34. Memorandum of Conversation0



  • FRG
    • Chancellor Adenauer
    • Dr. Globke
    • Mr. Osterheld
    • Mr. Kucherer
  • US
    • Mr. Nitze, ASD (ISA)1
    • Ambassador Dowling
    • Mr. McQuade, DOD

[Here follow two pages of discussion of defense matters and Soviet missile strategy.]

[Page 102]

Turning to the second subject, he [Adenauer] said that quite frankly it seemed to him that the Defense Department normally depends upon the State Department and State upon Defense. He realized that what he was about to say concerned primarily the State Department but he would say it to me because I was there and it did have Defense implications. The Chancellor said he was shocked by the latest messages from State about negotiations with the Soviets on Berlin. These proposals envisage insuring access to Berlin, but include recognition of the Soviet zone regime. Furthermore, the security of access would depend on Sweden, Switzerland and Austria. He outlined the 5–5–3 “Board of Directors” of an International Access Authority in which a majority vote would be determinative. [1–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] The whole idea is impossible. The DDR would be one of the five Communist States and the FRG one of the five Western States. This constitutes de facto recognition of the DDR. The latest proposal includes elements of a solution of the Berlin problem, as such, and also elements of an arrangement against the diffusion of nuclear weapons. The Chancellor said he does not know what the UK and France might think about these issues, but he is absolutely sure that De Gaulle would say no. The FRG got these proposals two days ago with the request that its position be sent to Washington yesterday. These views have now been sent and they are negative. Furthermore, the Chancellor said, he feels that such a procedure for working out positions on the Berlin issue is poor. There have been many months of talks in New York, Moscow and Geneva in which we have made a series of concessions, and now we want to continue talks in Washington. The Soviets pocket our concessions and take it for granted that they can talk without making any concessions. Perhaps De Gaulle is right; the negative outcome at every stage makes the US role as negotiator for the three powers unsatisfactory.

The Chancellor then said that he regrets General Clay’s departure. (This remark was in a friendly vein and did not appear to be a complaint.) Nitze and Dowling responded with recognition of Clay’s important role in Berlin, and Nitze said he hoped to go to Berlin tomorrow. The Chancellor said that it was a good idea at the time to send Clay for it helped to diminish unrest in Berlin arising from erection of the wall. He understood that Clay was discontented because he had no real position now and was sometimes opposed to the views of the US Commander and even, at times, of the Ambassador himself (general laughter).

The Chancellor commented that the latest US messages containing the 5–5–3 proposition for negotiations with the Soviets contributed to the unrest arising from Clay’s departure. He reiterated his conviction that this message, if known to the public, would create terrible unrest. Yesterday, he called in the Chairmen of the three major parties in the [Page 103] Bundestag, including the Socialists, and informed them about these messages. The unanimous judgment was against the step envisaged by Rusk.

The Chancellor said that his remarks to us were meant only for those concerned in Washington and not for the press. He is going to send President Kennedy a message today to ask that there be a pause in the negotiations with the Soviets so that the FRG will have time to re-examine the Berlin problem and try to think of better ways to find a solution. From our present knowledge of the Soviet position, it is quite useless to keep coming back at them time and time again as we are now doing. The Soviets pocket any concessions which we offer without giving anything in return.

This morning, he said, a small group of people in his Government had looked at the development of the Berlin situation and decided that the prospects for resolution of the Berlin question in 1958 had been considerably greater than they are now. The German position on the Berlin question in this period may have contributed to this decline in the prospects for a Berlin settlement, as it may have been too rigid. The Chancellor now wants to re-examine the problem to see if it is not possible to make some sort of offer to the Soviets which would be of genuine interest to them. However, we must get some concessions from the Soviets in order to make a deal. The Chancellor asked that nobody on the US side say that Germany is undertaking such a re-examination until the Germans see if any change in their position is possible.

Nitze said that he would be back in Washington Sunday night and that he would see Rusk on Monday and give him a personal report of this conversation.

