260. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Meeting with German Defense Minister Strauss


  • Defense Minister Strauss
  • Ambassador Grewe
  • Minister Krapf
  • Col. Repenning
  • Under Secretary Merchant
  • Assistant Secretary Kohler
  • Assistant Secretary Irwin, Defense
  • Mr. Smith, S/P
  • Mr. Hillenbrand, GER
  • Mr. Courtney, S/AE
  • Mr. Fessenden, RA
  • Mr. LongM
  • Mr. Devine, GER

In opening the meeting at 3:15, Mr. Merchant said it might be useful to résumé briefly the discussion that had taken place in the Secretary’s office.1 He said that in reviewing the Berlin Contingency Plans, it seemed that it would be worthwhile to study one or two areas that had been neglected in the previous discussions of this subject. It seemed that the military plans were in relatively good shape. However, many persons, including the President, felt that the problem of civilian access to Berlin in time of a blockade or harassment by the Soviet forces was something to which sufficient attention had not been paid. It also seemed desirable that we examine more intensively the possibility of economic countermeasures in our further studies. Mr. Merchant said that he felt that the Working Group which would gather shortly in Bonn could very appropriately examine this subject. In bringing this matter up, Mr. Merchant said that he would like to make it clear that the United States Government did not believe that Berlin would become the scene of a crisis in the near future, although this cannot be counted on.

Minister Strauss then commented that as long as communism remains what it is and has the mission of world domination which it proudly claims, it is dangerous for the rest of the world to relax its efforts.

Mr. Kohler said that one of our great problems was to give credibility to the positions we take and the statements which we publish. He said that there was now some feeling on our side that we had achieved a good deal of credibility, at least as far as Khrushchev was concerned, in [Page 688] our statements of determination to defend Berlin. Mr. Kohler said that many people felt that the failure of the Summit meeting was really a reflection of the fact that Khrushchev had finally come to the conclusion that we were serious regarding what we had said about our intention to defend Berlin. Mr. Kohler went on to say that we can pretty safely assume that when trouble occurs it will start on German soil. For this reason, Mr. Kohler said, we have been concerned about the adequacy of the German alert legislation and had been pleased to hear recently that some progress had been made toward enacting the necessary legislation.

German Alert Legislation

Minister Strauss responded to this statement by saying first that he was speaking as Defense Minister. He went on to say that a few weeks ago Baron von Gutenberg, a member of the Bundestag, returned to Bonn from a trip to the States and when he met Minister Strauss inquired why the Defense Ministry refused to cooperate on the passage of necessary alert legislation. Baron von Gutenberg told Minister Strauss that Foreign Minister Brentano had given him this information. When Strauss asked Brentano about the report, Brentano said that he had heard it in the State Department. On further checking Minister Brentano learned that he had been misinformed and that appropriate apologies had been expressed. Minister Strauss went on to urge Mr. Merchant and Mr. Kohler to convey to the Chancellor and the German Government and the Bundestag in the most persuasive terms possible the conviction that it is their responsibility to see that proper alert legislation is passed. It appears that an amendment to the Constitution is needed for a completely satisfactory job in connection with the legislation but at the same time a great deal can be accomplished within present constitutional limits. Minister Strauss said that in June 1959, he and other interested members of the Government, after some strenuous fights with the Chancellor, had persuaded him to move ahead on the alert legislation. He had to report, however, that although the legislation was submitted to the Bundestag in December nothing substantial has happened since. He said that negotiations are now underway with the SPD in an attempt to reach agreement on an amendment to the Constitution. He said that he was convinced that one of the great troubles was that the Chancellor and other leaders of the German Government are not really convinced that the matter is one of great urgency for the United States Government. Minister Strauss said that we should make it clear to the Chancellor that we cannot carry out fully our Berlin responsibilities without the German alert legislation.

Minister Strauss said that because he had pursued an aggressive role in the matter of the legislation he had been accused in some quarters of being a warmonger. He said he was willing to accept this indignity if [Page 689] it would advance the general cause. He repeated his advice to tell the Germans bluntly what we need. He said that his own Ministry would be badly handicapped in case of an emergency if the legislation were not passed because it would mean that the Ministry’s civilian employees could walk off their jobs and there would be no way of enforcing their return. The same would apply to German employees of the US, British, and French forces.

Mr. Kohler said that if the conclusions reached by the quadripartite contingency planning group could be used as a spur to the Bundestag it might be helpful since the stated need for the alert legislation would then come from an Allied group rather than from the German Government itself or from just one of the concerned foreign Governments.

Mr. Merchant added that the failure of the Summit meeting had reduced the effectiveness of the “don’t rock the boat” argument which Chancellor Adenauer and others had apparently used against pressing for alert legislation. Mr. Merchant added that it is much too easy to let the public think that the nuclear deterrent is the solution to all defense problems. He said that he was glad to note that the Germans had moved ahead so impressively toward their MC–70 goals. Mr. Merchant stressed the importance of adequate conventional armament.

