120. Memorandum of Conversation1



New York, December 1964


  • Political Situation in Europe


  • US
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. Glenn (Interpreter)
  • Poland
    • Foreign Minister Rapacki
    • Minister Goldblat (Interpreter)

After an exchange of pleasantries the Secretary asked Mr. Rapacki what the latter considered to be the main political problem of interest to Poland.

Mr. Rapacki said that this was, as usual, Germany. However, this time there was a new wrinkle, the MLF. Mr. Rapacki is not familiar with [Page 332] the precise status of the MLF, nor with the new UK proposals.2 However, he feels that the very idea of the MLF would amount to a disruption of the balance of power in Europe, from both the military and political points of view. Under such circumstances it would become necessary for the countries of the Eastern Bloc to do something to re-establish the balance. This might include steps which otherwise they would not wish to take. Mr. Rapacki is familiar with the various parts of the scheme which are designed to prevent a West German takeover of nuclear weapons. However, he feels that there are no guarantees that such schemes will succeed and he fears that the scheme rapidly will bring about a German finger on the trigger. This is a fear which even the Western nations should share, and in fact, do share. The Germans are past masters at taking advantage of dissensions between their allies, whether such dissensions arise for financial or other reasons. Therefore, the MLF is bound at the very least to exacerbate the relations between the two blocs and deepen the distrust between them—the very opposite of what Poland would wish to see happen. Moreover, Poland opposes all proliferation of nuclear weapons and considers the MLF as a step toward such proliferation.

The Secretary stated that he understood the interest of Poland in these questions. He feels, however, that the MLF should give the fullest guarantees against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. U.S. policy has always sought a permanent settlement of the problems of Central Europe and ultimately, disarmament in Europe and elsewhere. We do not see how a permanent solution could be found in Europe unless the nations of that continent, and in particular the two groups of the German population, are allowed to determine fully and freely their own future. Such an expression may or may not lead to an agreement to the unification of Germany, but it must constitute an expression of the free will of the people of Germany which will provide a basis for permanent solutions, possibly including disarmament. With regard to nuclear weapons within NATO and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the United States has never agreed to do anything which would favor such proliferation; it even opposed the French wishes in that area. On the other hand, we do not know what has happened in the Warsaw Pact. Nations of the Warsaw Pact have openly exhibited in parades weapons capable of carrying nuclear warheads, one which would be exceedingly inefficient for the delivery of conventional warheads.

Another point is that there are two ways for a nation to become involved in a nuclear situation. One of these is to possess nuclear weapons. The other one is to be a potential target of nuclear weapons, and there are many of the Western nations which are well within reach of [Page 333] nuclear weapons poised in Europe. It is because of such a situation that the MLF idea has been put forward.

Mr. Rapacki asked the Secretary why the latter mentioned only Western nations.

The Secretary said that a way must be found to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the U.S. believes the MLF provides one such way. The question is not only one of direct proliferation but also of testing. Moreover, the question of proliferation is not one which concerns only Germany, it is one which concerns many nations outside of NATO, such as Sweden, Switzerland and countries of Europe. It is because of the danger of this type of proliferation that the U.S. has been thinking of new types of measures. It should be remembered that the U.S. has proven its opposition to proliferation, even at the expense of irking some of its Allies. We do not know, however, what the Soviet Union has done in this respect. Some of the Soviet leaders had announced that they had given nuclear fuel to China; this may have contributed to the recent Chinese explosion.3

Mr. Rapacki said that in regard to the question of proliferation of nuclear weapons, Poland could certainly not be accused of any misdeeds since it neither had nor wanted such weapons. He knew little about rockets except that there are nuclear-tipped rockets stationed in West Germany.

Poland has made a proposal for eliminating such weapons from Europe and has attempted to make it more acceptable by broadening the zone from which such weapons would be eliminated.4 Mr. Rapacki was of the opinion that the MLF will lead to proliferation even if this is not the purpose of those who came up with the idea. He reiterated his view that there are guarantees against German control and his opinion of West German ability in playing their partners one against the other. Even if no independent nuclear strength for Germany is now planned the result will be to bring Germany closer to it and under such circumstances it is possible that, irrespective of their wishes, the Warsaw Pact nations would also become involved in such a proliferation. The Polish suggestion would be that steps toward relaxation of tensions might better be obtained through an immediate freeze of nuclear (and possibly other) weapons at the present levels, than by their gradual elimination from a [Page 334] certain zone. A plan of this sort, if accepted, could then be joined by other nations. The extent of the zone of armaments freeze could also be something open to negotiation, though it seems quite difficult to see how the Soviet Union could be included in it. In any case Mr. Rapacki does not feel entitled to speak in the name of the Great Powers.

