26 JANUARY 1951, Page 2

Slow Motion Diplomacy

Everything that is contained in the latest British Note on the Russian suggestion for a Four-Power Conference on Germany could have been decided within a few hours of the receipt of the last Note from Moscow, which was dated December 30th. 1950. Indeed, there is nothing in the latest communication which is really new, and it is difficult to see why it has taken more than three weeks to draw it up. The three Western Powers insist that discussion cannot be confined to the German question, since the causes of the present tension between the Powers are much wider than that ; they repeat that they will have nothing to do with the Prague declaration, which the Russians attached to their original Note of November 3rd ; and they continue to hold that there must be preliminary discussion on the agenda before the main conference can meet. The last named point is the only one on which the Russians have indicated that agreement can be reached. On the other two they have so far shown no sign of giving way. It is sufficiently clear that they must to some extent give way, though the widening of the agenda to Include questions other than Germany must some day be followed by some concentrated attention on the German question itself. But all this was equally clear three weeks ago. It now remains to be seen whether the Russians will modify their proposals. Whether they do or not, it is to be hoped that at the next stage the three Western Powers will not take se much time to decide not to change their minds.