126. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • H.E. Jozef Winiewicz, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Ambassador John A. Gronouski

Warsaw Pact Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. I opened the conversation by asking Mr. Winiewicz about all the rumors we had heard about a conference going on here in Warsaw. He said yes, there was; it would end today and the people would leave tonight. I said “Only a one-day conference?” He said no, it started yesterday morning. He then went on to say that this is a normal ministerial level conference that takes place a couple times a year and that it did not arise, as some people suspected, as a result of the diplomatic agreement between Romania and the Federal Republic of Germany.2 The meeting is not a result of this; it would have happened anyway. I said I presumed there would be some discussion of the Romanian-FRG agreement; he said they will discuss it but he wanted to make clear this was not the occasion for the conference. He went on to say that [Page 350] he wouldn’t be a bit surprised, however, if the Romanians had hastened their diplomatic accord with West Germany in order to have it de facto prior to the conference. He said there would be no communiqué issued on the meeting other than the fact it occurred.

Relations with West Germany. I then asked him how this whole developing picture with West Germany is ultimately going to affect Poland. I said I could at least visualize the possibility that the Soviet Union, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia could very well at some time in the future have diplomatic relations, leaving Poland and the GDR out in the cold. He responded that it did not surprise the Poles to find Romania according diplomatic relations to West Germany. He said the Poles have always felt that those countries which did not have the bad experience with Germany that Poland had, specifically Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, would have a different attitude toward relations with West Germany than they do. He emphasized that many Poles have expected this for a long time. On two or three occasions he emphasized Bulgaria, bringing in Hungary as a third possibility, suggesting that Bulgaria is the next likely candidate for relations with the FRG.

He said on the broader question of West German-Polish relations, they have to look at this in the light of the history of their attitudes. He said from the time of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and West Germany in 1955 until the period 1957–58, the Poles repeatedly expressed willingness to have diplomatic relations with West Germany with no conditions, but their advances in this direction were rebuffed by the Germans. He referred to an interview with a British publication which Gomulka had in the late ’50s in which he expressed an understanding that it is very hard for any nation to digest defeat. He said even though we remember this as having been the defeat of Hitler, the Poles appreciate that for the masses of German people it was a defeat for the German nation. Poles were very sympathetic toward establishing diplomatic relations in that period; after 1958, as world conditions changed, especially after ’59 when Germany started showing an interest in atomic weapons which they had not previously shown, the Polish position was altered to the extent that they insisted on recognition of the Oder-Neisse line as a precondition. At that time, Gomulka realized that of course the border could be formally recognized only in the peace treaty, but he insisted on de facto recognition. They also hoped at that time that all Western powers, including the U.S., would give de facto recognition as DeGaulle did to the Oder-Neisse line because they felt that this would make it easier for the German authorities to sell it to the German people; they still think it is a mistake for the Western powers not to take a lead on this matter.

I pointed out that sometimes it is very costly for a country’s friends to attempt to take the lead in matters of this sort; that in terms of internal politics it could create a situation where the opposition to the German [Page 351] leadership could argue that Germans were not running their own foreign policy but were being forced into an action by their allies. I said he ought to consider the possibility that it is better in the long run to have Germany take its own initiatives in these matters.

He then went on to say that conditions have quite significantly changed in the early ’60s because things have settled down in the East German regime. East Germany has developed into something quite different in the ’60s compared to what it was between ’55–’60. It has become stable responsible government and has to be reckoned with.

I raised the question of what were the real conditions that Poland had for diplomatic relations with West Germany. I said I knew he had mentioned three things but I had a feeling that the Oder-Neisse line was the most significant and this feeling had been supported by conversations with people in Poland in the last six months who have distinguished between normalization of relations and diplomatic recognition. I had a feeling that of the three conditions which he keeps raising that the Oder-Neisse line is the fundamental one and is the one on which most importance is placed.

He said it is true there is distinction between normalization of relations and diplomatic recognition, and then he put a different twist on it. He said they will do all they can to normalize relations; just this morning he had signed off on an approval for an invitation from a group of Polish youth to a group of Christian-Democratic youth to spend their vacation in Poland; he talked about trade and cultural relations which they are interested in developing. What they could not accept, he said, is the German notion that they represent all of the people who were in the German borders in ’37. He said, “Look what this means!” There is a law on the books which says that any German that engages in communist activities is violating German law and that means a man like Kmiecik, one of their reporters who was born in Berlin, cannot technically set foot on German soil because he could be arrested for engaging in communist activities on the theory that he is still a German citizen engaged in subversive activity. He said he wasn’t saying the Germans would do it; but the law is on the books and that, combined with the fact that many Poles fall under the sole representation thesis, means that technically they are in jeopardy.

