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THE ALLIES: Palaver on the Eleventh Floor

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In Washington this week, the Foreign Ministers of France and Britain will meet with the U.S. Secretary of State to ponder the state of the Western World. A “poor man’s Bermuda” was what Washington wags called it, for this was a last-minute substitute for the conference of the Big Three leaders which was called off by the illness of Winston Churchill. The foreign secretaries will meet in less dramatic fashion in an air-conditioned room on the eleventh floor of the old State Department Annex. But their mission is just as important: to reinvigorate a taken-for-granted alliance that has shown signs of wilting in the hot, unexpected gusts of the Soviet “peace offensive.”

The agenda for the conference:

1) Trends in the Soviet Union.

2) Developments in Germany.

3) Western Europe’s defense (NATO, EDC, etc.).

4 ) Korea.

5) Indo-China.

The answers to all five turn on the interpretation of one: widespread signs of unrest in the Soviet empire. The Americans, eying the headlines on troubles in Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Rumania, are vaguely aware of a chance to exploit the Reds’ weakness and strike a blow for freedom. The question is where and how, and answers are not yet forthcoming (see NATIONAL AFFAIRS). Europe, by contrast, seems more relieved than challenged. Far from seeking ways to press the West’s advantage, the French in particular seem to regard the Soviet “thaw out” and the East German uprising as further proof that the Red army is in no shape to invade Western Europe. As a result, the French are in even less of a hurry today than they were six months ago to agree to a European army and West German rearmament. The West Germans, too, are less inclined to accept Konrad Adenauer’s stern insistence that they must join arms with the West before they can think of negotiating with the Russians for a unified Germany. Chancellor Adenauer faces the toughest election of his life in September. Before then, the Western powers have anxious and firm decisions to make.

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