Washington talks: meeting with Malenkov - part 1

Return to list

Washington talks: meeting with Malenkov - part 1

P.M.

Read Eisenhower's message. This will be circulated in buff boxes. Read draft answer to Eisenhower. Propose to despatch this. Shall not invite Cab. decn. until I have E.'s further reply.
R. may suggest Moscow. Disposed to decline that.
I have exchanged many messages with President – in war and in present Govt. I must ask for confidence of Ministers in this. I have never sent messages to For. Secretary personages w'out consultn. with my For. Secretary. Reserve my right to communicate personally with Heads of Govts – tho' F. Secy. sees & has right to suggest reference to Cabinet.
Believe I can get better answer from E.

A.E.

Clear we shdn't go to Moscow. But Berne, at end of Geneva, wd. be a reasonable request. Hope P.M. will add that to his draft.

Sal.

Cabinet members must know where they stand.
Tho' these were personal views, they constituted gt. act of f. policy. Speech of 11/5 was personal, but bound Cab. unless they dissented. As P.M. has constitutional right to take any decn. But remedy of Ministers is to resign if they disagree. That is not a comfortable posn. If you reserve your absolute right to conduct such personal corres., we shall have to consider our position also.

P.M.

L.P.S. has expd. regret at my action in sending message to Mol.

H.C.

Such a big act of national policy tht. Cab. shd. have had chance of expressg. view before done. Some commitmt. in making approach at all.
If my view had bn sought, I wd. have bn reluctant to favour making such a move at this moment.
The tel., tho' personal, did involve our collective responsibility.

P.M.

I drew distinction btwn. enquiry & action. Action must receive Cab. assent. Thght enquiry wd. be permissible – if made with concurrence of A.E. He cd. have insisted tht. it shd. come to Cab.

A.E.

We had it in mind tht. RAB. wd. bring it to Cabinet.

R.A.B.

Tel. reached me in Norfolk on Saty. marked Private & Personal & no circuln. I gave some re-actions of my own : consultg. only F.O. official who had seen tel. Before I cd. send my comments, another message arrived fr. P.M. askg. wtr original message had gone.
Express my regret, if I misunderstood.
Must keep this in perspective. i) Was clear P.M. intended to consult Cabinet on return – was a refce. to Cabt. in first draft. ii) F.O. officials confirmed tht. this was not much more than continn. of A.E.'s contacts with Molotov.
I had no knowledge of what had passed in W'ton.

Sal.

Only 2 more days passed before P.M. returned. What was urgency wh. precluded waiting for proper consultn.

P.M.

I may have exaggerated urgency of my hope for strengthening world peace. Perhaps was impatient of delay when I was only makg. personal enquiry which wd. not commit Cabinet.
Cannot accept censure for action taken in good faith in accordce. with principles followed in my experience of Cabinets.
Wd. be unfortunate if Cabinet broke on such an issue – on which opinion wd. be divided in the country.
x/ Cd. not abandon my freedom of confl. corrce. with Heads & States. or to send such a message as this if shown to F. Secy. in advance.

Sw.

No-one challenges x/. A P.M. has also duty not to commit Cab. w'out their approval. Ques is wtr a particular message virtually commits Cab. This may not have bn intended. What is its effect?

P.M.

Cab. decn. wd. be needed before any action taken.

Sal.

Diffy. is this. Sitn. is not same as before message sent. Suppose Cab. decided or wished to decide it wd. be better not to go on. If exchange leaked, impn. wd. be given tht. P.M. wished to do this & had bn deterred by colleagues. That sitn. need not have arisen.

J.S.

R. will leak if it suits them. Hope tht. we will be kept in mind in drafting further messages.

P.M.

Have to live with risk of leakages – esp. in U.S.

J.S.

Cd. not our Amb. carry out some of these enquiries – in lieu of written communications – in case of Moscow

O.L.

No one ques P.M.'s right of corrce.
But Cab. responsibility can't be engaged w'out their knowledge.
Have we become engaged? Much more diff. for us to dissent.
But it does remain open for us, tho' more difficult, to w'draw.

R.A.B.

P.M.'s priceless power in such mtgs. A.E.'s contacts.
Leave major ques of action to another Cabinet.

P.M.

Will bring it fwd. when E.'s reply is received.
I may myself be convinced it's better not to go forward. But if I found myself at variance with colleagues, I cd. resign. Hope we may arrive at agreed conclun. No need to give M. detailed reasons for not going fwd. Cd. thank him, but say no further actn. for moment.

A.E.

Berne is more than difference of place. It wd. put difft. complexion on whole thing. If they won't come, we have at least tried.

Taken from C. 48(54) - Meeting held on 8 July 1954.