164. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France1

1893. Paris pass USRO Stoessel, McGuire. Paris deliver Finletter 9 am October 3.

Summary At third and final New York meeting,2 Gromyko again indicated importance Soviets attach to fixing border between “two Germanies” and displayed interest in discussion of European security and [Page 457] avoidance spread national nuclear weapons. Held access question could be resolved on basis acceptable to all but not by recognizing or reaffirming occupation status or rights. Said willing sign separate agreement guaranteeing access. Did not deny Secretary’s statement that not impossible that two sides with different theoretical understanding of situation may have similar understanding of facts which might permit them to live in peace. End Summary.

Secretary opened by recalling that at last meeting3 he posed concrete questions re access to West Berlin to which Gromyko might now wish respond. Reviewing at Gromyko’s request said West had basic rights not at disposition of Soviets. Latter had obligations to West. Soviets contend these rights and obligations can be intended confirm and assure our rights.

Secretary added he had no mandate to negotiate but was to ascertain whether basis for serious negotiation existed. Soviet framework, “conclusion of peace treaty and solution problem West Berlin on this basis,” inadequate.

Gromyko said Soviets believe peace treaty with West best basis but flexible on this question. Agreeable one treaty with “two Germanies” or two separate treaties.

Secretary observed Soviet-East German treaty not critical issue. Treaty’s effect on our rights is critical.

Gromyko continued US could avoid difficulties it saw by signing treaty with only FRG although Soviets do not believe this correct approach. In any case basic principles would remain same, i.e. recognition German borders including that between “two Germanies,” erection barriers against revanchists and militarists, and number other problems.

Treaty or treaties would also resolve question West Berlin on basis free demilitarized city. Soviets and East Germans of course don’t need West Berlin. Solution would meet needs all concerned. Access question would also be resolved on basis acceptable to all but not by recognizing or reaffirming occupation status or rights.

Gromyko noted one of most important requirements is respect of sovereignty of “GDR” but does not mean diplomatic relations. However interests of peace best served by de jure as well as de facto recognition “both Germanies” with both admitted UN. West would have to respect sovereignty of “GDR” and reach understanding with it on pertinent matters. Hardly necessary reiterate Soviet willingness give strictest guarantees re access. Willing sign separate agreement on this aspect. Also willing for token forces Four Powers be stationed West Berlin. If treaty signed only between Soviets, East Germans, and other interested [Page 458] states, West Berlin will be declared free, demilitarized city and access will have be resolved with “GDR” on this basis. However wished emphasize vigorously that agreement re status West Berlin and access can be worked out satisfactorily for all if “GDR” sovereignty respected, even if West persists in refusal sign peace treaty with GDR.

Gromyko then said wished turn to question of broadening basis of negotiation. Soviets want clarification of US thoughts re strategic situation and security in Europe. Would not rule out of peace treaty discussions although treaty most important problem. Perhaps what US has in mind would interest Soviet Union.

Secretary said thought some constructive elements in what Gromyko had just said. However, he wished make another point clear. We asked ourselves how many times we were going to be asked buy same horse. We in Berlin by right and in accordance with wartime and post-war arrangements. Soviets had taken steps in East Berlin which they say not negotiable.

Gromyko said Secretary avoided most important question of how long state of war to go on. Soviets cannot accept right of others veto peace treaty. Soviets not pursuing selfish interests only lessening of tensions and peaceful interests all parties. Re Secretary’s query on meaning “sovereignty GDR”, Gromyko said Soviet proposals envisage West Berlin as “separate and independent entity.”

Secretary said he thus understood Gromyko phrase “sovereignty of GDR” does not include West Berlin. Also failed see how present access procedures infringe on what Gromyko calls “sovereignty of GDR.”

Gromyko responded two possible variants of situation: 1) US would not sign treaty with “GDR” but an understanding would be reached separately with “GDR” re “free city” and access; or 2) US would not sign and no understanding would be reached. In first “GDR” would undertake certain obligations and this would solve question re “respect for sovereignty of GDR.” In second West would have to negotiate with “GDR.” No one knew what results would be.

