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Digital Archive International History Declassified

July 19, 1954

FROM THE JOURNAL OF MOLOTOV: SECRET MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION WITH EDEN AT HIS VILLA IN GENEVA, 10:00 P.M.

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    Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov and British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden discuss the progress of the Geneva Conference thus far. They discuss the withdrawal of troops from Laos and Cambodia, the situations in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and how best to solve these situations. They also discuss the relations between France and Vietnam.
    "From the Journal of Molotov: Secret Memorandum of Conversation with Eden at his Villa in Geneva, 10:00 p.m.," July 19, 1954, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, AVPRF f. 06, op. 13a, d. 25, II. 8. Obtained by Paul Wingrove and translated for CWIHP by Gary Goldberg. Published in CWIHP Bulletin #16. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110509
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Present were [Andrei A.] Gromyko, Harold Caccia, British deputy undersecretary for foreign affairs, and Anthony [Rambold], Eden's principal private secretary

Eden welcomes V. M. Molotov and says that in his, Eden's, opinion the words about the withdrawal of foreign military personnel from Laos and Cambodia for inclusion in the decision about the negotiations between the representatives of the commands for Laos and Cambodia on which V. M. Molotov insisted at today's meeting do not have great importance since they are covered by the previous part of this phrase in which it talks about the withdrawal of all foreign armed forces from Laos and Cambodia.

Molotov points out that the combination of these two formulations gives this part a nuance which would be less distinct if the words about the withdrawal of foreign military personnel had been omitted.

Eden expresses his satisfaction that the conference has managed to adopt a decision about negotiations between the representatives of the commands for Laos and Cambodia. We have done what we could, he says, and now we can leave with a clear conscience.

Molotov asks whether Eden means that the ministers have already done all their work and that further negotiations ought to be entrusted to the belligerent parties.

Eden replies that he meant that the ministers have done everything that they could at this stage of the conference but, in his opinion, they will have to meet again to approve the reports of the representatives of the commands as well as to settle such issues as supervision, safeguards, etc.

Molotov replies that such a procedure for further work is evidently correct.

Molotov says that he does not understand the position of the French. On one hand, they are seemingly not in a hurry with the negotiations but, on the other, Mendes-France promised in the National Assembly to achieve a settlement of the Indochina issue by 20 July.

Eden notes that he does not understand this either.

Molotov notes that possibly [the French parliament] subsequently intends to extend the deadline indicated by Mendes-France.

Eden says that yesterday he talked with Mendes-France on the telephone and asked him if he planned to come to Geneva. Mendes-France replied no, declaring that he cannot come to Geneva. Thus, Eden continues, he has already lost three days of the time he himself had set.

Eden says that he was glad to hear that tomorrow Zhou Enlai will receive the ministers of foreign affairs of Laos and Cambodia. In his, Eden's opinion, a great deal depends on the talks about Laos and Cambodia. He, Eden, already said to Zhou Enlai that he was concerned that if Vietnamese troops continue to attack as they have done recently then this would provide fodder for new accusations from those who have a skeptical attitude toward the Geneva Conference and [would] say that Ho Chi Minh and his supporters are using the talks in Geneva as a front to conduct further combat operations. Eden seems to say jokingly that he hopes that Pham Van Dong will not display too much belligerency in the upcoming weeks when talks will be held with the representatives of the commands.

Molotov notes that Pham Van Dong is a civil person and belligerency is unlike him. It seems to me, continues Molotov, that, in stressing the importance of the issues regarding Laos and Cambodia, [we] also ought not forget about [those] of first importance, which are the Vietnamese issues.

Eden agrees with this, but says that from the point of view of the Western delegations there is a difference between Laos and Cambodia on the one hand and the issue of Vietnam on the other, since, in the opinion of the Western delegations, there is a civil war going on in Vietnam while events in Laos and Cambodia have a different character.

Eden again expresses the hope that now, when steps have been taken to start talks between the representatives of both commands, no large offensive will be attempted as long as these talks are being conducted.

Molotov states that, in his opinion, the danger is not whether a new offensive will or will not be attempted but that the patience of the people in Indochina, who have already been fighting for eight years, is starting to be exhausted.

