197. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State 0

1747. I hope shortly to submit further suggestions on substance German problem.1 This message directed solely to procedure and handling of reply to Sov note.2

I believe situation has changed as result Macmillan visit. British are convinced that meaningful discussions can be held only with Khrushchev and I agree with this conclusion. I also believe British will stick with us on Berlin issue when chips are down but before doing so they will insist upon negotiations even if we have to accept unfavorable terms re agenda or composition in order bring this about. Lloyd indicated to me that British have in mind possibility suggesting some kind of more or less permanent commission to negotiate with Soviets. I very much doubt Soviets would buy any such plan. Would appear that both British and French are very weak on parity issue. I do not believe that Soviets will agree to Foreign Ministers agenda which implies any discussion of reunification. British officials on Macmillan delegation indicated they would be prepared to press further for acceptable agenda for Foreign Ministers meeting but were anxious that Sov note not be “flung back at them” or rejected outright in view of British feeling that Sov proposal for Foreign Ministers’ meeting was concession made by Khrushchev as result Macmillan’s conversations here.

In view foregoing I believe that if we are to insist upon Foreign Ministers meeting and if we are not prepared to yield on parity, our realistic alternatives are a Foreign Ministers meeting either without agenda or one confined to Berlin problem.

My own view is that we should adopt one of two alternatives, first, a summit conference limited to four powers with provision for German consultation and without agenda. This should enable us to satisfy British necessity for negotiations before risking war over Berlin issue and to find out what Khrushchev really has in mind. I believe he wants summit meeting badly enough that on this basis he would probably drop parity issue. Also believe he would in fact discuss reunification at such meeting but would not accept agenda which clearly implied commitment on [Page 411] his part to do so. I question argument that summit meeting would worsen situation by disappointing expectations of peoples of world if such conference failed. I do not believe Khrushchev would consider it to his interest to allow such conference to fail completely; believe that as minimum he would agree to instruct Foreign Ministers pursue some of problems that would be raised at such conference. Soviets have already indicated this in their last note.

Second alternative would be bilateral US-Soviet talks at top level, preferably in my opinion invitation to Khrushchev visit US. In talking to me Lloyd observed that democracies were greatly handicapped in dealing with Soviets since reaching agreement among big three and later in NATO was so difficult and consumed so much time that Soviets always appeared to have initiative. He said British had this in mind in making present visit. Clear implication these remarks was that British would not object to bilateral US-Soviet discussions along lines their own talks.

Greatest disadvantage of these two alternatives is that Khrushchev might take them as sign of weakness and harden his position but if I am correct in assumption that because of our Allies we will have to have meeting with Soviets before final showdown on Berlin then it seems to me that it would be better to propose such meeting now than later when Soviet threats will have become more immediate.

Thompson
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/3–459. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Repeated to London, Paris, Bonn, and Berlin.
  2. Thompson transmitted a 13-page detailed study on Berlin and Germany on March 6 attempting to show how the Soviet Union saw each of these problems. (Telegram 1773; ibid., 762.00/3–959)
  3. See Document 194.