160. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France1

1836. Paris pass USRO Stoessel, McGuire. Deliver Finletter 9:00 a.m. Sept. 29. Although second discussion between Secretary and Gromyko on Sept. 27 involved more probing re specific details of positions of both sides, Soviet thinking showed little actual movement and no conclusions could be drawn as to basic Soviet position behind conventional formulations on peace treaty and free city.2

Gromyko opened on subject of “European security” and “Strategic matters” saying that in speaking of strengthening European security Soviets mean conclusion of peace treaty with Germany and drawing a line under World War II.

Secretary said both US and USSR had interest in European security but Soviet proposals provide too narrow framework. Soviets requested proposals but only within their narrow framework. Suggested agenda might be “Germany, Berlin, and European Security” with each side free to say what it wishes.

Gromyko said peace treaty not conjured up by Soviets but brought to fore by life itself. Sixteen years etc., etc. Added since Soviets located in Europe they especially interested European security. US-USSR agreement could prevent major nuclear war and this was most important thing. Therefore both countries must do utmost to bring positions closer together. Developments in field of military technology made matter urgent. Soviets of course seeking nothing for selves in peace treaty. Had made own proposals now waiting for West’s on a peaceful settlement—on a peace treaty. Things moving too slowly.

Secretary agreed US and USSR have common interest in preventing major conflict. US would not be drawn by others into doing anything not of vital interest to US. Believed Soviet position analogous. Situation re Germany and Berlin not entirely satisfactory to either side but peaceful modus vivendi exists. West not seeking to change by force. Soviets had protected their presumed vital interest in refugee question by unilateral action. US not concerned re peace treaty per se but re consequences which Soviets say would flow therefrom. These challenge vital [Page 440] Western interests. We prepared discuss access with Soviets but not with Ulbricht whose statements not always in accord with Khrushchev’s.

Secretary said “state of war” in Berlin legal fiction not actual fact.GDR “sovereignty” also legal concept. We find no vital Soviet interest affected by continuance existing situation. Ulbricht clearly wished affect West Berlin by control of traffic.

Gromyko said useful that Secretary recognized situation in Germany and Berlin not satisfactory. However, US must go further and say how situation should be corrected. Said he not prepared believe state of war legal fiction. Soviet Union regarded situation quite differently. Unsettled German borders, including that between two German states, revanchism, militarism not theory to Soviets. Peace treaty not theory or legal fiction to Soviets but rather what West calls vital interests.

Turning to Western rights in West Berlin Gromyko said peace treaty ending state of war would end rights. Soviets could not permit West prevent conclusion peace treaty. After treaty, all relationships with West Berlin would have to be on basis agreement with GDR. Soviets can be involved in guaranteeing access to West Berlin only if there is agreed solution among West, USSR, GDR, and other parties concerned. However, if treaty concluded with only one German state, Soviet Union could assume no such obligation. Ulbricht’s statements confirm that GDR would respect its obligations. If two sides did not rely on effectiveness their own guarantees, agreement difficult to conceive.

Secretary had unfortunately failed answer some Gromyko questions, Soviet Foreign Minister continued. Soviets prepared listen any proposals re broadening framework. Said Soviets trying bring two sides closer together but if Western press correct in hinting that Secretary merely trying create appearance of negotiations obviously could be no agreement.

Peace conference should be convened. Soviets trying convince US satisfactory access arrangements could be made but its statements designed to meet Western needs were ignored.

Secretary replied that press reports Gromyko cited do not represent real situation. True Germany divided but Berlin not part of East Germany. Soviet peace treaty could not dispose of US rights. US has access rights which except for short period of difficulty have been fully acknowledged by Soviets since 1945. Soviets have obligations toward US rights and US fails see how Soviets plan discharge obligations. Secretary then read Gromyko two statements by Ulbricht—first made on June 15, 1961, to effect “What is or is not to be permitted in West Berlin will be specified in the peace treaty”—second, made same date, to effect “There are people in West Germany who would like us to mobilize building [Page 441] workers of GDR capital to put up a wall . . . nobody intends to put up a wall.”3

Secretary said since Soviets want change, up to them not us to demonstrate how our rights would be guaranteed.

If there were clear understanding Western rights in and access to Berlin, we could look into broader questions relating to Germany and security arrangements in order to improve stability in Central Europe. However, we hesitant to go into broader questions when our basic rights being questioned. Secretary emphasized could not leave impression in any way that arrangement between Soviets and GDR can in any respect affect our rights in Berlin. We have examined carefully what Soviets say re access but main impression we received was one of uncertainty. Since these vital matters for us naturally our attention focuses on them.

Re Gromyko’s question at previous meeting as to peace conference, Secretary said success of any conference clearly not possible unless governments of primary interest get together first to see how might work out and whether common views could be found. If views of powers primarily concerned are brought closer together, then we could see how any agreement we might be able to reach could be formalized.

Next meeting scheduled September 30, 10:30 a.m.

For Finletter: You may draw on foregoing for NAC presentation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/9-2861. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Cash; cleared by Hillenbrand, Fessenden, SOV, and S/S; and approved by Kohler. Repeated to Bonn, London, Moscow, Berlin, and USUN.
  2. A 15-page memorandum of this conversation is ibid., 611.61/9-2761.
  3. Ellipsis in the source text. For a transcript of Ulbricht’s press conference on June 15, see Dokumente zur Deutschlandpolitik, pp. 925-946. For extracts, see Documents on Germany, 1944-1985, pp. 737-744.