99. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State 1

Secto 22. Eyes only for the President. We have just completed the brief quadripartite Ministers meeting on Germany and Berlin. There was a gratifying demonstration of unity and a seriousness of purpose to which your recent speech2 and initiatives had obviously made a profound contribution. Lord Home was especially helpful in his combination of firmness on the essentials and moderation on lesser questions. Von Brentano was obviously doing his best to contribute to quadripartite unity without exaggerating the special sensitivities which we had reason to expect from the Germans. Couve de Murville showed General de Gaulle’s firm approach by a relative insensitivity to problems of public opinion which we can expect within the Western Alliance and in other parts of the world.

[Page 310]

I will be able to take a good report to NATO on Tuesday afternoon3 and urge them to get specifically into the problems of military build-up in accordance with our approved plan, a NATO-wide preparation of economic countermeasures and NATO coordination of propaganda and political action in support of our position in Berlin. Ed Murrow had a productive meeting of quadripartite Information Ministers and their report4 provides a good basis for intensified NATO efforts in that field.

All four of us agreed that formal negotiations with the Russians should come in October or early November, depending upon the effect of the Soviet Party Congress on timing. We also agreed that the Ambassadorial Working Group in Washington should now prepare in detail our negotiating position. The only point of importance on which there was not agreement was the timing of a Western initiative in proposing a Foreign Ministers meeting to the Soviets. Lord Home and I believe that we cannot delay indefinitely a specific step which would be publicly known to make good on our declared readiness to negotiate and that we should encounter increasing public opinion problems both at home and abroad if we defer such an initiative until after the German elections. Couve de Murville was dead set against any such publicly known initiative until Western preparations had produced some ascertainable influence on Khrushchev. Von Brentano was somewhere in between but rather negative about an initiative. In an effort to break the deadlock I suggested that we might reply to the latest Soviet note5 before the end of this month and that its conclusion might state that the Foreign Ministers would be in attendance at the United Nations General Assembly and would take up possible arrangements for negotiations on Germany and Berlin. Couve de Murville was unable to agree, perhaps because General de Gaulle has been out of town until Tuesday and Couve seemed to be under specific instructions on this point. It was simply left that we would be in touch with them promptly through normal channels upon my return to Washington.

In briefing the press6 we have tried to emphasize that this particular Ministers meeting was a part of a process of consultation which has been and would be going on over a period of weeks and months and that climactic decisions would not be expected. Further, we have tried to play [Page 311] down the Ministers meeting in order not to feed the impression in NATO that we were making big decisions prior to NATO consultation. Both points have the virtue of being true.

Bilateral talks with the French on Bizerte have not been as productive as we had hoped.7 The General is clearly in the mood of teaching the Arabs a lesson, confident that they will come around after his show of force, and indifferent or contemptuous of any action which might be taken in the United Nations. His attitude has paralyzed his subordinates including Couve de Murville. I think we may have succeeded in getting some sort of talks going between the French Consul General in Bizerte and the Tunisian Governor on an exchange of prisoners and on the beginnings of troop withdrawals but I cannot yet confirm what instructions might have gone to the Consul General. If there has been no motion before General de Gaulle’s return I shall try to see him and try to explain that we are not meddling but are pursuing important American interests in trying to get this question resolved.

Kohler, Nitze, Fowler, Murrow and colleagues have worked very effectively and have the confidence of their opposite numbers. Even though Berlin and Germany are in Europe, it is quite apparent that Europe is looking to you to bring the West through the coming crisis. The combination of firmness, military build-up and readiness to search for reasonable and peaceful answers which characterized your speech to the nation was undoubtedly the right exercise of leadership insofar as Europe is concerned.

Since Lord Home and I have had a good deal of time with each other, I do not plan to return via London. I will see Segni on Wednesday evening in Milan and Adenauer on Thursday morning during my day at Lake Como and will arrive Washington about midnight Thursday.8

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/8-761. Secret; Priority. According to another copy this telegram was drafted by Rusk. (Ibid., Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 1943)
  2. See Document 81.
  3. A summary of Rusk’s presentation to the North Atlantic Council on August 8 was transmitted in Secto 50 from Paris, August 9. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/8-961)
  4. A copy of this report was transmitted in Secto 33 from Paris, August 7. (Ibid., Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 1943)
  5. Reference is to the August 3 Soviet note.
  6. A copy of the press briefing was transmitted in Secto 20 from Paris, August 7. (Department of State, Central Files, 396.1-PA/8-761)
  7. A memorandum of Rusk’s conversation with Couve de Murville on Bizerte on August 5 is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 1940.
  8. For a memorandum of Rusk’s conversation with Adenauer on August 10, see Declassified Documents, 1985, 1649; memoranda of Rusk’s briefing of Italian officials on August 9 are in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 1940; a summary of his briefing of Spaak on August 7 was transmitted in Secto 40 from Paris, August 8. (Ibid., Central Files, 762.00/8-861)