253. Circular Telegram From the Delegation to the North Atlantic Council Ministerial Meeting to Certain Embassies0

1149. From US NATO Del. NAC Ministerial session morning April 31 devoted entirely to continuation discussion Germany and Berlin under first agenda item.

Von Brentano (Germany) stressed West would be wrong to show optimism regarding alleged Soviet desire to negotiate. Nevertheless Western public opinion expects governments make every effort to keep peace through negotiations. Western Powers must agree on limits beyond which they cannot go. If three Western Powers gave up legal basis their position in Berlin, freedom of all Europe would eventually be involved. As Lloyd had asked yesterday2 “If Berlin falls today who would be the next victim?”

Von Brentano was glad that unanimity reached by four Ministers that there could be no peace treaty with two Germanies as proposed by Soviets. He hesitated to propose counter-draft to Soviet peace treaty draft. He felt it better to put forward principles including who to represent Germany at peace treaty negotiations. As to reunification point must be stressed that division of Germany was not cause but expression of world tensions. Therefore, isolated solution to German problem not [Page 577] possible and Western proposals must be submitted as package. Agreement on controlled disarmament would be of decisive importance to solution German problem.

As to UK statement yesterday, von Brentano continued, he was glad that any idea disengagement or neutralization of Germany was rejected but he could not accept British idea creation of limited security zone. Such zone unacceptable if not accompanied by political progress.

If Soviets progressively withdrawing from ultimatum on Berlin this was because of firmness shown by NATO in December.3 It would be tactically dangerous to buy through concessions, as suggested by UK, right of Western Powers to protect Berlin.

Pella (Italy) noted difficulty reaching any results on specific problems during first meeting Foreign Ministers with Soviets, but it was urgent Berlin problem be settled and evidence given of sincere effort by West to reach peaceful solutions. Western countries must be firm and not concede questions of principle; concessions not involving principle should be counter-balanced by equivalent Soviet concessions.

Pella said report on behalf four Ministers to Ministerial Council did not mention how Berlin problem should be handled with Soviets. This must have priority in Western preparations. Regarding control of traffic, West must avoid giving impression we were ready to risk war on purely procedural matter. Pella also stressed that West cannot abandon position that German solution must at some point involve free manifestation of will of people, although it might be useful to follow up suggestion made yesterday of establishment some temporary all-German body to promote contacts between East and West Germany. Pella expressed skepticism regarding any special zone of security in Europe. If such zone to be established it must involve effective controls, and area proportionate to strategic concern of all governments involved.

Pearkes (Canada) laid down principle that war no longer a legitimate extension of policy under contemporary conditions. To succeed in negotiations with Soviets West must know minds of adversary. This now more clear in view Macmillan visit to Moscow. Soviets obviously want to advance their interests, which are contrary to West, but not at price of nuclear war. West must also know its own mind. Canada agreed that we could not jeopardize freedom and security West Berlin, ties of Federal Republic with Western Europe, or abandonment of German reunification. However despite undoubted legal basis position Western troops in Berlin, Canada saw inadequacies in present system which [Page 578] lacks fundamental international instrument guaranteeing security of city and freedom of access thereto, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] West should therefore not start with assumption that any change in status quo necessarily for worse. Four-Power agreement on Berlin involving UN might stabilize situation. Permanent NATO Council should study possibility of (a) role of UN in verifying that all parties abiding by terms of agreement, (b) Soviet pledge to permit freedom of access along with acceptance of UN presence. Any UN responsibility for West Berlin would be complementary to present responsibility of Four Occupying Powers.

If negotiations broader than Berlin take place, Canada saw little prospect for any agreement on reunification. Continuing commission to supervise and promote progress toward reunification might be useful. West should also accept some arms and forces limitation with inspection and control in portion of NATO and Iron Curtain area. Some mutually profitable measures of redeployment would benefit both sides and West should not reject out-of-hand possibility such arrangements.

Krag (Denmark) reiterated need for both firmness and willingness to negotiate with patience. West should consider creation at conference of body of experts comprising Four Occupying Powers, supplemented by FedRep and GDR advisers, to examine ways and means to enable further negotiations at governmental level. Existence such body would tend to prevent dangerous incidents.

