232. Memorandum for the Record0


  • U.S.-German Relations
  • East-West Relations


  • United States
    • Secretary Rusk1
    • Ambassador McGhee
  • Germany
    • Chancellor Erhard
    • State Secretary Westrick
    • Dr. Osterheld, Office of the Chancellor

The Secretary of State met with Chancellor Erhard October 25. There were present, in addition to myself, State Secretary Westrick and Dr. Osterheld from the Chancellor’s Office. The Chancellor welcomed the Secretary and expressed the pleasure it gave him to be able to receive Mr. Rusk. He reiterated that Germany would continue to be loyal to the NATO alliance and to the United States. He was glad to report that the opposition had, up to this point, received favorably the policy statement he had made upon assuming office with his new Government. The Secretary said that he in turn wished to congratulate the Chancellor upon his new position. The Chancellor’s policy statement had received a very favorable response in the United States. Both the President and he looked forward to the Chancellor’s visit to the United States. In the meantime, Under Secretary Ball would be visiting Bonn and could go over with him the various matters which might be the subject of discussion in Washington.

The Chancellor said that when he was in Washington he would reaffirm the understanding that existed between the two countries. There is, he said, complete confidence in the U.S. on the part of the German Government and members of the Bundestag. However, public reaction is more volatile. There is “a lingering fear in the public mind that troops will be reduced in the future.”

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The Secretary reassured the Chancellor that he would deal with this matter in his Frankfurt speech.2 He said he wished to emphasize in this connection the burdens that the U.S. had borne in the post-war period. For example, the United States has since 1945 sustained 100,000 casualties in the cold war, and has casualties every day inSouth Viet-Nam.He was afraid that expressions in the German press of distrust toward theUnited States had caused a bad reaction in our country.

The Chancellor said that the German questions about retention of United States forcesand continuing interest in Germany should be considered as a “mark of respect”for the United States. Germans are dismayed at the possibility of “getting out of touch” with the United States. There is no possibility for the defense of Germany unless America is “in on it”. The public reaction was not altogether rational, but it was a factor which had to be taken into account. He sometimes felt that theGerman people panic into too high a state of excitement in the face of an uncertainty. This happened during the recent autobahn incidents. Erhard said he would make his own position perfectly clear when he was in the United States.

The Secretary agreed that both governments should be mindful of one another’s public opinion problems. He asked the Chancellor what the reaction of the German people wouldbe if they knew how much actual atomic strength presently existed in Germany in U.S. custody.

Chancellor Erhard said the people were advised on this point, but there would be no adverse reaction if they had even more information.

The Secretary said that he was struck by the great opportunity which leaders such as the Chancellor and President Kennedy had at the present time. Very great historical changes were in progress. Any such situation had its risks but also offered opportunities.

The Chancellor said that he too felt that the speed of change in the world was greater than ever before. The West should be firm with regard to principles, but not rigid tactically. He hoped to talk with the President about a number of things. There were a number of questions in his mind. What had motivated the Russians in the recent autobahn incident? Was it to show strength in the face of a possible suspicion of weakness or was it to build up bargaining points to use in later negotiations?

The Secretary replied that several explanations could be offered for Soviet actions on the autobahn. One, which he had considered, was that the people on the spot had probably suspected that we were trying to tighten up our dismount procedures and reacted without advice from [Page 618] Moscow. He was convinced that neither Dobrynin nor Gromyko knew of the incident. Once they were apprised of it, they had attempted to iron matters out. There was certainly no evidence that Moscow had originated the incident.

Erhard said a new uncertainty would be added to the situation if, in addition to Khrushchev’s power, there was some independent military power in the Soviet Union.

The Secretary said that he did not believe that Khrushchev himself had stimulated the autobahn incident. If he had done so, it would in all probability have been more serious. The Soviet representatives at the checkpoint would not in the end have accepted our existing procedures. He pointed out that our own bureaucracy sometimes gets into the same sort of situation as the Russian representatives on the autobahn did. Admittedly, however, the subsequent incident affecting a UK dismount convoy lookeddifferent. He was not surethat the explanation of the first convoy incident still held good for the second.

Chancellor Erhard asked if there were any other suggestions which were being considered for discussion by the United States with the Soviets.

The Secretary said that prospects for further discussions were not very good. He wanted to make it clear that there was at the present time no detente. There was, so to speak, only a hunting license for a detente. The nonaggression pact was dead because the Soviets would not come clean on Berlin. The observation post negotiations were dead becausethe Soviets associated them with nuclear free zones. The question of agreement on non-dissemination of nuclear weapons was dead because the Soviets linked it with MLF. There was no agreement on Cuba or Laos.

It was possible that we might make a limited agreement in the field of civil aviation exchanging one or two civil flights a week. There might be some increased trade with the Soviets, but not much, because there was not much that Americans wished to buy from the Soviet Union. The Soviets had proposed to decrease defense budgets. However, this was unacceptable to the United States in the absence of inspection. The big problems with Russia still remain unsolved.

The Secretary said that in his opinion complete agreement with the Soviets will take a long time and will be achieved only through small steps. There is no possibility of moving rapidly to a detente. At the same time there is danger of people thinking there is a detente which does not exist.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330. Confidential. Drafted by McGhee and approved in S on November 7. A summary of the conversation was transmitted in Secto 2 from Bonn, October 26. (Ibid., Central Files, ORG S)
  2. Rusk visited Germany October 25–27 for ceremonies connected with the dedication of a memorial to General George C. Marshall.
  3. For text of Rusk’s address on October 27, see Department of State Bulletin, November 11, 1963, pp. 726–731.