London Council of Foreign Ministers meeting begins - HISTORY
Year
1947

London Council of Foreign Ministers meeting begins

Meeting in what a newspaper report called “an atmosphere of utter gloom,” representatives from the United States, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union come together to discuss the fate of postwar Europe. The focus of the meeting was on the future of Germany. The atmosphere never appreciably brightened, and the meeting dissolved in acrimony and recriminations in December.The issue of what would become of Germany, which had been divided into sections occupied by forces from the four nations since the end of the war in 1945, was the key to understanding the failure of the meeting. The American delegation, headed by Secretary of State George C. Marshall, insisted on Western Germany’s participation in the European Recovery Program (ERP). This was the so-called Marshall Plan through which the United States pumped billions into the war-torn nations of western Europe in an effort to revive their sagging economies and establish a bulwark against the advance of communism in Europe. The Soviets, led by Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, responded by proposing an early reunification of Germany with no participation by that nation in the ERP. They also demanded heavy reparations from Germany. Marshall, French foreign minister Georges Bidault, and British foreign secretary Ernest Bevin opposed any plan that sought to economically cripple Western Germany or draw it away from western Europe, since Germany’s economic recovery was seen as essential to the recovery of all of western Europe. Since neither side was willing to compromise these positions in any essential form, the talks were doomed to collapse, which is just what happened. A newspaper account of the last minutes of the meeting was telling. Foreign Secretary Bevin asked the group, “Any suggestion as to the time or place of the next meeting?” This query was met with “dead silence.”In fact, despite the gloomy predictions for the meeting, it went as well as U.S. policy makers could have hoped. They staved off Russian attempts to push forward with German reunification and steadfastly supported Western Germany’s participation in the ERP. They had also decided prior to the meeting that should the talks fail, it should be made to appear that the Soviets were at fault. This they accomplished.

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