56. Telegram From Secretary of State Herter to the Department of State0

Cahto 12. Eyes Only for Ambassador. Following is report first plenary session heads of government with foreign ministers and experts present (present on U.S. side in addition to President and Secretary— Merchant, Kohler, Goodpaster, Walters). Meeting held in Elysee at 4:00 p.m. December 19 and lasted slightly over an hour.1

De Gaulle opened reporting morning talks between four chiefs of state or heads of government and interpreters.2 They had discussed arrangements for East-West summit; De Gaulle noted Macmillan had commonwealth conference and President scheduled receive King of Nepal. He, himself, has Khrushchev in March and visit to Queen early April. He would like visit U.S. before summit and as soon as possible after Easter. Consequently, he had proposed Western participants meet on April 26, then with Khrushchev for five or six days until May 2. As to place Geneva had been most prominently mentioned. However, Macmillan had suggested Paris on theory there would be series summits which take place in various capitals. Macmillan considered this better than Geneva.

On agenda De Gaulle said President had pointed out they should be cautious since Khrushchev has tendency go from one subject to another [Page 141] to conversations are not too precise. However, it seemed there should be some definite items and disarmament, underdeveloped countries, non-interference in internal affairs and, naturally, Germany had been mentioned.

As to disarmament, De Gaulle stated this was big subject. Obviously there were no great possibilities of coming to grips with it at summit but it could be discussed in general terms. Adenauer had suggested progress and savings could be effected and diverted for aid to underdeveloped countries. Macmillan had talked about U.K. disarmament proposals. Finally there was possibility of arranging for some control of vehicles and war heads (vehicules et fusees).

On underdeveloped countries, De Gaulle continued, it has been suggested we should get underway with some better organization among western countries and then at meeting with Khrushchev may be some limited proposals could be made. These might, for example, include such things as technical cooperation and financial aid in Nile development or in the field of public health.

It had been agreed among four De Gaulle stated that these matters should be studied, including how disarmament economics should be transferred to benefit underdeveloped countries and also suggestion as to aid projects. In any event, five-power group would be preparatory work in field of disarmament, perhaps being able to base itself on report of Coolidge commission.

On Germany, De Gaulle concluded four had centered on Berlin. It was agreed juridical status and western rights in Berlin should not be brought into question. It was also agreed governments should plan measures in event interference western access to Berlin. Finally it was agreed developments with respect to Germany depend on intentions of Khrushchev. We should ask him frankly what his intentions are. If he indicates that he will create difficulties then this means that he does not want a détente. We should put him up against a wall and tell him it is up to him to make any proposals he may want to put forward, since Khrushchev raised the question.

President said De Gaulle had given accurate account. Couve reported on work of Foreign Ministers with respect to:

Communiqué of heads of government;
Invitation to Khrushchev to be drafted by Foreign Ministers tomorrow and submitted to heads of government for approval, together with proposed instructions to Ambassadors in Moscow;
Further preparations for East-West summit; especially establishment five-power disarmament committee and continuation of work under direction of Secretary of State and Ambassadors in Washington.

[Page 142]

President expressed approval report of Foreign Minister meeting emphasizing agreement with simple agenda formula.

Macmillan asked whether agenda items should not be mentioned in invitation to Khrushchev. He proposed Foreign Ministers be asked to submit alternate drafts, one containing mention agenda items and other just the simple formulation, so heads of government could choose. He suggested letters to Khrushchev should also explain why Paris proposed as site instead of Geneva.

President raised publishing letters to Khrushchev, saying he supposed Ambassadors would consult with Soviets with respect to release data.

Macmillan said was difficult resist press pressure for prompt publication of letters. Public interest is great and content of communication almost certain to leak; President said he had only meant we should get Soviet agreement to our going ahead with publication even though only a couple of hours after delivery.

Secretary suggested item which De Gaulle referred to as non-interference in internal affairs had better be phrased in any type of communication to the Soviets in general terms such as “East-West relations” since the terms “non-interference” might raise Soviet arguments.

President supported Secretary’s suggestion. He added there was basically considerable difference between Soviets and western views on meaning of this term. For example, Khrushchev considered as interference any mention of status of Eastern Europe or Chinese Communist attacks on Formosa.

