189. Memorandum of Conversation0




  • United States
    • The Secretary of State
    • Ambassador Butterworth
    • Mr. Tyler
    • Mr. Cash
  • Germany
    • Foreign Minister Schroeder
    • Herr Krapf
    • Ambassador Grewe
    • Herr Kusterer
  • United Kingdom
    • Foreign Secretary Home
    • Defense Minister Thorneycroft
    • Lord Hood
    • Mr. Thomson
  • France
    • Foreign Minister Couve de Murville
    • M. Lucet
    • M. Gillet
    • M. Lebel


  • Berlin and Germany

The Secretary opened with an account of his May 18 discussion with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin.1 The latter’s principal effort was to get across the idea that this is a crucial time of policy re-examination in Moscow, during which it is exceedingly important to find some point on which the Soviets can reach some agreement with the West. The discussion covered nuclear testing, nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, Laos, Cuba, and a glancing reference to Berlin. For some strange reason, even though the Soviets asked for the talks on Berlin, they are not pressing them. Dobrynin even said that US–USSR agreement on civil air transportation would be psychologically important during this particular period.

The Ambassador concentrated hard on the Soviets’ NATO-Warsaw Pact Nonaggression Pact (NAP) proposal. He agreed it would be of [Page 514] little practical significance, but it would do no harm and would show some people in Moscow that East-West agreement on something was possible. He indicated more than once that the NAP form was not important, and that the problem of nonrecognition could be discussed. The Secretary had replied that while this was not an easy problem, he did not think the NATO nations were completely negative on this matter. However, all of them had bad memories of the Kellogg-Briand pact. If NATO agreed to an NAP, and a Berlin crisis broke out subsequently, NATO would look extremely foolish. The complete lack of progress on substantive issues outstanding between the Soviets and the West makes an NAP hardly worth while. Dobrynin responded that he could understand this, but an agreement—even though of no practical significance—would greatly diminish the prospect of a Berlin crisis. He did not seem particularly interested in the Berlin talks as such but emphasized the importance of reaching agreement on any point—especially an NAP.

The Secretary told the Foreign Ministers that it might be worth while looking at this matter against the background of what seems to be going on in Moscow. It appears that the Soviets are going through a period of reappraisal. They have suffered serious political losses in expensive areas such as Iraq and Indonesia, and it is possible that a dangerous situation may develop. The time between now and July, when the talks with the Chinese begin, is very important, and it would be worth our while to spend some time examining what is going on in the Kremlin.

Lord Home agreed that there was a thorough re-examination going on in Moscow. He recalled that Gromyko had seemed interested last fall when the Foreign Secretary had mentioned the possibility of an NAP. One could not tell, however, whether anything sufficiently worth while could be developed.

The Secretary said that as he recalled the NAP draft the Soviets presented in Geneva,2 it called for ratification in each particular country. He supposed, however, that ratification could be avoided by letters from the respective Secretaries General denouncing aggression and calling for the settlement of all disputes by peaceful means. It is just possible that this would be of interest to the Soviets. The US Government has reached no conclusions. We have been skeptical since 1945. However, Dobrynin left the impression that this might be a good time for the Soviets to have something to point to in the way of an agreement with the West which would be of psychological, rather than practical, importance. [Page 515] We have, of course, during the last two years of talks on Berlin thought of an NAP as the end of the trail rather than the beginning.

Couve remarked that as the Soviets don’t seem particularly interested in discussing Berlin, this problem is more or less liquidated.

Lord Home asked whether an NAP wouldn’t make it easier for the Soviets to leave Berlin alone.

Couve commented that an NAP might very well lead to recognition of the East German regime.

The Secretary replied that Dobrynin seemed to be saying that nonrecognition would not be an obstacle. At this point the Secretary read some excerpts from the NAP text the Soviets submitted in Geneva on February 20, 1963, and circulated a copy. He remarked that the formalities could be discounted. An NAP might be in the form of simultaneous declarations from each side with no direct connection.

Schroeder said he felt the Soviets were seeking something which would to some extent cement the status quo. Even without a peace treaty and recognition of the East German regime, an NAP would go far toward stabilizing the status quo. An NAP is very important to the Soviets as proven by their bringing it into the Geneva discussions. Such a pact should be the end of a chain of events, not the beginning. Khrushchev, incidentally, thinks he invented the NAP in Geneva in 1955 and therefore has a special interest in it.

Lord Home asked what sort of declarations of nonaggressive intent could be made by NATO which would go further than what has already been done.

The Secretary read the operative portions of the Soviet NAP draft of February 20 as a possible example.

Schroeder remarked that for the first time this would get the basic conflict out of a Four Power context into somewhat of a UN context.

The Secretary interjected at this point that he was this evening engaging in a discussion with colleagues and not in an official expression of US policy.

He added that during the last six months there had been a number of encouraging significant developments among the satellites, e.g. Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Rumania.

He would speculate that the Communist system has an inevitable great crisis to face when it must choose between pressing, or abandoning, world revolution. In October Khrushchev removed his missiles from Cuba on the pretext that he had obtained from us a guarantee that we would not invade Cuba, which we had no intention of doing anyway. He might be grasping at fairly slender straws.

