337. Record of a Tripartite Meeting of Experts, Villa le Chene, Geneva, November 8, 1955, 9:30 a.m.1

Mr. Kidd reported briefly on the meeting of Ollenhauer with the Secretary.2

M. deMargerie reported on the Soviet dinner with the French last Friday night.3 This dinner had been very relaxed; there was no political conversation of any importance except within the half hour from 10:15 to 10:45. The French were most struck by the fierceness of the Soviet views with regard to Germany. Molotov did not avoid the subject of free elections; he stated that the Soviets were, of course, in favor of free elections; but it was necessary to proceed very cautiously in such a matter. After all, there had been considerable social progress in the East Zone. There was no question of imposing one regime on the other, but nevertheless one could not throw away achievements lightly.

M. Pinay expressed the view at this point that in spite of the social gains of which Molotov spoke, workers seemed to be much better off in West Germany. Molotov’s reply took a more philosophical turn: he reproached the French with basing their positions on [Page 704] purely temporary conditions. He commented that there was, of course, much economic prosperity in Western Germany, and it was difficult for him to imagine that the UK and France did not realize that their own economic prosperity would soon be swallowed up by the Germans. However, in other respects French policy seemed to be very shortsighted in basing itself upon temporary conditions in Germany: these conditions would inevitably lead to crises in the course of time, economic, then social, and eventually political; the German worker would then see which German state takes care of him best. Molotov added that the Soviets had of course nothing to fear from a crisis in Germany: “Nous tiendrons le cou.” With regard to the Western security proposals, Molotov said that it was mockery to pretend that these contained any genuine guarantees. deMargerie said that it was obvious that Pinay was exercising the utmost restraint at this point to refrain from referring to 1939. deMargerie said that the most striking fact was the persistence with which Molotov dwelt on the German theme. Molotov asked how France could ever believe that Germany would remain reliable and not drag its neighbors into adversity. Molotov added that next time the Soviets would liquidate Germany to the bitter end. At this point Vinogradoff commented to Soutou: “All the way to the Rhine”. Molotov said that there could be no talk about free elections at least for another year. Pinay said that if this were the case, why did not Molotov say so frankly at the Conference? Molotov recoiled, stating that such things must occur gradually, by stages, the Soviets felt that a slower pace could be adopted. Molotov said that he was surprised that the French were not more sensitive with regard to such matters; France and the Soviet Union had much in common; they should always be mindful of the dangers of a German revanche.

Bowie asked whether the French had the impression that the violence of the Soviet thinking with regard to Germany was genuine or merely a technique.

deMargerie replied: “technique—well rehearsed.”

Molotov kept emphasizing the fact that the French were deceived by the West Germans. deMargerie thought that Soviet feelings were distinct from their policy, but that their genuine feelings with regard to Germany helped them to further their political objectives; it enabled them “to put their heart into it.”

Harrison thanked deMargerie for this information, and raised the question of the tactics for today.

MacArthur said that we thought it would be useful for the Three Western Ministers to meet in the Secretary’s office at the Palais at 3:00 today. In principle, we should be happy to wind up the discussion of item 1 today, perhaps with the provision that we could revert to this item later if appropriate. The Russian press representatives [Page 705] were busy yesterday spreading a rumor, which was backed up by Molotov’s remarks at the airport, effect that their Minister was coming back from Moscow “with interesting things in his valise.” The Secretary would be Chairman today. The situation as it was left on Friday was that our proposals were for Soviet consideration. There thus appear to be two alternatives on procedure: either Pinay and Macmillan could speak briefly first, or the floor might be given to Molotov for his comments on our proposals of Friday. If Molotov came back with nothing new, would it be wise to suspend further discussion on item 1, perhaps with provision to come back to it if necessary? On the other hand, if Molotov brought back something new, would it not be desirable to continue the discussion tomorrow? Instead of attempting to answer Molotov extemporaneously, it might be better, after preliminary remarks, to indicate that we would study his new proposals and give our further comments tomorrow. If Molotov spoke first, it would probably be a long speech, which would bring us to 4:30; that would still leave time for some preliminary observations. But if his new proposals contained anything tricky, it might be better to take the night to study them rather than to attempt to deal with them off the cuff. If Molotov merely presented the same old propositions in a new dress, we could no doubt brush the matter off tonight, passing on to the disarmament item tomorrow, but leaving the possibility open of returning to the German question later (as we did at Berlin). The motive for this was that it might be useful to have carefully prepared statements by each of the Three Western Ministers, which was hardly feasible for this afternoon’s session.

