Volume #17 - 927.|
RELATIONS WITH THE SOVIET UNION AND EASTERN EUROPE
Memorandum by Assistant Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
March 1st, 1951|
FORTHCOMING MEETING OF THE COUNCIL OF FOREIGN MINISTERS|
Before approaching the subject of the coming Four-Power talks in the Council of Foreign Ministers, it may be worth putting on paper a few general considerations concerning negotiation with the U.S.S.R. In the present phase of the international crisis, the Western powers are attempting to follow two lines of policy simultaneously. On the one hand we are actively preparing to wage a defensive war and on the other we are still pursuing negotiations aimed at staying off such a war. The Russians, for their part, appear to be pursuing a similar double policy. While no doubt they are preparing for war, they do not seem to have entirely abandoned the hope of gaining their objectives by out-manoeuvring the West round a conference table.
2. From the point of view of the Western democracies, this duality in policy presents difficult problems and leads to inevitable and sometimes dangerous contradictions. One policy is apt to get-in the way of the other. In their attempts to arouse their peoples to a more urgent sense of the danger of the international situation, governments may heighten the very tension which they seek to mitigate by negotiation. On the other hand, by entering into negotiation, the Western governments run the risk that their populations may be lulled into the belief that the danger is past and that no great efforts or sacrifices are needed.
3. The likelihood of a false sense of security arising from negotiation with the Soviet Union is not perhaps at the moment a pressing problem. For the tension has now become so heightened between the Soviet Union and the Western world that any fruitful negotiation is almost excluded. Indeed, the real danger is that we may have passed the point at which genuine negotiation is possible. This increasing improbability of finding a basis for negotiation is in turn partly due to our appreciation of the increasing imminence of war. Questions which even a year ago might have been the subject of negotiation have now to be excluded from compromise because they are seen primarily from the strategic point of view. For example, until quite recently it might have been possible for the United States to envisage a compromise over Formosa, but at present, when the United States estimates that war with Communist China may be imminent, they are unwilling to take any chances over a strategic position which might be valuable to them in war. Similarly, on the Soviet side, there will be an increasing unwillingness to make any concession which their military advisors disapprove. When both sides are thinking in terms of an impending war, no serious progress is likely to be made in negotiation. For this reason, if negotiation is to be successful, it may have to be preceded by a relaxation in the present strained relations between the Soviet Union and the Western democracies.
4. This pessimistic estimate of the possibility of successful negotiation at the present time may not apply in full measure to negotiation with China over Far Eastern problems. There, other considerations are involved - in particular, the possibility that Peking may have interests opposed to those of the Krendin. It is applicable primarily to negotiation with the Soviet Union over European problems.
5. Apart from negotiations limited either to the Far East on the one hand or to Europe on the other, there are from time to time suggestions that there should be negotiations on the world situation at the highest level - i.e., Truman- Stalin-Attlee talks. Such talks would probably be sterile or even dangerous at the present time. They might be contemplated in one of two sets of circumstances. First, they might take place in the unlikely event that preliminary negotiations with Peking over the Far East or over Europe in the Council of Foreign Ministers had attained a certain measure of success, so that the international tension was relaxed and the ground prepared for a top-level review of the world situation. Even in that event the principle should be steadily maintained that Far Eastern questions should not be discussed with the Soviet Union in the absence of Communist China. Otherwise the Soviet Union would speak for China, thereby increasing the dependency of Communist China on the U.S.S.R.
6. Alternatively, top level meetings might result from an evident and immediate threat of war - e.g., an East German attack on Berlin or a satellite attack on Yugoslavia. There might be widespread public support in the West for a last gasp attempt at direct negotiation with Stalin. It is highly unlikely that a negotiation in such an atmosphere would be productive.
7. To turn from the hypothetical consideration of negotiations with the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and France are faced with the early prospect of negotiation over European problems with the Soviet Union in the Council of Foreign Ministers. The chief purpose of this paper is to attempt some estimate of the objectives of the Soviet Union and the Western powers in entering upon this negotiation and the possibility of achieving a successful compromise.