Couve said an NAP might be useful to the Soviets even though appearing insignificant. It would be a very important move and would be [Page 516] considered by many as the beginning of a détente. This did not mean that it was inappropriate. It might even be appropriate.

The Secretary said the recognition problem could be forgotten for the moment. We had previously rejected an NAP to avoid putting NATO and the Warsaw Pact on an equal footing. Pressing the status quo could be a serious matter if it implied acceptance of the division of Germany. However, we should give the NAP a fresh look against the background of Moscow’s problems.

Lord Home commented that one problem would obviously be to avoid recognition of East Germany, but he did not see how one could bring about a détente with the Soviets—if the Russians want one—without giving serious consideration to something like an NAP.

Schroeder remarked that a few years ago he, himself, supported ideas like an NAP. He had felt that if it were important to the Soviets and unimportant to the West, it should be undertaken. But today the situation is different. An NAP would now seem like the end of an epoch. The psychological effect would be that concepts such as self-determination and reunification would appear to be buried. It would be better to continue the relative tension that exists today rather than pay the price for a détente which would be no real détente because no problem would have been solved.

The Secretary asked about the current NATO consideration of a possible NAP.

Grewe said consideration of a POLAD report on this subject was interrupted by the current meeting in Ottawa but would soon be resumed.3

The Secretary said it might be well for the Ambassadorial Group to study this problem before NATO froze it one way or the other. He was not prepared to give a firm view of the US Government, which has been very skeptical about an NAP, but in view of Dobrynin’s remarks and what is probably going on in Moscow, we should not fail to examine the problem.

Lord Home asked if Dobrynin had given the impression that an NAP would make it easier for the Soviets to leave Berlin alone.

The Secretary said the Ambassador had not put it that way but had said it would make a Berlin crisis far less likely. We can’t simply brush this aside.

Lord Home asked how contact would be maintained with the Soviets on this subject.

The Secretary said either side could make the next move. No specific arrangement was made to pursue this topic. It is likely that the Soviets [Page 517] will revert to this before their talks with the Chinese now slated to begin on July 5. We should be ready with an answer.

Couve said the real issue was what was in the best interests of the West—not of the USSR. The two are not necessarily identical.

The Secretary said the Ambassadorial Group should be asked to pull together as much information as possible concerning what is going on in the Bloc with the changes in military command, the Kozlov illness, the Rumanian refusal to accept its assigned role in the economic plans, etc. We don’t have a really good idea of what has happened since October 22.

Krapf asked if an NAP was the cheapest concession that could be made to the Soviets.

The Secretary said Dobrynin had mentioned the civil air agreement, which seems to be of some importance to the Soviets, although Khrushchev is not particularly interested. They have made some gestures concerning outer space, and have even hinted that maybe the US and the USSR should combine their efforts to put men on the moon.

They do not seem, he continued, to be really interested in talking about Berlin. Dobrynin has offered nothing new in the two talks that have taken place in the current series, and he did not devote half-a-dozen sentences to the subject on May 18.

Couve said it is certainly not in the Western interest to stop a move toward a détente if there is a possibility for one.

The Secretary asked about the current status of the IZT talks.

Schroeder said first he would like to point out that the Soviets’ concept of a détente was to obtain acceptance of a situation they have created.

As to the IZT talks, no progress has been made because the East Germans have refused to discuss all political concessions.

Some progress has been made with Poland, Hungary, and Rumania, but the Soviets permit this because it helps the economic development of these countries and lightens the burden on the Soviet Union. The West Germans are anxious to keep these Eastern European contacts open. The two most difficult problems are the inclusion of Berlin in agreements with Eastern European countries and the problem of diplomatic relations.

Lord Home suggested that this might be discussed in the Ambassadorial Group.

Schroeder added that Khrushchev is realizing that the Bloc countries, and even the Soviet Zone of Germany, are becoming increasingly difficult to control.

[Page 518]

The Secretary reiterated the need for a fundamental reassessment, under the guidance of the Ambassadorial Group, of our intelligence on the Soviet Union.

Schroeder stressed the importance of contingency planning—keeping it up to date and carrying it forward especially in: 1) the protection of civilian traffic; 2) passports and visas; and 3) economic countermeasures.

Lord Home returned to the NAP saying that since the Russians might want a reply by July, it would be well to be armed with parallel declarations.

The Secretary suggested that the Ambassadorial Group examine alternate forms for an NAP.

Grewe reminded the Ministers that the NAP was still being discussed in Paris and Geneva. It will be difficult, he added, to continue to refuse to discuss it substantively in the Geneva ENDC.

The Secretary agreed that the whole NAP subject, including the Geneva and Paris aspects, should be studied promptly.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 2263. Secret. Drafted by Cash and approved in S on May 28. The meeting was held at the U.S. Embassy.
  2. The memorandum of this conversation, which took place on board the Patrick J, has only a passing reference to Berlin. (Ibid., Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Chron) At a private dinner on May 17 Dobrynin had asked Thompson why the United States opposed the Soviet proposals on Berlin. Thompson had replied that they would adversely affect the Allies’ position in Berlin and have a “disastrous” effect on the West’s commitment to West Berliners and Germans generally. (Tosec 3 to Ottawa, May 20; ibid., Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 2265)
  3. Dated February 20, U.N. doc. ENDC/77; printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pp. 388–389.
  4. Not further identified.