Four men at Moscow
Meet Marshall the dead pan, Molotov the church elder, Bidault the fence sitter and Bevin, who is as subtle as a slow freight
MOSCOW (By Cable) At 15 minutes to four each afternoon a sleek Soviet-made “Zis” limousine, with liberal chromium adornments fore and aft, rolls out of the Kremlin’s main gate, swings left in front of the onionlike domes of Saint Basil’s The Blessed, picks up speed across the Red Square and cruises into Gorki Street, preceded by a pilot car carrying five black-capped civilian clothes NKVD men.
Traffic lights hanging over the 10-acre concrete square, at the foot of the grade leading from the Kremlin and directly in front of the luxurious Hotel Moscow, frantically blink amber as the pilot car gives a few authoritative honks on the horn to the natty blue-uniformed traffic policemen. Traffic pulls up. The energetic pace of Moscow’s hustling polyglot crowds slows down. Right-of-way is given to the big black “Zis” carrying Viacheslav Molotov, sitting stiffly in the back seat, to the day’s session
of the council of foreign ministers on its first leg in the long haul to German and Austrian peace settlements. •
At Pushkin Square, where the Izvest.ia office is located with its flashing electric news bulletins reminiscent of Times Square in New York, the amber lights flicker traffic to a standstill and it is the same farther up broad Gorki Street at Mayakovsky Square. A few more blocks and the limousine rolls into Leningrad Chaussée, splashing through dirty spring slush, and pulls up at Aviation House, which looks like a modern office building but was built as a “Yar” restaurant before the revolution. There, wealthy sugar and fur merchants could indulge their fancy for food, wine, gypsy girls and song in an atmosphere of Czarist splendor.
Those gay days are long since past and the building in turn became offices for aviation industry and more recently a Red Air Force officers’ club. Now it is the scene of the foreign ministers’ deliberations.
At about the same time as Molotov is making his
way along the sweeping boulevards, which provide such a remarkable surprise to foreigners coming to Moscow for the first time, Ernest Bevin is slumped in the back of the Rolls Royce of Sir Maurice Peterson, British ambassador to Moscow, who spent his boyhood in Montreal where his father was principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University until just after the first great war. The long limousine proceeds with speed and appropriate dignity from the British Embassy on the banks of the Moscow River, opposite the southern battlements of the Kremlin and its bulbous-domed cluster of churches.
The Party Gathers
HEVIN’S car swings around by the Kremlin, passes the long building which was formerly the stables of the Czars and now is the garage for the Soviet Government cars, and goes into Gorki Street, preceded also by a NKVD pilot car and the same blinking Continued on page 8
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General George Marshall comes from Spasso House, residence of the American ambassador here, and Georges Bidault from the French Embassy both under the same escort auspices as the others. The four separate two-car cavalcades are a daily midafternoon attraction for Muscovites, consciously proud of the fact that their capital is host to the most important conference since the end of the war.
The Russians have taken great pains on arrangements for this conference. Despite the terrible housing shortage in Moscow, where a family of three or four considers itself lucky if it has even one moderate-sized room to itself, the Soviet has completely turned over the 16-story Hotel Moscow to the Western delegat ions. It is a modern luxurious hotel, looking from Ihe outside a good deal like the Royal York in Toronto. Before the conference foreigners seldom had been inside the building and if was used exclusively for senior Soviet officials coming to Moscow from abroad or from the 16 Soviet Republics.
In the long lobby, with its huge statues of Lenin and Stalin, a score of English-speaking girls sit at a battery of desks prepared to help delegates get around the city. A fleet of several hundred new Soviet cars, made at the Stalin Auto Works on Moscow’s outskirts, stand by on the square outside, and for the equivalent of three dollars an hour you can ride around the cit y like a St. James Street banker in one of these “Zis” jobs—exactly like the one Molotov uses.
