21. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Camp David Talks and Aftermath


  • Mr. Wilhelm G. Grewe, German Ambassador
  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Martin J. HillenbrandGER

Ambassador Grewe said he wished to express the satisfaction of the Federal Republic at the energy and persistence with which the President had dealt with the Berlin problem during the Camp David talks. His Government did not think that the pressure on Berlin was really eliminated, but was good to have a certain period of time in which the problem could be met more quietly. The President’s press conference on Monday1 had caused some confusion among journalists here and in Germany, but on the whole the German reaction had been relatively quiet, largely due to the President’s letter to Adenauer2 and to the Merchant briefing.3 Nevertheless, an undercurrent of restlessness continued, and efforts should be made to calm this. It was therefore important that the German Government know American thinking, especially if any new proposals were in prospect.

The Secretary responded that we had neither worked out new proposals nor discussed any. The President had merely said that the situation is abnormal, that we had no desire to maintain occupation rights deriving from the war indefinitely, but that we would not be pushed out. In the final communiqué4 issued at Camp David an important item was the reference to achieving a solution in accordance with the interests of all concerned, particularly in connection with the absence of any time limit. The Secretary added that Chancellor Adenauer had sent the President a very nice letter5 in reply to the President’s communication.

In response to Ambassador Grewe’s query as to whether this meant that the United States envisaged entering the next conference with the [Page 58] Soviets with the last Western proposals made at Geneva, the Secretary said that he found it hard to work out in his mind how a summit meeting would go. Who, for example, would be the personalities involved? Perhaps there would be a new Government in the United Kingdom. Perhaps Lloyd would be replaced. (The Secretary noted that Lloyd had told him at Geneva that he had been much happier as Defense Minister than as Foreign Minister.) Butler appeared to want the job; Ormsby-Gore was also a possibility. No one wants to get out on a limb until we know who we will be talking with. There were accordingly no new proposals yet, and certainly none would be put up to the Soviets without the consent of the Allies.

Ambassador Grewe asked whether the American Government felt itself to be under any real pressure to put up new proposals. The Secretary replied that, as of now, it did not. He had talked to the French Foreign Minister earlier today6 and the French had no new proposals. It was hard, in fact, to see from where new proposals could come. When he was last in Bonn,7 the Secretary continued, he had asked whether von Brentano had any ideas as to how the West could seize the initiative. The German Foreign Minister had promised to write him a personal letter after consulting with Chancellor Adenauer, but so far nothing had been received. Ambassador Grewe commented that it was hard to conceive of any new ideas emerging in the next few months; the field had been pretty well exhausted during the intensive work prior to and at Geneva.

The Secretary said that Gromyko had raised with him the question of whether we were going to talk about a security zone in Central Europe or disarmament in a limited area. The Secretary added that he had indicated that we did not want this brought up at Camp David, and that we would only discuss such security arrangements in the context of an over-all plan for German reunification. In the view of the Soviets, disarmament and the German problem are apparently closely linked together. They show fear that someone may appear in Germany with a more martial bent than the present leadership. One cannot be certain, of course, whether this stems from real conviction or is merely an act. When Mikoyan saw Secretary Dulles last January the letter had said that, if Germany were to be reunified, the Soviets would obviously have a right to certain assurances relative to the united Germany. Perhaps the Soviets had built too much hope on this with respect to restricting German military activities, the Secretary added.

Ambassador Grewe said he was in a position to state that the von Eckardt remarks in a recent press conference,8 which had widely been [Page 59] interpreted as an indication that the Federal Republic now had an open mind on new ideas for a Berlin settlement, had been taken out of context. The Federal Republic has no such ideas, and von Eckardt’s statement was not intended as an invitation to come forward with new ideas.

Ambassador Grewe continued that the German Embassy here had received a report from Ambassador Kroll in Moscow which was interesting in that it threw light on the strange conduct of Khrushchev at Camp David in refusing to put anything in the actual communiqué about the absence of a time limit on negotiations. After talking with various people in Moscow, Ambassador Kroll had come to the conclusion that Khrushchev first wanted to obtain the approval of the Party Praesidium before making this commitment. Hence his resort to an oral statement after returning to Moscow. The Secretary commented that this might be the case, but noted that Khrushchev had been in Moscow only a short time before his full confirmation of the President’s press conference statement.

