284. Memorandum of a Conversation, Dulles’ Suite, New York, September 28, 1955, 10:15 a.m.1


  • US:
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. Merchant
    • Mr. MacArthur
    • Mr. Phleger
    • Mr. Bowie
    • Mr. Sullivan
    • Mr. Kidd
    • Mr. Wolf
  • Germany:
    • Dr. von Brentano
    • Prof. Dr. Hallstein
    • Prof. Dr. Grewe
    • Dr. Krekeler
    • Dr. von Eckardt
    • Dr. Boeker
    • Dr. Limbourg
    • Dr. Pauls
    • Dr. Heiser
    • Mr. Weber (Interpreter)
  • UK:
    • Mr. Macmillan
    • Amb. Makins
    • Sir G. Harrison
    • Lord Hood
    • Mr. Young
    • Mr. Hancock
  • France:
    • M. Pinay
    • Amb. Couve de Murville
    • Amb. Alphand
    • M. Daridan
    • M. Soutou
    • M. Sauvagnargues
    • M. Baraduc
    • M. Fromont-Meurice
    • M. Andronikof

The Secretary opened the meeting by extending a welcome on behalf of the three Foreign Ministers to Von Brentano. He suggested that the first subject for consideration might be the statement on Germany, which the three Foreign Ministers had agreed to issue in response to the German Government’s notes.2

Brentano said that he had read the statement, for which he wished to express the grateful appreciation of his Government. He accepted it without qualification.

Pinay suggested that the word “they” in the fifth sentence be changed to “their three Governments”. This was agreed.

Brentano asked whether this would be given to the press or transmitted to Moscow. The Secretary said that this would be released to the press immediately in New York, and a separate note would be sent to Moscow.3

Before turning to the report of the Working Party,4 the Secretary reported on the conversation with Molotov5 the preceding [Page 598] evening, and the agreement reached with regard to use of the Directive6 as an agenda for Geneva, reference of the question East-West contacts to experts (with Ministerial discussion of this question on Monday, October 31). Molotov had inquired whether other questions could be discussed by common consent. The Western Ministers were agreeable, provided that there was time at the end of the conference. Molotov considered the proposed duration (three weeks more or less) acceptable. He had not raised the question of participation of Germany.

With regard to the Working Party report, the Secretary explained the points of emphasis or revisions suggested for page 4 (“not to reveal too hastily the positions, etc.”); on page 5 (opportunity for NATO to indicate their approval of treaty, in case all members of NATO were not members of treaty); page 6 (revision of introductory statement); page 7 (question of proceeding by stages from the military provisions to the final political assurances). With regard to the last point, all the Ministers, including Brentano, found it a good idea and acceptable in principle, but agreed that it needed further study and elaboration of detail in the Working Group. The Secretary explained that it was not three treaties, but one, which the Ministers had in mind; the concept of stages applied to the possible implementation.

The Secretary explained the revision on page 8 (“NATO members” change to “Western States”); and the important point on page 12 (mutual assistance). With regard to this point the Secretary expressed the view that an undertaking by the United States to engage itself on the side of the Soviet Union in the event of a war in Europe, was an engagement of such magnitude that the United States would not wish to offer it explicitly as an initial proposal. In accord with the principle expressed on page 4 (“not to reveal too hastily”, etc.) we would wish to indicate this point less specifically. We should not wish to peddle around this proposal and cheapen it at the beginning. It had, therefore, been agreed that the Working Group would revise this text to make it less technical and precise; it would in effect read: Such an attack would constitute a threat to peace and security, and the parties would take appropriate action to meet the danger. The objection to the present text was that it used precise treaty language, which was very serious language. If the Soviets were interested, and asked “What does this mean?”, we would then be prepared to come to a text like the present one. But we did not wish to cheapen such a momentous decision by pressing it upon the Soviets even before they had asked for it.

[Page 599]

Brentano thought this important, and was in complete agreement. The Secretary said that he believed that the Senate would consent to such a provision if it were necessary and if we could thereby obtain reunification and German membership in NATO and WEU. However, the Senate probably would not be interested unless it were necessary, and we should need some proof. We could not say it was necessary if we offered it at the outset. Brentano said that he perfectly understood the difficulties, and that our aim should be to offer guarantees to the Soviets only if they were willing to sign such a treaty, permitting German reunification and its freedom of alliance.

The Secretary explained the point on page 13 (“suitable provision for consultation”). He then inquired whether the Germans had seen the proposed revision for page 14 (dropping the third paragraph and adding the following sentence to the first paragraph: “In the parts of the zone which lie closest to the point of contact between East and West, there might be special measures relating to the disposition of military forces and installations”). Brentano said that this sentence appeared to leave open the question of a demilitarized zone or a zone for the thinning out of forces without prejudicing the decision whether it should be more or less. He found it acceptable, and was agreeable to suppression of the third paragraph and inclusion of such a sentence in the first paragraph.

The Secretary then explained his concept of the presentation of our security proposals (page 24, concluding paragraphs). The Secretary recalled the vagueness with which the Soviets had always shown with regard to reunification, and explained that this project would be a means of indicating to the Soviets that they could obtain certain reassurances if they permitted reunification. If they turned down our proposal, it would prove that they were not really pre-occupied with security, but with a question of policy to hold on to their satellites. Brentano thought this a good idea, and important for public opinion. Macmillan said that he considered this point quite important. The Russians wished to talk about security, while we wished to talk about reunification. Security was brought in only in order to meet any genuine fears that the Soviets might have. We could make it clear that if the Soviets did not want this, it would prove what the Soviets really wanted, namely, to hold on to their zone. The Secretary said that he thought we could make an effective presentation. Our security proposals went far; if they were not good enough, why? Once the Soviets became specific, they would be lost. If the Soviets merely wanted the dissolution of the NATO, we would indicate that this has no bearing unless it is related to German reunification. We might as well ask for the dissolution of the USSR, which we could propose on as good grounds as the Soviets demand [Page 600] the dissolution of NATO. There was no occasion for such demands, unless they had some bearing upon the reunification of Germany.

