44. Memorandum of a Conversation, Bonn, February 3, 1956, 4:30 p.m.1

Ambassador Conant and I called upon Foreign Minister Brentano at 4:30 p.m. on February 3. There were present Foreign Minister Von Brentano, Counselor von Lilienfeld and Ministerial Director von Welcke.

After introductory pleasantries, the Foreign Minister stated that his Government believed it would be most dangerous to undertake any further Four Power talks at the present time. He thought that it might lead into a number of undesirable results, among them being the necessity for the Federal Republic to enter into direct negotiations or relations with the GDR. Ambassador Conant and I agreed, and I stated that it was most certainly not our intention to undertake any line of action which would lead to such conversations, at least until we could be assured of constructive results. The Foreign Minister expressed agreement and satisfaction at our position.

We then turned to a discussion of the exchange of letters between Bulganin and President Eisenhower.2 The Foreign Minister expressed [Page 70] great satisfaction on behalf of his Government at the rapidity and effectiveness with which the President’s reply had been forthcoming. I stated the President’s great appreciation for the Chancellor’s message of appreciation and confidence. I showed him a preliminary copy of Bulganin’s latest message. He hoped that we would hit back as soon as possible, for there were many obvious openings which could be turned to our advantage.

The Foreign Minister made an assessment of the reasons behind the Russian initiative in the exchange of notes, saying that he believed they were caused by (a) desire for propaganda, and (b) an attempt to take the offensive in protecting their position in East Germany by forcing the discussion. I replied in agreement, adding that the Russians found themselves in an incompatible position because of their desire to appear in a position of peace and goodwill, on the one hand, while continuing to assert domination over East Germany and the satellites on the other. They were getting into an increasingly embarrassing situation by trying to maintain both of these postures at the same time. We should not let them get away with it.

The Foreign Minister believed that the West should take the offensive as soon as possible and should not be dependent, for action, upon the reaction of the Russians. For example, he believed that some Western initiative might be displayed under Article 2 of the NATO Treaty,3 and he thought we should jointly explore this possibility. I said that we would give this full consideration and, along the same line, we were looking into the possibility of some sort of initiative through appropriate action in the UN Assembly. We agreed we would explore other lines of action and keep each other advised.

Foreign Minister was of the opinion that the economic potential of the West, which was many times that of the orbit, should be mobilized for the purpose of bringing full pressure on the Soviets wherever opportunity existed. I agreed, but pointed out the inherent difficulties of organizing the free enterprise democracies, as against the concerted action that was possible on the part of totalitarian governments. I cited as an example the case of Communist China. While that country might appear to be far removed from the European scene, nevertheless it was of very direct interest to the United States because of our common borders on the Pacific Ocean. We had great concern about building up the economy of Communist China, and we hoped that the countries of Europe would realize that our policies in the Far East were dictated by very vital strategic necessities. I likened [Page 71] it to the problems which the Federal Republic had in consideration of its relations with East Germany. We hoped that we might have the support of the Federal Republic in protecting our position in the Pacific. He expressed full understanding of our situation and promised to do whatever would be possible on the part of his country.
We next turned to the Eden talks, and the Foreign Minister expressed great satisfaction at the statements made in the declaration of Washington and the communiqué.4 I told him of the general attitude of the United Kingdom, where they stressed the importance of NATO and OEEC as vehicles toward carrying forward economic co-operation on the European continent. I outlined the strong position taken by Secretary Dulles, and especially by the President, in setting forth our attitude that, while these organizations would be helpful, we did not believe they would in any way take the place of closer integration of the six countries who were most directly concerned in such projects as EURATOM. I said that I was certain we had made our position clear to the UK and we intended to give every possible support to integration along the latter lines. He expressed appreciation and hoped that the talks would be helpful in bringing about more effective action.

We then turned to the Middle East, and I outlined in a general way our discussions with the UK during the conference. We had agreed that no effort should be spared to bring about an early solution to the Arab-Israel problem. As he was well aware, this was fraught with many difficulties; nevertheless, we were doing our utmost to work out some sort of a solution.