Ambassador Grewe said his Government was interested as to our ideas about the possible timing of a Summit meeting. Did we envisage such a meeting as the next step, or did we anticipate a prior meeting at some other level? The Secretary replied that he had been thinking about this and also had discussed the subject with the President. The President’s feeling is that there might now be a Summit meeting, but he had no precise thoughts so as to the timing. There had not yet been any discussion with our Allies. We would have to come to some conclusions about where and when a Summit might be held and what should be talked about at it. It should presumably not seem to take place on the initiative of any one country. All these things still needed to be arranged. As to subjects for discussion, the two principal ones would be disarmament and the German and Berlin problem. As to the method of conducting negotiations, it seemed probable that the heads of governments would agree that their Foreign Ministers should get together, say 3 or 6 months later, to carry on. The Secretary could not visualize anything else unless the British or French came up with some new ideas. The big safeguard, the Secretary continued, is the language in the communiqué that the solution to be achieved must be in accordance with interests of all concerned. This formula was used in order to avoid discussing the troublesome problem of specific participants. In response to Ambassador Grewe’s question, the Secretary said that a Summit meeting must obviously include a discussion of Berlin. We would, of course, like to have this in the context of the over-all German situation. The Soviets want to talk about it in the context of a peace treaty. Likewise, in response to an inquiry by Ambassador Grewe, the Secretary indicated that we would not push a previous meeting of the Foreign Ministers. He said that he would like to have this postponed as long as possible. The [Page 60] Soviets have never pushed for a resumption of the Geneva Conference, the Secretary noted. After all, Gromyko has maintained that the Foreign Ministers cannot settle anything anyway. It is, of course, difficult to see how the Summit could really settle the Berlin question. The Secretary said that he imagined heavy pressures would come from the East Germans who appear to be making life miserable for the Soviets in the sense of insisting that their situation be regularized. Ambassador Grewe expressed the opinion that the East Germans were really not strong enough to influence the Soviets against their will.

In response to a question by the Secretary as to whether the Germans had any new thoughts on relations with the Poles, Ambassador Grewe said that recent reports had indicated a stiffening of the Polish attitude. This was reflected not only in their harsh response to Adenauer’s recent gesture,9 but most significantly in indications that they would demand as a prerequisite to the establishment of relations a formal recognition of the Oder–Neisse line by the Federal Republic. This, of course, made by overtures difficult.

Returning to the possible Summit meeting, Ambassador Grewe asked whether the United States had considered what might be the role of the Federal Republic if Germany and Berlin were to be discussed. Would it be similar to that at the Geneva Foreign Ministers’ conference? The Secretary said we had not yet considered this point. He hoped that the discussion could be kept at a high level of generality, and that it would be open for us to say that any specific proposals would have to be talked over with our German allies. Ambassador Grewe indicated that the Geneva situation, from the German point of view, was not too satisfactory. All the important discussions were held at private meetings at which the Germans were not present.

In response to Ambassador Grewe’s question, the Secretary indicated that the Summit meeting might take place before the President’s visit to Moscow but that no specific time had been set or even discussed. One factor was the difficulty which the President had in leaving Washington when Congress was in session. In January, for example, he had to make a number of important speeches, such as those on the State of the Union and the Budget. Therefore, it seemed like it would have to take place either before January or later in the spring, that is, in December or say March. Apart from the general difficulty in the President’s getting away while Congress was in session, next year was an election, and Congress would try to adjourn by convention time in July.

[Page 61]

Likewise in response to a query by Ambassador Grewe, the Secretary said that it might be desirable to have a Western Summit meeting before any Summit meeting with the Soviets. He did not know where a Summit meeting should be held. Geneva seemed to be “jinxed”. However, it had the facilities; moreover, the local police were used to handling the considerable security problems involved. The conversation terminated with an exchange regarding the general difficulty involved in making suitable security arrangements for a visit such as that made to this country by Chairman Khrushchev.

  1. Source: Department of State, PPS Files: Lot 67 D 548, Germany. Secret. Drafted by Hillenbrand and approved by S on October 7.
  2. See Document 17.
  3. See Document 18.
  4. A memorandum of Merchant’s briefing of the Ambassadors from the other NATO countries on September 29 is in Department of State, PPS Files: Lot 67 D 548, Germany.
  5. See Tab 2, Document 16, and footnotes thereto.
  6. In this September 30 letter, Adenauer thanked the President for his summary of the talks with Khrushchev. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.62A/9–3059)
  7. A memorandum of this conversation is ibid., 396.1/10–159.
  8. See Document 7.
  9. Not further identified.
  10. Presumably reference is to the speech Adenauer made on August 31, in which he stated that the new Germany would some day be a good neighbor of Poland, a gesture which was rebuffed by the Polish Government.