14 NOVEMBER 1947, Page 1

German Dilemma

In a little more than a week the Council of Foreign Ministers will once again be meeting in London and once again the black shadow of Germany is spreading over the diplomatic scene. The first meetings at Lancaster House of the deputies of the Foreign Ministers of Britain, France, Russia and the United States have had a deceptively leisurely quality, but already there are a sufficient number of indications that the fundamental division between Russia and the rest has not grown any narrower. There have been differences as to whether China should be treated as a convening Power for the main conference, whether all 55 belligerents should attend that conference or only the 191 countries which took a direct part in the war with Germany, and, most important and most ominous, whether the treaty should be completed before or after the formation of a central Government in Germany. On the last point the Russian deputy, Mr. Smirnov, argued that the central Government should be formed first and the British and American representatives replied that such a provision might delay the treaty indefinitely. The old Western impatience to get on with a settle- ment and the old Eastern willingness to obstruct indefinitely rather than give away a point are apparent already. Fundamentally there is no reason why agreement should not be reached on all of these points. In fact there is some evidence already that at least a mini- mum of harmony is possible. For example, all the delegates have agreed that they have a free hand to draw up the agenda for the main conference, and although there may be some disagreement as to the order in which the items suggested by the Russians should be considered (for instance Mr. Bevin's opinion that Austria should be dealt with first rather than last is well known) there is no dispute as to what should be included. In fact when the Russian delegate suggests that procedure for the preparation of the treaty, the nature of the German provisional political organisation, a progress report on the instructions given by the Moscow Conference and future economic organisation should all be discussed, there is less misgiving about the content of these items than about the particular bias which the Russians will impart to them. But overshadowing all is the question of partition. For although in the long run it is the one measure which could certainly be fatal to the peace of Europe, in tho short run it is the expedient most likely to be sustained.