In regard to German unification, Mr. Rapacki feels that such steps as the MLF postponed rather than improved the prospects of it. The only realistic way to envisage such a unification is through an historical process which would be based on step-by-step agreement on such measures as disarmament and which little-by-little would create realistic conditions under which unity could be obtained. Unfortunately, drawing West Germany deeper into military responsibilities encourages the West German Government to take attitudes which cause concern among its neighbors and thus bring the situation into a vicious circle.

The Secretary wondered if there might perhaps be possibilities of bringing in all of these measures together; bringing about the possibilities for reunification at the same time as discussion of armaments freeze and similar measures.

Mr. Rapacki admitted that these problems are connected. However, the beginning should be made with various disarmament steps and not with the question of reunification. First there must be a détente in which the two German nations would participate. The other questions would then find their solutions.

The Secretary said that it is rather the failure to solve the fundamental problem of Central Europe which is the cause of the armaments tension and the disruption of equilibrium. This is something we are not responsible for. It would be difficult to wait for historical processes to take care of the armaments race and the pressing dangers of the moment.

Mr. Rapacki agreed with the necessity of doing something rapidly in order to decrease both the danger to peace and the armaments race. Clearly the military and the political problems are connected. The present situation does not help toward the solution, but on the contrary deepens the opposition between the two blocs. The main irritants are certain attitudes on the part of the West German Government and in general on the part of the Western allies. Only France recognizes the present Polish-German border as being final. Also West Germany acquires more and more power within NATO.

Mr. Rapacki does not consider West Germany as being a monolith of revenge-seekers. He realizes that there are various shadings of opinion in Germany and that many German groups seek peace. Unfortunately the present policies do not encourage such groups but on the contrary those intent on revenge.

Steps toward a solution of problems should begin with a freeze, followed perhaps by disarmament measures. If this path is followed, then a [Page 335] situation might follow which will bring together the two Germanies. Otherwise the separation between them is bound to deepen. To speak quite frankly, Poland does not desire a common border with West Germany. Even if the majority of the East German people were to express themselves for unification it would find such a solution not acceptable. Free elections would not be acceptable because of such a possibility. East Germany for the moment must be maintained because it is working very hard to win its people away from the militaristic and nationalistic traditions of Germany. Unfortunately West Germany pursues policies which keep alive those traditions.

The Secretary thanked Mr. Rapacki for his expression of his views. He felt on the contrary that if the German problem is resolved, and thus if security for Poland is established under the fullest guarantee by the United States and by others, the result would be an improvement in economic and social relations which is desired by all. Such a solution would give Poland more security than she has known for two or three centuries.

Mr. Rapacki said that German unity might perhaps be brought about by an historical process but no guarantee could be strong enough for such unity to take place now. Poland after all had the strongest of guaranties in 1939 and then lost six million people.

The Secretary mentioned that the United States had participated in two world wars in which it did not find itself on the same side as Germany. Nevertheless he recognized that Poland had a very special experience in this field. He asked Mr. Rapacki how the relations between Poland and West Germany were developing and whether they were improving.

Mr. Rapacki said the economic relations were increasing and some cultural relations existed. Further development depends on the German Government. In all frankness, however, in the present situation great political improvements are unlikely.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL UK. Confidential. Drafted by Glenn and approved in S on January 8, 1965. The source text is labeled “Part 1 of 2;” a second memoranda of conversation dealing with Southeast Asia is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 2448. The meeting was held at USUN.
  2. Reference is to a December 16 statement to Parliament by Prime Minister Wilson offering an Atlantic Nuclear Force as an alternative to the MLF.
  3. In October, China carried out nuclear tests in Sinkiang Province. For text of President Johnson’s statement announcing the Chinese tests, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64, Book II, pp. 1377–1380.
  4. Reference is to the Rapacki Plan, first proposed by Rapacki in an October 2, 1957, address before the U.N. General Assembly. For text, see U.N. doc. A/PV 697. On March 28, 1962, he submitted to the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee in Geneva another revised plan for a nuclear-free zone in Europe; for text, see Documents on Disarmament, 1962, vol. I, pp. 201–205.