35. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Berlin


  • German Ambassador Wilhelm G. Grewe
  • Mr. Horst Blomeyer-Bartenstein, First Secretary, German Embassy
  • Assistant Secretary Foy D. Kohler
  • Mr. Martin J. Hillenbrand, GER
  • Mr. Frank E. Cash, Jr., GER

Ambassador Grewe began by saying that he had received a lengthy telegram with preliminary comments on the principles paper, and he might receive more. The Germans feel the need of consultation on the paper. They note the concentration on West Berlin and the recognition of vital interests of the Soviets in West Berlin. Paragraph 1 (b) restricts the responsibilities to West Berlin but acknowledges vital Soviet interests therein. The concept of the access authority changes the legal position and makes it necessary to have a common view among the US, the UK, and France. The Germans would like to know how the British and French feel.

[Page 106]

Mr. Kohler said that the British are in accord, and the French don’t have instructions on the International Access Authority paper.1

Ambassador Grewe said the two documents have a character different from the Geneva paper. They seem to represent an exchange, and the principles paper is drafted in treaty language from which it would be difficult to retreat.

Mr. Kohler said it was quite true that the longer one talked the closer one got to negotiation.

Ambassador Grewe said the Geneva version of the principles paper was indicative of general tendencies, but the new version gave the appearance of covering the field of negotiations. There was no mention of the things that remained valid.

Mr. Kohler said this was not the concept. This paper was intended to register disagreement rather than agreement. What is not in the paper remains as it is.

Ambassador Grewe said that Bonn realized this was the concept, but the Soviets will not understand the text in the same way. Bonn would not be happy if the principles paper were transmitted to the Soviets at the present stage. It offers far-reaching concessions to the Soviets without receiving anything in return. The Germans understand that the US is not as optimistic as the press has been, and they think that in such a situation it would not be wise to offer such a paper. Negotiations would not come about, but the positions that were offered would be consumed and could not be offered again.

Ambassador Grewe said the Germans feel Western rights are not really secured by the present text. A method must be found to make clear that continued existence of Western rights form the basis of the paper.

With regard to the status of Berlin, there is a strong tendency toward considering West Berlin as an independent entity. No mention is made of the ties with the Federal Republic.

[Page 107]

The German question as such is dealt with in a manner tending to equalize the two parts of Germany. Much of the language comes too close to the “two Germanies” theory of the Soviets.

Bonn cannot accept the concept of the mixed commission charged with strengthening cultural ties. They also think that having the commission which is to frame the electoral law consider other steps comes close to the Soviet stand.

Mr. Kohler said that this wording was precisely that of the Geneva paper, and therefore, he was astonished at the German stand. Only three non-substantive words have been changed. This had already been cleared with Foreign Minister Schroeder.

Ambassador Grewe said with reference to nondiffusion in point 3, the Germans are not happy concerning the reference to Germany, however ingenious it might be. They feel the formula will fade, but the special reference to Germany will remain. As to the substance, the present text goes considerably further than the German statement of 1954,2 beyond which they are not prepared to go.

Concerning European security in point 4 it is really not European security, but general security that is at stake. The mention in 4 b) could be very misleading indeed and could lead to a concentration on Europe.

The Germans do not see a link between points 3 and 4 on the one hand and points 1 and 2 on the other. This they consider very important inasmuch as there is no reason to talk about 3 and 4 if there is no give on 1 and 2.

Mr. Kohler said the link exists in our minds, and the points are not divisible. However, point 3 might come out and get into the disarmament context. We have no intention of getting into a nonaggression pact without a modus vivendi on Berlin.

Ambassador Grewe said he wished to turn to the access paper where the crucial point concerned composition of the Board. The Germans have very strong objections because they feel that this would not provide for real freedom of access. The neutrals would be under heavy Soviet pressure. Such an arrangement would not keep the Berliners calm because it would fail to assure them that the air routes remained free.

Ambassador Grewe said he noted as a smaller point that the formula concerning the reestablishment of German unity had been deleted.

