45. Memorandum of Conversation0




  • United States
    • Secretary Rusk
    • Mr. Kohler
  • Germany
    • Foreign Minister Schroeder
    • Mr. Carstens
  • Berlin and Germany

The pre-lunch conversation opened with a thorough discussion of the leaks of the US proposals to the Soviets in Bonn. Views were exchanged along well-known lines and it was agreed that while there were possible theories as to the source and motivation of the leaks, nothing could be definitely established and the question should be regarded as closed. Foreign Minister Schroeder pointed out the political difficulties of his situation in which he was under attack within his own party as “soft.” Mr. Schroeder then went on to the question of communications and consultation between the two Governments and put in a plea that this should resume through the channel of Ambassador Grewe in Washington. He pointed out that since Grewe was so thoroughly familiar with all the details, the reports which he submitted were fuller and more useful to him than those received from Ambassador Dowling, who had no means of supplementing his instructions in reply to questions as happened when Ambassador Grewe saw, for example, Mr. Kohler in the State Department. [4–1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

The conversation then continued at the luncheon table. Mr. Schroeder talked at some length about the desirability of an early visit to Bonn by the Secretary. In reply the Secretary indicated that he had considered this. Unfortunately it would not be possible in connection with the present visit since he was committed to proceed on to Australia. There seemed some possibility that if the NATO meeting should end on Saturday he might be able to go briefly to Bonn on Sunday, however this appeared to be rather remote. Otherwise he was under some fire from [Page 133] Congress with respect to his travels. It was for this reason that he had made arrangements to bring together the CENTO, NATO and ANZUS meetings within a period of ten days. This might also mean that it would be preferable for him to visit Bonn after the adjournment of the Congress, that is, in July, though he did not rule out that arrangements could be made before that date.

The Secretary then reviewed in broad terms his discussions with Gromyko and Dobrynin. He said he thought that there was some misunderstanding with respect to the broad questions included in the US Draft Principles paper. He pointed out that there had been no real discussion of these broader questions with the Russians. The Secretary had rather emphasized the question of vital interests and indicated that if agreement could be reached on these, then these broader questions could easily fall into place. The idea of setting up a continuing forum of Deputy Foreign Ministers was really calculated to give the Soviets a way out—a cover under which they could if they wished drop their proposals or at least allow them to fade away. It was questionable whether the French would agree to participate. The Secretary commented that the French had suggested a tripartite meeting prior to the quadripartite dinner tonight but had been informed that this would not be possible to arrange. The Secretary thought it might serve a useful purpose, from Mr. Schroeder’s point of view, to have this bilateral lunch followed without an interim meeting by the quadripartite dinner. Messrs. Schroeder and Carstens indicated agreement that this would be useful in terms of German fears of French ambitions for a tripartite directorate. Carstens added that the French had said that if the Germans asked them to go ahead at some point and participate in a more formal negotiation with the Russians they would agree to do so. The Secretary commented that the French game at the moment seemed to be to avoid any commitment to any kind of Berlin arrangement which some Germans, some day, might criticize. He thought the French looked even beyond the present German government. Messrs. Schroeder and Carstens agreed with the Secretary’s analysis. The Secretary then continued to say that it was absolutely fundamental to the US position that there would be no Berlin or German arrangement without the Federal Government’s concurrence. It was conceivable that the European countries could reach some kind of settlement without the United States but it was not conceivable that the United States could reach a settlement without the Europeans.

The discussion then turned to the question of the Technical Commissions which the Secretary said we must discuss and work out together. He did not understand why the Federal Government had such a lack of self-confidence about dealing with East Germans. Carstens replied that if the Federal Government dealt with the East German regime it would strengthen the GDR and make life even more difficult for the [Page 134] East German population. Schroeder then commented at some length on the nature of the Ulbricht regime. He expressed the opinion that a change there to a more liberal regime would be a very important development in the situation. If there were a more “middle-way” regime tensions would relax greatly in Central Europe. Mr. Kohler raised the question, making it clear that he was not challenging that such a change would be a desirable development, whether, however, it would not in fact result in a strengthening of the East German regime, as feared by Carstens, by giving it a greater acceptability to the East Germans. Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Carstens agreed that this was an important question. However, on balance the Federal Republic had to consider that the situation would be greatly eased if there were a regime in East Germany which made some kind of “comparative” approach to self-determination so that the population would be content to live there and not persist in attempts to escape. The Foreign Minister then turned to his political problems as a result of the leaks. He pointed out that most of his own party, the CDU, as well as the Free Democrats and the SPD, entirely supported his position. Only elements of the CDU were accusing him of having agreed to “concessions.” In reply to the Secretary’s observation that over the past year we had in fact reached no agreement of any kind with the Russians and made no concessions, Mr. Schroeder said that the opponents referred to such things as willingness to engage in commitments of nonaggression as “concessions.” Returning to the previous theme, he added that if there were a less oppressive regime in East Germany and a resulting tendency toward easier conditions, he then believed it would be very useful to move toward closer relations between West and East Germany and even toward some rapprochement with Eastern European countries, notably Poland. After citing his conversation with Polish Foreign Minister Rapacki in Geneva,1 the Secretary went on to say that he thought it would be useful to bring West and East Germans together more. Schroeder observed that the Technical Commissions would not really be the way to do this since there would only be a handful of disciplined Communists on these Commissions from the other side. In this connection he cited German experience under Nazi totalitarianism. He said that even at the time he had concluded there was no way to bring the Nazis down from the inside and that only outside intervention could do this. The Secretary said that from the point of view of long range strategy the more we could develop the contacts of Eastern European countries with the West, the more difficult it would be for the Soviets in [Page 135] case of war to fight their divisions through these territories. In fact it might take a certain amount of Soviet strength just to maintain order in the Eastern European countries. [3–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] He added that he thought it would be useful if the Secretary could find some way to suggest to the Russians that it would be in their interest to establish a better regime in Eastern Germany. The Secretary said he had in fact already suggested to Gromyko in Geneva that things were made more difficult by the nature of the Ulbricht regime.