But there are no squads of motorcycle outriders roaring down the avenues as there were in Paris for the foreign ministers meeting nearly a year ago. There are no screaming police cars preceding the visiting dignitaries as they say there were in New York at the winter meeting. The Russians have not gone in for frills and formality and elaborate show'. The mood of this conference is one of straight business with only the usual two or three official functions to break the pace of steady work.
The Fate of Europe
BE VIN w'as speaking in dead earnest when he said t he other day that this was the most important session of the conference of foreign ministers ever held, and that t he whole fate of Europe may depend on it. There are few people who challenge his added words, that if the council could settle its very difficult problems “a sound foundation for the whole future of Europe would be created; if the council fails we might not have as good a chance again as this one.”
This sort of statement generally is high-blown verbosity at ¡international conferences but here it truly reflects the responsibility the foreign ministers all feel in this critical meeting which could achieve such a lot.
So, in the afternoon at four, the four ministers sit. down at the big round table in Aviation House in a pleasant, bright room decorated in rather obscure Egyptian style.
Bevin, his bulky frame crowded into a chair which always seems too small, sits with his elbows on the table and his hands slowly shuffling a few sheets of notes or documents. He sccwls through his heavy horn-rimmed spectacles and occasionally heaves himself around a few degrees to talk over his shoulder with some of his advisors, such as Sir William Strang, General Sir Brian Robertson, Sir Edmund Hall-Patch or Sir Oliver Harvey.
Bevin keeps a cigarette going most of the time, lighting one off the other and rolling the cigarette slowly across his mouth as he puffs. There is a wry look on his face, as if smoking disgusts him and is just another load he carries.
The wiry little Scots physician with him, Doctor Alexander McCall, who has a Wimpole Street practice in London, permits Bevin to smoke all he wants. But that is all. Vodka is out. The rigid discipline laid down by McCall is paying off, for Bevin seems in better health now than when he arrived. The doctor Continued on page 68
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Four Men at Moscow
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insists on a good deal more rest for the foreign secretary than he ever can get in London and it has a noticeable effect.
Marshall the Puzzle
At the conference table Bevin is very self-possessed. He is the old hand from the West at these meetings and in labors stretching over nearly two years on these high levels he has formed firm beliefs on how to negotiate with the Russians. He knows better than anyone else at this table the variations in Molotov’s repertory in debate. It takes a long time to learn the tricks, for these meetings are far remote from tradeunion sessions in England or Cabinet meetings in Downing Street. But Bevin
seems now to know when to hit, when to relax, when to stall, when to fall in line and when to be subtle or make wisecracks. Subtlety is not Bevin’s strong point, though. His humor moves rather like a slow freight train coming down a track—everyone can see it half a mile away. But this characteristic of Bevin’s usually brings Molotov the nearest to mirth he ever gets at a meeting.
It is quite an achievement to have the hard-headed Molotov react like this, for he is not given to humor. No one knows this better than Bevin. The other day he sent a case of Scotch to the Soviet foreign minister and in return received a case of Russian champagne. As he opened one bottle for some friends, the cork popped to the ceiling and Bevin remarked dryly, “Well, at least this sparkles.’’
General Marshall is very much the
new personality in the council. He has been feeling his way in this field, novel to him, very carefully and playing his hand extremely close to his chest. Being such a contrast in background and approach to his predecessor, James Byrnes, he is still quite a puzzle to the Russians who don’t seem to know yet just how to tackle this soldier.
Byrnes, a thin wisp of a man, used to make his statements at these meetings in his slow soft southern voice and then he would gently place his finger tips together in almost an attitude of prayer and look to the ceiling as if asking divine guidance. The Russians got to know the Byrnes system well. They liked him and admired him but also found they could anticipate him frequently.
Marshall is totally different. In precise chief-of-staff fashion he concisely makes his point and then sits stolidly waiting for the reactions, as if he were arguing a point with a group of five-star generals.
His face remains sober and dead-pan . most of the time. He does not signal his plays. He does not indulge in repartee which occasionally provides a safety valve for these sessions. This business here is very much like a crucial military operation to Marshall and he treats it the way he tackled all his military subjects throughout his career, with dead earnestness and determination.
