256. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Dwindling Confidence in the US and General Ability of the West to Compete with the Soviet Union


  • Chancellor Konrad Adenauer
  • Foreign Minister Heinrich von Brentano
  • Ambassador Walter C. Dowling
  • Ambassador D.K.E. Bruce
  • Mr. Allen Dulles
  • General Lucius Clay
  • Mr. John McCloy

During a lengthy, animated and sometimes heated discussion which took place after dinner at the German Embassy Residence, Chancellor Adenauer disclosed certain of his fears regarding the diminishing relative strength of the US and the West which may underlie his troubled thinking of the past year. On several occasions he cited the results of a public opinion poll in Germany which he had read not long before his departure. This poll showed that, while in 1952 66% of the German people believed that the West led by the US would eventually win out in the contest with the Communist world, in 1960 only 36% still believed this. He said that these figures had shocked him and were significant in showing how large a loss of confidence had taken place during recent years.

The Chancellor indicated that he was greatly impressed by the economic growth potential of the Soviet Union, and its capacity as a result of this to exercise increasing influence in uncommitted areas of the world. Both Mr. McCloy and General Clay expressed their confidence in [Page 677] the basic strength of the West, if only the American and Western Europe’s economies (the latter bound to gather in some sort of economic union) could cooperate and, in effect, pool their resources. Mr. Dulles also argued that he had statistical data which would warrant more optimistic conclusions than those data apparently available to the Chancellor, and offered to provide these. The Chancellor did not appear overly-impressed by these arguments, and himself offered to make available to those present the statistical data which had been brought to his attention on which he apparently based his own more pessimistic conclusions. He likewise did not appear particularly receptive to Mr. Dulles’ argument that we tend largely to focus on the weaknesses and inadequacies of the West overlooking at the same time that the Soviet Union has many political and economic weaknesses. He appeared to dispute Mr. Dulles’ statement that in many countries such as Indonesia, Japan, India, et al., Communist influence was less now than five years ago. On the Common Market the potential contribution of which to Western strength Mr. McCloy had stressed, the Chancellor noted that he had been surprised at the vehemence and near unanimity with which German industry seemed to oppose its development while favoring a larger free trade area.

To support his thesis about diminishing confidence in the West, especially relative to the US, Adenauer cited the misinterpretation of the communiqué issued by the President and him1 earlier in the day as an example of how currently correspondents tend to jump to erroneous conclusions suggesting weakness in the West.

Although there was only casual discussion of the Berlin question, at one point General Clay stated that he could not conceive that there would be any significant change in US policy on Berlin. If there were, he and Mr. McCloy would know about it.

At the end of the conversation, Von Brentano came up to the reporting officer and said that now it could be seen what a problem he had. The Chancellor is like an old goat (wie ein alter Bock). He has very fixed views and does not like to be contradicted. He simply will not listen to counter-arguments. He (Von Brentano) thought it was nonsense to say that most German industrialists opposed the Common Market. There were some vocal elements in German industry who did, but these were not in the majority. Von Brentano added that the last few months had been difficult ones for him. He appreciated the way in which the United States had refrained from making public statements of a polemical nature despite a certain amount of provocation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 559, CF 1610. Secret. Drafted by Hillenbrand who is not listed among the participants.
  2. For text of this communiqué (joint statement), see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1960, p. 363.