With regard to the Buraimi situation, we were using our good offices to bring the British and the Saudis into direct contact for an early end of their argument.

We were both greatly concerned with the concerted Russian offensive in the Middle East within the last few months. There had been aggressive efforts to augment diplomatic, cultural, economic and military missions in many of the Arab countries. They were having considerable success in this effort, notwithstanding the risks that they were taking. We believed this offensive threatened the Western position in the area. The Foreign Minister expressed agreement in this apprehension and said that they were also aware of the Soviet effort. He expressed the hope that German efforts might be coordinated with action of the UK and the US in countering the threat from the bloc. He did not have any specific suggestions, however, on how this could be brought about.


The Foreign Minister outlined the intensive efforts being made by the Russian Ambassador and his staff to embarrass the Federal Republic. While he did not believe they had been very clever in their behavior, nevertheless they were active in trying to undermine the position of his government. A steady stream of high-level delegations were coming to West Germany, particularly in the industrial field, in an endeavor to foster economic interchange. Industrialists were being tempted with offers of orders for industrial goods on condition that an economic treaty would be entered into between their two countries. The success of this operation was problematical. It nevertheless caused his government a considerable amount of concern and embarrassment.

He then read us a note which he was sending to the Russian Ambassador warning him of his criticisms of the Bonn Government, and of interference on the part of himself and his staff in local affairs. The Foreign Minister was not sanguine of effectively countering their activities, nevertheless he thought that such a note was timely and would have the effect of putting them on record. I asked him if they had considered restricting the movements of Russian personnel. He replied that this would not be possible until their own ambassador had become installed in Moscow, about February 25, and they were able to ascertain the restrictions that might be put on his movements. It would then be possible to place reciprocal restrictions on the movement of the Soviet officials in West Germany.


I closed the conference by showing the Foreign Minister the messages which I was carrying from President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles to the Chancellor,5 and stated the firm resolve of our [Page 73] Government to back the Federal Republic in its position vis-à-vis the Soviets at every opportunity.

Ambassador Conant has read this memorandum and concurs.

Herbert Hoover, Jr.
  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 653. Secret. Drafted on February 8 by Hoover. Copies were sent to Murphy, Merchant, Robertson, Conant, and others. Hoover was visiting West Germany to speak at ceremonies marking the tenth anniversary of RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) in Berlin. Hoover arrived in Berlin on February 3 and returned to the United States on February 6.
  2. For text of the exchange of letters, see Department of State Bulletin, February 6, 1956, pp. 515–518, and March 26, 1956, pp. 191–195.
  3. Article 2 of the North Atlantic Treaty states, in part, that the parties would contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles on which these institutions were founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being.
  4. For text of the joint declaration and communiqué, dated February 1, see Department of State Bulletin, February 13, 1956, pp. 231–234.
  5. On February 2, Dulles instructed Conant to deliver the following message to Adenauer:

    “Under Secretary Hoover is leaving for Berlin today and hopes to see you and Von Brentano at Bonn. I am delighted he will have the chance to talk intimately with you. He is fully sympathetic to the point of view which you and I hold, and I hope you will talk to him frankly about any steps which you think we could usefully take along the lines of your letter to me of December 12, 1955.” (Telegram 2136 to Bonn, February 2; Department of State, Central Files, 110.11–HO/2–256)

    Hoover was instructed to deliver the following oral message from Eisenhower to Adenauer:

    “I should like to take the opportunity offered by the visit of the Under Secretary of State, not only to extend my warm greetings and best wishes, but particularly to express my great pleasure at receiving your immediate telegrams of cordial wholehearted support of my reply to Premier Bulganin. Your telegram was an indication of unity of thought and purpose in our common effort.

    “I sincerely hope that the communiqué resulting from my recent talks with Prime Minister Eden did full justice to the urgent problems of German reunification, non-recognition of the Pankow Regime, and our resolve to maintain Berlin under all circumstances.” (Ibid., Conference Files: Lot 66 D 204, Eisenhower to Adenauer Correspondence 1953 to 1961)

  6. Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.