Memorandum by the Participants in the Washington Security Talks, July 6 to September 9, Submitted to Their Respective Governments for Study and Comment1

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Washington Exploratory Conversations on Security

This paper has evolved from the exploratory conversations on security problems of common interest which have taken place between the Ambassadors of Belgium (who also represented Luxembourg), Canada, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, the Under Secretary of State for External Affairs of Canada and the Under Secretary of State of the United States of America. It is the result of study and exchanges of views concerning the following agenda:

The situation in Europe as it affects security, including the question of Soviet intentions, the nature of the threat confronting the Western world, and the possible effect upon Soviet policy of action by the participating countries to increase their collective security.
Security measures taken and to be taken in Europe by the Parties to the Brussels Treaty. The importance of this aspect was fully recognized but it was agreed that discussion in the current conversations [Page 238] would be impracticable pending receipt of fuller information concerning the results of the military conversations proceeding concurrently in London.
Security relations of the nations participating in these talks with other Western European countries, with particular reference to the territorial scope of any security arrangement linking Western Europe and North America.
The nature of North American association with such a North Atlantic security arrangement, including the basic criteria and the particular considerations of both the European and the North American countries concerned.

As will be clear this paper represents no firm conclusions. It represents only an agreed statement on the nature of the problems discussed and the steps which might be practicable to meet them.


Developments in the international situation since the end of hostilities make clear the urgent need for further measures which will contribute effectively to peace and security.

The establishment of the O.E.E.C. and the signature of the Brussels Treaty are important achievements which indicate the intent of the peace-loving countries of Europe to work together in their common interest, and additional steps designed to bring about a substantial and permanent degree of cooperation and unity among these countries would materially improve the present position. But the situation demands further measures: those nations having a primary interest in the security of the North Atlantic area should collaborate in the development of a regional or collective defence arrangement for that area. Such action should be taken within the framework of the Charter of the United Nations.

i. the situation in europe as it affects security

The war, by weakening the Western European countries and by creating a vacuum in Germany has increased the strength of the Soviet Union relative to the strength of Western Europe. This has resulted in a situation in which the security of this area is immediately threatened and that of North America is seriously affected.
Soviet ideology is self-admittedly expansionist. Moreover, according to this ideology and doctrine the peaceful coexistence of the Soviet and non-Soviet worlds is impossible on any permanent basis. The Kremlin leaders aim at the maximum extension of their power and influence. International communism serves them as a powerful instrument for the achievement of this aim.
The westward expansion of Soviet power since the defeat of Hitler has rendered the Soviet Union strategically capable at the present time of dominating the continent of Europe by force. Soviet forces are so grouped and organized that they could take the initiative in military action at short notice. The military strength of the Soviet satellite countries of Eastern Europe has been so organized as to make a material contribution to Soviet striking power. These factors support the Kremlin program of intimidation designed to attain the domination of Europe. The Communist International under the new title of the Cominform is again active in the field of indirect aggression.
While there is no evidence to suggest that the Soviet Government is planning armed aggression as an act of policy, there is always the danger that, in the tense situation existing at the present time, some incident might occur which would lead to war. War might also come about by a miscalculation of western intentions on the part of the Soviet Government. Alternatively, a sudden decision by the Kremlin leaders to precipitate war might result from fear: (1) that their own personal power was being undermined, or (2) that Soviet strength in relation to that of the western nations was declining, or (3) that these nations had aggressive intentions toward the Soviet Union.
Soviet plans have suffered a political setback as a result of the implementation of the European recovery program, the growing determination of the western powers to draw together for their well-being and mutual protection, and recent developments in Europe such as the trend of events in Greece and Tito’s breach with the Cominform. There remains, however, a justified sense of insecurity among the peoples of Western Europe. The continued presence of U.S. forces in Western Europe is important since an attack upon them would bring the United States immediately and directly into war. Nevertheless, something more is needed to counteract the fear of the peoples of Western Europe that their countries migh be overrun by the Soviet Army before effective help could arrive.
The U.S.S.R. under Kremlin dictatorship, utilizing the technique of indirect aggression and the threat of direct aggression, is an implacable enemy of western civilization and the present situation in Europe must be regarded as extremely insecure. The problem is to consider how the countries of Western Europe and those of the North American continent can most effectively join together for mutual aid against this common danger and achieve security. The immediate purpose is, in the first place, to prevent a Soviet attack; in this respect weak measures might only be provocative; firm measures may well prove a deterrent. In the second place, it is to restore confidence among [Page 240] the peoples of Western Europe. United States and Canadian association in some North Atlantic security arrangement would be a major contribution to this.