Molotov asks whether, in Eden's opinion, Mendes-France's elevation to prime minister meant that the French want to find a solution to the issue of the war in Indochina.

Eden replies affirmatively but says that it cannot be forgotten that Mendes-France cannot capitulate and will agree to a peace in Indochina only on terms acceptable to France. The French will exhibit a genuine desire to negotiate, Eden continues, but he, Eden, doubts that Mendes-France's peace conditions were significantly different from the conditions of his predecessors.

Molotov notes that no one is demanding capitulation by the French.

Molotov says that in yesterday's conversation with him, Molotov, [US Under Secretary of State General Walter Bedell] Smith explained the position of the American government on the issues being discussed at the Geneva Conference. The Americans are evidently afraid that the French will make concessions that are too great, although there is nothing to indicate that, and the position of the US government is evidently to deter the French from finding a way out of the situation which has developed. At the same time as the French and American positions are quite clear, says Molotov, the position of the British is not clear.

Eden, as if joking, replies that the British have no position at all. Essentially, Eden continues, we think that the French ought to decide themselves what conditions they consider acceptable to conclude an agreement. We think that it is not right to tell the French how they are to act. It is possible, Eden added, that the position of the Americans is partly explained by the fact that, as allies of the French, they want the French to gain the most favorable conditions.

Molotov says that, all the same, the impression is being created that the Americans are interested in deterring the French from an agreement. We observed such a picture at yesterday's meeting, Molotov continues. The French declared that, in their opinion, the Chinese proposals deserved serious attention. The representative of Laos declared that these proposals were acceptable as a basis for negotiations. [US Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Walter S.] Robertson essentially spoke against both France and Laos. It is necessary to understand whether he wanted to be more French than the French and more Laotian than the Laotians.

Eden says that yesterday he received a telegram from London in which it mentioned a conversation which a Briton who had attended a lunch at the Soviet embassy had had with [Soviet Ambassador to the UK Jacob A.] Malik. Malik told this Briton that Eden was just as bad as [US Secretary of State John Foster] Dulles and that he and Dulles had simply assigned roles between themselves at the Geneva Conference in such a way that Dulles was to reflect intransigence and Eden was to play an appeasing role.

Molotov replies that he does not think that Malik could have said this or anything like this. But if Malik actually said that he, Molotov, would try to convince him that he is wrong.

Eden says that he told Molotov about this in passing and that he would not want Malik to have any trouble on account of this.

Molotov says that he received this report in confidence and can only make an appropriate hint to Malik, also in confidence. Dulles spent only several days in Geneva, adds Molotov, at the same time as Eden has been here for eight weeks. This alone speaks about the difference in their positions.

Eden agrees with this.

Molotov notes that Dulles evidently did not favor the Geneva Conference from the very start.

Eden points out that Dulles agreed in Berlin to convene the conference all the same.

Molotov notes that this still does not mean anything.

Eden says that he tried to convince Dulles not to leave Geneva, but that his appeals remained unsuccessful.

Eden notes that Dulles might still return to Geneva if the talks develop favorably.

Molotov says that in yesterday's conversation with him, Molotov, Smith mentioned his, Smith's, or Dulles' possible return to Geneva, but this was said very indefinitely.

Molotov asks Eden what, in his opinion, are the primary difficulties with which the Geneva Conference is still faced.

Eden replies that it is hard for him to answer this question and that all the existing difficulties will come to light in the next three weeks when the talks of the representatives of the commands both sides are held. However, he, Eden, thinks that the primary difficulties concern Vietnam since the issues of Laos and Cambodia are much simpler in their nature.

Molotov notes that all the questions regarding Indochina are interconnected. If the talks about Vietnam go well then it will be easier to solve the issues regarding Laos and Cambodia. On the other hand, success in examining the issues regarding Laos and Cambodia will promote a solution to the issue of Vietnam.

Eden asks whether Molotov is satisfied with the progress of the talks of the military representatives about Vietnam.

Molotov replies that he cannot say that he is satisfied with the progress of these talks. The French have manifested some desire to hold the talks. However, their actions were evidently connected with the government crisis in France.

