246. Memorandum of Conversation0

US/MC/7 London


  • United States
    • The Secretary of State
    • Ambassador Bruce
    • Mr. Tyler
    • Mr. Schaetzel
    • Minister Jones
    • Mr. Lampson
  • United Kingdom
    • Foreign Secretary Butler
    • Mr. Peter Thomas
    • Sir Harold Caccia
    • Mr. Duncan Wilson
    • Lord Hood
    • Mr. Henderson


  • Germany and Berlin

Butler directed the discussion to the problems of Germany and Berlin. he said he had reached the conclusion that the peripheral questions (observation posts, NAP, non-dissemination agreement etc.) if treated in isolation were so obdurate that it was necessary to think through again the possibility of making some progress in solving the central problems.

Rusk replied that the quadripartite dinner in Paris1 had produced a new sense of initiative on the German side—a new willingness to look with a more open mind at the possibility of developing a comprehensive Western position on Germany-Berlin. Schroeder showed a new approach, a new mobility or at least a disposition to move on the German problem if possible. An example of a new and more flexible mood in Germany was a paper prepared by Unteilbares Deutschland.2 This had emphasized the possibility of converting economic advantages for Eastern Europe into political concessions for the West. Although the US was sceptical about the extent to which this was possible German ideas were worth exploring. But in dealing with German reunification one must limit oneself to the reunification of the Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic. West Germany had tried to keep open the possibility of including territory east of the Oder-Neisse line but this was unrealistic. Hitler had closed that door. Also in thinking in terms of proposals for German reunification one must bear in mind the elements [Page 648] of interest to the USSR. Such a settlement if negotiated on satisfactory terms would free the USSR from two burdens: (1) the fear of German revanchism; and (2) the need to keep 22 Soviet divisions stationed abroad. He personally favored asking the ambassadorial group to go back to the drawing board taking German proposals as the basis for its work and examining any package proposal in the light of what would make it worth while to the USSR to give up 17 million Germans. This is particularly opportune time for such a review because in the present international atmosphere the USSR may throw at us sweeping proposals to which we must be prepared to make counter proposals. We should encourage the Germans to come forward with the initial proposals and see whether we can build on them if we need to. We should aim at a comprehensive approach including political, military, economic and humanitarian elements. There were numerous possibilities—for example the possibility of examining various formulas for a Mixed Commission comprising the 4 occupying powers and the East and West Germans.

Tyler summarized his conversation with German officials in Paris on this general subject.3 The German Government seemed to be ready to present a fuller and more complete plan in the near future—probably in early January (between the 10th and 15th) after the Erhard visit to the US. Their general thinking seemed to be running along the lines of the proposals of Unteilbares Deutschland. But although Schroeder was glad to have the general support of this influential body he did not want to seem to take over the plans without modification. He wanted the German proposal to bear the stamp of the Foreign Office and to give the Schuetz proposals a sharper edge. The Foreign Office was not enthusiastic about all features of the Schuetz plan. They were not convinced that the Four Power Commission should be authorized to work on a peace treaty. They wished to think more carefully about the implications of East and West Germans being associated with the Commission and measure very carefully the consequences of such an arrangement on the standing of East and West Germany. But they did consider there were certain measures which could be taken immediately: such as (1) establishment of a commission for humanitarian measures; (2) a commission for political amnesty; (3) a commission for freedom of movement and (4) a commission for economic concessions. The Germans had been greatly interested in the East German hint that the agreement on Christmas passes was the first of ten steps the GDR would propose. The German FO thought that the next steps might involve greater movement of persons, broadening of categories, extension of time limits, etc. But the East German negotiator Wendt had not spelt out what he had in mind. [Page 649] All this had made the West Germans believe that the time may come in the not too distant future when the East Germans may come up with what has the appearance of a big offer, although it will probably include elements which will enhance the standing of the DDR. The higher level in the German Foreign Office believes pressures are building up on the East German regime which they cannot ignore. The existence of the Wall is having an adverse effect on the standing of East Germany in the eyes of other Eastern European countries. The rigidity of the Ulbricht regime is embarrassing and is making East Germany vulnerable. Even the USSR is becoming critical of it. This island of Stalinism on the western edge of the Soviet world which is becoming more moderate stands out like a sore thumb. Within East Germany itself this situation is creating difficulties. The rank and file of party workers are finding it difficult to explain the policies of the Ulbricht regime compared to what is happening in a country like Czechoslovakia. Even the Russians reportedly told Ulbricht that he should look more human. An illustration of the contrast between East Germany and the rest of Eastern Europe is the relaxation of travel measures in Czechoslovakia. East and West Germans are now flocking to Prague to meet. Another example of the new spirit is the campaign of highly placed Czech officials to encourage West Germans to spend their vacation in Eastern Europe.