Harrison said that the British had been working on the assumption that Molotov would not bring up anything new. They had prepared a final speech for Macmillan. They would like to have a clean-cut finish of item 1 tonight.

deMargerie said that it was his understanding that the Germans preferred a slightly different procedure: winding up item 1 now, but finishing the conference with a new short discussion on German unification which would clearly demonstrate how the situation lay.

Harrison said that there was no conflict in these views: there would no doubt be final summation speeches, looking towards a further meeting next year, and at that point one could indicate the balance sheet on the German item.

deMargerie indicated that he still had some reservation about this procedure. In this connection he wished to mention last Saturday’s deplorable Herald Tribune article, publishing everything that Blankenhorn had told the Western representatives on Friday, including the reference to German fear of eventual bilateral dealings with the Soviets. This article had certainly not been helpful. It had also [Page 706] not been helpful to Pinay that the Germans had widely reproduced Pinay’s speech, and had publicized the fact that they were so doing. This did not help Pinay at home.

MacArthur commented that Gaston Coblentz had of course all sorts of threads to pick up information at Geneva. MacArthur did not think that the Secretary meant to come back to item 1 and spend a whole session on this; we merely had in mind leaving the possibility open.

Harrison said that the British felt that we were in a very good situation now, and that it would be most desirable merely to tot up the score in the final speeches of the Conference.

deMargerie said that he wondered whether this was good enough. The French continued to have a very bad press in France.

Harrison said that the British press was getting better.

MacArthur said that the US press also appeared to be improving.

deMargerie repeated that the French press was still bad, particularly the influential “Le Monde”.

Bowie said that if Molotov brought up anything new, would he not be most likely to concentrate on the point of the alleged precondition of German membership in NATO?

Harrison and Hood said that the British felt that there were still three questions which had not been answered by the West: (1) Whether there would be no security treaty until Germany joined NATO; (2) how the Soviets could be sure that the treaty would not be lifted by the parties (to which there were two answers: in the first place, the other members would not permit it, and in the second place the Soviets would share in the controls); (3) whether our security treaty provided for the security of Germany’s neighbors (to which our answer would be that we propose to include Poland and Czechoslovakia as members of the treaty). Harrison said that if Molotov spoke first, giving his views with regard to our Friday proposal,4 it would not be certain whether we would have the possibility to answer these questions. On the other hand if Pinay and Macmillan spoke first, these three questions could be answered.

Bowie commented that there appeared to be a danger in switching subjects in mid stream.

deMargerie commented that French public opinion required the answer to these questions.

MacArthur asked whether it would not be best to get the Soviet answer with regard to our Friday proposal before opening up discussion on these security points.

Harrison said that we could answer with regard to both.

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deMargerie said that if the Western Ministers spoke first, they could take some of the wind out of Molotov’s sail. There seemed to be advantages in our speaking first. But perhaps it would be useful to try to figure out what sort of new proposal Molotov might come up with.

Bowie said that he thought Molotov would try to focus on the NATO connection. Molotov should recognize that in terms of Western opinion, he was on a weak spot with regard to “social gains”. Molotov would probably try to get us into the position of clinging just as much to the NATO connection as a precondition, in order that the German reaction would be “a curse on both your houses”. It was the only vulnerable point we had.

deMargerie recalled that at the end of the first Geneva Conference Bulganin had put forward the suggestion of a non-aggression pact among the Big Four. It was conceivable that the Soviets would do something like that again. In that case, it would be better for Pinay and Macmillan to speak beforehand, in order to divide the scoring points on this round.

Bowie asked whether the topic would then be security or reunification. He thought that Macmillan had delivered himself of a very good list of questions last Friday, and that it might be good to go over this list of questions again in order to place the emphasis on the reunification question.

deMargerie said that he felt that there was some point to our re-emphasizing the guarantees which we were prepared to give.

