161. Telegram From Secretary of State Dulles to the Department of State0

Secto 14. Discussion this morning at FonOff between Secretary and Couve de Murville devoted largely to Berlin and related problems. Secretary noted that preliminary exchange of views at this time would be useful to prevent hardening of Allied positions in different directions. He felt gravity of move by Soviet Union as threat to security of German Government and free world should not be minimized. He had impression that thinking of Western Powers was running along parallel lines but wanted to confirm this. Perhaps there was some difference in approach by UK and FedRep.

Secretary analyzed problem facing Western powers along lines para 3 Secto 4 from London.1 Couve said he agreed West should not underestimate gravity of issues faced. He pointed out that public opinion tended to expect that somehow arrangements would be made and that problem would dissolve in air. This was dangerous state of mind. He did not know why Soviets had raised Berlin problem as they had, but saw nothing since end of November indicating any basic change in intention to turn responsibilities over to GDR.

Re contingency plans, Couve said Western powers must start from principle they cannot accept interference their communications to Berlin either by air or land. This should be affirmed clearly. When May 27 arrived they would have to see what best course of action would be, whether it better to resort to airlift or to insistence on land access. However, decision must be taken to do whatever necessary to maintain Western communications. Secretary then outlined in detail US views (along lines reported Secto 4) on dealing with problem presented by Soviets’ handing over control of access to GDR.

Couve said that in general French agreed with US approach. Secretary noted he had discussed with Macmillan and Lloyd.2 They likewise had agreed in general but appeared more disposed than US to accept substitution GDR officials for Soviets. Secretary stressed his belief that acceptance such substitution would be tantamount to abandoning basic principle that our victor’s rights in Berlin cannot be handed over by [Page 326] Soviets to vanquished. Western powers do not allow either GDR or FedRep to exercise controls over their rights re Berlin. At time of Paris Agreements, when certain aspects of sovereignty restored to FedRep, three powers reserved their rights re Berlin. This was important question of principle. Once we conceded that Soviets could turn over their obligations to GDR, we could not prevent creeping imposition of controls.

Couve agreed it was essential Western powers retain rights deriving from German surrender. Integral part of these rights in Berlin was freedom of communications with city. We cannot concede that Soviets could give up their responsibilities. Whether they could be “adapted” was another problem. Secretary commented that if Soviets wanted to specify GDR officials as their agents that could be discussed and Couve agreed. Secretary stressed his belief that Western powers could exert real pressure on Soviet Union by bringing matter to Security Council or special session of General Assembly. Soviets now had considerable investment in respectability. Placing them in position where it clearly demonstrable they had violated agreements could have considerable impact.

As to precise conduct at checkpoints if GDR officials present, Secretary explained we proposed only to take sufficient action to prove identity of vehicles as Allied and not German. In response to query, Secretary indicated British were in agreement but would probably again raise question of permitting extensions by GDR officials such as allowing placing of time stamp on movement orders. Secretary noted that at end of conversation with Macmillan he had asked whether there was agreement on course of action, so that he could confidently discuss along the same lines with French and FedRep. Prime Minister had said yes, but Secretary could not be sure there would not be some subsequent slippage.

Re Macmillan visit to Moscow, Secretary said Prime Minister had not discussed with him in any respect what he would do there other than, as already publicly stated, to attempt reconnaissance but not conduct of negotiations. Couve commented that Macmillan probably had no plan which he was going to propose to Soviets. Secretary said he doubted whether British had thought position through but that Macmillan visit would make British public opinion happy.

