229. Memorandum of a Conversation, White House, Washington, January 31, 1956, 2:40 p.m.1



  • US
    • President Eisenhower (where indicated)
    • Secretary Dulles
    • Under Secretary Hoover
    • Ambassador Aldrich
    • Mr. Murphy
    • Mr. Prochnow
    • Governor Stassen
    • Mr. Reuben Robertson
    • Admiral Radford
    • Mr. MacArthur
    • Mr. Merchant
    • Mr. Wilcox
    • Mr. Allen
    • Mr. Bowie
    • Mr. Hagerty (in part)
    • Mr. Goodkind
    • Mr. Timmons
    • Mr. Lister
    • Mr. Cottman
  • UK
    • Prime Minister Eden
    • Foreign Secretary Lloyd
    • Ambassador Makins
    • Sir Harold Caccia
    • Sir Leslie Rowan
    • Sir Hubert Graves
    • Mr. Evelyn Shuckburgh
    • Mr. Ian Samuel
[Page 630]

[Here follows a list of subjects discussed.]

The meeting began at 2:40 p.m., with the Secretary presiding and Foreign Secretary Lloyd heading the British Delegation.


The Secretary said he assumed the purpose of an exchange of views on this topic was to emphasize the importance of an agreed position when the talks in the Disarmament Subcommittee are resumed. The US position is not yet finalized but is now shaping up.

Mr. Lloyd said that he was worried about the time-table. If the Subcommitee discussions resume on March 5, it would, of course, be necessary to develop an agreed position with the French and Canadians beforehand. This would take at least a fortnight, necessitating an agreed US–UK position, by, say February 20. However, he understood that US plans would not be ready before the latter part of February. Mr. Anthony Nutting has stressed several times to Mr. Lloyd his concern over the necessity of developing an agreed US–UK position in good time.

The Secretary said he assumed there was a considerable area of agreement at the present time. He inquired regarding the views of the UK on the reduction of conventional forces.

Mr. Lloyd said the UK was thinking of a reduction to a figure of 700,000 men, plus 60,000 men in colonial forces. He, in turn, inquired regarding US thinking on this matter. He said he had heard mentioned a figure of 2¼ to 2¾ million men.

The Secretary said the US had not mentioned such a figure.

Governor Stassen said that the total manpower in the US forces at the end of the present year would be 2,850,000.

The Secretary said the US is not thinking of substantial reductions below that figure. Having regard to our responsibilities and commitments throughout the world, it is difficult to see how any sizable reductions could be made, although some minor reduction might be possible.

Mr. Lloyd said that he was sure US and UK thinking on disarmament matters is, in general, quite close together.

The Secretary agreed, saying he could see no serious difference between US and UK views. He then asked whether the British had any new views to express on the subject of nuclear tests.

Mr. Lloyd replied this is indeed something of a problem. The Russians, or possibly the Indians, may well put forward in the Disarmament Committee a proposal to limit such tests. He added that the US and UK should take account of the increasing worry in responsible circles of opinion throughout the world over the effects of continuing nuclear tests. Increasing numbers of middle-of-the-road people in the UK were asking “Cannot nuclear tests be limited?” This is the trend of [Page 631] world public opinion we are faced with. He then went on to say that it may be advisable to designate a small group to look into the question of the feasibility of limiting tests, although he fully recognized the dangers that might lie in starting out along such a path. Even though it might be found feasible to limit tests, the work of such a group might prove to be a useful “cold war” exercise. It may well be desirable to take a limited initiative in this field before the pressure of world opinion grows, and indeed to see if there are any practical ways in which nuclear tests could be limited and controlled; in short, whether it is possible to have any meaningful international agreement on the question.