Bowie said that the danger of shifting subjects could perhaps be avoided if our whole focus was to the effect that “we have tried to make it possible for you to talk free elections, and now you won’t talk free elections.” deMargerie said that this appeared to be a good approach.

Bowie said that Macmillan might then pick up with his list of questions.

(Harrison and deMargerie indicated agreement.)

MacArthur commented that this would help us timewise.

Harrison said that if there were then nothing new, we might adjourn for tea, and come back to fire off our final speeches.

deMargerie said that he thought we could work on that basis. Pinay would speak first, noting that Molotov had refused free elections. He would say that he could not understand why. He would then develop all that we have offered in order to make this possible. (A 15-minute speech).

Harrison said that the British could then in turn speak fifteen minutes, which would bring us to 4:30, and then Molotov could speak until 5:30.

MacAruthur said that we could then check signals at the recess.

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deMargerie referred to the French paper which had been given to us yesterday, and asked us to note the questions on page 3.5 He asked whether we must refuse any agreement envisaging the participation of both Germanies, or whether we could accept something along the polite lines of Ollenhauer’s suggestions to the Secretary. Or could we accept a non-aggression pact, limited to what was contained in the UN Charter, which in fact had been proposed as long ago as the Palais Rose in 1951.6 Or how should we deal with the Soviets if they revert to the Eden Plan proposal7 for a pilot inspection scheme which had been mentioned last summer?

Harrison said that the British had the answer on that. They would reply that the substance of the Eden Plan on inspections had either been incorporated into the Western proposals or should be discussed in terms of general disarmament. The British had had a paper prepared for this eventuality throughout the conference.

Bowie said that in ditching the subject to disarmament, he assumed that the British would indicate that the scheme was not necessarily applicable to Germany.

(Harrison nodded agreement).

deMargerie asked: “What about a non-aggression pact?”

MacArthur said that our whole concept had been what we could do in order to obtain German reunification. The Soviets had rejected this with brutal frankness. If we were to change this theme, we would be led down the slippery slope that there were other things to do besides obtaining reunification. This would in effect amount to acceptance of the Soviet thesis.

deMargerie said that he saw the point; per se a non-aggression pact was meaningless; but there was the necessity of satisfying public opinion, which would demand why we rejected something harmless. Public opinion would not see that the whole context had changed since 1950, but would find it difficult to understand a rejection of the same words as those that appeared in the UN Charter.

Bowie emphasized the point that we should take care of this by demonstrating that our proposals had been meant seriously and that we were not interested in window-dressing plans.

Harrison said that that would be a good answer in the UK.

MacArthur said that any non-aggression pact would make a very bad impression in the US. The press was stating that the Secretary needed to come home with something positive. That was non-sense. [Page 709] The Secretary did not need to come home with anything. In fact, a non-aggression pact of this nature would require a lot of explanation in an election year at home.

deMargerie apologized for mentioning it, but said that he was obliged to point out the press play on the contrast between Dulles’s optimism and the more conservative views of Pinay and Macmillan. Why did the Secretary take such a line? MacArthur explained what the Secretary had had in mind in explaining to the press the views which he had expressed to the other Ministers on Thursday. The press had overplayed the first half of the Secretary’s remarks, almost without catching the equally important qualifications of the last part of his explanation. This had been unfortunate, and the Secretary regretted it.

deMargerie said that he had been obliged to mention the point. It had put the French into very great trouble. Bidault was now insisting upon the contrast between the Secretary’s position and Pinay’s. A message had been received from Paris this morning that the French press continued to emphasize the point. There had been some new contact with the Secretary yesterday. The greatest trouble was with “Le Monde”. Its correspondent was a clever but difficult man by the name of Schwebel; Soutou had endeavored to persuade him and deMargerie also had seen him, but yesterday evening Schwebel said that he had listened to the Secretary of State’s views and was more convinced than ever that the contrasting attitude of Pinay was wrong. Schwebel had perhaps merely been in touch with certain American correspondents.

