256. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • New German Initiative on Reunification Law. Part Two of Two


The Secretary suggested that the meeting turn to consideration of a new initiative on the all-German problem.

Foreign Minister Schroeder said the Germans were preparing a paper on the subject for discussion with the other three governments, which could then be considered by the Ambassadorial Group. The paper would first have to be approved by the Cabinet in Bonn, but he thought it would be ready for submission to other governments by mid-January.

The Secretary recalled our experience in dealing with the Soviets on such occasions as the meetings of the Deputies for the Austrian Peace Treaty, the Palais Rose, etc. He asked whether what Schroeder had in mind was an effort to set up a four-power group with German participation with a broad frame of reference.

Schroeder said he felt there should be no Germans at all in this group. If the FRG were represented, Pankow would also claim the right to participate and we would have a replica of the situation at Geneva in 1959. This the FRG wished to avoid.

The Secretary inquired about the terms of reference—should they be detailed or general. Schroeder said the Germans had in mind possibly five points: a timetable for the transitional period, a plan for reunification and European security, a draft electoral law, a procedure for settling disputes, and a proposal for supervising the conduct of the elections.

The Secretary commented that with such a frame of reference it would be his guess that no meeting with the Soviets would ever take place. Carstens agreed it was difficult to suggest anything acceptable to the other side. He felt our position could remain very flexible. These were merely ideas to try to help make progress.

The Secretary said he felt a distinction should be drawn between broad terms of reference on the one hand for discussions with the Soviets, and on the other the arrangements among themselves (US, UK, France and FRG) which would have to be very detailed. We should be [Page 681] prepared to meet an impasse with the Soviets at the outset, although it might be possible over a period of time to make gradual progress on certain aspects, such as the humanitarian side. Based on our experience with the Austrian Treaty he felt that if any such group were set up it should be prepared to hold at least 300 meetings.

The Secretary said he had a question about the plebiscite. Was Schroeder confident that if a fair plebiscite could be held on the issue of whether the Germans wanted a united or divided Germany, the vote would come out on our side?

Schroeder replied that there would be no point in the Germans talking about self-determination as they had been doing unless they were prepared to go all the way through with it. Carstens said the FRG did not have much doubt on this score. He cited the observations of the London Times’ correspondent who had recently visited East Germany and expressed the view that a fair election would result in an overall vote of at least 80 per cent in favor of the West.

The Secretary cited the example of Puerto Rico where our position on this issue was very powerful. If anyone raised the issue of Puerto Rico independence, we could always say “Why don’t you ask the Puerto Ricans”? He recalled that the Soviets had frequently said, without really meaning it, that reunification was up to the Germans themselves. Schroeder said that what the Soviets really meant was—ask the Pankow regime. Carstens referred to the formula in the Heads of Government Directive at Geneva in 19551 which called for German reunification by free elections “to be carried out in conformity with the national interests of the German people” and pointed out that the Soviets had interpreted this phrase in such a way as to block completely any possibility of free elections.

Mr. Krapf inquired whether consultation should take place first in the capitals or in the Ambassadorial Group. Schroeder said this point had been discussed in Paris among the Foreign Ministers, and he would himself see no objection in having it discussed first in the Ambassadorial Group. The Secretary said this would mean that the first discussion would be very brief since the matter would have to be referred to governments. Schroeder replied that the matter had been discussed with Couve and the other Foreign Ministers in Paris and he had considered Couve’s reaction to the idea of a new German initiative very forthcoming. The Secretary commented that this might be one of the fruits of the Franco-German Treaty.

Schroeder commented on the importance of discussing the whole thing among ourselves in great detail before any approach was made to [Page 682] the Soviets. Mr. Tyler stressed the need to hold the matter closely, particularly in view of the fact that the press was already apparently aware that something was up; he cited the recent Gruson story from London on the subject.

The Secretary said he agreed we should put our minds to this in the Ambassadorial Group. There were some aspects of the matter from the standpoint of European security which might be difficult and complicated. For example, how could we assure that German reunification would not upset the existing power balance? He commented that this was the only major issue on which an East-West armed conflict could occur. There would be various other things such as observation posts, non-aggression pacts and the like, which would have to come into the picture.

Ambassador McGhee asked Schroeder what he would think of setting up a link between improvement of access to Berlin—as for example, by an International Access Authority—and a non-aggression pact. This link would be established on the basis that the NAP would become null and void in the event of any new interference with Berlin access which might impel us to use an armed probe.

Schroeder said they had not quite made up their minds on this. He felt it would impose a heavy burden on the Swiss, Swede or whoever might be Chairman of the Access Authority to take decisions involving peace or war. Ambassador McGhee commented that Ambassador Thompson felt the Soviets would not agree to establishing the Access Authority solely in exchange for the NAP. Schroeder added that he felt the Soviets were not prepared to do anything which would exclude the idea of setting up West Berlin as a free city.

The Secretary inquired whether there would be any point in proposing that the Berlin Wall be established on the east frontier of East Berlin. Carstens commented merely that several hundred thousand people would leave East Berlin and not come back. The Secretary made reference to Mayor Brandt’s idea about letting East Berliners enter West Berlin freely on the basis of a guarantee that they would not move any further West than West Berlin.

Ambassador McGhee inquired about the possibility of using interzonal trade and credits to arouse expectations on the other side. This could then put the FRG in a position to make demands on the East. Schroeder said he thought this was underestimating the realities in a totalitarian system. Carstens added that the GDR had not yet reacted to the offer of increased credits in IZT, which had been put forward over a year ago.

The meeting then adjourned to proceed to the barbecue at Stonewall.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 2354. Secret. Drafted by Creel and approved in S on January 1, 1964.
  2. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. V, pp. 527528.