Debre said in connection with this item French thought potential problem was that of arms traffic, particularly to new countries in Africa. As had once been done with respect to the Middle East, French considered it desirable there might be some system of restriction and control on arms deliveries. They considered such a system should be limited to non-committed countries.

De Gaulle supplemented this by pointing out such countries as Turkey would be exempted in application of such a system.

President commented this idea was complicated by question of Red China. Khrushchev could not speak for them and the Red Chinese could, of course, break any system that might be set up.

Macmillan referred to post-war allied agreement re NEACC. This system had broken down when Soviet bloc delivered arms to Middle East. He agreed it would be useful to have the Washington group study this proposal. There was no doubt such arms deliveries to new countries were source considerable trouble. There was also tendency these countries play one side against the other in seeking arms supplies.

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De Gaulle then referred to suggestions which President had made for improvement Western cooperation in handling economic questions.

President said that this was clearly important problem but that the U.S. was not seeking new big organizational structure. We had been thinking of using OEEC expanded to include U.S. and Canada and with provision allow Japan to be associated. He said Soviets saw question of aid as field for competition. Consequently, it was important we get better organized among ourselves before we talk to Soviets. He went on to point out U.S. had carried big load in this field. He recognized France and Great Britain had special interests and special activities in their own community and commonwealth, respectively. U.S. and Germany able be more flexible.

De Gaulle then turned to Chancellor Adenauer and, after addressing him as “my very prosperous friend”, asked his views.

Adenauer replied: “We are in favor.”

Macmillan said U.K. agreed to use OEEC machinery for study of what actually being done and by whom in aid to underdeveloped countries, and then to consider what machinery might be best set up among us. After we have done this, he continued, question of principle then arises as to whether we ask Russians to join.

President then asked whether we were agreed OEEC should be used for this purpose, to which Prime Minister indicated assent.

President added he was more negative than his colleagues on taking this subject up with Soviets. He repeated they see this as field of competition rather than as cooperation. However, he said that if we got ourselves well organized, then we might put it up to them.

Secretary added we do not contemplate OEEC as an operating body in this field. Original convention setting up OEEC as instrumentality for administration of Marshall Plan contained many provisions which were not applicable today. Number of changes would be required, maybe new charter of some kind.

Macmillan asked whether concept was OEEC would be instrument for making initial studies and we might then go on to something bigger. Secretary answered in affirmative.

President said he had suspicion that examination would bring out extent of burden which the U.S. carrying, not only with respect to aid to underdeveloped countries but as respects the cost to U.S. of maintaining deterrent force for free world. In this connection, he pointed out simple percentages GNP did not really reveal total burden country carrying.

De Gaulle said preparatory work would make ideas which had been put forward clearer and more precise. He then said there remains question of Germany. This is most serious question facing us. What we do in this respect and influence this may have in German public opinion [Page 144] will have a decisive effect with respect to advance of communism in Europe.

President commented we could not allow discussion of Germany to degenerate at meeting with Khrushchev as it had in Geneva. President then raised question re Sunday schedule. He said he had thought general pattern was Heads of Government would meet in morning alone and then meet with Foreign Ministers in afternoon. He thought this was useful. Considerable indecisive discussion ensued within and amongst the four delegations.

Adenauer then intervened with a statement which the reporting officer did not understand, except for frequent repetition of the word “communism.”

De Gaulle then proposed Heads of Government might meet tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. and have their Foreign Ministers join them with a restricted number of advisers at 5 p.m.

President pointed out this would leave considerable idle time between lunch and 4:00 p.m. and made counterproposal Heads of Government might start their afternoon work tomorrow at 2:30 and be joined by their Foreign Ministers at 3:30. This was agreed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–PA/12–2159. Secret. Transmitted in two sections. Received at 10:38 a.m. Repeated to Bonn, London, and Moscow.
  2. A memorandum of the conversation at this meeting, which included the Foreign Ministers and senior delegation advisers (US/MC/6) is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1569. Among those attending for the United States were Merchant, Kohler, Goodpaster, and Walters.
  3. See Document 54.