244. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Berlin (see previous memorandum on same subject dated December 21, 1961)2


  • U.S., The President, The Secretary of State, Ambassador Bruce, Mr. Bohlen, Mr. McGeorge Bundy, Mr. William R. Tyler
  • U.K., The Prime Minister, The Foreign Secretary, Lord Home, Ambassador Ormsby Gore, Sir Norman Brook, Sir Evelyn Shuckburgh, Mr. Ian Samuel
  • The modified instructions to Ambassador Thompson were discussed.

The Secretary said we thought it would be good to make a move in the direction of an all-Berlin solution in the first talk, and not foreclose [Page 702] this possibility to the same degree as in the British draft.3 The Secretary also said that the British proposal envisages a series of talks, while we feel that it would be preferable to move toward a meeting, should this prove possible.

The Prime Minister asked what we would do if we don’t find a basis for negotiation. The Secretary said we would try to achieve a practical solution on the basis of recognizing facts on either side. It was important to keep the situation from deteriorating further. Lord Home asked how much latitude Ambassador Thompson would have. Mr. Bohlen said he would not have much, since the probe would be conducted within the framework of the quadripartite talks in Paris.

The Secretary said the West Germans preferred that we should deal with the East Germans on matters relating to traffic and access, rather than that they should do so themselves. The Prime Minister said that we must move toward negotiations. If the reply from the Russians was very bad and they won’t budge, what should we then do? The Secretary said we should ask the Soviets what their intentions are after they have signed a peace treaty with the GDR. The President said that if the Russians are unreasonable and unyielding the question was how do we dramatize the fact that we have done everything we could. He felt that, in such a situation, the Ambassadorial level was not high enough. The Secretary suggested that Gromyko might be asked to come to the UN, where we would turn to the Uniting for Peace resolution.4 The President commented that the United States should not have to carry the whole burden. The Prime Minister said that should Ambassador Thompson fail to arrange a meeting, we must take some action ourselves. In any case, we must justify ourselves to Western opinion. We must not allow ourselves to drift into war. Had appropriate action been taken at the time, World War I could have been avoided. Sir David Ormsby Gore said it was important to distinguish between the Foreign Ministers meeting to negotiate a settlement on the one hand, and a Foreign Ministers meeting to discuss a very serious situation on the other. Lord Home wondered whether Ambassador Thompson would have enough latitude. Would it be desirable to go back to the Ambassadorial group in case he got nowhere? Mr. Bundy commented that Chancellor Adenauer had shown himself to be more flexible than the German position had seemed to be according to Ambassador Grewe. The Prime Minister emphasized the advantages of working out some kind of trusteeship function [Page 703] for the West in West Berlin. The Secretary said he was somewhat leary of the word “trusteeship” but was rather in favor of superimposing an arrangement on top of our rights, which we would not give up.

At this point the Prime Minister raised the question whether it would be a good thing for the UK to send a reply to Khrushchev’s recent long letter, and it was agreed that a reply would be desirable.

There followed some discussion of the British draft reply5 and certain amendments in the text were proposed. It was agreed that a final paragraph would be added relating the reply to the Ambassadorial talks in Moscow. There should also be some reference to the allies.

The President and the Secretary both said that Ambassador Thompson should, before the end of the year, ask for an appointment. Lord Home asked how it might be possible to use German Ambassador Kroll, and would this be a good thing. The Secretary said he thought it was more important to keep Foreign Minister Schroeder and Grewe informed. [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] The Prime Minister said that it seemed to him that Kroll had all the qualifications for reaching an agreement with the Russians and that he would much rather have the Germans bear the load rather than us.

The President said he did not want the coordination of instructions to rest with the Ambassadorial group, which had proved too slow and obstructive. The Prime Minister said he welcomed the President’s comment. The situation was that Ambassador Thompson might succeed in the first talk, or that the Russians might say no and go ahead with a separate peace treaty, or they might call for a Foreign Ministers meeting. If the Russians were to say no, what do we do? Just sit around? Lord Home said he thought Gromyko would say that what we had to talk to him about was “very thin.” We should be in a position to move further. The Prime Minister said that what we were doing was rather like inviting someone to dinner without telling him just what there would be to eat. We would be saying that there would be soup, probably fish and perhaps a little meat, although the latter was not certain. Lord Home said it might be rather a good thing to let Gromyko take a look at the meat through the kitchen door. The Prime Minister added that Ambassador Kroll might be the person to say to the Russians “By Jove, there’s a pretty good stew in there. Of course I’m not supposed to know about it.” The President raised the question of how we get the Germans to move. He observed that Adenauer was much more forthcoming when he discussed these matters himself. We might have a discussion with the Germans on the subject of relations with the GDR and access, also West [Page 704] Berlin’s ties with the Federal Republic. The President felt we should talk to the Germans about what arrangements might be reached. It was subsequently agreed that it might be best for such discussions to be held in Bonn, rather than in the Ambassadorial group, and that Ambassadors Steel and Dowling could talk with Foreign Minister Schroeder.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/12-2261. Secret. Drafted by Tyler and approved in the White House on December 29 and in S on December 30.
  2. Document 243.
  3. Not found.
  4. For text of this resolution, dated November 3, 1950, see U.N. General Assembly, Official Records, Fifth Session, Supplement No. 20 (A/1775), pp. 10-12. It is also printed in American Foreign Policy, 1950-1955: Basic Documents, vol. I, pp. 187192.
  5. Not found. For extracts from the text as sent, see Macmillan, At the End of the Day, pp. 148-151.