233. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Ball to President Kennedy0


  • United States Policy Toward German Proposals to Buy Reunification Through Economic Assistance to Soviet Union

Approaching political problems as a retired professor of economics, Chancellor Erhard is preoccupied with the thought that West Germany might buy an agreement forreunification from the Russians through the use of their industrial capability. While the idea is apparently still in an inchoate state, the general scheme would be to offer the Soviet Union grants or long-term loans of perhaps $2.5 billion a year for ten or more years in consideration that the Soviets agree to a phased program of self-determination for Germany. This proposal has been reflected in telegrams from George McGhee reporting conversations with Erhard, Axel Springer (the publisher), and Westrick (Erhard’s assistant).1 A similar idea was suggested in Rostow’s talk with Muller-Roschach.2

Chancellor Erhard has now indicated that he plans to discuss this proposalwith you during his visit next month. Prior to Erhard’s visit, Ambassador Thompson and I are planning to have preliminary talks with him and other members of his Government so as to make sure that his first visit will be substantively fruitful.

The Erhard proposal springs, I think, from the healthy feeling that Germany should itself make some contribution toward bringing about reunification. At the same time, the Germans fear that the United States might reach agreements with the Soviet Union that would have the effect—intentionally or otherwise—of consolidating the status quo, including the division of Germany. In these circumstances we must be careful in dealing with any Germany initiative not to contribute to that fear.

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With this in mind, I would propose that Ambassador Thompson and I should take the following line in talking with Chancellor Erhard:

We should express the readiness of the USG to examine with great careand seriousness any German proposal.
We should express the opinion that there is almost no possibility that the Sovietswould seriously consider such a deal at the present time.
We should state that any arrangement involving self-determination for Germany would raise broad questions of European security as the Soviets would certainly insist upon security provisions such as the denuclearization of Germany, withdrawal of foreign troops and bases, etc. If the Germans, therefore, wish to pursue their ideas they should comeupwith a complete plan which would show how they would plan to deal with these problems.
Any settlement of this nature would involve United States, British, and French interests and we, therefore, believe that the Germans should approach all three Powers at the same time.
Our general purpose should be to discourage such a German initiative, at least in itspresent half-baked and unrealistic form. At the same time we should avoid discouraging the Germans from working at the problem and trying to find fresh approaches under which the Germans could themselves make a major contribution.
The attached talking points might be useful in this connection.3

George W. Ball
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Germany. Top Secret. The source text bears no drafting information.
  2. McGhee reported on his conversation with Springer in telegram 1278 from Bonn, October9. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 EUR-W GER; summarized in An Ambassador’s Account, pp. 99–100) He described his conversation with Ludgar Westrick in telegram 1481 from Bonn, October 21. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 32–4 GER)
  3. A memorandum of Rostow’s conversation with Herbert Muller-Roschach, Head of the Planning Staff of the German Foreign Ministry, on October 8, is ibid.
  4. Not printed.