222. Letter From President Kennedy to Prime Minister Macmillan 1

Dear Mr. Prime Minister: The meeting with the Chancellor has been successful, in the main. He is clearly in favor of negotiation, and he has undertaken to do his best on this with General de Gaulle, to whom he is sending a letter tonight by Carstens. He agrees with the plan for an effort to concert an agreed position at a meeting of Western Foreign Ministers in December in Paris, in preparation for talks with the Soviets early in the New Year, probably at the Foreign Ministers level.

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On substantive issues, too, we are closer to agreement, though differences remain. The Chancellor did not support the notion that the status of West Berlin is controlled by the Bonn basic law, and he noted that the offices of West German ministries in West Berlin could be reduced if at the same time the UN should put some offices in. He sees this as a problem of psychology, not principle.

On the Oder-Neisse, we still have differences. The Germans are willing to repeat their assurance that they plan no change by force. But they don’t want to settle the Oder-Neisse matter in the context of Berlin. On our side we have indicated our support for de Gaulle’s formula, but we have both agreed not to make an issue of it for now. The Chancellor himself is quite realistic on this point, but problems of internal politics weigh heavily here.

On dealings with the GDR we had no real trouble. The Germans quite understand that practical dealings will be necessary; they would rather have us do it; we would rather have them. I think it’s not a serious difference. On recognition itself the Chancellor stands firm: I agreed with him.

On atomic weapons we have made clear our strong view that separate national nuclear capabilities on the Continent are bad.

We continue to press for a NATO solution instead. The Germans will stick to the policy stated in 1954, but again they don’t want to make new statements in the context of a Berlin negotiation. The Chancellor made very clear his conviction that German unilateral ownership or control over nuclear weapons is undesirable, and Strauss expressed the same view; they agreed that their needs could be met within a multilateral framework.

On one point we strongly agreed: any negotiations must be directed firmly toward strengthened rights of access. The Germans will be quite forthcoming on other points, I am sure, if we can get something worth having on full and free access.

So we have come some distance and have still some distance to go. But the general tone of the meeting was good, and I believe we are now in a good position to work on General de Gaulle. My general impression is that the German Government is now more flexible than it has been in the past.

The Chancellor was very open and friendly, and his associates made a favorable impression on us. It was a much better meeting than my first encounter with him last April.2

Finally, I should report that we also discussed the military buildup. I was able to give the Chancellor an encouraging picture of our current [Page 634] estimate of the nuclear balance, but at the same time we agreed that the conventional buildup is of very great importance. I know the pressures and problems you face in this area, but I am sure you agree that the prospect of effective negotiation depends heavily on our ability to show unity and resolution on the military side. I know our military advisers are in close touch on technical aspects of these problems, but from the broad political point of view I think it is hard to overstate the value of any further military steps you can take as negotiations become more likely.


John Kennedy
  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. Top Secret.
  2. See Documents 16 and 17.