in accord and view of Chancellor on this proposition was asked. Chancellor replied he wished to think it over. This proposal came as a complete surprise to Germans after today’s negative and occasionally acrid discussion both this morning and this afternoon. In fact, in afternoon session Khrushchev became quite violent in his remarks on Paris Agreement, German remilitarization and even went so far as to compare Chancellor to Hitler. Germans had thus thought deadlock was complete and were planning to leave tomorrow without any results whatsoever. All German proposals concerning commissions (Embassy’s 6152) and even offer to accept participation GDR at technical level for prisoners question had been rejected by Soviets.

Blankenhorn said he is not entirely sure that Chancellor has all details fully in mind but that very animated discussion on this point was going on this evening in German Delegation with large majority in favor of acceptance. Blankenhorn believes that Adenauer will not be able to resist appeal on return of prisoners and will probably, although final decision not yet reached, agree to Soviet terms. He said Chancellor envisages three letters, (1) accepting principle of diplomatic [Page 580]relations, (2) stating in writing Soviet commitment on prisoners, and (3) reservation on part of Federal Republic concerning any relations with GDR. Soviets apparently requested that concession on prisoners be held secret for time being.

Told Blankenhorn that I could not undertake to advise Chancellor on this and that matter was for his decision. I promised, however, to communicate immediately with my Government and to transmit any views it might have but I felt certain that US Government would not attempt to tell Adenauer what he should do faced with this choice. Parenthetically, I might add that at reception this evening proposition was preceded by inquiry from Bulganin as to whether Chancellor had any commitments with three Western Powers which precluded him from establishing relations to which Chancellor replied he had none whatsoever and was entirely free to make his own choice. I did, however, tell Blankenhorn that in my personal view choice was clear, i.e., prisoners against legalization division of Germany and that I doubted whether any letter of reservation in regard to GDR would change that basic fact. On arrival British and French Ambassadors Blankenhorn recounted circumstances to them. They took same attitude I did, namely that they could not offer advice to Chancellor and decision was his. French Ambassador, who I feel shares more closely my views as to consequence this action, offered similar observations as to its consequence. British Ambassador, reflecting views of British Government which apparently views with equanimity possibility diplomatic relations, took somewhat different line stating that he was not sure that diplomatic relations would in themselves legalize existing situation or impair chances of unity.

Blankenhorn made it quite clear that probabilities of Chancellor’s accepting were quite high but that tomorrow Delegation would attempt to formalize and make more precise Soviet proposition. All three Ambassadors impressed upon him that if Chancellor’s decision was to accept proposal it was extremely important that exact number of prisoners should be stated in letter or agreement and that Soviet request for secrecy should not be accepted if agreement on diplomatic relations was to be made public.

Delegations are meeting tomorrow at 10 a.m. to explore this proposal further with Soviets and therefore any views which Department may have on this subject which it desires to have conveyed to Germans should reach me by that time.

The possibility of such a trade has been inherent in situation from moment acceptance by Adenauer of invitation to Moscow but in yesterday’s conversation he was very strong against any such deal unless some satisfaction in regard to unity was obtained. Germans and Chancellor himself are obviously worried about Western reaction [Page 581]but as of this evening probabilities of acceptance if Soviets confirm dinner table offer are high.

Department repeat as desired.

Bohlen
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 662.62A/9–1355. Top Secret; Niact. Received September 12 at 9:05 p.m.
  2. Telegram 615 speculated, among other things, that the Soviet Union might be attempting to use the prisoner question to force contact between the Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic. (Ibid., 661.62A/9–1355)