The Secretary said that the US had made a study of this matter some two years ago, and that he had discussed it in London at that time. In the present state of the art, the force of a nuclear explosion cannot be accurately predicted in advance. The US conclusion had been that there was no practical way in which nuclear tests could be limited. The Secretary agreed that we might be starting down a slippery slope in undertaking to study the question of limitation. If we propose to limit the tests to five megaton bombs, someone else may well propose a limit to one megaton, and so on. He referred to the danger that as a result of successful proposals to limit the size of bombs to be exploded, we in the West might find ourselves reduced to testing only tactical atomic weapons. This would obviously be an untenable position for us. He agreed with Mr. Lloyd that our public relations posture on this matter is an unhappy one at the present time. The Soviets, both because they do not hesitate to violate any agreements entered into, and also because they have larger conventional forces than does the West, are taking an irresponsible attitude, with proposals to ban all atomic weapons, to ban the big nuclear weapons, and so on. We always seem to be taking a negative position in comparison with the Soviets. Under these circumstances, it is obviously difficult for the West to hold the support of world opinion. The sooner we have a positive course to pursue, the better. He expressed his regret that progress in developing a US position has been slow. As the British Government well appreciates, it is an extremely arduous task. The views of interested agencies—Defense, AEC, State—have to be melded. For example, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are inclined to believe that the US may be moving too rapidly. Public pressures are in an opposite direction. Although there was nothing at the present time that he could announce as a US position, work on developing such a position was being pushed as hard as possible. Previously the US has felt that a ban on nuclear tests is not practical. However, this is a matter we would wish to study in the light of the Disarmament Commission’s [Page 632] resolution and the comments the British representatives had made.2

Mr. Lloyd reverted to his earlier remarks on the possible establishment of a small group to study the question of banning tests. If the US and UK do agree on such a joint study, do we lose anything, even though the result is a determination that limitation is not practical. He wondered if we should not reinforce our position with such a joint study. If the study lasted three or four months and ended with a well-buttressed conclusion, he thought that this would put the West in a better posture vis-à-vis public opinion.

The Secretary said that since Admiral Strauss, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, was not present at this meeting, he preferred not to go too deeply at this time into the question of the limitation of nuclear tests. He suggested that this further discussion of this aspect be held over until the meeting scheduled for the morning of February 1.

Mr. Lloyd said that he had attempted to sketch out a general idea for consideration. He was not sure that all of the British side was presently convinced that such a study should be undertaken.

The Secretary inquired of Mr. Lloyd if the latter thought that a plan along the lines common to US–UK thinking—comprehensive control and inspection, some reductions in conventional forces, controls on atomic weapons, and a move to direct atomic energy into peaceful uses—would be enough of a disarmament program to carry public opinion along with it, recognizing that such a plan would still not ban nuclear weapons and would still leave the great powers in possession of substantial armed forces. In short, the positive elements of such a proposal would be protection against a great surprise attack, a halting of the growth of armaments, and the establishment of a trend toward stopping the use of atomic energy for military purposes. All this would involve an inspection system which the U.S.S.R would find it hard to take. Can we get away with this?

Mr. Lloyd said that he thought the major problem was one of presentation. If such a plan were presented to world opinion as a first step, if “a light were kept burning at the end of the tunnel”, his answer would be “yes”, that such a program would have a favorable impact on world opinion. He went on to say that one of the great strengths of the Western positions on disarmament is that we have constantly stressed as our ultimate aim the elimination and prohibition of all weapons.

[Page 633]

The Secretary said that we are now taking this element out of the disarmament plan.

Mr. Lloyd said that he rather viewed the matter as taking this ultimate aim out of the first installment of a comprehensive disarmament program, and being a little vague about how this ultimate aim would be finally achieved. The important thing was, in his opinion, not to give up hope of ultimate comprehensive disarmament.

The Secretary agreed.

Mr. Lloyd inquired as to the Secretary’s hopes as to timing in acquainting the British Government with the US plan.

The Secretary said that he supposed the problem of public opinion relates more to the question of controls on nuclear weapons than to any particular reduction in the size of conventional forces. In other words, if something could be done on nuclear weapons, a reduction in conventional forces of the size likely to be possible would probably not be a material factor from the public point of view.

Mr. Lloyd said he did feel that public opinion would be affected by reductions in conventional forces. For example, if US forces should be reduced by half a million, there would be a real impact on public opinion. If, however, no US reductions are possible, then we must emphasize other aspects.

The Secretary said that it was clear that we would not be able to effect a reduction of the magnitude of half a million.