In commenting on the new flexibility in the German Federal Republic Rusk said that the FDP and SPD favored Schroeder’s policy of mobility and offset to some extent the rigid wing of the CDU. This new German Government was somewhat less rigid on some of the perennial problems. We should be prepared to encourage the Germans to explore possibilities and give them their head. He had the impression that Schroeder at Paris progressed beyond the German August proposals.4

Peter Thomas (British Minister of State) said he could not see that Schroeder had really gone beyond the 1959 Peace Plan except for the introduction of economic inducements. He agreed that the situation would be changed if the Germans agreed to recognize the Oder-Neisse line and the present Czech border. The fears of Poland and Czechoslovakia were real and if they were reassured this would introduce a new and significant element into the East-West equation. Mr. Rusk pointed out that when proposals were made for an East German-West German plebiscite—as was made in the German proposals—this was on the basis of the FedRep and the GDR. This strengthened the idea that we were not talking about the territory east of the Oder-Neisse line. He added that the fact that Mikoyan had argued that Schroeder’s pressing for the MLF indicated German revanchist ambitions against Poland and Czechoslovakia showed that these fears existed in the USSR as well as in [Page 650] Poland and Czechoslovakia. German renunciation of these frontiers as part of a package would give a Western peace plan a new sweep. Thomas admitted this would make a difference.

Rusk said when Schroeder in November had emphasized reunification, Rusk had pointed out to him this emphasis would have the result of smoking out the West on the question of what was to be reunified. He added that there seemed to be new possibilities opening up. The fact that Poland and Czechoslovakia showed greater independence and possibly exercised greater influence in the Communist system might make a difference.

Butler said that if the Germans wished to make an initiative they would have to give their proposals more scope. He had been disappointed in his talk with Erhard in Bonn to find that Erhard was thinking in terms of economic initiatives towards the Eastern satellites and of increasing interzonal trade but not of economic inducements for Russia. He was not optimistic about getting Ulbricht to move. He described him as a marmoset of Khrushchev’s. Schroeder was much more forthcoming at the NATO quadrilateral conversation than he was when Butler talked to him in Bonn. He must have held back to save his ammunition for the quadripartite talks. Possibly he had been encouraged by the effects of greater German trade with Eastern Europe. The Berlin Christmas pass development had shown that the German Government could not turn down humanitarian opportunities on purely theoretical grounds. (It was estimated that between 400,000 and 750,000 might cross the Wall at Christmas. Tyler said the Commandants were considering security implications that might arise from this development.)

Hood asked what was the American thinking about how all this tied in with disarmament. Rusk said one had to think in alternate terms—in terms of two possible tracks which might be followed. A German plebiscite might result in unification or in the acceptance of division. Which of these courses was chosen would determine how other factors would be handled. There were possibilities for disarmament which must be examined. There were possibilities of reductions of forces and of guarantees against concentrations of forces and surprise attack. Rusk also expressed the view that Germans may go on to think of possibilities of economic arrangements to be extended to the USSR as an inducement for a German settlement.

Tyler emphasized the danger of putting forward proposals which might cast doubt on the idea of an all-German government. The Western Allies had always insisted that a German settlement must be negotiated by a free all-German Government. This was essential to the German position. The West must make it absolutely clear to the Soviet Government that this point is non-negotiable. Unless this position is maintained the whole German support would crumble. Schroeder so far had maintained [Page 651] that the renunciation of the Oder-Neisse line could only be made by a Pan-German Government. Butler said Schroeder had made this clear to him. Hood said the traditional position to which the West was pledged in the 1954 and other agreements was that German boundaries must be determined at a peace conference.

Wilson (British) doubted that an offer about the Oder-Neisse line would be very impressive since the West had renounced the use of force. Caccia replied that this point may seem like a fly-blown card to us but it did not look that way to Poles and Czechs. They would attach great importance to this. Rusk suggested that Poles and Czechs might put pressure on the USSR. Furthermore they might welcome an agreement which would get them out of the present target system within which they now fell.

Ambassador Bruce commented an Oder-Neisse line offer would have been much more impressive if it had been made some years ago. Our bargaining power deriving from this point is now less. We should also be fully aware of the political implications of this issue. There were a large number of émigrés in Germany from the eastern territories. The Chancellor had neutralized this vote by his policy of western development which had made it possible to absorb these groups but if there was a depression they would reemerge as a political force of formidable proportions. They would be among the first to feel the effects of unemployment. They would be quick to protest that their prescriptive rights had been sold down the river. If this question were treated in isolation it would be difficult and German politicians would be leery of it. If it formed part of an attractive comprehensive package which seemed to have a good chance of being achieved the situation would be quite different.

It was the consensus of the evening discussion that the FedRep should be encouraged to submit proposals on Germany and Berlin for study by the ambassadorial group.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, NATO 3 FR (PA). Secret. Drafted by Lampson and approved in S on December 24. The meeting was held at 1 Carleton Gardens. Rusk stopped in London December 18–19 following the NATO Ministerial Meeting.
  2. See Document 245.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 245.
  4. A memorandum of this conversation is in Department of State, Central Files, POL 32–4 GER.
  5. See footnote 1, Document 212.