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THE Geneva meeting of the heads of government ushered in a new period in international relations. Only time will tell whether we are on the threshold of the "era of orderly peaceful change" mentioned as a hopeful possibility by Secretary Dulles in his address to the U.N. General Assembly. The deadlock at the recent Foreign Ministers' Conference should dampen any undue optimism as to early settlement of major problems in Europe. Even so, we are probably facing a situation where some of the fixed points and guide-lines of the Cold War, which up to now have simplified life for our diplomats and information experts, will tend to disappear. It should be a period of greater fluidity in world affairs, and also, despite the recent intransigence of Mr. Molotov, of periodic if not continuous negotiation with the Soviet Union.
The tensions of the Cold War have produced a great longing for surcease among the peoples of the world, and especially the peoples of Europe. The new Soviet leaders, more flexible in their tactics than the aging Stalin, have been able to capitalize on that longing and to exploit the elements of disunity and weakness in the West. They have adopted policies, including some unexpected concessions such as the turnabout on the Austrian treaty, which virtually compel the United States to unhinge its own policies from former rigid positions and to negotiate seriously if it is to hold its own in Europe and keep the Western alliance together. Another factor of overwhelming importance is the growth of nuclear power on both sides to the point where a general war must be regarded, by governments and by peoples, as "unthinkable." Not only does this development put greater pressure on both sides to seek a real agreement on disarmament. It also tends to transfer the struggle to other levels, though without resolving unsettled problems, removing sources of conflict or reducing the dangers of military action short of general war.
The United States will thus have to meet the challenge of a many-faceted competition. It may also have unexpected opportunities, since the Communist bloc as well as the free world will be subject to new influences and new pressures. It would be unwise, therefore, to proclaim any one issue or meeting to be the "acid test." If agreements are not reached, the problems will still be there and we shall have to negotiate on them again. This is a prospect which justifies a search for some guiding principles in the experience of that earlier period ten to twelve years ago which was also one of fluidity, of opportunities (most of them lost) and of frequent negotiation: the closing years of World War II and the first months of "peace." The circumstances of today, obviously, differ widely from those of 1944 or 1945. But the main problem is the same: How to establish a basis for relations with the Soviet Union that will give the world some promise of real peace while safeguarding our own security?
The tragedy of that earlier period, all the more poignant because of the high hopes of the American and other peoples after the great sacrifices of the war, lay in the failure to reach a fair and stable settlement in Europe. As a consequence, one hundred million Europeans merely exchanged the Nazi yoke for that of the Soviets, while the free countries of Western Europe were forced into a position where they had to take desperate measures to safeguard their own independence and prevent the balance of power being tipped even more heavily against them. For that tragedy two developments were mainly responsible: 1, the presence of the Soviet armies in Eastern Europe and a large part of Germany, and 2, the decision of the Soviet leadership to push its power and control as far as conditions would permit.
These two developments were beyond the capacity of American policy and diplomacy to change except in a marginal sense. Geography, military decisions and the magnitude of their victories determined the location of the Soviet armies in the closing stages of the war. Their own concepts of national interest and of Marxist doctrine determined the course chosen by the Soviet leaders. To exaggerate what the United States could have done is as little justified as to maintain that its record is beyond criticism. Moreover, the principal objective of American policy toward the Soviet Union had to be to keep the Russians fighting as effectively as possible until Hitler's defeat was assured. Such an objective carried the inevitable risk that the postwar Soviet Union might present a threat to world security. What we have to ask ourselves is not why we "lost the peace" after winning the war, but to what degree American statesmanship was remiss in not perceiving the meaning of what was going on and in not using all its opportunities, in dealing with the Russians, to influence the course of those developments and mitigate their harmful effects.
Our mistakes of omission and commission at that time fall into three general categories: failure to assess Soviet policies correctly; failure to define our own objectives clearly and pursue them consistently; and failure to relate military power and military decisions to political objectives.