Mr. Lloyd said that he was not suggesting any particular reduction, but rather was directing his remarks to the question of the relationship between reductions and public opinion.

The Secretary agreed the factor for the West to stress is adequate control and inspection. This is the weakest point of the Soviets.

Mr. Lloyd said that even though the US and UK might not be able to agree to total control, certainly the Soviets would not be prepared to accept anything like the degree of control that the West could accept.

The Secretary added that if effective controls were instituted so as to greatly minimize the risk of a great surprise attack, the practical result thereof would probably be a reduction in forces and armaments. Indeed, under these circumstances there might be a risk that the reductions would be too great. We must, as long as there is a risk of an attack, keep adequate forces in being. If adequate controls are established, the question of reductions automatically becomes of less importance.

Mr. Lloyd said that he wished to add one technical consideration. Until the UK knows what force level the US proposes for itself, that of the Soviets cannot be computed, and therefore the UK cannot compute its own desired force level. The UK hopes to have the US figure by February 15.

[Page 634]

The Secretary inquired whether the British Government has calculated the number of people that would be needed to implement an armament and force control system.

Mr. Lloyd replied in the negative. He said that it was extremely difficult to carry out such computations until we know what we are going to control.

Mr. Lloyd added that there was another important factor in this complex disarmament picture, and that is what the French are going to do. If M. Mollet is successful in forming a Government, we might have very soon an independent French initiative in the disarmament field.

The Secretary said that the US would try to have its force figure by the end of next week.

Mr. Lloyd said this would indeed be a big help.

Sir Roger Makins added that it was important to know other major relevant details so that we can see what the whole disarmament plan will look like.

(At this point Prime Minister Eden joined the meeting)

European Problems

The Secretary suggested that the meeting next turn to certain European problems. He said he understood the British representatives wished to raise the question of obtaining support costs from the German Government. There was also the question of Communist moves against Berlin.

Support Costs for Allied Troops in Germany

Sir Harold Caccia noted that the US, UK and French Ambassadors had recently approached the German Foreign Office on this subject. He said he had not received a report on the result of these representations.

Mr. Merchant said that we had a preliminary reply from Ambassador Conant indicating a readiness on the part of the Germans to consider our position.3

The Secretary said that, as he had indicated earlier, he thought we should pursue this matter at the Foreign Office level since further discussion with the Finance Minister alone might not be too productive. He noted that the Germans, having received vast amounts of aid, should be in a mood to give sympathetic consideration to our views. He added that the United States is well aware of the budgetary and foreign exchange problems the British face in connection with support costs.

[Page 635]

Prime Minister Eden said that the British foreign exchange situation was serious. He noted that the French have withdrawn considerable forces from Germany in order to cope with the security situation in North Africa. He expressed the fear that British public opinion will find it hard to understand why the United Kingdom should assume additional burdens if German support is reduced or eliminated.

The Secretary suggested that we await results of the most recent approach to the German Foreign Office, then consider a follow-up with Adenauer.

Mr. Merchant said that we would probably have to await Schaeffer’s return about the middle of February, after which it could be determined whether an approach to Adenauer would be necessary.

Prime Minister Eden said that, if nothing positive were forthcoming in a week or two, they would want to pursue the question of an approach at the highest level.


The Secretary referred to the need for advance planning as to action to be taken in case a real blockade of the Western sectors of Berlin is instituted. He referred to the Tripartite Declaration of October 1954 (issued at the time of the preparation of the London Accords4 in October of that year), regarding the Tripartite intention to maintain the Western position in Berlin.5 He said that we must now think through what we are to do in the event that an emergency arises. We must have a clear program of action; if we do not have one, we cold find ourselves in serious difficulty. He asked Mr. Merchant to comment regarding the present situation in the Communist campaign of harassment against Berlin.

Mr. Merchant said the harassment seems to have died down a bit. He noted that the first of the barges had just gone through under the system of permits being issued by the East German authorities. The road situation is no worse. There had, however, been a number of other incidents, particularly the recent parade of armed youth and workers in East Berlin. He said that we could expect a continuing series of pin-pricks.