ii. territorial scope of a north atlantic security arrangement and its relationship to the security of other nations

A North Atlantic security system composed exclusively of the United States, Canada and the present parties to the Brussels Treaty would not be fully effective. On the other hand, even the combined military resources of these nations would be inadequate to warrant their assuming hard and fast commitments for the security of a large number of geographically scattered countries. A line must be drawn somewhere. The problem is to devise an arrangement which would best meet the security needs of the nations here represented without over-extending their military capabilities.
To be fully satisfactory, a North Atlantic security system would have to provide not only for the security of the countries mentioned above but also for that of the North Atlantic territories of Denmark (especially Greenland), Norway, Iceland, Portugal (especially the Azores) and Ireland, which, should they fall into enemy hands, would jeopardize the security of both the European and the North American members and seriously impede the flow of reciprocal assistance between them.
Furthermore, other free European nations must be taken into account in view of: (1) the effect on the security of the nations participating in these talks should the political or territorial integrity of these other nations be menaced; (2) the necessity for maintaining and strengthening their Western orientation; and (3) the importance of avoiding any Soviet miscalculation to the effect that these nations could be absorbed into the Soviet orbit with impunity.
The circumstances and capabilities of the North Atlantic and Western European countries vary widely. Taking these variations into account rather than attempting to fit each nation into a uniform rigid pattern may provide the solution. It is suggested that the concept should include different categories of nations: (1) those whose membership of [in?] a North Atlantic Pact would involve maximum commitments for reciprocal assistance (with due regard for the resources of each party), and participation in the development of coordinated military potential; (2) those whose membership in the Pact would only involve limited commitments as, for example, to provide facilities for the common defense in return for commitments by the full members to defend their territories; and (3) other nations, not members of the Pact, a threat to whose political or territorial integrity [Page 241] would require action by the full members. The division of nations between these categories need not be rigidly fixed but should permit flexibility.
Full membership in a North Atlantic security system would involve undertakings for mutual assistance in the event of armed attack upon any party, provision for consultation if the security of any party was otherwise threatened directly or indirectly, and provision for the establishment of agencies to implement the treaty. The original full members would be Canada, the U.S., the parties to the Brussels Treaty and such other members of the North Atlantic community as are ready to undertake the requisite obligations and are acceptable.
While it might well be desirable to have Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Iceland, and Ireland as full members, these countries may not now be prepared to accept fully the requisite responsibilities. They should be consulted before conclusion of the Pact and, if they are not then willing to assume such responsibilities, they should be invited to accede to the Pact with limited commitments, the exact nature of which would be determined in negotiation with them. The nature of such commitments might vary as between countries but would be generally such that: (a) the full members would agree to regard an attack on any of these countries as an attack against themselves; (b) these countries would agree to defend their own territories to the limit of their capabilities and to make available such facilities as are within their power, whenever required, in order to provide for the protection of the North Atlantic area.
Provision should be made by which the parties may by agreement invite any other state in or bordering upon Western Europe, the maintenance of whose territorial or political integrity is of direct concern to the security of the parties, to accede to the treaty on conditions to be agreed between them and the state so invited. These new participating countries might enter the pact either as full members, or with limited commitments as indicated above, or under such special arrangements as might be necessary owing to their geographical position or to their international obligations (Sweden, Italy).
The case of Italy presents a particular problem. It is not a North Atlantic country and it is subject to the military limitations imposed by the Peace Treaty. On the other hand its territory is of strategic importance to the nations here represented and its Western orientation must be maintained and strengthened. The United States representatives felt that a satisfactory solution of the problem of Italy must be found, either within the formula referred to in the preceding paragraph or otherwise.
The original full parties to the North Atlantic Pact would [Page 242] issue a joint statement at the time of its conclusion to the effect that any threat of aggression, direct or indirect, against any other OEEC country (including Western Germany, Austria, and Trieste) would be regarded by them as a development calling for consultation with the object of taking any measures which may be necessary.
It was recognized that the ultimate relationship of Spain and Western Germany (if Germany remains divided) to a North Atlantic security arrangement must eventually be determined but that it would be premature to attempt to do so at this time.

iii. nature of a possible north atlantic security arrangement

Any North Atlantic security arrangement should be clearly and specifically defined, since the respective governments and peoples must know exactly what the arrangement is and what advantages and obligations are involved. The obligations and commitments of each party should of course be undertaken by constitutional process. With the exceptions noted in the preceding section, the security arrangements should be generally reciprocal in nature. The preference expressed in the U.S. Senate on June 11, 1948 that U.S. association with any such arrangements be effected by treaty has been noted, as well as the Canadian position in regard to such an association stated by the Prime Minister of Canada in the House of Commons on March 17, 1948.