The miscalculations as to Soviet purposes were partly the product of naïve hopes of the President and some of his close advisers. But in many respects they were peculiarly the product of the psychological atmosphere of the time. The American people were fighting a global war. To them and to their leaders it had to be a war with some promise of a just and lasting peace to follow victory. Obviously, this would require that the major Allied Powers coöperate in establishing it. It was an easy transition from the knowledge that Russian coöperation was essential to the assumption that it would be forthcoming. President Roosevelt, after all, had some knowledge of Soviet history and only a year or so before had himself been shocked and incensed by the Soviet pact with Hitler and the attack on Finland. But his "grand design for peace" could be realized only with Soviet coöperation and he was not going to give it up without a thorough test.
The real cause for criticism is not that the test was made--it had to be made--but that it was allowed to last so long, and that hopes, unwarranted though understandable, were allowed to color official thinking on what the Soviet leaders said and what they did. For example, Stalin's soft-pedalling of Communism and his appeals to Russion nationalism and to religion were interpreted more as fundamental changes in the nature of the Soviet system than as temporary concessions and tactics necessary to get popular support for the war. Many in Washington were sure that the Soviet Government, in its own interest, would turn all its energies to domestic reconstruction after the war and that for this it would need contented neighbors and help from the West. This opinion had logic, but it did not represent Stalin's view of Soviet interests. It was a favorite theory that the association of Russia in the war effort of a world coalition would somehow "civilize" the Soviet Union so that it would conform to the general rules of international society. The President is said to have regarded the Soviet Union as a large and uninhibited St. Bernard puppy which would in due course be trained and "housebroken." Unfortunately he underestimated the puppy's innate unconcern with the rules of the house as well as his own capacities as a trainer.
Some of the analyses of today bear an ominous resemblance to those of the war period. Thus it is said that the Soviet régime is undergoing basic change favorable to the prospects of genuine coöperation in the West; that it may face economic collapse; that, beset by fear of nuclear war and by internal problems, it must retreat on the international front. To found policies on such theories, without further evidence, could be disastrous. On the other hand, to assume that no change has taken or will take place, that nothing can be negotiated and that conflict is inevitable, could be equally disastrous. The recent "soft line" may be a transient tactical shift to confuse and divide the West. It may be an attempt to stabilize the situation in Europe in order to concentrate on Asia. It may be something more fundamental, reflecting a desire for long-term relief from the burdens and dangers of the Cold War, perhaps for some real accord on disarmament. These theories must be tested by the facts as they develop before any one of them is made the basis for demands or for concessions and before we proceed on a course that may be wrong.
During the war period too much faith and credit were given to general Soviet statements such as support for a "free and independent Poland," or a "democratic Germany," even after it was clear that the Kremlin wanted quite the opposite. The break with the Polish government-in-exile, the liquidation of the Polish army in Russia and the formation of the "Union of Polish Patriots" were all indications--early indications--of a design to take over all of Poland. The Soviet attitude toward the Warsaw rising in mid-1944 should have left no doubt of it. Similarly, it should have been fairly obvious what was the purpose of the formation of the "Free Germany Committee," in which Germans who were longtime Communists and Soviet agents held leading posts, and of the prominence given to the Dimitrovs, Rakosis and Paukers as "well-known leaders" of the Eastern European peoples. It is not necessary to argue that Soviet policy was already fixed and blueprinted at that stage. Soviet calculations, then as now, had to take into account certain unknowns, including Western moves and reactions. But the Soviet leadership was setting a course on which it would advance so long as it could get away with it.
Misinterpretation of Soviet views on security was another example of self-deception. The Soviet Government advanced its demands for territory, for reparations and for "friendly" neighbors largely in the name of security. Western opinion was prepared to grant the legitimacy of Soviet concern over possible future aggression. But official Washington was mistaken in thinking that Soviet security needs, as Moscow would see them, could possibly be reconciled with American ideas concerning fair territorial settlements and the independence of the nations of Eastern Europe. To Stalin the only guarantee of security was the extension of Soviet power.