Eden says that the French informed him that the representatives of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam have taken a more intransigent position since [French Prime Minister Joseph] Laniel's government fell [in June 1954]. For his part, he, Eden, thinks that it would be a mistake to think that Mendes-France will turn out to be more pliable than his predecessors.

Molotov says that he has not formed such an opinion that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam has taken a more intransigent position recently, since there have been no changes since the fall of the Laniel government in the talks between the representatives of the two commands about Vietnam. The latest proposals of the representatives of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam were offered even before the fall of this government.

Eden asks what Molotov thinks about the possibility of the ministers returning to Geneva. For my part, says Eden, I think that when the reports about the talks of the military representatives are presented after 21 days we will be able to consult one another diplomatically about the question of our return to Geneva.

Molotov notes that these ideas seem reasonable to him inasmuch as otherwise the ministers might return to Geneva when the ground for their talks still has not been sufficiently prepared.

Eden states that he had formed the impression from recent talks with Zhou Enlai that Zhou Enlai favors a settlement of the Indochina problem.

Molotov replies that he also thinks so. China wants calm south of its borders. This would unquestionably agree with its interests.

Molotov expresses satisfaction that more friendly relations between the Chinese and British have been established in Geneva.

Eden notes that this occurred with Molotov's assistance.

Molotov says that it depended on Eden and Zhou Enlai in the first place. Relations between the French and the Chinese, on the other hand, have changed little during the time of the Geneva Conference, although some improvement has been noted here.

Eden says that, on the basis of his conversations with Zhou Enlai, he has come to the conclusion that the PRC has no ambitions with respect to Laos and Cambodia and that there is reason to hope that these two countries will be able to lead a happy life as neutral countries without having any foreign military bases on their territory. It is based on this very assumption, Eden continues, that I stayed to work here in Geneva and hope that my assumptions will not turn out to be mistaken.

Molotov says that, in his opinion, Eden is not mistaken. The PRC does not, of course, have any ambitions with respect to Laos and Cambodia. However, in his, Molotov's, opinion some steps should to be taken in Laos and Cambodia which would be in keeping with the sentiments which exist in several regions of these countries. This, of course, is the internal affair of these countries, but nonetheless it requires a decision. On the basis of my conversations with Zhou Enlai and Pham Van Dong, Molotov continues, I have formed the opinion that the situation in Cambodia is such that a settlement of the issues relating to this country should not cause significant difficulty. The situation in Laos is more complex. Still more complex is the issue of Vietnam. But solutions to all these issues are unquestionably equally necessary.

Eden notes that Zhou Enlai might help in this matter.

Molotov says that it is the business of the French to obtain such aid.

Eden states that, in his opinion, if the talks of the representatives of the commands turn out successfully, then a solution to the question of monitoring might turn out not to be nearly so difficult a matter as it seems at the present time.

Molotov says that Eden previously attached inordinate importance to this question. Now, however, he seems to be holding to the opposite point of view. As regards the Soviet delegation, it is agreeable not to exaggerate the importance of this question.

Eden says that the question of monitoring still has great importance but its resolution might be made easier thanks to the improvement of relations between the sides.
Eden notes that much work has to be invested in the matter of coordinating the decisions of the Geneva Conference both regarding Vietnam as well as Laos and Cambodia.

Molotov says that the French have not displayed special initiative in solving these issues. It was possibly explained by the domestic political situation in France. He, Molotov, hopes that the matter will now proceed more quickly.

Eden notes that French governments are different [than other governments] in that they exhibit great energy only in the first weeks of their existence.

Molotov says that during these first weeks they will possibly be able to overcome the current difficulties in the Indochina question.

Eden says that before the Geneva Conference the international situation concerned him very much. However, in his opinion, the conference has done much to relax the tension in international relations. The danger still exists; however the situation has started to become less acute.

Molotov says that, in his opinion, in spite of its shortcomings, the Geneva Conference has played a positive role in this respect.
Molotov, seemingly joking, says that during the upcoming trip to Washington Churchill and Eden will be able to coordinate all the issues and help [bring] a favorable outcome to the Geneva Conference.

Eden replies that what has already been achieved in Geneva will help him and Churchill to hold talks in Washington瀮

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