There have been some people here who think Marshall has been too slow and the American case has suffered. I hardly think this is a fair judgment. He has been cautious, but not slow and although Bevin led the way at the early part of this conference, it was quite in keeping, for he has experience in this sort of negotiation which it will take Marshall some time to acquire.
Beside Marshall sits General Lucius Clay, chief of the American forces and administration in Germany. He has a quick mind and is a persuasive rapidfire talker who has more hard facts on Germany at his finger tips than anyone else at the table. Marshall began the conference without Clay but soon found he was indispensable and hustled this dark sharp-faced senior officer to his side from Berlin. Robert Murphy, American political advisor on Germany, in Berlin, is another strong figure beside Marshall. He has been in the diplomatic game a long time and came into real prominence as political advisor to General Eisenhower during the Darían affair in Algiers in the winter of 1942-1943.
Molotov, in appearance, never seems to change much. He always seems to me to have a certain resemblance to a benign church elder, with his small rimless glasses pinched on his stubby nose and dressed always in black suits which seem a little too tight for him. But the appearance and quiet voice are deceptive, as his conference colleagues know so well. He can drive as hard a bargain as any international negotiator of modern times.
Molotov on Home Base
Here at his home base in Moscow, though, he has been a different man. In the early part, at least, he has not displayed the slightest bit of tartness and even has been inclined at times to humor his old rival, Bevin. Usually now, when Molotov is getting away another kick at British policy in Germany, he will say his piece in Russian and then, as the interpreter prepares to give it in English, he looks across at Bevin with a wily half-smile and flicks his small hand like a choir leader giving signal for the sopranos to join in. Bevin just rolls his cigarette in his mouth again.
It obviously is a great advantage for Molotov to be negotiating in Moscow. There are far fewer of those long, frustrating delays which were common in Paris and other capitals while the Russians referred questions back to the Kremlin.
Here, Molotov can reach Stalin or other members of the Politburo by telephone in a few minutes from his office in Aviation House. Also, nightly conferences are usually held in the Kremlin, where lines of policy for the next day are settled.
While it is an advantage to Molotov, it also helps the conference proceed on a more coherent path.
The fourth foreign minister at the table here, Bidault, has the unenviable task of trying to keep his balance on the fence in the many issues between West and East. With Communists the largest political party in France, he has to try to be more cautious and sage than any man should ever be expected to be. But so far this dapper, urbane Frenchman has been remarkably successful in keeping a foot in both camps to the general satisfaction of everyone, including the French.
The hard news of this conference comes from that room where the council sits, from late afternoon into early evening, but there is another room in Aviation House where, in a relaxing informal atmosphere, senior delegates get together after the meetings each night for a while.
The Russians have organized a buffet there, where they serve vodka, Caucasian wine, light snacks and tea with lemon. Over a glass the views are frequently exchanged, which could influence the trend of the whole conference.
It was in this buffet, for example, that Bevin indicated to Molotov he was prepared to talk with Stalin on the Anglo-Soviet treaty revision and other outstanding issues. It was in this room a few days later that Molotov buttonholed Bevin, led him to a quiet corner and told him Stalin would receive him in the Kremlin at 10 at night.
Greater than Versailles
In Paris and New York Soviet senior delegates seldom patronized such buffets to fraternize with their colleagues, but in Moscow Molotov drops in for a half hour each night, along with Vishinsky and Gusev and there is a fair amount of genuine cordiality.
It is here that Vishinsky likes to banter with American delegates and tell them, ‘‘1 must always make certain to protect my reputation as a democrat.”
These first few weeks of the conference have demonstrated, clearly enough, the immensity of the task facing the council. Germany, of course, is the big question and Austria is taking a very secondary role, with general anticipation that the Austrian treaty will be completed in a comparatively short time.
But the German business is going to be long drawn-out. It is a peacemaking problem more difficult than that which faced the Big Five at Versailles.
