311. Memorandum From the Ambassador to the Soviet Union (Thompson) to Secretary of State Herter0


I have serious doubts whether we should really attempt to solve the Berlin problem at this Conference. There is some possibility that the Soviets would agree to a solution based on the agency principle. Even if [Page 719] this were accomplished, however, our position at the Summit meeting would have been undermined to some extent by the implied acceptance of the DDR. There is a greater possibility that if we indicated here a willingness to settle on the basis of the agency principle, the Soviets would merely pocket this concession by saying that the matter had to be settled at the Summit unless their proposals were accepted.

It would seem to me better for us to stand firm on Berlin at this meeting but avoid the dangers of possible Soviet action regarding Berlin by agreeing to a Summit Conference which would make unlikely any dangerous Soviet move before such meeting. Even if the present meeting is abortive, it seems unlikely that we could long avoid a Summit Conference, particularly in view of the British position. The difficulty of this solution is to find some action which could be taken at the meeting which would justify holding a Summit Conference. It we are firm on Berlin, the Soviets are likely to cooperate in finding some justification for a Summit meeting. It seems likely that a settlement of the atomic testing problem could be found in the course of this Conference. This, together with a reasonable Soviet attitude on the agenda for a Summit meeting might be sufficient justification.

It might be possible to probe Soviet intentions in order to find out whether they would be willing to settle the Berlin problem at this meeting but I suggest that this should be done privately. It might be best to have Selwyn Lloyd do this, particularly as he is apt to do so anyway, and if the British knew that we were prepared to agree to a Summit Conference, we could probably persuade them to take a stronger position on Berlin.

LE Thompson
  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1282. Secret. Sent through Merchant and initialed by Herter. The source text bears the following handwritten notation by Merchant: “David [Bruce], Fred [Reinhardt], Tommy [Thompson], Gerry [Smith], Loftie [Becker], & I agree on this memo.”