130. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Berlin


  • German Ambassador Wilhelm G. Grewe
  • The Secretary
  • Assistant Secretary Foy D. Kohler
  • Mr. Martin J. Hillenbrand,GER

Ambassador Grewe saw the Secretary just prior to his departure for Bonn, and again stressed the anxiety of his Government that something further be done to assist West Berlin and West German morale. He also said he would stress urgently in Bonn the need for accelerated German military build-up despite the electoral campaign. The Ambassador indicated that some thought had been given in Bonn to advancing the elections to September 3 but this had proved technically impossible.

In considering what might further be done along the lines of the Vice-President’s visit to Berlin and the US garrison increase, the Federal Government had thought of the possibility of a bilateral exchange of messages between the President and the Chancellor. The Federal Republic would much appreciate some gesture of this kind in the near future.

The Secretary said we would give thought to this problem, the solution to which must start from a clear concept of what the Berlin morale question is about. Unfortunately the West Berliners seemed to have focused on the situation in East Berlin and were tending to permit this to undermine those important components of West Berlin morale to which the West is completely committed. Ambassador Grewe indicated that one of the facts specifically weakening morale in Berlin and the Federal Republic was the fear that a too precise definition of Western vital interests which might warrant military action could undermine the essential basis of West Berlin by providing a dangerous area for Soviet nibbling. The West Berliners could not distinguish between Western acceptance of the closing of sector borders and other rights which we had also [Page 375] stressed. The Secretary commented that stress on vital interests over which we would be prepared to fight obviously did not mean abandonment of the broad range of other political objectives which the West would continue to seek but which we could not realistically expect to be achieved in practice under present circumstances. The Federal Republic obviously also had an important role to play in the maintenance of Berlin morale. The Ambassador indicated that Chancellor Adenauer had just written a dozen letters to the heads of governments of the uncommitted nations stating the Western case on Berlin.2 The Germans had also given thought to the preparatory action regarding UN countries which the West might take in advance of the UNGA session on September 17 and would be putting a paper on this subject into the Ambassadorial Group.

The Secretary stressed the problem of timing in regard to any possible Adenauer intervention with de Gaulle in order to obtain French concurrence to the operative paragraph on negotiations contained in the proposed reply to the Soviet note of August 3. Perhaps the Chancellor could make a telephone call to de Gaulle. If the weekend passed and the French were unwilling to accept tripartitely this agreed language, we would have to think of doing something ourselves. One possibility was to put the draft before NATO as a US text and to say we were prepared to take the initiative at UNGA in approaching the Soviets along the lines indicated, thus bypassing the French.

Ambassador Grewe said one problem in an approach by the Chancellor was that he might get the same reply from de Gaulle that Alphand had given him (Grewe) yesterday to the effect that, if the Germans favor negotiations, do they know where they will lead. While this was not the proper stage at which to define a new negotiating position, the Chancellor must have some idea of what the West has in mind in initiating negotiations. The Secretary observed there was time to work this out before the UNGA. He thought it important to say that the broad policies of the West on these matters, based on our strategic commitments, agreements and obligations of the Soviets, and our definition of our vital interests, were pretty well established. What was involved in formulating a negotiating position was more than a question of detail. As the Secretary had stated to the North Atlantic Council early this month,3 Khrushchev had made certain unacceptable proposals. The West would presumably counter these with proposals that would be unacceptable to Khrushchev. Talks would go on for a while and the question would then become one of what both sides would do in the face of de facto [Page 376] disagreement in lieu of war. The Secretary thought that our offering to provide a peaceful solution to the problem of Central Europe was important in gaining support for reasonableness of our position. It would help to take away from Khrushchev the advantage he is getting from reiteration of such phrases as “peace treaty”, “free city” and “guaranteed access”. The Secretary said he did not believe it to be true as de Gaulle suggests, that if we look to negotiations we are acting in the dark. The Allies have been working together for fifteen years. While more was required than merely dusting off the Western Peace Plan, we had in mind no major shifts in the direction of our policies. We have frankly tried to stay away from the details of our negotiating position, partly because of the leak problem.

Ambassador Grewe mentioned that the difficulty in Germany was that prominent American columnists frequently reported what they alleged to be authorized thinking of the U.S. Administration. These added up to a comprehensive catalog of concessions which the U.S. reportedly was prepared to make regarding Berlin, the recognition of the GDR, and European security arrangements. It would be helpful if the Presidential message to the Chancellor, referred to previously, could provide a basis to fight this kind of speculative reporting, for example, by saying something to the effect that the 1954 Paris Agreements4 were still the basis of U.S. policy. The Secretary said we would consider this, but he did not believe the U.S. should be forced, in effect, to put forward our negotiating position on the basis of newspaper speculation which could not be based on facts. Somewhat facetiously, he added that two things we could not say were that these speculations were not true because we had no thoughts on the subject or that the Federal Republic had gone further towards de facto recognition of the GDR than any other country. Ambassador Grewe commented with respect to the last point that the situation was somewhat different since this was essentially an internal matter of Germans dealing with Germans.

In response to the Secretary’s query, Ambassador Grewe said he had received the impression that Khrushchev had definitely speeded up his time-table during the past eight to ten days. However, Ulbricht’s speech yesterday5 may have been the signal that the process may now be somewhat slowed down. (The German Embassy later telephoned to say that further analysis of the text of Ulbricht’s speech indicated this judgment to be overly optimistic.)

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/8-2661. Secret. Drafted and initialed by Hillenbrand and approved in S on September 9. For Grewe’s account of this conversation, which took place right after the meeting of the Ambassadorial Group (see Document 129), see Rückblenden, pp. 494-495. On August 25 Grewe had had a similar conversation with Hillenbrand. A memorandum of that conversation is in Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/8-2561.
  2. A copy of this letter, dated August 23, is ibid., 762.00/8-2861.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 99.
  4. For text of the Paris Agreements, October 23, 1954, see Documents on Germany, 1944-1985, pp. 425 ff.
  5. For text of Ulbricht’s speech on August 25, see Dokumente zur Deutschlandpolitik, Band 7, pp. 231-241.