Again there is talk of satisfying the Soviet Union's "legitimate" concern for security in the event of the reunification of Germany. This is the rationale for the elaborate treaty proposal offered by the Western Powers at the opening of the recent Geneva conference. But Moscow, as was so evident ten years ago, seeks security not in promises from Chancellor Adenauer or the Western Powers but in maintaining and extending its physical control and in disrupting any "hostile blocs," such as NATO, that stand in its way. The United States may have to keep stating its willingness to conclude a general European security treaty as the only means of countering Soviet proposals and of satisfying German and European opinion that everything possible is being done for German unity and for peace. But it should do so in the full knowledge that security in Europe will continue to depend on our deterrent power, on the maintenance of NATO, and on the willingness of the Soviet Union itself to permit Germany's reunification and to take the pressure off Western Europe.
Throughout the war the American approach to the Soviet problem was marked by an almost exclusive concern with current military considerations and a lack of rapport among the various departments concerned. While the State Department was hampered by disunity at the top levels and cannot claim any shining record of clairvoyance and positive policy recommendations, it is worth noting that much of its thinking and its work on the Soviet problem which might have been useful in crucial negotiations never reached "the summit." Today we have better means of coördinating intelligence data and policy within the government, chiefly through the National Security Council. President Eisenhower believes in staff work. Nevertheless, it is well to recall the risks. of an excess of "personal diplomacy." Any President or any Secretary of State will, of course, rely on his own background and his own "feel" for the situation. His is the responsibility, and in any specific decision he may be right and his "expert" advisers wrong. Nevertheless, the conclusions on Soviet policy which become assumptions of our own policies are of such importance that they must be the best "national estimates," using all the knowledge available to the government.
The second major failure of the war period was the inability of the United States to develop a clear concept of the extent of its own interest in Europe and to pursue that interest with purpose and consistency. America's "peace aims," stated in the Atlantic Charter and later declarations, were an equitable and stable settlement of territorial questions, economic recovery and future unhampered trade, and a new world security organization to safeguard the peace. These general purposes did not provide an adequate basis for taking concrete decisions related to the shifting balance of power in Europe. Even though the outlines of that problem could be clearly foreseen, American leaders deliberately chose not to approach it in those terms. Secretary Hull, in his own words, was "grounded to the taproots in the iniquitous consequences of the system of spheres of influence and balance of power." Unfortunately, the Soviet decision to participate in a world security organization, on which he and the President counted so heavily, did not mean the advent of the rule of law and the end of power relationships among nations.
Early in the war the President and Mr. Hull made the decision that all territorial issues and specific details of the postwar settlement should be left to the peace table. They had several good reasons for such a decision, not the least of which was the danger to the common war effort of any squabbling over the spoils of a victory not yet won. As Sumner Welles has cogently argued, however, this decision prevented American diplomacy from even attempting, in the early stages of the war when Russia was in no strong bargaining position, to press for agreement on concrete territorial and political issues as the basis for an acceptable European settlement.[i] Stalin may not have agreed. At no time, even in the dark days of 1941, did he modify his claim to the territory gained in 1939-40 through collusion with Hitler. And even if he had agreed, would he in victory have kept a promise extracted from him in time of peril? Such an attempt, nevertheless, might have exposed at a much earlier date the real aims of the Soviet leaders and enabled the United States to react more rapidly and effectively in the crucial months of 1944 and 1945.
In any event, once the Soviet armies were on the march westward, it was apparent that decisions could not be postponed to some hypothetical peace conference. The Russians would make them by the technique of the accomplished fact. Yet when the time came to talk and bargain with the Kremlin, we took no position at all. At the Moscow conference of 1943, when Poland and Jugoslavia came up for discussion, Secretary Hull gave the impression that the United States had no real interest in Eastern Europe. President Roosevelt at Teheran left the burden of the discussion on this subject to Mr. Churchill. The papers prepared for the American delegation at Yalta presented a fairly detailed picture of the dangers both to our principles and to our power position that would flow from the continuance of what was going on in Eastern Europe.[ii] The tragedy of Yalta was not that American interests or free nations were "sold out" but that the clear issues that had arisen were not argued in forceful and concrete terms, and that the American negotiators were content with appearances of agreement that had no basis in political reality.
