Memorandum by the Director of the Office of European Affairs ( Hickerson ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Lovett )

top secret

I have given careful consideration to the enclosed draft of a report by the National Security Council on “The Position of the United States with respect to Scandinavia”.1 While I agree with the general tenor of the conclusions and recommendations, I recommend that the State Department not approve this paper at this time but that we advocate that it be held in abeyance for the present in so far as the recommendations pertaining to Sweden are concerned. I see no objection to going ahead with the recommendations relating to Norway and Denmark, if that is practicable.

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I understand that the Atomic Energy Commission is on the point of asking this Department to undertake negotiations with Sweden looking to the purchase by the United States of as large as possible a proportion of Swedish production of uranium. I understand that the results obtained in the pilot plant near Stockholm of production of uranium from oil shale have been gratifying and that Sweden is potentially the second largest producer of uranium in the world. Sweden is endeavoring to purchase equipment in this country to increase her production of uranium and we are sitting on these applications for export licenses. I am told that Sweden can, even without our assistance, produce large quantities of uranium but that her production would be expedited and facilitated if she obtained this equipment.

It seems clear to me that we must fit this uranium question into our general policy with regard to Sweden. The enclosed draft paper of the National Security Council does not take this into account. In these circumstances I make the following specific recommendations:

That we informally ask the Atomic Energy Commission to expedite their studies and to give us as soon as possible whatever recommendation they wish to make in regard to our endeavoring to purchase uranium in Sweden.
That if these recommendations call for unilateral action by the United States, we try to persuade the Atomic Energy Commission to agree that this matter should be a joint US–UK project and that whatever requests we make of Sweden should be sponsored by both the US and the UK Governments.
That we discuss the uranium matter and the whole Swedish policy with those officials of the UK Government in Washington who deal with uranium and questions pertaining to Western Union (one or two British officials deal with both subjects) and that we endeavor to arrive at an agreed course of action in regard to efforts by our two Governments to cause Sweden to abandon its attitude of neutrality and to sell uranium to the US and the UK. The interests of the US and the UK Governments are identical in regard to both of these objectives and it should be possible to work out a line of procedure which meets the approval of both Governments.
That we inform the National Security Council that we are in accord with the recommendations contained in the attached paper in regard to Norway and Denmark but that we feel that action in regard to Sweden should be postponed pending a decision in regard to the important question of Swedish uranium; that it would be agreeable to us for the National Security Council to proceed with the recommendations on Norway and Denmark alone or postpone action for the present on the entire paper with the understanding that pending a final decision on this paper the United States Government will:
As regards Norway and Denmark, follow generally the recommendations set forth in this paper.
As regards Sweden, we will provisionally and until further notice:
not permit the export to Sweden of important equipment for the production of uranium.
not permit the export of defense material from the United States to Sweden until we have met the requirements of other countries which have demonstrated a willingness to unite their strength to oppose aggression. This would mean that we would not automatically refuse a request for an export license to Sweden but that we would not issue a license for material which the Brussels Pact2 and other like-minded countries wish to purchase; anything left over and not in short supply could be exported.
I am in full accord with the work which Ambassador Matthews3 has been doing to cause the Swedes to change their neutrality policy. He has not, however, taken into account this uranium problem and the time has come when we must fit this into the general picture. I therefore recommend that the Under Secretary send Mr. Matthews a top secret letter bringing him up to date on this matter.4 I discussed with Mr. Gullion who is in accord and is preparing such a letter for Mr. Lovett’s consideration.

  1. This draft report, not printed, was an antecedent draft of NSC 28/1, same title; for text of the latter, see vol. iii, p. 232.
  2. For text of the Brussels Treaty, signed by the Governments of the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, March 17, 1948, see American Foreign Policy, 1950–1955, Basic Documents (Department of State Publication 6446), vol. i, pp. 968–971, or Department of State Bulletin, May 9, 1948, pp. 600–602. For documentation on the negotiation of this pact, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  3. H. Freeman Matthews, United States Ambassador in Sweden.
  4. See letter of July 2, p. 716.