The Secretary commented that he had discussed this problem with Foreign Minister von Brentano at the time of the NATO Ministerial Meeting in Paris in December 1955. He had urged upon von Brentano the desirability of the German Federal Republic’s formulating a program of action whereby they could help themselves in the [Page 636] case of renewed Communist pressure against Berlin, through applying economic sanction against East Germany. Brentano had said on that occasion that the GFR was in a weak position to apply pressure since East Germany holds the whip-hand over West Germany through its control of brown coal exports. The Secretary said it was a dangerous position for the East Germans to be in control of an important commodity badly need by West Germany, and that he had asked that a study be made of the degree of dependence of the GFR on brown coal supplies from East Germany, and on how this dependence might be reduced.

Mr. Merchant added that in the 4-Power study group on Berlin now meeting in Bonn, the West German authorities had again stressed that at the present level of West German industrial production the Federal Republic is very dependent on receiving adequate supplies of brown coal from East Germany. Unfortunately, the West German attitude on this matter is quite defeatist. We feel that with initiative and hard work it should be possible to find potential levers that West Germany could use against East Germany.

The Secretary added that it was unfortunate that the German attitude is to throw the whole burden of the protection of Berlin on to the West, and to look to us to bail [it] out of trouble. He felt strongly that the Federal Republic should make every effort to find substitutes for East German brown coal, perhaps by the conversion of equipment using such coal, so as to gain some degree of independence.

Prime Minister Eden commented that he had not been previously aware of this factor in the German picture. What about Ruhr coal? He wondered if a part of the solution could not be found through increased imports of coal into West Germany from the other Coal and Steel Community countries. He further suggested that perhaps the situation required a wholesale conversion from coal to oil.

Mr. Lloyd interjected that the German Ambassador in London had put the matter to him somewhat differently and had stressed that if brown coal exports from East Germany were to be cut off this would work hardship on the people of West Berlin rather than on the whole German economy.

Prime Minister Eden commented we must not show weakness in Berlin.

The Secretary said he fully agreed, but that the Germans must help themselves.

Mr. Merchant said that there had been preliminary tripartite talks in Bonn on the question of planning against an emergency in Berlin, and that the British representative had taken the position that he could only participate in such talks if it were clearly understood that such participation did not in any way commit the UK to any particular course of action. The US was entirely agreeable to going into the talks [Page 637] on this basis. If the British would agree to having such planning discussions, it should be possible for the UK and US together to talk the French into going along.

The Secretary inquired what action should be taken on this matter.

Mr. Merchant suggested that what was needed was final authority from London to the British representatives in Bonn to agree to participate in the planning discussions and to join if necessary in persuading the French to go along.

Prime Minister Eden said that this seemed all right to him and that they would go into this matter immediately.

Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations

Prime Minister Eden referred to a message he had recently received from Mohammed Ali, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, to the effect that since the Durand line had been originally agreed between the British Government as the frontier between the Indian Empire and Afghanistan, Pakistan, as one of the successor states to the Empire, is entitled to have the same frontier. The Prime Minister said that he planned to make a public statement on this matter upon his return to the UK. He wondered whether the United States Government would also be in a position to say something on this matter. Perhaps it could come up at one of Secretary Dulles’ press conferences. The Prime Minister added that his information is that the Russians have available 5,000 tanks and 4,000 aircraft from their surplus stores which they can offer to various countries to stir up trouble.

The Secretary replied that Assistant Secretary Allen, who was the Departmental officer directly in charge of the area concerned, was not at the meeting this afternoon and that he, the Secretary, was not informed of all of the details of the subject under discussion. He added, however, that he understood there was a meeting scheduled between the Governor General of Pakistan and the King of Afghanistan for next May. He wondered whether, if the US and the UK were both to reaffirm at this time their support of the present frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan, this might not have adverse effect on the Afghans and make the Pakistanis too cocky on the eve of the forthcoming talks. In any case, the Secretary said, he would look into this matter.

Prime Minister Eden said again that the present attitudes and actions of the Afghanistan Government are most unfortunate.

The Secretary agreed.

