50. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the Secretary of State and the German Ambassador (Krekeler), Department of State, Washington, April 27, 1956, 5 p.m.1

The German Ambassador, having returned from Bonn early in the day, called on the Secretary at 5 o’clock at his own request.

In reply to the Secretary’s opening question as to the state of the Chancellor’s health, the Ambassador said that he found Chancellor Adenauer vigorous, full of humor and fully restored to health. The Secretary expressed his pleasure at this news.

The Ambassador then handed the Secretary the attached personal letter from the Chancellor dated April 202 and thanked him for [Page 91] our cooperation in keeping the Federal Government informed concerning the negotiations on disarmament in London.3

The Ambassador also handed the Secretary the attached personal letter from Von Brentano expressing his appreciation for our understanding of the Federal Government’s position on reunification.4

The Ambassador then said that during his holiday the Chancellor had grown considerably disturbed over the general situation. In particular he was worried by the Franco-British disarmament proposal tabled in London,5 which, lacking United States sponsorship, gave the impression of a split among the three. He also resented the inclusion in that proposal of a ceiling of 200,000 troops for Germany, a figure which he said was arrived at and announced in the negotiations without any prior consultation with the Federal Republic.

Ambassador Krekeler then turned to the matter of support costs. He said that Bonn recognized the difficult position that the United Kingdom was in, not only in foreign exchange but from a budgetary point of view. The United Kingdom was in the worst shape of any of the parties involved. The Germans realize that if they cannot meet the British position there is the very real risk of withdrawal of British forces from the continent. This they consider must be avoided at all costs. Accordingly, Brentano, when he goes to London on Monday, will make certain proposals. It will not be possible to negotiate all the details then but the Germans are determined to reach an agreement. They will keep us fully informed of developments. Krekeler mentioned that one thought they had in mind was to take over all the expenses of one of the British Divisions in Germany which would be considered an instruction division for the German forces. Bonn has public opinion problems, he said, but he believes this could be presented as merely a payment for instruction and not as a continuation of occupation costs.

The Secretary said that in this matter of support costs the United States would not want to be discriminated against. We don’t like being taken for granted and he assumed the Federal Republic was equally interested in keeping United States forces in Europe as well as British. The Ambassador hastened to assure the Secretary that there was no thought of discriminating against the United States and certainly they wanted our forces there but, he added, “You and we don’t have financial problems.”

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Mr. Merchant said that in embarking on this bilateral discussion with the British he assumed the Germans had taken fully into account, in addition to our unwillingness to be discriminated against, the resentment which could be expected on the part of the French and Belgians against both the British and Germans. He pointed out that the negotiations for months had been conducted in common and that this unilateral operation by Germany would have repercussions. The Ambassador said he was sure that those factors had been taken into account.

On support costs the Ambassador said that the payments would continue after May 5. There was a continuous flow of payments and this would continue until there was an agreement. The Germans, however, do not want to formalize any such continuation.

Ambassador Krekeler then turned to the question of the conscription law. He said the Cabinet had taken the decision to push this through the Bundestag before the summer recess. It was difficult but they were going to do it. In reply to a question he said that the bill which they would push through would provide for 18 months period.

The Ambassador then referred to a conference he had had with Ambassador Haas (assigned to Moscow), the Chancellor and Brentano. The latter feels strongly that the views of the Federal Republic on reunification must be presented to the Russians and kept before them. Haas will have no instructions to negotiate but he will be instructed to present the Federal Republic’s views. A draft, however, of his instructions will be sent to Washington for the Secretary to review before they are put in final form and communicated to Ambassador Haas. Krekeler emphasized that there was no thought of negotiations.

On the matter of party organization, Krekeler said that the present Stuttgart meeting was very important. It had been decided to set up a top committee of ten members of the party, all of whom would take an active role in public and in politics with a view to impressing the country with the variety and depth of the leadership which the party possessed.

Ambassador Krekeler reported that Brentano had been elated over the Secretary’s AP speech.6 He himself is tentatively thinking of suggesting at the NATO meeting (1) that there be bi-monthly meetings of the Council when the Permanent Representatives would be joined for purposes of political discussion by the Permanent Under Secretaries of the NATO members, and (2) that NATO might set up some emergency economic assistance fund.

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The Secretary indicated that his reaction was negative to the second proposal. He went on to say that the ideas behind his speech contemplated increased activity in the political area rather than the economic area. He spoke of such problems as Cyprus, the Saar, German reunification, French North Africa and the situation in the Middle East where the threat of hostilities jeopardized the oil supply on which all of Europe was dependent, as problems which deeply affected the strength and unity of the alliance and which hence could not be ignored by the Council.

In taking his leave Ambassador Krekeler mentioned that Ambassador Eckhardt (now the Federal Republic’s Observer at the United Nations in New York) was probably going to be called back to Bonn to handle the government’s public relations and press relations. These have not been well handled, he said, in recent months.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Secret. Drafted by Merchant.
  2. Not printed.
  3. For documentation on the work of the U.N. Subcommittee on Disarmament, see volume xx.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Reference is presumably to the Anglo-French Working Paper Submitted to the Disarmament Subcommittee: Proposed Synthesis, March 19, 1956. For text of the proposal, see U.N. doc. DC/SC.1/38.
  6. For text of Dulles’ speech before the annual luncheon of the Associated Press in New York on April 23, see Department of State Bulletin, April 30, 1956, pp. 706–710.