Role of Conventional Weapons

Minister Strauss said that he felt one of the great problems facing the Alliance was that there seemed to be no clear concept of what he called the “graduated deterrent”. What he had in mind was the whole panoply of defensive needs from the infantry brigades to strategic nuclear weapons. He said that in some quarters of Germany his emphasis on the graduated deterrent had been interpreted as a lack of confidence in the U.S. strategic deterrent. He felt that this attitude was a symptom of one of great difficulties that existed and that we would have to get the public away from the idea that the nuclear weapon is the only one to be used. He said that he felt that the Soviets are seriously considering the idea of trying to isolate the level of harassment at which we would use the strategic weapon. He said he thought that in the period of 1963–65, they might very well undertake border actions or actions in Berlin which would be an attempt to probe the kind of weapons response they would meet. He said that he felt these provocations would be both in political form and with conventional weapons.

Minister Strauss said that now that the U.S. is within the range of the modern weapons, it was no longer in the position it had been in World War I and World War II when it might as well have been on another planet as far as its vulnerability to the existing weapons of war was concerned. He said with this new situation there would have to be full-scale mutual reliability. In other words each country in the Alliance [Page 690] would have to be depended on to make its essential contribution. [2–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] He said another phase of mutual reliability lay in the division of labor in the scientific, military, and industrial fields. He said there was a great deal of waste and overlapping in this regard and much constructive work needed to be done. The Minister said that in NATO there are 77 guided missile projects underway and that most of these will never go beyond the prototype stage. In contrast in the Soviet Bloc there are only 19 types of missiles. As a result of this more economic approach the cost effectiveness of the ruble is perhaps twice that of the dollar. The Minister added that the Western Alliance needs much more in the way of conventional weapons, and he said one of the problems is agreeing on conventional weapons. Too many private and national economic interests are working against standardization. He mentioned the French and German tank prototypes being possibly combined and that the situation in the tank field in general was as wasteful as in many others he had mentioned.

WEU Restrictions on Germany

In regard to WEU restrictions on Germany, Minister Strauss said that in any case Germany cannot go further than MC–70 requires. He said there is no desire to produce things in Germany that are banned. Germany does not want to increase its armed strength beyond that prescribed in NATO agreements. But he said that whenever Germany asks for a modification in WEU restrictions there is a discussion in the WEU about whether the German contribution is necessary. He said that this attitude seemed to fail to recognize the great revival which had taken place in German science and also failed to realize the value of the contributions which German scientists could make to the Western defense efforts. He said that when a German request for modification of limitations was submitted to WEU he would often hear nothing further about it. This was the more polite treatment given to the German request. Refusals have been received and have been rather pointed. [2–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] He said that even the data exchange agreements with the United States in which considerable hope had been placed had not turned out to be so satisfactory. There seems to be too much red tape and although there were 33 data exchange agreements between Germany and the United States only three or four are actually working effectively while the others were lost in red tape.

Minister Strauss then mentioned the situation in Africa and said that for two generations Europeans had done practically nothing for the African colonies and now with nationalism on the march in Africa the Europeans are running away. He said that in spite of this misguided attitude on the part of the Europeans, it must be arranged somehow that [Page 691] Africa not fall into Communist hands. Mr. Merchant said that we would have to return to Africa and do the job that needs to be done.

Minister Strauss then referred to bi-partisan foreign policy in Germany. He said that this would have to be based on two principal points and that to begin with there was no point to asking the SPD for admission of past mistakes. It was not enough either that there should be agreement on the part of the SPD not to break the treaties. It was also necessary to fulfill the spirit of the treaties. The SPD would have to make a realistic appraisal of what a Soviet move into Central Europe would mean. There must be a resistance to all disengagement plans. He said that it would be impossible for the SPD to ever become a victorious political party unless it at least took a public stand 1) to being a loyal and efficient NATO member and 2) to renounce any deals with the Soviet Union.

Mr. Merchant then commented that concerning the point of complete mutual confidence which Minister Strauss had raised, the United States had tried consistently to encourage political consultation in the NATO Council. Regarding the WEU restrictions, he recalled that when the EDC was defeated in the French Chamber of Deputies there were very few people in Europe who would have believed that in five years Germany would be a leading member of NATO. The restrictive provisions in the WEU Treaty regarding Germany were part of an arrangement which was thought necessary at the time to quiet public opposition to German membership in NATO. Since we are not members of the WEU we cannot take a full part and therefore cannot assist Germany directly in its WEU procedural problems. While we can recognize the difficulties which this raises for the Federal Republic we hope that Germany will continue to find it possible to exercise the necessary patience.

Minister Strauss commented that General Norstad will not give a positive military ruling on a German request for WEU modification until he gets political support from the non-German members of WEU. According to German opinion SACEUR should render a prompt military decision and then pass the political responsibility on to the WEU Council. The present system was unworkable. The Minister said that because of the difficulties involved in WEU restrictions Germany had stopped its 12-destroyer program. He said that the destroyers which have been built will be used carrying less than their appropriate load of ammunition because the full load would bring them above the WEU limit of three thousand tons.

[1 paragraph (5–1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

Mr. Kohler then explained, in response to an earlier inquiry by Minister Strauss, the availability of captured German Wehrmacht and other German military records.

[Page 692]

He said that almost half the documents in question had been returned to the German Government and that the rather complex processing would be completed and all records returned by 1963.

The discussion ended at 4:25.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/6–2060. Secret. Drafted by Devine, initialed by Kohler, and approved in M on June 30.
  2. See Document 259.