245. Memorandum of Conversation0

US/MC/11 Paris


  • Quadripartite Working Dinner


  • (See last page)1


Foreign Minister Schroeder opened the discussion by saying that he would like to discuss Berlin and Germany. He said that the Soviets had made it clear that they are not prepared to include Berlin and Germany in a detente. Recent incidents on the autobahn and statements by Gromyko in the UN made this clear. The Soviet Union instead demanded a peace treaty and a free West Berlin. The aim of the Soviet Union [Page 643] was to separate Germany from the Alliance. Recently Pankow (the headquarters of the East German regime) was increasing its agitation. An example was the question of Christmas passes. This apparently is the beginning of a ten point plan. The East Germans have not made clear what the other points are but the passes are a beginning which are supposed to run over ten points.

Schroeder then turned to the points under discussion between the East and West. He noted that all considered the Khrushchev proposal for a declaration on Berlin in connection with a nonaggression arrangement unsatisfactory. The Federal Republic believed that a nonaggression arrangement should be the end of a process not the beginning. Schroeder said he did not want to go into detail about the question of observation posts. He did wish to note, however, that Soviet opposition to the MLF in connection with nondiffusion is instructive. Germany believes that any further comments on nondiffusion should only be made after an MLF has been achieved. Schroeder then said he wanted to raise the question of whether there is a requirement for a Western initiative on Germany. He then reviewed the history of the revised Peace Plan in the Ambassadorial Group and the general contents of the revised Peace Plan. Schroeder then referred to the proposal on Germany prepared by the Kuratorium on Indivisible Germany.2 Schroeder said he did not want to commit himself to any or all of this proposal at this time but would like to introduce it for discussion. He felt we should at least prepare a Western initiative in the event it should be necessary to offset an initiative from the East.

Couve de Murville said that as he understood it, Mr. Schroeder wanted in effect to prepare a new peace plan which presented the case for the unification of Germany.

Schroeder again reviewed the history of this question. He said it had been discussed last year at the working dinner in Paris, that the Ambassadorial Group had sought to reach agreement on a revised Peace Plan but were not successful. In August the Germans raised the question again.

Couve said that Schroeder’s remark raised three questions: is it a good idea to have a new peace plan; should such a peace plan stress East-West German contacts or Four-Power responsibility; and finally what would we do with the peace plan when it was finished? He said he [Page 644] found no harm in preparing a new peace plan and was agreeable to the Ambassadorial Group working on it.

Secretary Rusk remarked that he found Schroeder’s suggestion attractive. He felt that the West is not sufficiently active in presenting our solution to the German question. He did not know whether we would make any progress but we should do preparatory work. Any study should examine the question of German reunification and European security. Economic concessions might contribute to a powerful package. Conceivably we might offer a package which would engage Soviet interests. The Secretary said that we have two objectives: German unification and to get the 22 divisions out of East Germany. It was possible that the Ambassadorial Group might be able to prepare a fresh approach. He welcomed, therefore, the German proposal.

Butler said we have previously been studying the peripheral issues. These questions were becoming tedious. He remarked he had only handled them two months and was already tired of them. In his reply to Khrushchev the British Prime Minister will take care of the question of the MLF and will make it clear that the Soviet position is completely unsatisfactory. There was, however, some possibility of progress on observation posts, although there was the unacceptable link to troop withdrawal. With regard to a nonaggression arrangement, the reply will say nothing but that the British are discussing the subject with their Allies. It looked therefore as though it would be difficult to make progress with peripheral issues, with the possible exception of observation posts, at Geneva. Butler said it was agreeable with him for the Ambassadorial Group to examine the German proposals. He then asked Mr. Schroeder what economic inducements he had in mind.

Schroeder referred, in reply, to proposals for an increase in swing (or credit) within the context of the Interzonal Trade Agreement. The East Germans are however sensitive to political conditions. Perhaps if economic concessions were advanced within a Four-Power group, the Soviet interests could be mobilized.

The Secretary then asked if Mr. Schroeder was quite certain that if a secret ballot were held in East Germany, the East Germans would vote for reunification. Schroeder said this was the risk the West Germans must run if they believe in self-determination. They are however confident that the results would be favorable. This was the reason the Soviets opposed a plebiscite.

The Secretary said that Khrushchev had said that in 1953 Malenkov and Beria had wanted to get rid of East Germany. We should now look to see if there are factors more important to the Soviets than 17 million Germans. If a few people in the Soviet hierarchy had wanted to get rid of East Germany, there might be more now.