The Chancellor said he would be glad to have this done. He requested Nitze to emphasize that Germany is anxious to examine all the developments since 1958 to see if any new proposition that might be meaningful to the Soviets can be developed. He does not want to give more details about the German views until he can clarify his own thinking.

Nitze assured the Chancellor that Washington would do nothing on Berlin without his agreement. The US wants to work with Germany and with Britain and France. Nitze expressed the belief that the US has conducted all of the talks with the Soviets about Berlin along the lines of papers mutually agreed upon among the four powers, without any concessions which deviate from these agreed papers, subject to certain reservations contained in them. The US wants a joint position with the FRG and the UK and, as far as possible, with France. Therefore, if the Chancellor wants a delay in the talks at this time, Nitze said he felt sure that this would be seriously considered.

[Page 104]

Dowling observed that the 5–5–3 proposal is, of course, only for consideration of the four Western Governments. The views of the UK, France and the FRG are necessary before the US would think of presenting these proposals to the Soviets. The purpose of the messages from Grewe is to cause exploration of this possible course of action among the four powers to determine whether it would be wise to make such a proposal to the Soviets.

The Chancellor pointed out that if Germany should make proposals, France might be more ready to agree to them than if the US did so. If specific proposals were to be advanced and France should say no, the US would be in a difficult position.

The Chancellor then said that we will continue to have trouble in Berlin but that he was aware some time ago that it is impossible to predict what difficulties the Soviets might make. He handed Ambassador Dowling a newspaper containing an article (“Neue Zurcher Zeitung”, Friday, April 13, 1962, page 2, column 1) about the unrest caused by General Clay’s departure. He said that we must do nothing to increase such unrest.

Dowling pointed out that part of the unrest arose because the story of Clay’s departure leaked before Clay himself could explain his purpose in leaving: that Clay is leaving at his own request pursuant to a decision that he could do more to help Berlin by returning to the US at this time. The premature leak from Washington put his departure in the wrong light. Dowling said he talked with Clay ten days ago in Berlin and Clay’s ideas had changed a bit; he was leaving with a sense of accomplishment. The Ambassador hoped that Clay would have a chance to talk with the Chancellor before finally leaving Berlin.

The Chancellor observed that he knew that Clay had wanted to leave as long ago as last November. The Chancellor said that he himself knows that Clay’s departure cannot be imputed to the Administration but the public merely observes that he came at the moment of crisis and is now leaving. This causes unrest. Another official the other day had complained that the Ambassador himself might soon be leaving.

The Ambassador laughed and said that he was misquoted by the press. At a press interview he had said that someday he would have to leave, but not now; right now he was staying, not leaving. The Chancellor said he wondered where the Ambassador would be going. To the State Department? Dowling said the press had said so, but that George Ball told him the other day that he had not even heard of the story. The Chancellor said that if and when the Ambassador was to leave, he should come and tell the Chancellor about it.

[Page 105]

The Chancellor said he was deeply impressed by McNamara. Nitze said McNamara has tremendous energy and insight into how one gets things done. The Chancellor said he is a very clear thinker.

The Chancellor then referred to the President’s troubles with the steel industry. There were references to the President’s press conferences, Nitze’s speech in Hamburg and visits with various officials of the German Government and the conversation came to a close on a friendly note.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 740.5/4–1362. Top Secret; Limit Distribution. The source text bears no drafting information, but the memorandum was drafted in Washington on April 16 presumably in the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. The source text is attached to a memorandum from Kohler to Rusk, April 16, in which the Assistant Secretary stated that the Secretary would find the account “both interesting and disturbing.” Kohler added that he was “a little upset that there was not more response by Nitze and Dowling to some of the rather farfetched statements of the Chancellor.” Dowling transmitted a 2-paragraph summary of the conversation in telegram 2477 from Bonn, April 13. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.62A/4–1362)
  2. Nitze was in Germany to address the Amerika-Gesellschaft in Hamburg on April 11. For his account of the meeting, see From Hiroshima to Glasnost, pp. 206–207. Memoranda of Nitze’s conversations with Carstens, Schroeder, and von Haase in Bonn on April 13, and with Brandt in Berlin on April 14, are in the National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Box 36, 16A Germany.