8. The paramount Soviet motive in demanding Four-Power talks probably is the prevention of West German rearmament. The Soviet means for attaining this end has already been publicly disclosed. It is to propose a unified and neutralized Germany, from which all Occupation troops have been withdrawn. If the Soviet Government could achieve this result, their maximum objective would have been attained. To gain this end, they might even be willing to make what are often called "genuine concessions" such as the acceptance of free and secret elections throughout Germany. It might indeed seem worth their while to do so, even at the cost of losing their grip on the East German zone, when one considers what the position of a unified and neutralized German government would be. It is true that if elections were free the German Communist Parliamentary representation would be relatively small. It would, however, be more powerful than the West German Communist Party is today in relation to the Bonn Government. Moreover, it is quite doubtful whether the present Adenauer Government would survive all-German elections. Some new and weaker combination, less committed to the West, night come into office. The West German politicians who have publicly accepted the principle of German rearmament and alignment with the West would inevitably be weakened and discredited if the principle of a neutralized Germany were accepted. In this connection it should be emphasized that the West German Government, with every encouragement from the Western Occupying Powers, have already committed themselves very explicitly to the proposition that the neutralization of Germany would mean the absorption of Germany into the Soviet bloc.
9. In the event of the neutralization of Germany, the German masses, with their instinctive respect for power as such, might be expected to turn towards the East and away from the West, which they would feel had retreated in the face of Soviet pressure and abandoned its German supporters. A weak, unstable, inexperienced German Government would be installed in Berlin. The very fact that it was in Berlin and no longer in Bonn would be a physical symbol of the shift of German orien-tation from West to East. Such a government would, of course, be subjected to continuous Communist pressure within Germany and Soviet pressure upon Germany. It might take some time for this unified and neutralized Germany to drift into the Soviet sphere of influence but its direction would be charted from the day of its creation. If there was any doubt about its eventual destination the Russians could always play their winning card - the offer to return the lost Eastern territories to Germany in exchange for Germany's entry into the Soviet bloc. The Kremlin would, of course, have no hesitation in making such an offer and would have no regard for the promises they have made to the Poles. Thus the historic martyrdom of Poland for the benefit of Russia and Prussia would once again be re-enacted and Soviet influence would extend to the Rhine with German industry and German manpower finally attached to the Soviet orbit. This has been the nightmare of the Quai d'Orsay ever since the conclusion of the last war.
10. As such a development would so obviously fit the Russian book, the Soviet Government cannot have much anticipation that the Western powers would accept such a proposition. They may, however, hope, as a result of the forthcoming negotiation, to make some progress towards this eventual aim. They could hope to achieve a psychological victory which might be important in softening up West German opinion so as to make the attainment of this aim easier in the end. This they might do if they could convince the West German population that the Soviet Government had put forward sincere proposals for the unification of Germany on democratic lines and for the withdrawal of all occupation troops. It is true that they tried this trick at the last meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers on Germany and on that occasion the West German people did not respond. This time, however, the Soviet Government, as has already been suggested, may be prepared to go much farther in the way of concessions. Moreover, in the interval a new element has been injected into German public opinion in the shape of the rearmament issue. There is no doubt a good deal of genuine resistance to the idea of rearmament in Western Germany. There is also a very lively fear that inadequate rearmament may prove provocative and invite Soviet attack. The idea of neutralization is bound to have a very natural attraction for many Germans who hope to prevent Germany once more becoming the battleground in another war. Even, therefore, if the negotiation broke down without the Soviet Government attaining the objective of a unified and neutralized Germany, it might leave behind it a deeply disturbed and divided public opinion in Western Germany, thus sowing the seeds of trouble for the future.
11. Pressure on West German public opinion is, of course, only part of a vaster Soviet manoeuvre to convince world opinion that the Soviet Government is willing to go more than half-way in making concessions in order to gain its principal avowed objective - world peace - and that it is only thwarted in this aim by the obstructiveness of the Western powers. The forthcoming Council of Foreign Ministers will be used by the Soviet Government as a further occasion to demonstrate this cardinal propaganda point.