[Page 645]

Schroeder remarked that in a trade agreement with the East the satellites have accepted their application to Berlin, although this is not liked by the Soviets or the GDR.

The Secretary suggested that Schroeder present his proposal to the Ambassadorial Group.

Butler asked when this might happen.

Schroeder said it was hard to say. We must prepare against the possibility that the Soviets might take some initiative and we would need to counter it. Or the Soviets might leave some opening in which we would consider it desirable to take an initiative.

The Secretary stressed that it was important that there be no press speculation on this, but that the work proceed quickly in the Ambassadorial Group. Butler said it would spoil the effect if there were press speculation.

Schroeder said that a number of new ideas were coming from German parliamentary circles. The group known as Indivisible Germany represents a group of leading West Germans. It was necessary to be able to say that their proposals were being submitted to the Ambassadorial Group, which has the problem of Germany under constant review. It would, however, not be necessary to give any more details. He agreed there would be no reference to the discussion this evening, but he would say we are referring any proposals to the Ambassadorial Group.

The Secretary asked when public pressure was likely to arise.

Schroeder replied it existed already. The Bundestag debate on the Test Ban Treaty might raise the question of a West German initiative. The cabinet had taken no decision but Mr. Schroeder thought the treaty would not come up for debate before March.

The Secretary concluded the discussion of this subject by saying that the four Foreign Ministers had agreed to examining the German proposals after Christmas.


Carstens began the discussion by reviewing the history of the Christmas pass question. The Secretary said that he hoped that some arrangement could be worked out regarding Christmas passes on humanitarian grounds. With regard to the question of channels of communication, he asked if there were any alternatives such as the Red Cross or the Commandants. Carstens said that the various alternatives had been considered but for various reasons dismissed. Krapf raised the question of how to handle this with the press. The Secretary suggested saying that it had been agreed that it would be desirable on humanitarian grounds to work out an arrangement and that it was hoped the East would not place political obstacles in the way.

[Page 646]

Schroeder said that this question of visiting families had arisen on the two previous Christmases. The East chose Christmas to make their proposals in order to bring pressure to bear on the West Berliners. He thought the East German press conference had been a shrewd move. If we accepted Eastern terms we would weaken the West’s position. On the other hand, it would not appear there was much we could do.

The Secretary then asked if some technical agencies could handle the passes and thus avoid political issues. Schroeder said the other side was prepared to use postal personnel. The decisive point is whether there will be an agreement between the West Berlin Government and the East German regime. Carstens added that the East wanted Brandt or his representative with full powers to sign.

Couve said that no matter how the agreement was reached it would tend to weaken the position of West Berlin. There was then some discussion of the various levels at which an agreement might be concluded.

The Secretary said that if the agreement failed, there might be serious tensions in West Berlin and this was of concern to the occupation powers. Schroeder said that the West Berliners had often been disappointed. The Secretary concluded the discussion by saying he hoped we would hear more of the pass issue in the coming days and that something could be worked out without loss of morale in West Berlin.

Butler said he would like to see placed in the NATO communiqué a non-aggression statement and wondered if Schroeder had any objection to this. Schroeder said that the British formula emphasized Germany too much but might be acceptable if it were shortened and move general. Butler remarked they might shorten it two or three sentences. Schroeder said it shouldn’t make reference to the UN. Couve said he had not yet seen the British draft but noted that each year reference was made to the effect that NATO was defensive. Lord Hood concluded the discussion by saying that the British would come up with a new and shorter draft.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 28 Berlin. Secret. Drafted and initialed by Ausland and approved in S on October 26. The Foreign Ministers were in Paris for the NATO Ministerial Meeting December 16–18. A summary of this conversation was transmitted in Secto 13 from Paris, December 16. (Ibid.)
  2. Not printed. Secretary Rusk, Foreign Ministers Couve de Murville and Schroeder, and Foreign Secretary Butler were each accompanied by three officials.
  3. On June 23 the Kuratorium “Unteilbares Deutschland” had sent President Kennedy a memorandum on the future of German unity. For text, see Dokumente zur Deutschlandpolitik, 1963, pp. 428–430. On September 15 Executive President of the Kuratorium Wilhelm Schuetz issued an 8-point program for German unity. For text, see ibid., pp. 709–710. The proposals were subsequently distributed to the three Western Foreign Ministers during the U.N. General Assembly session in New York in October.