214. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • United States-German Relations


  • The President
  • Ambassador George C. McGhee

I met with the President today. We were alone. The discussion lasted for approximately one-half hour.

The President asked whether I considered that his recent visit to Germany had proven helpful, and in particular whether it had been of any assistance in overcoming the recent issues faced with the FRG over the Test Ban Treaty.

I replied that the visit had, from every viewpoint, been a very positive factor in our relations with Germany. It has given us a reservoir of good will and confidence, both in the President and our country, which will last for a long time to come. We had, however, drawn some bit on this credit during the recent Test Ban Treaty as a result of what the Germans considered to be a lack of full consultation. It was my hope that such a situation would not reoccur.

I asked the President if he had an opportunity to read my telegram of September 18 to the Department, which covered my meeting with Foreign Minister Schroeder following his return from discussions in Paris with Couve de Murville, the French Foreign Minister.1 Since the President had not, I gave him a copy and he read it. He seemed particularly impressed by the negative attitude displayed by the French on almost every issue.

He commented briefly on the current German resistance to the negotiation of East-West treaties which might have the effect of producing a detente. Adenauer had consistently opposed agreements with the Soviets and efforts to relax tension. Would he ever change? Would other German leaders share his views? There was some discussion as to whether relaxation of tensions would be more likely to lead to achievement of Germany’s objectives of reunification than a continuation of tension. I presented the view, which I believe the President shared, that a better case could be made for the former.

[Page 579]

I advised the President of two matters which Vice Chancellor Erhard had raised with me.2 First was the question of a visit to this country, which he wished to make as soon as possible after he comes into office, which would presumably be about October 15. Erhard suggested November. The Department had proposed that he be invited as a Presidential guest.

The President agreed that the necessary arrangements should be made.

The second point that Erhard asked me to raise concerned his sketchy thoughts concerning an increase in German trade, presumably requiring credits, with the USSR. I mentioned that this seemed to fit in with the latest thinking in the United States Government to the effect that it might be desirable to increase our own trade with the USSR. Since Erhard seemed to be in favor of a considerable German effort in this regard, the President’s meeting with him might provide the impetus for a common effort. Erhard believed that the Western nations should concert in their approach to the Soviets on trade matters and should offer similar terms. Erhard also, of course, hoped that we could get a suitable quid pro quo. From the German standpoint, this would be something affecting East Germany or Berlin or reunification. The President indicated he did not wish any German effort in this regard to appear to be something the Germans owed the Soviets.

I referred to the forthcoming visit to the United States of Berthold Beitz, plenipotentiary of Krupp, and Axel Springer, the newspaper owner. I said that I hoped the President could see both of them. Each was of great importance in the German picture. The President had met both of them at the dinner he gave in Bonn and had indicated that he probably would be able to see them. The President said he would like to see both of them if his schedule permitted.

[Page 580]

I raised the question of troop relocation, pointing out the rumors that United States forces in Germany might be reduced. I pointed out that this would not result in any saving if we have confidence in the continuation of the off-set arrangement and would pose a great difficulty for us at this time in our relations with the Germans. I pointed out what this would mean to Erhard at the time he would be coming into office. The withdrawal of troops would in effect constitute a vote of no confidence. It would greatly weaken his position.

The President said he had decided against any force reductions in Germany, although there would be reductions in service troops in France.

I raised the question of the observation posts negotiations, pointing out that I felt there was no insurmountable problem on the German side provided we could find a solution to the points raised by Schroeder in the telegram which the President had read.

I advised the President that the Germans were very firm on their plans on the MLF. The President replied we were equally firm. We, as well as the Germans, are willing to go ahead even without the British. He asked what the German reaction was to our proposal that we initiate mixed manning exercises in the near future. I replied that their preliminary reactions had been good.

I advised the President that, in my opinion, we should work out a compromise on the poultry questions. Perhaps we could get agreement that the Commission be given a mandate to negotiate a new regulation. The Germans, for their part, did not like the present regulation and would be quite happy to go to some quota basis, which is what we proposed in Geneva. The President asked me to talk with Mr. Herter3 about this.

[1 paragraph (5 lines of source text) not declassified]

The President asked why we were not able to give up all our reserved powers in Western Europe. I pointed out that most of the remaining powers outside Berlin would only come into effect in emergency situations, at which time we would grant our authority to the German Government, which does not have similar authority. Until legislation is passed authorizing the FRG to act in an emergency, the Western Allies probably should retain its rights so that we can enable the FRG to act in an emergency. I saw no reason, however, why we shouldn’t be willing to offer to give up these rights once the Germans had obtained the necessary emergency legislation. We would look into this.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Germany. Secret. Drafted by McGhee on September 25 and approved in the White House on October 1.
  2. Telegram 1006 from Bonn transmitted Schroeder’s account of his meeting with Couve de Murville on September 17. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 W GER)
  3. Erhard had raised these issues in a conversation with McGhee on September 6. (Telegram 884 from Bonn, September 7; ibid., INCO-Poultry US)
  4. Christian A. Herter, former Secretary of State, was the U.S. Special Trade Representative.