The Yalta Declaration on Liberated Europe was admirable in its proclaimed purpose of assisting in the establishment of broadly representative provisional régimes in the liberated and former enemy states, and then in the holding of free and unfettered elections. As Professor Sontag has said in these pages, America has no need to apologize for championing such principles.[iii] But the fact that Stalin accepted the American draft with only one insignificant verbal change, almost without discussion, should have provided more cause for second thoughts than apparently was the case. The ink on it was scarcely dry when Moscow imposed a puppet government on Rumania. Throughout all Eastern Europe the consolidation of Communist power went right ahead.
Stalin undoubtedly read the meaning of the declaration in the light of all that had gone before and especially of his agreement with Churchill the previous October, the famous deal which disposed of the fate of the Balkan countries in terms of percentages of Soviet and Western influence. Stalin probably regarded it as a harmless or even useful device behind the fine words of which the two Powers could proceed as they had already agreed; his restraint in the Greek affair would seem to confirm that supposition. The United States, he had some right to assume, was following the British lead in this part of the world. The vigor of the American reaction to his later moves in Rumania, Bulgaria and Poland must therefore have surprised him, though it certainly did not divert him from his course.
President Roosevelt at Yalta did not impress on Stalin that he had any real concern with what the Russians had already done in the Balkans. The State Department indeed, while well informed on the mass executions of "Fascists," deportations, persecution of non-Communist groups and studied humiliation of official Western representatives that marked Soviet and Communist conduct in those countries, had deliberately refrained from telling this story to the American people in order not to "rock the boat." Moscow could draw its own conclusions from that. Yet the American Government apparently regarded the declaration and the agreements on Poland and Jugoslavia as a serious basis on which Soviet-Western coöperation and the freedom of European nations could be built, not just as a device to beguile the public and cover a Western retreat or as a means of exposing Soviet bad faith. The President saw Yalta as superseding, not confirming, any arrangements Britain and Russia had made in allocating wartime responsibilities. Consequently, Vishinsky's diktat in Bucharest and Moscow's unilateral interpretation of the agreement on Poland, coming at the time of Stalin's offensive messages on the negotiations for surrender of the German forces in Italy, caused him deep concern. But he was then in the last weeks of his life and was understandably reluctant to admit publicly the apparent failure of all his hopes.
Then, with the advent of a new President and later a new Secretary of State, a period of uncertainty was inevitable. As all efforts were bent to assure the success of San Francisco, for which Soviet cooperation was necessary, a kind of paralysis overtook American diplomacy on the East European settlement at the very point when, with victory over Germany, we were freed from dependence on the Red Army (except, as we thought, in the Far East) but still had powerful forces of our own in Europe. Mr. Truman talked "tough" to Mr. Molotov, but Mr. Stalin did not change his policies. Potsdam, probably the last opportunity, brought no real change in Eastern Europe despite strong American talk for free elections. As at Yalta, after the wrangling the pressure to get some kind of an agreement preserving the fiction of Allied unity was too great to be resisted. After Potsdam, with American forces in Europe melting away, Western policy entered a period of compromises with earlier compromises, of continuing and not always graceful retreat.
The United States had fluctuated in a state of hazy uncertainty between a strong stand on principle for self-determination and free elections in Eastern Europe on the one hand, and on the other a "realism" which recognized that this area was remote from the centers of American power and a matter primarily for settlement by Britain and Russia. On the latter theory, the vital interests of America nowhere clashed with those of Russia, and thus we were in a position to play a sort of mediator rôle. Neither line was followed steadily and consistently. The principles remained general and unrealizable in areas of Soviet occupation, and at the same time they brought about a negative or at best distrustful American attitude toward Mr. Churchill's rather desperate attempts in 1944 to save something from the wreckage by the methods of direct and specific deals with Stalin and by military action in Greece. As for the rôle of mediator, this idea served only to annoy the British; Stalin never regarded his two allies as anything but an "Anglo-Saxon front" despite studied American efforts to avoid offending the Russians by any appearance of "ganging up" on them with previously agreed Anglo-American proposals.