Couve raised point German preoccupation with inclusion of disarmament on agenda of possible conference with Soviets. He recalled that December 31 note3 had said meeting should discuss German problems. Couve doubted wisdom inclusion disarmament since if meeting not [Page 327] limited specifically to German question Soviets would contend there was no reason why it should be four power meeting and would certainly demand parity. Moreover, discussion of disarmament might be embarrassing to West which not in full agreement re Geneva test suspension talks. Secretary noted that considerable portion of talks in London had been devoted to status of Geneva Conference on nuclear tests. He explained US position on veto along lines Secto 9 from London.4

Secretary referred to message he had had from Adenauer, describing it in same general terms as to Lloyd (reported Secto 4). Secretary added that if certain problems re Germany had to be discussed in context of disarmament, conference on surprise attack could be reconvened to provide that context.5 He agreed that if a meeting of Foreign Ministers were to discuss disarmament, serious problems re composition would be raised.

Couve agreed with Secretary’s analysis of Adenauer position on disarmament. He said Chancellor’s belief that agreement on disarmament would lead to world detente within framework of which solution to all other problems could be found was not realistic. Secretary stated that, in his opinion, we could not make much headway in disarmament field until at least some political problems had been solved. As long as these remained unsolved, continuance of tensions would require maintenance of armaments.

Secretary referred to discussion London re possibility meeting of four Foreign Ministers in Paris March 15–19 to agree on substance of Western position for conference with Soviets. Secretary noted dates in question acceptable to US. Couve said such meeting could be envisaged, but frankly question of whether three or four Foreign Ministers should meet created difficulty for French. He believed it was good to stick to idea that basic responsibility for Berlin was that of three powers. Secretary suggested that perhaps procedure could be followed as during December6 meeting with tripartite meeting perhaps on March 15 followed by quadripartite meeting following day. Couve said he believed this could be worked out.

In response to query by Secretary as to whether French had any thought on substance of Western position which they wished to divulge, Couve said French had no precise ideas as yet. Arriving at substantive position would be hardest task Western powers faced. Secretary commented that he supposed we should start with November 1955 proposals.

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These had been presented as rather complicated package,7 in fact so complicated nobody had really ever understood them. However, there was much good in these proposals which now needed to be polished up and given a new look. Perhaps they could be supplemented in some respects. Couve said that presumably both sides would start from previous positions, with Soviets insisting that reunification was matter solely for discussion between two German states and favoring some sort of disengagement. It was unlikely that either side would change much. Obviously, no agreement with Soviets would be attainable under these circumstances. If no such agreement on general solution were possible, Couve continued, then Western powers must find some sort of modus vivendi. If reunification impossible to achieve at present time, then solution must be sought which would enable us to get through next few years.

Secretary said he did not think we were going to bring about reunification of Germany at conference. He was not sure, despite considerable talk on subject, that there was much real eagerness for reunification. Even in Germany there were factors such as possibility of an increased socialist strength which reduced enthusiasm. Secretary and Couve ended with agreement on note that FedRep should be less fearful of arrangements which would permit exercise of its influence over East Germany, and that there was no need for inferiority complex vis-à-vis GDR.

Discussion re specific issues raised Tosec 15 being reported separate cable.8

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/2–659. Transmitted in two sections and repeated to Bonn, London, Moscow, Berlin, and Geneva. The meeting was held at 10 a.m. at the Quai d’Orsay with Dulles, Houghton, Lyon, Merchant, Hillenbrand, and Greene participating on the U.S. side. (Princeton University Library, Dulles Papers, Dulles Daily Appointment Book)
  2. Document 157.
  3. See Documents 157 and 158.
  4. See Document 118.
  5. Secto 9, February 5, reported in detail on Dulles’ conversation with the British on nuclear test negotiations. (Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1203)
  6. Documentation on the surprise attack conference, November 10–December 18, 1958, is scheduled for publication in the compilation on disarmament in volume III.
  7. See Documents 105109.
  8. For documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. V, pp. 537 ff.
  9. Tosec 15, February 5, transmitted the draft text of a reply to the Soviet note of January 10 that had been agreed to by the Four-Power Working Group at Washington. (Department of State, Central Files, 662.001/2–559) Secto 19, February 6, noted that Dulles and Couve de Murville had briefly discussed and transmitted several suggestions for revising the text, (Ibid., 110.11–DU/2–659)