415. Letter From the British Ambassador (Caccia) to Secretary of State Herter0

Dear Mr. Secretary, The Foreign Secretary has asked me to send you the enclosed message,1 with a copy of a separate message which the Prime Minister has addressed to the President.2

At the same time he has asked me to speak to you on the following lines. In doing so, he wishes me to stress that he is not trying to put his thoughts into a very concrete shape, but is sending them to you as quickly as possible, since there is not much time to lose. With that in mind, I am putting this oral message on paper to you, in the hope that you will see me as soon as you can to give me your comments.

When you parted in Geneva last Saturday you agreed that the fullest use would have to be made of the interval before July 13 in order to concert a Western position before the next round. In view of this he has been taking stock of the situation and reflecting in particular about the developments on the last Friday.

It seems to him that what happened was this. The Western side gave Gromyko a paper3 which had the effect of preserving their own essential requirements while at the same time not explicitly requiring Gromyko to put his signature to what he had declared to be fundamentally objectionable, i.e. the perpetuation of the occupation regime. On June 19 Gromyko performed the same manoeuvre in reverse. That is to say he gave you a document4 which secured what the Soviet Government has hitherto stated to be its essential requirement, i.e. the end of the occupation status, while not requiring us, at least outwardly, to subscribe to this. Just as there was a catch in the Western paper from his point of view, so there was in his paper from our point of view. The catch for him in our paper was that the arrangements which it described would unless modified by Four Power agreement continue in force until the reunification of Germany. This spelt for him “the perpetuation of the [Page 936] occupation regime”. The catch in his paper from our point of view, particularly when it was read in conjunction with Khrushchev’s speech,5 was of course the reverse. There was the implication in the last sentence but two that at the end of the period of the provisional agreements, communications with Berlin would not necessarily continue “in their present shape”. Khrushchev rubbed in the element of the concealed ultimatum contained in this phrase when he said that if the All-German Committee failed to reach agreement, the Soviet Government would sign a separate peace treaty with the D.D.R., and that this would automatically end the foreign occupation rights in D.D.R. territory. There were of course many other divergencies between the two approaches, but this was in the view of the Foreign Secretary the principal one.

On Friday evening, however, Gromyko was off on a slightly different tack. He released a statement to the press6 saying by way of comment on the statement which you had made to him in the afternoon that if no agreement were reached within the All-German Committee during the specified time limit, the Soviet Government proposed that the four Foreign Ministers should resume their consideration of the West Berlin question and “make this question a subject of negotiations similar to those which we hold here now”. As the Foreign Secretary told you that Saturday afternoon, he had pressed Mr. Gromyko earlier in the day to explain exactly what he had meant when he released this statement to the press. He asked him what would happen at the end of the period if there had been no agreement in the All-German Committee, and whether the status quo as regards access would continue after the end of the period. Gromyko replied that he had not implied that there would be any unilateral action. The Soviet view was that if there was no agreement in the Committee, there should be a conference on the same basis as the present one. He confirmed that there would be no unilateral action during this conference. In short, what Gromyko seemed to be trying to do before the recess was to remove the flavour of ultimatum. It is true that he did not go so far as to say that if the conference which met at the end of the period failed to reach agreement, the procedures would go on as before. But he made it clear that during that conference nothing would happen. In fact what he was really saying was that the position would be exactly as it is today. We are, as it is, confident that the Soviet Government will not take unilateral action until the end of the present conference. But we cannot be certain that they will not do so if the present negotiations fail to result in Four Power agreement. In other words, [Page 937] on Gromyko’s above explanation we would be no worse off during the conference which would convene at the end of the period than we are during the present conference.

The Foreign Secretary suggests we have seriously to consider what, if this is the position, are the merits of a moratorium of the kind which the Russians have proposed. The alternative course is to continue to press them for an explicit re-affirmation that the procedures concerning access would continue indefinitely unless modified by Four Power agreement. This would have been the effect of the West’s June 16 proposal, if they had accepted it. But of course they did not accept it, saying that the theme of occupation status ran all through it. Our proposal of June 16, if the Russians had accepted it, would in effect have constituted a new contract between the Four Powers guaranteeing free access to Berlin until reunification. This would have great advantages, but we cannot conceal from ourselves that it is very doubtful whether the Russians could be brought to conclude a contract of this character. Moreover, it could be argued that even if they did, there are many ways that could be taken to eat into it and almost nullify it by indirect pressures. It seems therefore that we should carefully examine the idea of a moratorium for say two and a half years, provided it is expressed in acceptable terms. One argument in favour is the point that we are more likely to be able to negotiate this with the Russians. Also it would leave us in fact if not in theory in as strong a position at the end of the interim period as would any agreement of a more contractual character apparently designed to last longer.

In order to get a moratorium on acceptable terms it might of course be necessary to agree to some modifications in the existing situation, e.g. in relation to “activities” in Berlin, the operation of the “procedures” by Germans if it is found that the Russians want this to be done at once, and even perhaps in relation to the level of Western troops.

The great virtue of a moratorium is that a great deal can happen during the period which it covers. Things may not necessarily run against us everywhere. If we can get some sort of system of contacts going between the two parts of Germany, the result may even be that we should be better placed at the end of the period than we are at present.

A major difficulty would of course be to decide what we should agree to have happen during the period as far as these contacts between the two parts of Germany are concerned. Gromyko has proposed a Committee composed of representatives of the two “states” on a parity basis. There is also the idea which was at one point privately advanced by the United States Delegation to the British and the French of a Four Power Commission to be set to work during the period of a moratorium. Perhaps some compromise between the two could be found. In this connection it was perhaps interesting that Brentano told the Foreign [Page 938] Secretary on Saturday that if a Four Power Commission with German advisers were established, he would not in the least bit mind West German advisers meeting alone with the East German advisers, provided they did so in order to discuss subjects remitted to them by the Commission itself. There may be the germ of a compromise idea in this remark of Brentano’s.

As to the period of a moratorium, the Foreign Secretary would suggest we might go for two and a half years, as this would carry us over the German elections. Gromyko might object on the ground that his one and a half years was itself a compromise between the one year period which the Russians originally proposed and the two and a half years suggested by ourselves in quite a different context in our peace plan. In the last resort we might settle for two years, since this would bring us to the eve of the elections, and the summoning of the conference might without difficulty be postponed for a month or two. But in the opinion of the Foreign Secretary we should certainly start by asking for two and half years if we hope to get two.

The Foreign Secretary has asked me to explain that what I am conveying to you are thoughts and not formal proposals. We have not spoken to the French or Germans along these lines, and should hope to have your comments before we do so. May I ask you to let me know as soon as it would be convenient for me to see you?

Yours sincerely,

Harold Caccia
  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. Secret. A notation on the source text indicates that it was delivered to the Secretary of State at 9:55 a.m. on June 24.
  2. Not printed. This brief note told Herter that Lloyd was asking Caccia to explain to the Secretary of State his ideas on what should be done during the recess of the Geneva Conference.
  3. Document 416.
  4. Regarding the Western proposal of June 16, see footnote 1, Document 411.
  5. For text of this paper, see Foreign Ministers Meeting, pp. 329–331; Cmd. 868, pp. 238–239; or Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, p. 667. The verbatim remarks by Gromyko at the June 19 meeting (see Document 407) are essentially the same as the paper cited here.
  6. See footnote 2, Document 407.
  7. For text of this statement, see Foreign Ministers Meeting, pp. 332–334 or Cmd. 868, pp. 176–177.