12. The Soviet Union has every reason to concentrate attention on the problem of German rearmament and, if possible, to separate this problem from its context of Soviet aggressive policies elsewhere, for the prospect of German rearmament awakens echoes of fear in all of Germany's neighbours, whether free or Sovietdominated. On this issue - more perhaps than on any other - the Soviet Government can count upon the genuine and unforced support of its European satellites. Meanwhile the hesitations of France over German rearmament have been unfortunately underlined in public by the precipitate and blundering presentation of this issue in the North Atlantic Council. It may be anticipated that Soviet pressure on France as the weakest link in the chain of Occupying powers will be redoubled in the period preceding and during the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers. At the present moment, however, Soviet pressure is focussed on the United Kingdom. The emphasis of Stalin's Pravda interview, followed by the most recent Soviet note to the United Kingdom, seemed dictated by the hope of splitting the British Labour Party on the issue of rearmament. The deeper Soviet motive, however, may be to drive a wedge between the United Kingdom and the United States. Perhaps we may anticipate the compliment of a special initiative of the same kind directed towards Canada. Stalin's specific mention of Canada as bracketed with the United States as a chief aggressor may foreshadow further attention to this country, in which case we shall probably be cast for the role of American satellite No. 1.
13. Indeed, the division of the present Western coalition is a primary - perhaps the primary - objective of Soviet foreign policy. It may be that it takes precedence even over the prevention of German rearmament in Kremlin calculations. Certainly the Soviet Government hopes to capitalize on the issue of German rearmament as that most likely to divide the West and this is no doubt one of their principal reasons for wanting a Four-Power meeting on Germany at this time.
14. Soviet political strategy is of course organized on a global scale. It is not possible to separate Soviet policies in the Far East from Soviet policies in Europe. The Soviet Government is expert in applying indirect pressures at unexpected points. The negotiation in the Council of Foreign Ministers may well be accompanied by such intensified pressures, perhaps at points as remote from each other as Yugoslavia and Indo-China.
15. As is so often the case in relations between the West and the Soviet Union, the three Western powers have been placed on the defensive by Soviet pressure for a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers. They have little hope of gaining anything from the forthcoming meeting and foresee considerable difficulty and even danger arising out of the negotiation. In such circumstances the aims of the three Western governments may be restricted to the following:
(a) to prove to their peoples that they are willing to make every effort, however slim its chances of success, to achieve an honourable compromise;
(b) to gain time while hastening their defence preparations;
(c) to attempt in the course of negotiation to penetrate Soviet intentions;
(d) the faint hope that the Soviet Union may be prepared to consider a genuine compromise settlement.
16. As to Western tactics at the Council meeting, the identical notes addressed by the United Kingdom, the United States and France to the Soviet Government have already revealed that their objective will be to widen the ground of discussion to include subjects other than Germany. They have already succeeded in obtaining a grudging Soviet consent to discuss other European issues. The Western powers will attempt to concentrate discussion on the broad topics of aggressive Soviet foreign policy and of heavy Soviet armaments as a threat to the West. They will attempt to put in the forefront of the negotiation such questions as the rearmament of the satellite states and the unjustifiable Soviet record over the Austrian Peace Treaty. The contradiction between Soviet peace protestations and the vast Soviet armed forces gives an obvious opening to Western propaganda. The emphasis which Stalin in his Pravda interview gave to Soviet demobilization suggests that it is worth hammering away at this glaring inconsistency.
17. Over the question of Germany, one of the principal objects of the Western negotiators should be to return to the offensive and to put forward their own plan for German unification on democratic lines and to make such a plan appear both genuine and attractive to the Germans. This may be very difficult if the Soviet Government is willing to make substantial concessions over such questions as free elections. Moreover, the Western powers cannot match the Soviet proposal for the neutralization of Germany. To do so would mean the withdrawal of Western Occupying forces. The probable consequences of such a policy at this time have already been indicated and it is to be presumed that the Western powers have no intention of following it. This, however, does not solve the dilemma in which they will find themselves from a propaganda point of view, if the Soviet Government offers to withdraw its forces from Eastern Germany. Various proposals have been suggested in different quarters which the Western powers might put forward in an attempt to counter the Soviet position. One of these was canvassed in a recent article in The Economist, which proposed that the "Austrian solution" might be applied to Germany - i.e., that there might be nationwide democratic elections in Germany leading to a unified government but that all four Occupying powers should continue to maintain Occupation forces in their respective zones. The Economist argues that the advantage of such a proposal would be that the Western powers would have made a positive proposal for German unification while at the same time avoiding the dangers implicit in the withdrawal of the Occupation forces.