[Page 638]

Long-Range Proving Ground in South Atlantic

The Secretary said that the US Government wished to work out an extension of the agreement regarding the long-range proving ground in the South Atlantic. He said that Defense attaches considerable importance to an early agreement on this matter. The US Government is prepared to send representatives to London and the British West Indies to carry on negotiations. He asked that the British Government look into the matter with a view to expediting to the maximum extent possible the negotiation and conclusion of the agreement.

Sir Roger Makins and Mr. Robertson added some details as to the type of agreement contemplated.

Prime Minister Eden said they would like to be helpful and inquired whether it would be necessary to telegraph London at once or wait until his return.

Mr. Robertson indicated the matter could await the Prime Minister’s return to London, so long as action could be taken promptly thereafter.

Mr. Lloyd undertook to look into the matter as soon as he had returned to London.

International Labor Office [Organization]Proposed Convention on Forced Labor

The Secretary said that he had one final item that he wished to discuss. There is before the ILO a proposed convention on forced labor. One of the effects of the convention would be to condemn the Soviets for forced labor practices, and the convention does, therefore, have a useful propaganda value to us. This matter poses for the US certain constitutional problems, which revolve around the so called Bricker Amendment,6 which would provide that no treaty can deal with internal matters. The Secretary explained that at the present time treaties became the law of the land throughout the United States and take precedence over legislation of the various states if there is any conflict between the treaty provisions and such legislation. The President has directed that treaties will not deal with internal matters, since this would be tantamount to circumventing the powers reserved to the various states under the American constitutional system. Thus, treaties now being negotiated are limited to international matters and are not to deal with internal affairs.

The Secretary said he feared that if the US joined in the ILO convention, this might lead to a demand for an amendment of the constitution along the lines of Senator Bricker’s proposed amendment. [Page 639] For example, it could be said that a convention dealing with forced labor could later be expanded to cover prison labor, and so on. This argument could well lead into fields in which certain states are very sensitive. The Secretary said that he had talked with the Secretary of Labor, and with Mr. Meany, President of the AFL–CIO, regarding this matter. He explained that the US could not vote for the proposed ILO convention. He suggested that the convention be put in the form of a declaration against forced labor rather than in convention or treaty form. In this way, the Secretary said, you can obtain the desired propaganda advantages without the disadvantages of a treaty. Mr. Meany said he was agreeable to this if another important nation would go along with the suggested procedure.

The Secretary said that the Department had already taken the matter up with the Labor Attaché in the British Embassy in Washington, but that he, the Secretary, had wanted to explain directly to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary the importance the US attaches to this matter. He very much hoped that the UK could go along with the proposal of casting the resolution in the form of a declaration rather than in the form of a treaty.

Mr. Murphy said that within the last day or so the Labor Attaché at the British Embassy had informed the Department that London had said that it felt committed to support the ILO convention in its present form.

The Secretary said that he hoped this was not an irrevocable position.

Prime Minister Eden said that he would go into the matter at once.

China Trade Controls

[For text of this discussion, see volume X, pages 308–312.]

Arab-Israeli Dispute

[For text of this discussion, see volume XV, pages 109–112.]

Saudi Arabia and the Buraimi Problem

[For text of this discussion, see volume XIII, pages 334–337.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 648. Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text. This memorandum was given restricted circulation to appropriate U.S. officials on February 7.
  2. Reference is to U.N. General Assembly Resolution 914 (X) on the regulation, limitation, and balanced reduction of all armed forces and all armaments; conclusion of an international convention (treaty) on the reduction of armaments and the prohibition of atomic, hydrogen, and other weapons of mass destruction, which passed on December 16, 1955.
  3. Ambassador Conant reported in telegram 2497 from Bonn, January 27, that Foreign Minister von Brentano “appeared to agree that negotiations should start at once without any restrictions.” (Department of State, Central Files, 740.5/1–2756)
  4. The agreements reached in September–October 1954 in Paris and London, enlarging the Western European Union and integrating it into NATO.
  5. For text of the declaration by the Foreign Ministers of the United States, United Kingdom, and France, October 23, 1954, see American Foreign Policy, 1950–1955: Basic Documents, vol. II, p. 1758.
  6. Reference is to an unsuccessful constitutional amendment, proposed by Senator John W. Bricker of Ohio, which would have limited the President’s power to make executive agreements.