Secretary said “sovereignty of GDR” appeared imply no factual change in manner of access.

Gromyko said possible reach understanding satisfactory to all but substance and form would have to be negotiated.

Secretary said thought elimination factors which might produce World War III more important than termination World War II. West Berlin is free today. US does not believe Soviet forces in West Berlin would help stabilize situation. Could imagine that some sort of UN presence in Berlin could. Also thought cooperation East and West Berlin municipal governments on transportation, power, etc. could. Facts of stable situation should be of greater interest than theory. Not impossible [Page 459] that two sides with different theoretical understanding of situation may have similar understanding of facts which might permit them to live in peace.

Secretary said re Gromyko’s two alternatives absolutely basic that there be clear understanding between West and Soviets re access and could not see why Ulbricht could not accept such understanding as part of his arrangements.

Turning to European security Secretary strongly emphasized speaking only for US. Could not make specific proposals since many other countries involved. US does not believe in peacetime US and USSR should be so heavily involved in an area. Should see what can be done to stabilize situation. Disengagement not profitable because would create vacuum. However US takes disarmament very seriously and prepared see what progress could be made in that field. Useful to see how confrontation in Central Europe could be reduced. In interest both sides prevent spread national nuclear weapons. Might also be profitable for NATO and Warsaw Pact to exchange assurances re how could live peacefully. Surprise attack could be studied. Secretary deeply convinced in common interest keep peace. US will study Soviet memorandum to UN on initial disarmament4 steps carefully to see whether it is linked in any way to what we have in mind.

Gromyko referred to Secretary’s remark re Ulbricht acceptance US-USSR understanding. Said US and USSR could make great contribution but Soviets cannot ignore “GDR” and reach understanding detrimental to its interests. Does not however rule out agreement re status of a free city including access in event West fails sign any treaty. Must be based on: 1) recognition German borders which would create barrier to revanchists and militarists; 2) respect for “GDR” sovereignty; 3) prevention of spread national nuclear weapons and of transfer possession or control such weapons to West Germany; 4) status of free city of West Berlin. Form would be matter for negotiation.

Gromyko said very interested in European security. Soviets would study US views most carefully and US should study Soviet views. Soviets firmly reject making peace treaty contingent upon questions of European security.

Secretary said time element alone would preclude this. Said two problems linked in a sense but not of necessity.

Secretary said he wished now to discuss results of talks with President and Allies. He wanted reiterate that in order prevent mounting tension door should not be closed on German reunification although not [Page 460] immediate prospect. Added each side should avoid actions inflaming public opinion.

Gromyko agreed with latter point and said re reunification Soviets proceed from basis that existence two separate German states must be accepted as inexorable indubitable immutable fact. Unity of Germany only possible through arrangements between the two German governments.

For Finletter: You may draw on foregoing for NAC presentation.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/10-261. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Cash on October 1 and cleared by Hillenbrand, Fessenden, SOV, and S/S. Repeated to London, Bonn, Berlin, Moscow, and USUN.
  2. A 14-page memorandum of this conversation, which was held on September 30, is ibid., 611.61/9-3061.
  3. See Document 160.
  4. For text of the September 26 Soviet memorandum (U.N. doc. A/4892), see Documents on Disarmament, 1961, pp. 496-504.
  5. On October 2 Rusk discussed the three conversations with Ambassador Bruce, who was in Washington for consultations. The Secretary said they had now progressed to a point where “there was almost a sufficient basis for agreement to negotiate.” (Department of State, Bruce Diaries: Lot 64 D 327) This assessment was also made to Ambassador Thompson (telegram 941 to Moscow, October 2; ibid., Central Files, 762.00/10-261) and to representatives from the British, French, and German Embassies (telegram 898 to Bonn, October 2; ibid.).