287. Letter From Secretary of State Dulles to Chancellor Adenauer1

Dear Mr. Chancellor: I am grateful for your letter of September 23rd,2 giving the impressions of the Soviet personalities and situation in the Soviet Union which you received on your trip to Moscow. These were of much interest to me. Although I was on my island during your visit to Moscow, I kept myself informed by radio and [Page 611]could well imagine your bizarre experiences in the Kremlin during those difficult negotiations and the perhaps equally arduous entertainment. I want you to know how much I shared the feeling expressed by the President in his personal message,3 that we appreciated the difficulties with which you were faced and would stand behind you in whatever decision you believed to be right. It seems to me that it would have been unintelligible to the German people if you had refused the offer with regard to the prisoners of war after the Russians had changed their position on this. I regard the establishment of diplomatic relations as entirely natural. To have done so is indeed a far cry from the Soviets’ public professions of even twelve months ago.

I have no doubt that the Soviets will make a great play of their recognition of two Germanies as an argument for the rest of us to do the same, and that they can use this situation to create problems, particularly with regard to Berlin. If we remain united in our policies I am confident that we can meet whatever new problems arise, as successfully as we have overcome difficulties in the past. Perhaps the most important thing is for the Federal Republic to proceed surely and steadily about its defense measures within the Western alliances, to which I know you have been undeviatingly faithful.

Your remarks about Bulganin and Khrushchev were interesting. I gather that they were more in the foreground than Molotov. I suppose that this is natural in Moscow, where, to the Russian people, they are much more symbolic representatives of the Communist Soviet State than the Minister of Foreign Affairs. However, I regard Molotov as one of the most adroit ministers I have known, of whom, as you may recall, I wrote in 1950 that I had never seen diplomatic skill superior to that of Molotov’s at the 1945 session of the Council of Foreign Ministers. Whether or not he has been responsible for the basic turns in Soviet foreign policy over the past decade (which I doubt, since these were certainly decisions taken by Stalin before he died and in all probability by the collegium since then), he is nevertheless a skilled executor of Soviet foreign policy.

I see no reason to doubt the sincerity of the views expressed by Bulganin and Khrushchev to you. We have been struck by the fact that in many recent pronouncements the Soviets have been at no pains to disguise the views which they apparently hold, and thus that their policy does coincide with what they say it to be. They have certainly been very frank about NATO and their disinterest in German unification. I think the problem is to perceive correctly what this represents and to draw the correct conclusions for the future. I am by no means sure whether the Russian leaders themselves have [Page 612]firmly settled precisely what it is that they want and the best means of going about it. There is no doubt that their country has undergone, and continues to undergo, profound changes, and that decisions made now, with regard to the opportunities of choice that confront them, will greatly affect the future of their country. Although Soviet diplomacy in recent months has moved with considerable skill with respect to limited objectives, I think that in the larger questions, relating to the fundamental choice between peace or war and the organization of their internal economy, the Soviet leaders are to a certain extent feeling their way. They are no doubt influenced by conflicting motives. On the one hand, there are the national objectives of the Great Russian state, of which they have obtained possession of the machinery of government. On the other hand, they are concerned with the objectives of international Communism. Despite the lectures of Pravda, these objectives by no means completely coincide. The national aims of the Russian state could be accommodated to an equilibrium in Russia’s relations with other states. Competitive coexistence with the rest of the world could then be tolerable. In contrast, the limitless objectives of international Communism demand a political dynamism on the part of its disciples which can lead to nothing but ceaseless conflict, interrupted at best by tactical pauses. There can be no easy coexistence with this.

We have seen in the past sometimes the one and sometimes the other of these motivations become temporarily predominant. Current Soviet policies are evidently directed toward disguising the features of militant Communism. By this we should not be misled. The disguise is thin in the Far East. However, I think we do have an opportunity in the present situation to make it clear to the Soviet leadership and to the world at large that by one course of action, which would serve the legitimate interests of the Russian state, the Soviet leaders can obtain the advantages of peace abroad and a respite for the completion of necessary tasks at home, whereas by the other course of action they will merely cement and reinforce the defensive measures of the free world which they profess to fear. I conceive that our principal task in the coming negotiations is to make this choice clear to the Soviets. I think our principal line of action at Geneva should be, while continuing to oppose the program of international Communism in any of its forms, to hold out to the Russians the possibility of reaching peaceful settlements if the understandable objectives of the Russian state become uppermost in the minds of the Soviet leaders. As regards the test case of Germany, there can be no plausible reason for the Russian state to maintain the division except from apprehension that unified Germany may constitute or increase a supposed security threat. We are prepared to meet this concern. If an arrangement can be proposed at Geneva which safeguards the security [Page 613]of any member of the existing Western or Eastern groups of states, from aggression by any individual state of the opposite group, and the Russians turn this down, it will be fairly clear that they are maintaining the division of Germany purely as a springboard for the further spread of revolution in Europe as soon as the rest of us relax our vigilance. In any case we must continue to strengthen existing Western unity and to develop and maintain a prudent defensive strength, to which the German contribution is vital.

I have had good talks with Minister von Brentano,4 who carries to you my best wishes and greetings.

Faithfully yours,

John Foster Dulles5
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Name Series. Secret and Personal. Drafted by Merchant and Kidd.
  2. Document 282.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. Dulles met with Brentano on September 28, see Document 284.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.