Harrison wondered whether it would be helpful to the Germans if the West Germans submitted a document to the Conference explaining why they support the West positions.

deMargerie said that if we suggested such an idea, he would caution us about the necessity of having a careful look at the German document first.

Harrison said that we could think this over; in any event there was no time to deal with it this morning.

deMargerie said that if Molotov continues to harp on the necessity of cooperation of the two Germanies, we might usefully point out the fierce answer of the GDR to our election proposals: How could people with such conflicting views be asked to sit at the same table?

(At 10:35 the Germans joined the meeting.)

Harrison asked whether the Germans had any idea what Molotov would be bringing back with him.

Blankenhorn said that they had none, had the Western Delegations?

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MacArthur mentioned the hints by Soviet press men yesterday and Molotov’s statement about “interesting things in his baggage.”8

Harrison said that up until last night, the British had rather thought that Molotov would not have anything new.

Blankenhorn inquired what we proposed to do if Molotov refused the Western proposal.

Harrison explained that there were two alternatives, either to pass the ball to Molotov, or to have Pinay and Macmillan speak first. The latter seemed preferable. Pinay would show the efforts which had been made by the West to put forward security proposals that would enable us to obtain an answer from Molotov with regard to elections. Macmillan would then pick up, end on his seven questions,9 and leave Molotov with his questions concerning reunification. Molotov would then probably throw our project out the window or produce something new. If the former, we would finish item 1 today; if the latter, we would take a little time to study it. There was a question how we should break off the discussion of item 1. Should it be broken off cleanly now, or should we revert to it at the end of the conference: and if the latter, we could either have another formal discussion, or the matter could be merely picked up in the closing speeches of the Ministers.

Blankenhorn said that he thought it was good to break off the discussion of item 1 at this stage and not resume debate on it at the end of the conference (that is, if Molotov brings up anything new). The Ministers could then cover the matter by way of summation in their final speeches. Blankenhorn said that he would also like to ask the following question: In discussing our security proposals at the beginning today, would we elaborate our ideas further or would we remain the same as before? That is, would the Western Ministers become more concrete, for example with regard to the phasing?

deMargerie explained that it was our idea to show how we have made it possible for Molotov to accept free elections, by our fair proposals, which would be explained again in a general way.

Blankenhorn said that he agreed.

MacArthur said that we would not wish to go into details, but merely to pull the discussion together.

Blankenhorn asked whether we would take the opportunity to make the point that NATO would not be advanced into territory [Page 711] evacuated by the Soviets. MacArthur and Bowie pointed out that this would be dangerous, providing Molotov with a handle to divert the discussion away from German reunification. We could no doubt suggest the point but it would be most unwise to become involved in details.

Blankenhorn felt that it would be a good point to make in order to prove that the West had gone very far in order to obtain reunification.

MacArthur said that he thought we would accomplish this purpose by the general effect of our speeches, without confusing the clean cut break on reunification.

deMargerie said at this point that he had received word that his Minister was back, and the French would like to leave in order to consult with him.

MacArthur asked whether Blankenhorn had any other points which he wished to raise.

Blankenhorn said “none” and the meeting adjourned at 10:50.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1/11–855. Secret. Drafted by Kidd.
  2. See Document 333.
  3. November 4.
  4. For text of the Western proposal on the reunification of Germany by free elections, see Foreign Ministers Meeting, pp. 136–137, or Cmd. 9633, p. 108.
  5. Not further identified.
  6. For documentation on the quadripartite Deputy Foreign Ministers meeting at the Palais Rose in Paris in the spring of 1951, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. iii, Part 1, pp. 1086 ff.
  7. For text of the Eden Plan, circulated as part of the Western proposal of October 27, see Foreign Ministers Meeting, pp. 27–33, or Cmd. 9633, pp. 99–103.
  8. Upon his return to Geneva, Molotov stated that he had brought “interesting things in his baggage”. However, the Embassy in Moscow reported that Bulganin’s reception on November 7 gave little evidence to support Molotov’s statement, and that although it would be unwise to exclude the idea of some Soviet flexibility at Geneva, the substance of the conversation at the reception had not revealed any. (Telegram 1084 from Moscow, November 8; Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/11–855)
  9. Regarding Macmillan’s seven questions, see Document 327.