304. Memorandum of Conversation0




  • United States
    • The Secretary of State
    • Mr. Becker
    • Mr. Wilcox
  • France
    • Mr. Charles Lucet
    • Mr. V. A. Zorin
    • Mr. Y. A. Malik
  • United Kingdom
    • Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
    • Sir Anthony Rumbold
    • Mr. P. F. Hancock
    • Mr. Simpson
  • U.S.S.R.
    • Mr. A. A. Gromyko
    • Mr. Jean Laloy
    • Mr. Jacques de Beaumarchais


  • The German Problem

Last night following Mr. Lloyd’s dinner1 for members of the French, Russian and American Delegations, there took place a general discussion of problems before the Foreign Ministers Conference. Some of the high points included the following:

Mr. Lloyd emphasized strongly the significance of the Mixed German committee idea in the Western Peace Plan.2 He pointed out that the 25–10 ratio was very favorable to the East Germans and that through the 3/4 majority requirement the plan contained a built-in veto. Nothing could be done without the agreement of both sides. This was a new proposal, he said, something quite different from anything that had been advanced in 1955 and he hoped very much the Russians would be willing to accept it. Their acceptance of this idea would offer the basis for a broader agreement which would inevitably follow.

Gromyko’s reaction to Lloyd’s comments was completely wooden. It was apparent the Russians were not reacting to the details of the plan or to its merits; they merely recited their old arguments. Let the two German [Page 707] Governments settle the whole business, said Gromyko. Let them agree on the steps that should be taken. If they can sit down and work out their future, then the four occupying powers should be willing to accept whatever decisions they might make.

The Secretary replied that this would be a possible procedure if the people of the two areas were permitted to decide their future. The only way they could do this was by the process of free elections. As things stood now only one of the German Governments had the right to speak for its people; the other did not.

The Secretary then asked why the Soviet Union had emphasized the problem of European security in 1955 and was not now saying anything about it. If it were so important then, why had it lost all its significance now?

Gromyko replied that the Soviets have not changed their attitude about this problem; the importance of European security remained. No one would question that. However, the Soviet Union believed it was better to reach agreement in Geneva on a limited area such as the problem of Berlin and the conclusion of the peace treaty. In this connection, Gromyko also repeated the Soviet argument that it was a serious mistake to tie up disarmament with the German problem. The latter was hard enough to solve anyway. The experience of the past few years had proven the complexity of the disarmament problem and when we injected that into the Western proposal, it became infinitely more difficult to reach agreement. And Mr. Gromyko emphasized the Russians really wanted to get agreement. They are willing to be reasonable and would go along with any kind of meetings whether they be informal discussions, formal discussions among the four, meetings with other states present, etc. Any method or technique by which agreement might be reached would be agreeable to them.

At one point Mr. Lloyd suggested the desirability of more informal discussions of the type that was taking place last night. The Secretary expressed the view that it would be better to go ahead in formal sessions permitting Mr. Gromyko to put forth his proposal. This would be followed by comments on the two proposals. After that, he said, we might resume the informal discussions among the four. Mr. Gromyko indicated that it was his intention to submit a lengthy statement today in the nature of a proposal with the probability that he would make another statement rebutting the Western Peace Plan on Monday.

Mr. Lloyd commented at some length on the undesirability of bringing Poland and Czechoslovakia into the meetings, following up some remarks to the same effect which he had made at dinner. If we accepted the Soviet criteria, he said, then other countries like Denmark, Holland, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, as well as Italy and Canada would have to be invited to the table. This would make it much more [Page 708] difficult to get agreement. It would be far better, he said, to settle the problem among the four. At this time, Mr. Gromyko’s answer was in general terms, but, at dinner, when Mr. Lloyd had referred to several possible participants, Mr. Gromyko interjected, “Do you make proposal?”

In response to Mr. Gromyko’s comment that the Soviet Union had no ulterior motives in its desire to solve the German problem, the Secretary asked why the May 27 deadline had been imposed. Had not the Soviet Government threatened the conclusion of a separate peace treaty which would in effect be an attempt unilaterally to abrogate the rights of the four powers in Berlin? Mr. Gromyko replied that he was sorry that we had raised the May 27 issue—that he had not intended to raise it until the end of the conference. The Secretary then pointed out that there would be no Summit Conference if this meeting of the Foreign Ministers ended on a threatening note. Certainly the United States would not go to a Summit meeting as a result of any ultimatum of this kind.3

So far as the writers of this memorandum are concerned, the main impact of the meeting was that the Soviets were repeating over and over again in different ways the same old refrain: why can’t we pick out two or three things that we can agree upon and forget about the rest?

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1338. Secret. Drafted by Wilcox and Becker and approved by Herter. The meeting was held at Mr. Lloyd’s residence.
  2. The dinner took place at 8 p.m. on May 14.
  3. See footnote 1, Document 295.
  4. On May 15 Herter cabled President Eisenhower a summary of this conversation and quoted in full this paragraph. Herter went on to say that he wanted Gromyko to be absolutely clear that if the Conference failed the Soviet Union could not force the President to a Summit meeting. Herter’s summary was transmitted in Cahto 7 from Geneva, May 15 at 5 p.m. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/5–1559)