The Secretary asked Brentano whether he had any thought to express on the possible question of zones. Brentano said that he recognized that this was not only a political problem, but a military and strategic problem. He did not think that the time was ripe to put forward this problem at the outset. The discussion should be so conducted that if the Russians raise the matter, there would then be an opportunity for us to go into it e.g., that NATO would not move into the Eastern Zone, or that there could be a thinning out of forces on both sides in a given zone. But we should first ascertain from the Russian positions whether they felt that they really had a security problem to which these proposals might be a solution. If we were any more specific than the language now contained in the introductory statement and on page 14, the Soviets might take advantage of it to demand the neutralization of all Germany.

The Secretary then explained that questions of tactics and German participation would be further studied by the Working Group before decisions were reached. He asked Brentano for his views with regard to German participation.

Brentano made the following statement: “Various possibilities with regard to German participation in the Geneva conference are discussed in the report of the Working Group. I had received a report about the discussion of this problem in the Working Group, and we again carefully examined the question in Bonn. We reached the conclusion that any direct participation in the conference of a delegation of the so-called GDR—whether it was only in a consultative character or in a temporary restricted hearing—contained great risks. The Federal Republic has very recently again reaffirmed and given precision to its viewpoint that it regards itself as the single freely elected legitimate German government, and that it denies any right of the regime of the so-called GDR to act as a German Government, be it even only for the middle German area de facto ruled by it.

“On this ground we believe that a German participation in the Geneva conference is only possible in the same form employed at the first Geneva conference and at the Berlin conference of Foreign Ministers in 1954. For the Federal Republic this is, of course, a somewhat unsatisfactory restriction insofar as it will not be in a position to express the German viewpoint in the conference itself. It is believed, however, that this is the lesser of two evils, since the dangers in any other solution are preponderant.”

After some discussion, in which Macmillan emphasized that the Conference as a whole should not consult either the GDR or any NATO ally, that private consultation with others should not be raised with the Russians as being beyond the purview of the Four, [Page 601] and that we could thus deal with Soviet gestures of seeking to consult the Federal Republic now that it is recognized by the Russians, Brentano went on to say that at a later stage, if progress were being made on the question of free elections, there might of course be some technical representation of both parties.

The Secretary said: “In other words you are willing to invite the GDR to its own funeral.”

Brentano agreed, and Macmillan and Pinay thought that the German point of view was prudent.

The Secretary noted that there had been some question in the Working Party of inviting the Federal Republic as the government recognized by all four of the participants at the conference. He was not sure whether this raised difficulties or not. He mentioned the matter as a tactical question, whether it would be desirable to make some affirmative proposal with regard to the Federal Republic. Then, if the Soviets insisted upon participation of the GDR, the rest of us might say that we do not recognize the GDR, which was not an objection that the Soviets could make with regard to the Federal Republic. Brentano said that the Federal Republic had given consideration to this, but on balance considered the risks too great. The Federal Republic felt that they must try by all means to avoid bringing this non-existent state into international discussions. The Secretary said that there had been no question of that; the point was that we did not wish to take the onus of seeming to oppose the participation of Germany. Pinay supported the point of view of the Secretary. Macmillan was inclined to share the apprehensions of Brentano, that the Soviets would seek by indirect means to get the GDR’s foot into the door, perhaps as parties to the case or as witnesses.

The Secretary summed up by suggesting that the question required further study by the Working Group. He thought that Macmillan had made a good point; it could be argued that the Directive speaks of “interested parties” rather than “governments”. We might have to take the position that the consultation provided for by the Directive does not require corporate action, but can be parcelled out to each side.

This concluded the discussion of substantive points, and the four Ministers proceeded to the question of a Communiqué. After some discussion and minor revisions, the Communiqué as issued was agreed upon. The meeting closed at 12:15.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627, CF 551. Secret. Prepared in the Department of State, but no drafting information is given on the source text. A cover sheet of September 30 indicates it was designated POM(NY) MC–9.
  2. On September 23 Ambassador Krekeler handed Merchant a note that reiterated that the Federal Republic of Germany was the only government entitled to speak for Germany in international affairs. (Ibid., Central Files, 661.62A/9–2355) No other note has been found in Department of State files. For the statement under reference, see Documents on Germany, pp. 461–462.
  3. For text of the note to the Soviet Union, dated October 3, see Department of State Bulletin, October 17, 1955, p. 616.
  4. See Document 280.
  5. On September 27 Secretary Dulles met with Pinay and Macmillan at 10:30 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. to discuss the report and preparations for Geneva. At 9:30 p.m. the three of them met with Molotov for further discussions on the preparations. At 10:30 p.m. Dulles drew Molotov aside and told him that due to President Eisenhower’s heart attack he would not be able to acknowledge Bulganin’s September 19 letter on disarmament. Memoranda of all these conversations are in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627, CF 551. For text of Bulganin’s letter, see Department of State Bulletin, October 24, 1955, pp. 644–647.
  6. Document 257.