2. The presence of U.S. troops in Germany not only entails U.S. participation in the security problems of Europe but also would in most contingencies, as long as they remain, involve the U.S. in any hostilities were they to break out there. The problem is, however, to recommend a long-term arrangement binding the parties to meet aggression jointly from whatever quarter and at whatever time. If the arrangement is to fill this requirement and those outlined above and to contribute to the restoration of confidence among the peoples of Western Europe, it would not be possible to base it on the presence of U.S. troops in Germany.

3. No alternative to a treaty appears to meet the essential requirements.

4. Consideration has been given to the question of whether or not conclusion of such a treaty might be considered provocative by the Soviet Government. Any arrangement linking the defense of Western Europe with that of the U.S. and Canada would reduce the chances of successful Soviet expansionist moves and would therefore encounter Soviet opposition as bitter as that which the European recovery program has encountered. Half measures might prove both ineffectual and provocative, whereas unmistakably clear determination to resist should serve to deter, and minimize the risk of, armed aggression. Soviet criticism could be offset by fitting the arrangement squarely [Page 243] into the framework of the United Nations and by providing not merely for defense but also for the advancement of the common interests of the parties and the strengthening of the economic, social and cultural ties which bind them.

5. Furthermore the existence of a treaty containing unmistakably clear provisions binding the parties to come to each other’s defense in case of attack would hearten the peoples and leaders of the countries concerned. It would assist them to surmount the difficulties still besetting them, particularly in Western Europe where confidence is essential to full economic recovery.

6. Inasmuch as the conclusion of such a treaty might increase the existing tension with the Soviet Government, the Western European countries are the more anxious that the assistance given to an attacked country should be immediate, and military as well as economic and political. It also seems necessary that, within the limits of sound military practice, the military and other measures to be taken immediately by each participating country should be planned and decided beforehand by the agencies established for effective implementation of the treaty. It was appreciated that some of these military matters were being studied in London at the present time and that the military meetings there might be considered as indicative of the sort of consultation which might take place under the treaty, in the military and other fields.

7. Consideration was also given to the effect of the conclusion of such a treaty upon the security of other free European nations which may not become parties. It must be made clear that its conclusion in no way implies any lack of interest on the part of the parties in the security of such countries. This difficulty could to some extent be met by providing in the treaty for consultation in the event the security of any of the parties is threatened by armed attack upon a non-signatory or by any other fact or situation.

8. The foregoing considerations have led to agreement upon the following basic criteria for such an arrangement:

It should be within the framework of the United Nations Charter, demonstrate the determination of the parties fully to meet their obligations under the Charter and encourage the progressive development of regional or collective defense arrangements.
It should contribute, through increasing the individual and collective capacities of the parties for self-defense, to the maintenance of peace and the greater national security of the parties.
It should make unmistakably clear the determination of the respective peoples jointly to resist aggression from any quarter.
It should define the area within which aggression against any party would bring the provisions for mutual assistance into operation.
It should be based on and promote continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid in all fields.
It should be more than an arrangement for defense alone; it should serve both to preserve the common civilization and to promote its development by increasing the collaboration between the signatories and advancing the conditions of stability and well-being upon which peace depends.
It should provide adequate machinery for implementing its terms, in particular for organized coordination and strengthening of the defense capacities of the parties, beginning immediately it comes into force.

9. In addition, the representatives of the European countries emphasized that it was particularly desirable that the arrangement should provide for the speediest practicable measures of material assistance in case of an armed attack, including individual military assistance by each of the members accepting full commitments as soon as such an attack is launched against any of them.