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The Germans were asking what really is the purpose of presenting the papers at this stage where there seemed to be no serious readiness to negotiate on the Soviet side. They wondered whether under such circumstances it was really wise to present such a paper moving the position in such a far-reaching way. We must also consider the fact that the position would be further weakened in actual discussions.

Mr. Kohler said he had a couple of preliminary comments. First of all, he said, we regard the occupation rights as guaranteed by the presence of our troops and our military posture in general. These rights are clearly nonnegotiable. It is not necessary to confirm them. This was a deliberate omission. Much has been omitted on both sides. This paper is not intended to cover many points. We have included language concerning the “vital interests”, in which we include the presence of our troops, access, and viability. It is not a contribution to say that our rights must be put in.

Ambassador Grewe said that it was not the German idea that there be an explicit reference to occupation rights. The purpose was to avoid having such a paper used to deny Western rights. This might be accomplished by accompanying unilateral statements.

Mr. Kohler said such statements are inevitable. Furthermore, the “legislative history” is quite clear.

Mr. Kohler said the US feels the current lull over Berlin may be connected with our decision on testing. If, however, the Soviets are restrained in their reaction to our nuclear tests this may be an indication of a tendency toward a modus vivendi. We have gone to great pains to say we are just discussing, but we are actually getting quite close to negotiations.

Ambassador Grewe said the Germans do not oppose negotiation as such but feel we should be very cautious with texts.

Mr. Kohler commented that it would be hard to carry on the discussions orally with Dobrynin without a paper to focus on. He said the German view would be brought to the attention of the Secretary and the President, and we would be in touch with the Germans further. We must try to find some solution to the problem of the composition of the Board of Directors of the Access Authority. We feel we would be in pretty good hands with the Swiss, Swedes, and the Austrians.

Ambassador Grewe asked how Mr. Kohler saw events developing.

Mr. Kohler said he was not sure. He would have to think about what the Germans had said and get in touch with them.

Ambassador Grewe said the Germans really would hope that no paper would be given to the Soviet Ambassador on Monday.

Mr. Kohler said this would be passed on.

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Mr. Kohler said he would like to add one more point concerning Berlin. We have made it clear that we are not accepting a free, demilitarized, independent status. We thought the language was harmonious with the existing status, but this is tricky language.

Ambassador Grewe wondered why it was necessary to give away this position at this stage. The Soviets would surely come with their maximum position and we would have nowhere to fall back.

Mr. Kohler said the Soviets had tried this in Geneva, and had been told that no agreement was possible on the kind of paper they were putting forward. It had been explained to them that we were trying to go beyond this leaving out the disagreed positions. We had tried to impress them with the fact that the basic positions are nonnegotiable. We must see if a modus vivendi is possible or if we must continue on a collision course.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/4–1362. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Cash and initialed by Kohler. The meeting was held in Kohler’s office at the Department of State. It is described briefly in Ruckblenden, p. 550.
  2. During the morning of April 13 Kohler had met with British Minister Hood. While accepting the two papers, subject to minor revisions, Hood wondered if there were any “desperate urgency” about resuming discussions with the Soviet Union. (Memorandum of conversation; Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/4–1362) Ambassador Ormsby Gore held a similar conversation with Rusk at 12:30 p.m. (Memorandum of conversation, ibid.) Kohler then met with French Minister Counselor Lebel at 3 p.m., who stated that the French had had reservations about the approach to the Soviets from the beginning and that these reservations remained. Lebel handed Kohler an aide-memoire incorporating a number of French desiderata on parts of the papers that the French regarded as “dangerous.” They too wondered if it were necessary to give Dobrynin the revised principles paper. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid.; aide-memoire; ibid., Presidential Correspond-ence: Lot 66 D 204)
  3. Presumably Grewe is referring to Protocol III (Control of Armaments) to the Brussels Treaty, October 23, 1954, by which the Federal Republic undertook not to manufacture atomic weapons. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. V, Part 2, pp. 14461451.