79. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • April Foreign Ministers’ Meeting


  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador Herve Alphand, French Embassy
  • M. Claude Lebel, Minister, French Embassy
  • Mr. William J. Porter, AFN
  • Mr. Robert H. McBride, WE

Ambassador Alphand, who was seeing the Secretary on another matter, asked if he could raise the U.S. proposal for the Four Power Foreign [Page 195] Ministers’ meeting regarding which Mr. Kohler had informed Mr. Lebel and Lord Hood the day before.1 Ambassador Alphand said that the decision to have the Foreign Ministers’ meeting consist of representatives of the U.S., U.K., France and Germany had been taken during the Western Summit in Paris in December by the four. He thought that the decision, if any, to change this framework should be taken also by the four or at least tripartitely. He said that the new U.S. proposal had come without warning and that the French Government had been confronted with a fait accompli because of the fact that we had consulted with the Germans, Canadians and Italians and had instructed Ambassador Burgess to talk to Spaak before or simultaneously with consultation with the British and French. He said that the French Government objected to this procedure. He thought that if each of the four who had originally made the decision regarding the Foreign Ministers’ meeting propose some different proposition to others without prior consultation, the result would be chaotic.

The Secretary said that he thought our proposal was logical in relation to the groups which were now engaged in preparatory work. Since it seemed most likely that disarmament questions would arise at the Summit, it was difficult to envisage discussions of disarmament items without the presence of the Canadians and Italians. Ambassador Alphand said that he agreed with the Secretary’s point and that the French objections were more to the absence of prior tripartite consultation than they were to the substance of our proposal. The Secretary said that our proposal had been merely intended as a suggestion and as a basis for the comments of others. Ambassador Alphand reiterated the French objection to the procedure which had been followed and that it would be difficult for us, for example, if France were to make suggestions to others directly without consultation with us. He added that if the British, for example, were to make certain proposals to others it would likwise be difficult both for the French and for ourselves.

Passing to the substance of the proposal, Ambassador Alphand said that the French agreed with much of the substance of our suggestion but objected to one point and that was to the presence of Mr. Spaak. He said the French view was that Spaak had no authority in the East-West relations committee. He said he presumed it was the presence of a NATO representative on this committee which led us to propose the inclusion of a NATO person during the April Foreign Ministers’ meeting. He stressed that the French did not think that this meant Spaak should [Page 196] be present during the April Foreign Ministers’ meeting and that on the other hand it only placed the French in an embarrassing position since they would have to make known their objections to Spaak’s presence.

Reverting to the procedure, Ambassador Alphand said that the French Government hoped this method of operation would not be applied by us in the future. He then said that insofar as this particular proposal was concerned, it was acceptable to the French except for the Spaak problem. The Secretary inquired if the French were planning to make known their opposition directly to Spaak, to which Ambassador Alphand replied in the affirmative. The Secretary said that in this general connection we had felt it desirable to proceed as we had because in the past there had been certain difficulties in making progress. The Secretary referred to the fact that when we had hoped that the French would be willing to take the initiative in approaching the Germans with regard to the abolition of the Steering Group, the French had been unwilling to help and had left us to bear the brunt of this operation, even though we had already taken the lead with the Germans on previous difficult occasions.

The Secretary said that we had included Mr. Spaak in order to solve the problem of NATO consultation which we considered was an important one. He said he thought the inclusion of Spaak would take care of this problem and that we did not see readily any alternative possibility. Ambassador Alphand then referred to the East-West relations committee meeting in Paris2 and the fact that the NATO observer thereon did not make reports directly to the NATO Council. The Secretary pointed out that it was agreed there would be reports to NATO only on the basis of the agreement of the three. Ambassador Alphand repeated that the US suggestion for the presence of a NATO representative at the April meeting had not been accepted by his Government.

After repeating again that the French Government hoped this procedure could be avoided in the future, Ambassador Alphand said that another problem at the April meeting was the need for certain tripartite discussions. He said he realized that the US proposal was designed to do at the ministerial level what is now being done in the preparatory committees. Nevertheless, he thought that a problem was posed because provision was not made for tripartite consultation and we were already engaged in tripartite discussions on much more important subjects. The Secretary agreed that our objective was simply to lift the level of the committees now meeting and to have them meet at the Ministerial level.

[Page 197]

Pursuing the matter, Ambassador Alphand asked if, in effect, the role of Spaak would be that of an observer. The Secretary replied in the affirmative. Ambassador Alphand said he assumed our thought was that Spaak would give his views, if asked. He inquired as to whether there could be tripartite meetings without Spaak on other subjects. The Secretary said that we never excluded tripartite talks on any subject and they could, of course, be held although we hoped that they would not be advertised. Ambassador Alphand pointed out that after all the three countries were the ones who would be facing the Soviets and that they would have to have practical coordination of their views at the ministerial or ambassadorial level. He added that there would also have to be coordination on an agenda. The Secretary agreed and Ambassador Alphand concluded that he would report back to Paris on this subject.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–PA/2–1660. Confidential. Drafted by McBride and approved in S on February 20. A summary of this conversation was transmitted to Paris in telegram 3435, February 16 at 9:02 p.m. (Ibid.)
  2. Memoranda of Kohler’s conversations with Lebel and Hood, with Ambassador Brosio, and with Rae on February 15, during which he presented the U.S. proposal for the sessions at the Foreign Ministers meeting, are ibid., 396.1–PA/2–1560.
  3. See Document 112.