In a review of this record it is only fair to recall the circumstances of the time and the limitations on American policy. The United States had abandoned isolation only when forced to do so by the war. The Administration was guardedly approaching the question of postwar commitments in preparing Congress and the public for participation in a new world organization to replace the League. No consideration was given to possible American guarantees to the nations of Western Europe, much less to those of Eastern Europe which seemed more remote and less vital to United States security, as in fact they were. The principles of free elections and national independence were in accord with our traditions. They also constituted a sound formula for a policy of cordon sanitaire, if this had been our policy, but to make them stick we would have had to risk a break with Russia; it was fatuous to expect to put such principles into effect with Stalin's coöperation and goodwill.
If Eastern Europe was somewhat remote in American eyes, Germany, the main enemy and the key to the settlement in Europe, was not. All the more glaring, then, was the failure of the United States Government to work out, in good time, a policy for Germany and to press it consistently in negotiation with the other major Allies. One unsettling factor was the continued adherence of the President to the idea of partition, despite the contrary views of Secretary Hull and of most of the advisers and staff of the State Department. Thus, as late as the Yalta conference the permanent partition of Germany was "agreed in principle" by the Heads of Government, and was left in the hands of a special committee in London right up to the time of Germany's surrender, when Stalin publicly abandoned it. Meanwhile, the aberration of the "Morgenthau Plan" and the interdepartmental controversies it engendered had taken American policy off on a tangent and left American negotiators, in the crucial period of the closing stages of the war, without instructions as to American objectives in postwar Germany.
Allowance must be made for the strength of the idea of punishing the nation which again had brought to the world the horrors of war and of making it impossible for it ever to do so again. Yet "unconditional surrender" and destruction of German power did not constitute a long-term policy for Germany or for Europe. The fact remains that the United States did not have a policy on the disposition of German territory or on the future rôle it envisaged for the German nation. Nor did it, in the arrangements for the Occupation period, find a way to keep open these questions for future settlement by assuring that the occupying Powers would deal with Germany as a whole. The Potsdam Agreement provided for "uniformity of treatment of the German population throughout Germany, so far as is practicable," and for treating Germany as "a single economic unit," but these provisions were simply ignored by the Soviet authorities in their zone. The same agreement gave Russia a free hand in taking reparations from East Germany, accepted Polish control up to the Oder-Neisse and the transfer of millions of Germans to truncated Germany. These provisions were not ignored, but on the contrary were "liberally" interpreted by the Soviets.
If earlier and more definite agreements on Germany had been reached, the results might have been the same as soon as Soviet forces came into physical control of Eastern Germany. If that is so, probably there were but two ways of heading off what happened: 1, avoiding all agreement on zones of occupation, thus taking a chance on where the various Allied forces would be when war ended and on a possible clash with the Russians in a scramble for territory; 2, seeking agreement on a joint occupation with forces of all occupying Powers serving side-by-side throughout Germany. The first alternative would have risked the possibility of having the Russians on the Rhine, which in early 1944 when the Soviet zone was agreed on seemed more likely than that the Americans and British would be on the Oder. The second alternative, which is more worthy of examination, was in fact seriously considered by the State Department in 1944, but it might have presented insuperable practical difficulties for the military commanders and caused intolerable confusion in the job of directing and controlling the Germans. Moreover, though it would have given the West some foothold in East Germany, it would also have put Soviet soldiers on the Rhine and in the Ruhr. In view of the negative attitude of the War Department and the probability that the Soviets would not agree to it, the State Department never pressed the proposal.
The United States might well, however, have pressed for a more favorable division of Germany. The actual line dividing the Soviet from the Western zones was proposed by the British and accepted without argument by Moscow. We could have urged a line running through Berlin, to keep the Russians somewhat farther east and to avoid isolation of Berlin in the Soviet zone; even a narrow Western territorial corridor would have made the blockade impossible, but this was not even proposed.