Early in the conference each of the Big Four stated its policy on the main issues. Then began a period of preliminary debate, and finally a bargaining and compromising phase in which the goal was to reach sufficient agreement for the deputies of the council and its four permanent committees to proceed with the actual drafting of the settlement.
There is an important fact which one can’t afford to forget in trying to understand this Moscow meeting. The council did not assemble here with the intention of making any final German
I settlement. The foreign ministers ! came here to place the views of their separate governments on the same table and try to establish principles in mutual agreement on which the work of treaty-making can proceed.
Establishment of these principles would naturally involve some decisions which would be basic to any final German treaty, but this is not a conference from which finality on Germany can be expected. That will all come later.
If the council can agree on some of the fundamentals on the future of Germany, and can also reach agreement ! on new directives to be given to the I control council in Berlin until the final I settlement is ready, then the conference will have been a success.
It is a big order, but not an imposI sible one. The Russians are not going ! to be full of sweet reasonableness when j the showdowns come, but no one here seems unduly gloomy at the outlook, although the moods of these conferences change daily.
The most unexpected storm of the conference blew up over a question of procedure, focusing on whether the 18 middle and small allies are going to have any real voice in drafting the German settlement.
Arguments over this drew a lot of attention in the first few weeks. Canada and Australia, working through their diplomatic representatives in Moscow, have been taking a strong stand with Bevin that they be allowed adequate participation by the Big Four.
Australia is belligerently opposed to Big Four domination of treaty-making, as she was at Paris last summer. Canada is not fighting Big Four predominance directly hut asks that, she be given an opportunity to sit on the permanent committees of council if she chooses. Her interest lies in the economic and political committees.
Britain and the United States want to see countries such as Canada on the committees, but Russia is fiercely opposed. France feels the same, to a lesser extent.
But unless at least Canada and some of the larger allies who really contributed to the German defeat don’t get on these committees with the Big Four, we will see, repeated, the fiasco of last summer’s 21-nation peace conference. There, the other allies were presented with faites accompli by the big powers in the form of draft treaties with Italy and the German satellites, and no amount of wide-open debate and protest materially altered them from the Big Four pattern.
Half an Answer
But that is more dr less a side show. The biggest issue of all between the four powers is the question of the economic unity of Germany. All four
want it, but want it on their own special conditions. Bevin, for example, has firm orders from the British Government. He is not to agree to anything which would increase the tax burden of the British people by one penny from what they now are carrying in Germany for occupation costs.
The British and Americans have their two-zone economic fusion scheme working fairly well now, and they can continue with this without the Soviet zone if they have to. It is only half the answer, though, to German economic problems and everyone realizes this.
The question in the minds of all the Western delegates is this; If we bring in the Soviet zone to achieve economic unity, will we he taking on a serious liability that will skyrocket our occupation costs even more?
It is argued by some that the Russians have stripped their zone of everything they want, and now seek to unload the costly skeleton on the West, under the smoke screen of economic unity, and seek richer rewards in western zones.
I am not so sure this is the real situation in the Soviet zone, but conditions in the Russian zone will have to be made completely clear before Bevin or even Marshall will concede economic unity.
Next in importance to economic unity, among the most explosive questions facing the council, is that of reparations. The Soviet demands for $10 billions in reparations from German current production over the next two decades is staggering.
The recovery of Germany and resulting decrease in the British burden would be greatly hampered by such a millstone around the neck of Germany. On the other hand the British and Americans have not made any major claims from current production and want to give the German import and export program first priority, ahead of such reparations. Bevin and Marshall see endless trouble ahead in Europe unless Germany is allowed and helped to get on her feet, although they naturally insist it be under Allied control and supervision.
The third major question is that of a political structure for Germany and here the outlook is bright that it can be settled without weeks of debate. Despite Molotov’s insistence on what he calls a centralized German state, there is not really a wide gap between his ideas and those of Britain and the United States, which want a federal structure.
But without agreement on some form of economic unity, this political structure could hardly be created. So it all is thrown back to problem number one. On that problem, and the measure of the agreement these four strong, diverse characters can reach on it, may depend the future of Europe. -A