Relations with East Germany. He went on to describe their relations with East Germany, saying that they are most concerned about isolating East Germany and creating the impression that all its friends have abandoned it. When a nation becomes isolated it does irrational things and we can’t afford to take that chance. A cornerstone of Polish policy must be not to give the East Germans the feeling that their friends have abandoned them. He talked again about the question of irrational activities and in this discussion he made mention of two things: first, that East Germany’s statements will become more and more irrational if they are isolated and, second, that any hope for the development of exchanges and [Page 352] relations between East and West Germany which Poles encourage will diminish as the GDR becomes more and more irrational: conversations, trade, things of that sort. So, he said, “We must not abandon East Germany and we cannot therefore accept the sole representation claim as far as it applies to East Germans.” He thought the question of atomic weapons would be solved by the nonproliferation treaty.

He thus returned to the proposition that there is a distinction between normalization of relations and diplomatic recognition. He indicated that the Poles were unwilling at this time to move ahead and establish diplomatic relations before the conditions for normalizing relations were met.

Zloty Package. I discussed with Winiewicz the zloty package, pointing out that in the present climate this is of course very difficult for us to digest, but that I was very happy that I got solid backing from the Administration on it. I went over the package and said I thought the conditions that it imposed on the Poles were reasonable ones they could accept without too much concern. I said I did not want to suggest that passing of that part of the program which must go before Congress would be easy, but I expressed confidence that there is a lot of strength behind the President’s East-West program, some of it not as publicity conscious as some of its opponents, and my best estimate was that the bill would pass. Even if it didn’t, I thought it was highly important that it be brought before Congress because I regarded the Administration program on East-West relations as being in the long run as fundamental as that which is currently occupying our attention—the Viet-Nam question. For three reasons I thought the zloty proposal should be brought before Congress quickly: 1) because anything that isn’t in the legislative hopper by the first of May had no chance for a thorough hearing; 2) I think it can pass; and 3) even if it doesn’t pass it is highly important in terms of development of attitudes in the U.S. toward East-West relations that this issue be brought before the public in a practical, tangible way. I said I was hopeful that Poles would do what they could to get the thing moving. I knew Trampczynski had been busy and probably he hadn’t had time to give it full consideration, but the sooner we can get this out the sooner we can get it before the Congress.

He said he was glad to have this brought up and went on to say how much he appreciated knowing my attitude. At 9:00 o’clock last night he said he attended a meeting where the question was raised whether it was worthwhile in the present climate to pursue zloty package negotiations at all: Paul Findley was brought up at this meeting as typical of resistance to this kind of thing.3 “They asked my judgment of it, and my judgment was that we should go ahead with it,” Winiewicz added. He said it will be very valuable to have my judgment and he would take this up [Page 353] immediately with Trampczynski when the latter returns from Moscow this afternoon. He emphasized that the powers-that-be will be interested in my judgment.

I said there would be brickbats and I would get a few myself, but I thought it was worth it. The President and the Administration is genuinely interested in putting substance into the building-bridges philosophy and if we can’t come forward with this program now I think it will be an irretrievable loss in the development of the Administration’s East-West trade philosophy.

Consular Negotiations. The consular negotiations were dismissed almost out of hand as being held up because the Poles are waiting to see what the Senate does with the Soviet Consular Convention.

Ford Foundation Program. I discussed the history of the Ford Foundation program, relating my part in getting Stone and Birecki together last fall and my conversation with Birecki a week or so ago, my understanding that Birecki was to invite Stone here and the way the invitation turned out. I expressed my judgment that Stone and Birecki were very close and there was no reason in the world why this wasn’t back on the track now; it just needs some catalyst to get it moving. I was reasonably convinced Stone was interested, I knew it was of value to Poland. I noted that Czechoslovakia had just signed an agreement with Ford. At any rate, I was very hopeful that this could get back on the track and felt there was every possibility it would if reasonable heads prevailed. I said that despite Viet-Nam and many problems on both sides of the Atlantic, many of us were interested in maintaining as high a level of bilateral relations as possible; I referred to the Ford Foundation program as being non-governmental but symbolic of these relations. He said he would take this over personally; he had already talked to Jack Fisher about it and he knew Stone was as interested as Poland was.

Zloty Travel Proposal. I then raised the zloty travel proposal we had made on September 16, pointing out its importance to the many zloty-financed research programs (agricultural, medical, fishing, etc.) currently underway in Poland. I described the research in summary fashion. I suggested that maintaining this research was important in its own right as in terms of maintaining level of bilateral relations. I said it would be most unfortunate if programs deteriorated for lack of travel funds. I said I could understand why they had waited to see the whole zloty proposal before acting on this element, but hoped that now the whole package was before them they would approve this part immediately. He expressed surprise that it had not already been resolved and said he would take this up himself.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 POL–US. Confidential. Drafted by Gronouski. Transmitted as enclosure 1 to airgram A–528 from Warsaw, March 2. The meeting was held at the Polish Foreign Office.
  2. An apparent reference to the technical cooperation agreement between Romania and the Federal Republic of Germany. For text, see 642 UNTS 47.
  3. See footnote 7, Document 125.