American diplomats, in negotiating the zonal divisions, were aware that they could become the basis for de facto partition of Germany. Yet they were not justified, until the attempt had been made to work out agreed policies among the three Allies, in proceeding on any other assumption than that Germany would be treated as a political and economic unit. As we have seen, agreement was not even reached between various agencies of the United States Government itself. And American negotiators can hardly be blamed for failing to guard at all costs against a possible de facto partition at a time when the President of the United States was known to favor a permanent partition of Germany into several states.[iv]
After Potsdam the policy of the Western Powers in Germany hardened and called a halt to further Soviet gains, a change made possible by the continued presence of their forces in West Germany. Will today's or tomorrow's negotiations provide any opportunity of reopening or reversing what happened in the lands to the east, after a decade of Sovietization? We should not concede that this is impossible. But it will require above all a clear conception of objectives and a strategy for pursuing them.
To attempt a detailed definition of such objectives, which must be related to our global situation both present and future, is beyond the scope of this article. In broad terms, the objectives in Europe presumably are a strengthened NATO, a free united Germany associated with the West, and freedom of Eastern Europe from Soviet domination. Any strategy to attain them must be rooted in political realities. Sir Edward Grey's dictum that events make diplomacy instead of diplomacy making events is not true without exception, but it carries an important lesson. We found in 1944 that our attempts at "solutions" by diplomacy were running behind events; that Soviet control of events was a fundamental fact in determining the context of negotiations and the character of the agreements reached; that the United States, in order to be "realistic," was forced into a diplomacy of compromise and retreat. It therefore behooves us, when pursuing settlements at the conference table, to pursue them also on the ground. We cannot, for example, successfully negotiate for German unity unless the political and economic situation in the Federal Republic remains sound and firm, unless our positions have the support of the Germans themselves; otherwise they will be founded on sand. Similarly, if the Soviets run into difficulties and increased pressures in their control of East Germany and the satellites, their negotiating position is bound to be weakened.
Furthermore, we should avoid the pitfalls of negotiation in generalities. Let us proclaim our own principles to the world but not rely for their fulfillment on Soviet adherence to new "Yalta declarations." We would have no excuse for being deceived by such a proposal for German unification, resembling the Yalta deal on Poland, as Molotov put forward at Geneva. To be worthwhile, any settlements will have to be specific and in such terms as not to trade concrete advantages for promises and to permit equivalent compensatory redress in case of Soviet violation. This is the virtue of the plan to proceed toward German unification and a European security system by gradual stages. A European security treaty by itself, whether it is one such as the Soviet Union has proposed or some other general formula, is the kind of agreement that would be meaningless and possibly dangerous in misleading European peoples, weakening the NATO bond and freeing Soviet hands for meddling elsewhere.
The record of our wartime decisions is punctuated by a number of occasions when a clearer conception of political objectives and of the rôle of military power in attaining them might have left the West in a much more favorable position than was its lot at the close of the final wartime conference at Potsdam. Such a conclusion is necessarily based on speculation. Most of the cases, moreover, involved decisions in which great weight necessarily had to be given to military strategy or prior commitments regardless of the political factors. But it is worth considering what would have happened "if."
The decision against a 1944 campaign through Trieste to Vienna or Budapest, based on unconvincing military grounds and on loyalty to the grand strategy agreed upon with Stalin at Teheran, killed the only hope of forestalling Soviet occupation of the middle Danube area; the President actually proposed that he and Churchill submit their differences on the point to Stalin for decision. The failure in 1944 to conclude an armistice with Bulgaria, which was not at war with the U.S.S.R., before the arrival of Soviet troops at the frontier delivered the country into Soviet hands, deprived the Western Powers of a chance to draw the line at the Danube instead of at the northern border of Greece. A decision in 1945 to push on and liberate Prague, instead of pointedly leaving this honor to the Russians, would have had immense symbolic and political value even though it might not have changed the fate of Czechoslovakia. The decision to withdraw American forces which at the end of the fighting held a sizable part of the Soviet zone of Germany deprived the West of its best bargaining counter to compel the Russians to fulfill their obligations with respect to Germany and Eastern Europe; although the zones had already been agreed on, it was quixotic to be in such a hurry to apply this past agreement against ourselves at a time when the Russians had torn up the recently concluded Yalta agreements and taken full advantage of their own military advances. Moreover, this handing over to Soviet rule of people who had thought they were under our protection, like the forcible repatriation of Soviet citizens, did irreparable damage to America's prestige and good name. Finally, there was the catastrophic demobilization of American forces in Europe; once that process began our paper protests could only be taken for just that.