The Secretary then turned again to the question of the attitude of Paris. The French had said they would not object to the explorations to see whether negotiations might be possible. Now, however, they were saying that we were getting very near to negotiations but still were not committing themselves. Mr. Schroeder commented that he thought at tonight’s meeting the Secretary could not expect to get any comment from Couve on this question until after he, Schroeder, had spoken. He had observed that this was the case in the recent EEC Foreign Ministers Meeting.2

The meeting then adjourned to the salon. At the Secretary’s request Mr. Kohler gave the Foreign Minister a rundown on Dr. Brentano’s talks with the President and with himself.3 Some discussion then ensued as to the press treatment of German attitudes. During this Mr. Schroeder observed that the President should not consider the New York Times a German newspaper. On balance he thought that the treatment of this matter by most of the German press, for example the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, had supported the Federal Government’s position. Mende’s trip to the United States,4 he added, had been very successful. In the famous meeting of the political leaders Mende had observed that it was better to have a modus vivendi than a casus belli. He said that for his political position the question of timing was very important as respects some elements of a possible modus vivendi package.

Mr. Schroeder then returned to the question of communications between the two governments. He again requested that Ambassador Grewe be restored as the channel for communications. He assured the Secretary that these communications would be handled on a very limited distribution basis, precisely the same as those obtaining for the Geneva briefings and insisted that the German Embassy in Washington had in no way been responsible for the leak. He then hoped that Ambassador Grewe would be dealt with exactly like the French and UK [Page 136] Ambassadors. He referred in this connection to the quadripartite Ambassadorial group and the Secretary observed that it was the French who had disrupted this operation by abstaining from active participation. Mr. Schroeder then said that having made this appeal for restoration of normal communications, he wanted to inform the Secretary that a general reshuffling of German diplomats was in the offing which would include positions in Washington, Moscow and the UN as well as several other posts. Referring to Mr. Schroeder’s remark about the President’s sensitivity to the press, the Secretary observed that the President was a great competitive player and liked to score 100 per cent. He therefore did tend to notice the critical articles more than those which supported him. Moreover he would say frankly that there was some sensitivity in Washington to constant remarks out of Bonn about the good old days of the relationship with his predecessor, Foster Dulles. He had known Mr. Dulles very well himself and knew something of his troubles with the Chancellor.

At the close of the discussion it was agreed that both sides would say to the press something along the following lines: The Secretary of State and the German Foreign Minister had met for a full review of the discussions with the Russians and would continue their discussions with the British and French Foreign Ministers this evening. These discussions would of course be reported to NATO. There was no doubt that further discussions between the US and the USSR would be on a basis of agreed positions which started from the well known and vital interests of the West in West Berlin.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/5–362. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Kohler and approved in S on May 6. The meeting was held at the Ambassador’s residence. A summary of this conversation was transmitted in Sectos 24 and 31 from Geneva, May 4. (Ibid., Conference Files: Lot 65 D 533, CF 2104)
  2. A memorandum of Rusk’s conversation with Rapacki on March 15 (SecDel MC/19) is ibid., Central Files, 762.00/3–1562.
  3. Held April 17 at Paris.
  4. See Document 44.
  5. A memorandum of President Kennedy’s conversation with Vice Chancellor Mende, March 19, during the latter’s 12-day trip to the United States is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany.
  6. At 8:30 p.m. Rusk and Schroeder joined Couve de Murville and Home for further talks on Berlin. Rusk began the meeting by reviewing his conversations with Gromyko at Geneva and then asked his colleagues whether he should give Dobrynin a revised draft of the principles paper. Home favored this, but Schroeder and Couve de Murville demurred. (Memorandum of conversation (US/MC/21); Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/5–362) In subsequent conversations, May 4 and 5, Kohler and Carstens reviewed the principles paper in detail, and Carstens agreed that Grewe would receive specific instructions after the Chancellor had considered the text further. (Sectos 34 and 55 from Geneva, May 5; ibid., 762.0221/5–562)