9. Memorandum of Conversation0



August–September 1959


  • United States
    • President Eisenhower
    • Secretary of State Herter
    • Deputy Secretary Gates
    • Mr. Merchant
    • Mr. Irwin
    • Mr. Berding
    • Mr. Hagerty
    • General Goodpaster
    • Major Eisenhower
    • Mr. White
  • United Kingdom
    • Prime Minister Macmillan
    • Foreign Secretary Lloyd
    • Sir Norman Brook
    • Ambassador Caccia
    • Sir Anthony Rumbold
    • Sir Frederick Hoyer Millar
    • Mr. Blye
    • Mr. de Zulueta
    • Mr. Evans
    • Mr. Wilding

[Here follows discussion of unrelated matters.]

With the conclusion of the discussion of the subjects of the previous day, it was suggested that the British participants would be very interested in the President’s appraisal of the discussions with Chancellor Adenauer in Bonn. The President replied that his record was not complete because the afternoon session, which he had assumed would be with the Chancellor on a private basis for only five minutes, had continued for one and a half hours without the presence of his U.S. interpreter. Mr. Herter added that it might be some time before we had an approved record because the German interpreter would have to clear his notes with the Chancellor who was returning to Italy. Mr. Herter said that the Bonn discussions were of interest because they had introduced a new element of possible acceptance by the Germans of a “Free City of Berlin”. (It was later made clear that the Soviet proposal for a Free City was of course unacceptable.) Brentano had spontaneously referred to the long run possibility of the Berlin problem being settled by the adoption of some sort of free city solution. He also mentioned a UN guarantee.

The President said that the Chancellor had regarded the German question as one susceptible only to a long-term solution, requiring lots of patience with the possibility of a gradually growing interchange of [Page 27] persons and communications. The President in reply said that this was fine but what do you do tomorrow? At the moment we are standing on the status quo. The United States was prepared to help but over time our rights in Berlin would become less clear. The Germans therefore should propose a plan. He had suggested to Adenauer that the latter should suggest how West Germany could work out with East Germany a better exchange back and forth of persons. Adenauer had responded that experience had indicated this was dangerous, with East Germans being punished for contacts with West Germany. The President continued that he then suggested a cultural exchange, six persons for six, recognizing that initially West Germany would receive determined Communists but that if this process was maintained over time, it would gradually have an influence among the people in East Germany.

The President said that he had told Adenauer that he was getting tired of standing pat and that Adenauer had agreed to have his experts study the possibilities of a larger interchange of persons.

The President had pointed out to Adenauer that we had been firm in saying “no” to the Soviets but that it was important to know what the West German Government was going to say in the future.

Secretary Herter said that he had talked the same day with Foreign Minister Brentano,1 indicating that the United States was tired of a negative attitude and inquiring what the Germans proposed. Brentano replied that it was important to have a breather to get over the next national elections. The Secretary had then told Brentano that it was important the latter have a talk with Adenauer about the adoption of a more positive approach. The President suggested that it would be most helpful if we could think up a program to suggest to Adenauer because if the Germans themselves didn’t move, this thing could become progressively more difficult. Prime Minister Macmillan interposed the observation that up to now the Germans had assumed that we would pull their chestnuts out of the fire and that we should be searching for a modus vivendi, a term which he much preferred to that of a moratorium.

The President said that Adenauer had stressed that the thing he was interested in was the humanitarian aspects of the twenty million people in the East Zone.

The President questioned whether the United States could be expected to keep troops in Europe forever. Adenauer’s attitude was that if you’re going to establish a neutral zone, don’t make it Germany. When the President raised the question of a corridor to West Berlin, Adenauer said that the other side would never agree. He then mentioned, however, [Page 28] that Kruschchev had proposed a Free City for Berlin arrangement which could be considered as a last resort. Foreign Minister Lloyd interjected to say that if the Germans were contemplating a Free City their emphasis had changed. Prime Minister Macmillan said that this discussion leads on to the question of getting a moratorium; that it had looked to him at one time as if the Soviets would accept this but that the question had then arisen about the status of Berlin at the end of the period. There seemed to have been a change in the Soviet position on our rights after the moratorium.

The President pointed out that our policy had been that changes in the Berlin situation could only be made by mutual consent and that we should not go back on this. Secretary Herter added that an interim arrangement involves the danger that we have undermined or given up our position. The Prime Minister said that his interpretation was that at the end of a moratorium our position on rights would be the same as it had been at the beginning; but he recognized that in a sense the more passage of time would make some change in the situation and that it might have been for this intellectual or theoretical reason that the Russians had declined to commit themselves as to the position at the end of the agreement. The President said that we have a genius for getting in a hole but to protect ourselves we are always having to defend Matsu or some other out of the way place. Prime Minister commented that our cards on the table in the case of Berlin are not good ones. The President replied that any place around the Soviet perimeter, Khrushchev is in a position to move. He recalled that the previous day he had talked with the Queen Mother who had emphasized that “we must be firm”. She said this was her own conviction. Foreign Minister Lloyd added, certainly, we have to be firm on essentials. The President pointed out that in his last message from Khrushchev, the letter had said that “we must clear up the residue of war”. He, the President, wanted to point out that the division of Germany was one of the residues of war, which should be cleared up.

Prime Minister Macmillan then inquired as to what the United States thought would happen in the next stage of the Berlin problem. Secretary Herter replied that we don’t want rights in perpetuity in Berlin, but want them admitted until such time as the situation could be changed by mutual agreement. The Secretary pointed out that Gromyko in the discussions in Geneva had given away his hand regarding the Soviet expectation of an East German takeover of Berlin after any moratorium.

Prime Minister Macmillan then inquired as to our appraisal of the coming visit with Khrushchev. The President replied that he would expect with the visit, and with Khrushchev’s family accompanying him, there was the potential to make an impression on the Soviet leader. The [Page 29] President, therefore, was anxious that they be received well. When the Prime Minister inquired whether there was something in this visit which he would interpret as leading to a Summit, the President replied that without progress, he, the President, would not go to a Summit. After a brief general discussion as to what would constitute “progress,” the President said that if Khrushchev suggested the U.S. and USSR agree between themselves on some form of progress, the President would decline to make such an agreement but would hope that when Khrushchev returned to his own country and thought it over, he might issue a public statement which would make a Summit possible. In this manner the allies could react as they had a right to do. Macmillan inquired as to what Adenauer had to say about a Summit. The President replied that Adenauer had concurred in his belief that progress was necessary before a Summit meeting should be held. The President expressed the belief that Khrushchev would avoid embarrassing either the President or the United States while in the latter country and made the observation that “if we stall long enough, maybe this will constitute a moratorium”.

[Here follows discussion of the President’s forthcoming talk with General De Gaulle.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1449. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Ivan B. White, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, and approved in S and by Goodpaster on September 2. The conversation took place at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s summer home.
  2. See Document 7.