The lesson of the relationship of policy and diplomacy to power seems to have been learned, though it must be learned by the Congress and the public as well as by the Executive. The power situation is now no longer that of 1944-45, with armies on the march and filling the vacuums left in the wake of Axis defeat. It is more fixed and rigid as both parties, tacitly accepting the line of the Iron Curtain as their military frontier, have built up their armed strength on both sides of it. But it is not static or unaffected by politics both national and international. The United States must maintain the power, both over-all and on the spot in Europe, to deter resort to force and to support its diplomacy. At the same time, in its diplomacy it must carefully calculate the effect of various proposals--such as for reduction or withdrawal of Soviet and Western forces in Germany or for arms limitation on both sides of the Iron Curtain--on its relative power position. We can perhaps accept a deal which affects both sides about equally, provided the political consequences are acceptable.
Obviously the mere piling up of military power will not ensure the success of American diplomacy. The possession of annihilating force by the United States will not unite Germany or bring freedom to Eastern Europe. Except in the unexpected event of a foolproof agreement on disarmament, however, this power is necessary to the security of the free world; and without it there is no hope of successful political and diplomatic moves to turn the prevailing balance to the free world's benefit.
Another useful lesson has to do with the nature and timing of the positions we take in negotiations. The danger of being pressed into a bad agreement because of unwillingness to face the public reaction to non-agreement is self-evident. Furthermore, having seen the folly of failing to take a firm position on a point until it was hopelessly lost, we should be aware of the dangers of remaining on the defensive, of letting negotiations be confined to areas where Western vulnerabilities can be exploited. Thus, in negotiating on Europe, we should talk about all Europe, about Russia's satellites as well as about Germany and NATO. The most fruitful approach, however, does not lie in flat demands for free elections in Eastern Europe, which can only result in unproductive deadlock, but rather in exploring such matters as increased East-West contacts, mutual withdrawal of forces and regional arms limitation on both sides of the Iron Curtain, which could open the door to more far-reaching developments.
Finally, there is the indefinable matter of public attitudes and "atmosphere." It is somewhat ominous that Soviet spokesmen are so insistent on proclaiming the end of the Cold War, even while they yield nothing at Geneva and extend the war to new areas. We can expect periodic shifts in the Soviet line as they seek to win advantage by one means or another. American opinion is bound to be influenced by such phenomena as the smiles and camaraderie of the "summit" meeting, the loudly announced reductions of armed forces, and the friendly farm experts eating their way through church suppers in Iowa, just as it is influenced by the stony obstinacy of Mr. Molotov. The best answer to the risks involved in such reactions is an increased effort to inform the public and a policy which does not fluctuate with each Soviet manœuvre. During the last war the American government and people developed an unreasoningly hopeful attitude which actually was more helpful to Soviet than to American interests in its effect on the negotiations of that time. Both as a government and as a people we shall have to look more than superficially at the smiling spirit of Geneva lest, as it fades from view and reappears like the Cheshire cat, we miss its resemblance to the grinning spectre of Yalta.
[i] Sumner Welles, "Two Roosevelt Decisions: One Debit, One Credit," Foreign Affairs, January 1951; and "Seven Decisions That Shaped History" (Harper, New York, 1950).
[ii] The State Department publication, "Postwar Foreign Policy Preparation, 1939-1945" (Washington, 1949), by Harley A. Notter, as well as the first part of the recently released but not yet officially published documents on the conferences at Malta and Yalta, provide some indication of the thorough study given to postwar problems by the Department during the war.
[iii] Raymond J. Sontag, "Reflections on the Yalta Papers," Foreign Affairs, July 1955.
[iv] Philip E. Mosely, "Dismemberment of Germany," Foreign Affairs, April 1950, and "The Occupation of Germany," Foreign Affairs, July 1950.