18. Another suggestion has been put forward by Mr. Walter Lippman, who is in fact reviving an old idea when he proposes that Occupation troops should be withdrawn from a wide central zone in Germany to the German borders and that within unoccupied Germany a unified and democratically elected government should be established, accompanied by the neutralization of Germany.
19. Such ideas and other compromise solutions are worth considering if the Western powers are not to restrict themselves in the forthcoming negotiation to the purely negative process of demonstrating the insincerity of the Soviet proposals. One cannot, however, be very optimistic about reaching real agreement with the Russians on the basis of either of the two suggestions noticed above.
20. The West German Government have already emphasized that they desire to be kept in close touch by the Western Occupying powers with the progress of a negotiation which so closely affects their destinies. They may even propose that they should be represented at the Council meeting when Germany is under discussion. In any case, it will be essential for the Western powers to keep continually in mind the views of the West German Government and the reactions of West German opinion to the proposals before the Council, for this session of the Council will develop into a struggle to influence German opinion.
21. The question of timing is important in relation to the forthcoming meeting, both from the Soviet and the Western point of view. It has already been suggested that the timing of the Soviet demand for a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers has no doubt been carefully calculated in relation to Soviet moves in other parts of the world. From the Western point of view it would appear desirable to spin out the forthcoming negotiation over the spring and perhaps the early summer. If the Council meeting does not collapse entirely, the Council might adjourn and meet again later. In any case it may be as well for the West to keep in diplomatic negotiation with the Soviet Government at a high level during this period, which is estimated to be a dangerous one from the viewpoint of a possible Soviet attack in Europe. It is always possible, of course, that the breakdown of negotiation might be the signal for such a Soviet attack, although this seems somewhat unlikely.
22. The appraisal attempted in this paper does not leave much room for optimism about the outcome of the Council meeting. It seems more than doubtful that agreement could be reached on the unification of Germany at this time. Perhaps the most that could be hoped for from the forthcoming negotiation might be a tacit agreement to disagree, if this were accompanied by a relaxation in the present tension. It might be just possible to envisage the setting up of a Working Group to explore some of the problems arising out of the Council meeting pending further consideration by the full Council. If this were accompanied, for example, by a relaxation of Soviet pressure on Yugoslavia and a more accommodating atmosphere in other spheres, and perhaps on the Western side by a slowing up of the tempo of German rearmament, it might produce an atmosphere of detente in which further and more productive negotiation could take place. Such a development seems a fairly remote contingency. Yet the Western powers must recognize that a divided Germany is a continuing threat to the peace of Europe and that German rearmament is not in itself a desirable phenomenon. While not abandoning the hope of attaining a modus vivendi, they cannot, however, at this stage and in the present atmosphere consent to the creation of a unified and neutralized Germany from which the Occupation forces have been withdrawn. To do so would be to invite the collapse not only of the West German Government but of the whole North Atlantic Treaty structure in Europe.
23. So far as the Canadian attitude towards these negotiations is concerned, while we will not of course be directly involved it looks as though we might have a more satisfactory opportunity to contribute our views on the forthcoming Council session than we have had in the past. The political discussions in the North Atlantic Council Deputies may give an opportunity for an interchange of ideas to which Deputies of the North Atlantic Treaty Governments, other than the three Occupying powers, can contribute. The Occupying powers have already circulated to the Council Deputies their communications in reply to the Soviet Government's note regarding the Four-Power meeting. The Deputies have on their agenda an item which involves iscussion of the line which the three Occupying powers propose to take at the Council of Foreign Ministers. The North Atlantic Council itself, according to our latest information, will not in all probability be meeting until after the Council of Foreign Ministers has mct.
24. At previous sessions of the Council of Foreign Ministers, Canadian views have been communicated through the diplomatic channel in Paris, London and Washington. While they have often contained sound ideas, they have too often taken the form of a generalized essay, which has made little impression on those busy with the day to day work of negotiation in the Council of Foreign Ministers. On this occasion, if there is any extended preliminary discussion in the Deputies of the subject matter of the Four-Power talks, we may have an opportunity to communicate our views to Mr. Wilgress from time to time as the discussion develops. In this way the Canadian point of view may be brought to the attention of the three Occupying powers in a more precise and realistic fashion than in the past.