45. Memorandum of a Conversation, Bonn, February 4, 1956, 1 p.m.1

The Ambassador and I called on Chancellor Adenauer at 1:00 p.m. on February 4. The Chancellor was accompanied by Mr. von Lilienfeld and an interpreter.


I set forth to the Chancellor briefly some thoughts which we have had recently along the general lines that during the last six months the Russians appear to be feeling considerably more confidence in themselves; that this confidence appeared to be the result of their advances in economic, political and military developments. Whether or not this confidence was justified was not the question at point. It was simply that they were feeling it, and one noticeable manifestation was Khrushchev’s “cockiness”, especially during his trips abroad. I said I personally felt there was some danger of the Russians miscalculating under these circumstances and we believe we should be on the watch-out.

The Chancellor said that he did not agree with the thesis that the Russians had any right to confidence at this time; that they were being strained by their efforts to fulfill the social obligations to their people and simultaneously carry on an armaments build-up. He felt further that Red China was placing considerable strain on Russia in its desire for industrialization and its rapid increase in population. The Chancellor appeared to base his statements largely on what Khrushchev had said to him at Moscow during his recent visit.2 He also said that he was convinced that Khrushchev had a realistic view of the situation. He mentioned further that Khrushchev expressed great fear of the United States and also some fear of Germany, but none of France or Italy, and that the United Kingdom was not mentioned. While the Chancellor did not comment on the danger of [Page 74] Soviet miscalculations, I noticed that he nodded his head affirmatively on this point while I was speaking.

The Chancellor commented that the Russians were unable to understand the good treatment which they received at the first Geneva Conference. Especially, they could not comprehend our apparent forgiveness for their “sins” or that we “treated them as a prodigal son.” Bulganin boasted openly of his letters from President Eisenhower and felt that they were a great feather in his cap.

He said that, in addition to their misunderstanding at Geneva, the confidence of the Russians had been strengthened by the following three factors: (a) the recent French elections; (b) the uncertainty as to whether Eisenhower would be a candidate again which, if he would not, would mean a new administration in the US Government; and (c) the 1957 German elections, which the Russians might believe would bring the SPD into power. The SPD was a neutrality party, so the Chancellor said, and though he insisted the SPD would not come into power, he said that if he were Russian he might well think that they would have a chance.

He then turned to the question of the Middle East. I outlined to him in a general way the results of the recent conference between the US and the UK and stated that we believe that, within the last few weeks particularly, there had been a concerted move by the Russians into this area. It took the form of increased size and activity in their missions, the arming of Egypt and other Arab states, and the taking of diplomatic, political and subversive risks to an extent not previously undertaken. I expressed the opinion that this was the result of the increased confidence they appeared to feel in themselves within the last year. The Chancellor fully agreed.

He expressed the opinion that the Russian sense of confidence was as much due to the mistakes of the West as it was to increases in their own strength. He mentioned difficulties experienced by the US, UK and France in handling problems in Turkey, North Africa, and elsewhere in the area. He stated emphatically that we must adopt a close and uniform policy of firmness towards the Russians, and he was particularly pleased, as an indication of such a policy, by the President’s rapid reply to Bulganin in the recent exchange of notes. He felt that our policies must be thoroughly coordinated and united, and expressed a desire to participate in any combined planning that might be developed. He said the West must be strong, otherwise we stood the chance of losing the cold war through our weakness, not through the strength of the Soviets. He said the US must use NATO as an instrument of strength. I expressed the opinion that we must move from the defensive to the offensive in meeting the Soviet threat, and he nodded emphatic agreement.

[Page 75]

I expressed the possibility of our taking the offensive in regard to the present Russian position in East Germany. They were endeavoring to appear before the world in a posture of peace and goodwill, while at the same time their actions in East Germany and the other satellite countries were utterly incompatible with such a position. I felt that we should keep a continuous offensive campaign going with regard to the Communist domination of East Germany. The Chancellor indicated his entire agreement.

Returning to the Middle East, the Chancellor said that the UK had not wanted to do many things in the Middle East, such as pulling out of Suez, Egypt, Sudan; and he said that they were going to have to leave Cyprus. He thought they could do a better job of these retreats by making them earlier, and taking what advantage might be possible.

He then shifted to the question of the relations with the Arab world. He said that the Germans were greatly respected by the Arabs for a number of reasons, therefore the Germans might be in a position to be of assistance in combating the Russian influence. He spoke of the possibility which was being discussed with German bankers of increased German credit facilities for development in the Arab countries. He said, however, the Germans lacked the capital. They needed this capital from the United States but it would have to be provided “secretly”; otherwise, the political advantage would be lost. But he made it plain that he had in mind not US Government money but private US money. I replied that we would certainly investigate the possibilities of such a program but that it would have many difficulties in fulfillment.

He expressed the thought that if we could combat the Russian influence in the Arab world, the Arabs would start falling out among themselves and our own position would thereby be greatly strengthened.

I gave the Chancellor, as an aide-mémoire, a translation of the President’s message which he had asked me to deliver orally.3 He expressed great appreciation and requested me to extend his best wishes to the President.

The conference lasted approximately one hour and a half. The Chancellor appeared to be in excellent health and thoroughly alert mentally.

This memorandum has been dictated jointly by the Ambassador and myself.

Herbert Hoover, Jr.
  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 653. Secret. Drafted by Hoover on February 8. Copies were sent to Murphy, Merchant, Robertson, Allen, and Conant.
  2. Adenauer visited Moscow in September 1956.
  3. See footnote 5, supra.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.