Wigny (Belgium) made long rambling statement, main point of which was to show that while Western principles must be firmly held regarding reunification and maintenance of rights in Berlin, this should not preclude acceptance fact of GDR existence and need for certain Western adaptations thereto. He apparently gave qualified approval to UK approach on limited security arrangements, noting that Western public opinion desired this.

Lange (Norway) conceded difficulty consultation with NATO of Powers primarily responsible but expressed hope views of other NATO countries would be taken into consideration in development position. While West could not accept neutralization of Germany or withdrawal US, UK, and Canadian forces from Europe, Soviets could be given somewhat more far-reaching security guarantees than in 1955.4 He agreed with Lloyd that limited security arrangements would be feasible involving arms and forces ceilings and inspection controls in central European zone. This must not upset present military balance or jeopardize Western security. Lange also supported UK idea that certain new arrangements [Page 579] would strengthen Western position in Berlin and enable continuance of presence there. Also thought possibility of UN role should be considered.

Canellopoulos (Greece) stressed that any important concession to Communism represented defeat of democracy. Despite great financial problems, NATO countries must continue vigorous defense efforts.

Luns (Netherlands) noted he had presented his general views at opening session yesterday. He expressed gratitude for information received regarding tripartite contingency planning and concurred in conclusions of report. However, information given Council regarding Western position at conference was not very substantial, and more detailed information needed if support public opinion to be obtained.

Zorlu (Turkey) emphasized broad Soviet objective of world domination and that Soviets would continue to pursue this goal despite any local arrangements made. He supported general policy of firmness as only way of reducing Soviet intransigence. He opposed any special security zones without general disarmament as only leading to false confidence.

In concluding remarks Spaak said he had mixed feelings at end of morning’s discussion, Many interesting statements had been made, but he was concerned that they did not really reply to one another. There obviously were certain divergencies between certain members. While it possible to distinguish countries directly interested from other NATO countries and to accept this distinction for practical and procedural reasons, entire NATO organization was involved in Berlin situation through common commitments. Situation could not be allowed to arise whereby, if discussions with Soviets a failure and this failure led to need for practical decisions NATO countries could complain that they were not sufficiently consulted.

He noted that there was complete agreement on a number of points, such as no reunification without free elections, no neutralization of Germany, no abandonment of West Berlin, and no US-UK-Canadian withdrawal from continent. Beyond this however clarification of several points was necessary:

Was acceptance by Soviets of free election principle necessary before any of phased plan could go into effect? If so, this obviously unacceptable to Soviets. Yet West has said Berlin question must be discussed as part of whole complex. If no solution found to broader problem, Berlin problem would be put to West in isolated manner.
Reference had been made to package proposals but not made clear whether progress in security field had to be tied to reunification under all circumstances. Would Soviets have to accept parcel all at once or could there be a number of little parcels?
He believed that stress on peace treaty at this time strangely anachronistic.
After noting apparent difference between views that Western Powers should stand on their rights in Berlin or attempt to improve those rights, he concluded that merely adding something to what already existed did not involve real issue.
If Berlin problem forced into UN, whether or not Western Powers willing, rigid insistence on legal basis must be put in such a way as to obtain UN support. He did not favor emphasis on rights flowing from occupation or conquest, especially if UN involved and there was need to find another formula. It would be best to obtain UN guarantee of any agreement reached rather than have organization attempt settle problem possibly via General Assembly discussion.

Session ended at this point, with possibility left often [open?] for Foreign Ministers to discuss specific points raised by Spaak at afternoon meeting.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–WA/4–359. Secret; Limited Distribution. Drafted and approved by Hillenbrand and cleared by Fessenden. Sent to all NATO capitals and Berlin, Moscow, and CINCPAC POLAD.
  2. The verbatim record of this session, C–VR(59)14, April 3, is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1237.
  3. See Document 252.
  4. Regarding the discussion of Berlin by the Council on December 16, see Document 112. For text of the NATO declaration on Berlin, December 16, see Department of State Bulletin, January 5, 1959, p. 4.
  5. For documentation on the Western security proposals submitted to the Foreign Ministers meeting in 1955, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. V, pp. 537 ff.
  6. In the discussion in the afternoon session on April 3 the other NATO countries expressed a desire for the closest consultation between the four Western powers and the Council on Germany and it was agreed that the Working Group and the four Ministers would report to the Council at the end of April. (Circular telegram 1155, April 4; Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–WA/4–459)