10. The U.S. representatives emphasized that U.S. association with any security arrangement must be within the framework of the Resolution adopted by the U.S. Senate on June 11, 1948 (S. Res. 239, 80th Congress, 2nd session). Of the four conditions specified by that Resolution three are covered by the basic criteria cited above: (1) that the arrangements must be within the framework of the Charter, (2) that U.S. association with it must be by constitutional process, and (3) that the arrangement must be based upon continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid. It was made clear that the third condition meant that U.S. assistance must supplement rather than take the place of the maximum efforts of the other nations on behalf of themselves and each other, and that assistance must be reciprocal. The fourth condition was that the arrangement should affect (i.e. increase) the national security of the U.S. In this connection the U.S. representatives made clear their belief that a North Atlantic security arrangement, if it is to increase adequately the security of North America and provide the Western European countries with adequate assurance that North American ground and air forces and supplies could effectively be brought to their assistance in time of war, should include the North Atlantic territories of Denmark (Greenland), Iceland, Ireland, Norway and Portugal (the Azores).

11. The United States representatives also considered that some of the articles of the Rio Treaty, which had been approved by the U.S. Senate, provided a useful basis for the formulation of an arrangement which would meet the requirements. At the same time they fully recognized the relevance of provisions of the Brussels Treaty. They considered certain articles of the Rio Treaty, notably those concerning voting procedure, unsuited to an arrangement for the North Atlantic area.

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12. The United States representatives emphasized that the United States could not constitutionally enter into any treaty which would provide that the United States would be at war without a vote of Congress. All representatives stressed that their respective constitutional processes must be observed and agreed that, as in any similar treaty, the question of fact as to whether or not an armed attack had occurred would be a matter for individual determination.

13. The Canadian representatives emphasized the importance which they attached to provisions, in any treaty which might be concluded, for the encouragement of cooperation in fields other than security. Such cooperation would contribute directly to general security. In other words, they felt that the purpose of a treaty should not be merely negative and that it should create the dynamic counter-attraction of a free, prosperous and progressive society as opposed to the society of the Communist world. The treaty should provide a basis for the organization of an overwhelming preponderance of moral, economic and military force and a sufficient degree of unity to assure that this preponderance of force may be so used as to guarantee that the free nations will not be defeated one by one.

14. The conclusion of an arrangement of this general character appears practicable. There is attached an outline of provisions which it might include.


Outline of Provisions Which Might Be Suitable for Inclusion in a North Atlantic Security Pact


The preamble would combine some of the features of the preambles to the Charter, the Rio and the Brussels Treaties. In it the parties would express:

The belief that, until security under the United Nations is assured on a universal basis, the security of free nations can best be strengthened by the progressive development of arrangements for collective self-defense as provided for in Article 51 of the Charter (Vandenberg Resolution);
Recognition of their common traditions of democracy, personal freedom and political liberty (Rio Pars. 6 and 7; Brussels Pars. 1 and 2; Charter, Par. 2), their common interests, and the economic, social and cultural ties which bind them (Brussels, Par. 3);
Determination to co-operate in fortifying and preserving this common heritage and, by uniting in continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, (1) to maintain international peace and security (Rio, [Page 246] Par. 8; Brussels, Pars. 5 and 8; Charter, Par. 6; Vandenberg Resolution), and (2) to provide for effective reciprocal assistance to repel armed attack against any of them and to meet any act of aggression or threat to their political independence or territorial integrity (Rio, Par. 8; Brussels, Pars. 5 and 8);
Resolution to combine their efforts in a North Atlantic organization designed effectively to accomplish these aims in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter (Rio, Par. 3 and Par. 8; Brussels, Par. 5 and Par. 8).


An undertaking not to resort to the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter or of this Treaty, (Rio, Art. 1).
An undertaking to submit every controversy which may arise among the Parties to methods of peaceful settlement (Rio, Art. 2; Brussels, Art. VIII).
(Note: Articles 1 and 2 might be omitted and replaced by reaffirmation in the preamble of the obligation in the Charter to settle all disputes by peaceful means. These articles would, however, provide a substantive obligation for parties not now members of the United Nations (Portugal and Ireland). Their inclusion, by providing Charter limitations upon the conduct of the parties, would be of assistance in countering charges that the treaty was directed solely against the Soviet Union.)
Provision for the encouragement of efforts between any or all of the parties to promote the general welfare through collaboration in the economic, social and cultural fields (Brussels, Arts. 1, 2 and 3; Charter, Art. 55).
(Note: This provision, if included, should be qualified by a statement similar to that in Brussels Article 1 to the effect that the cooperation envisaged “shall not involve any duplication of, or prejudice to, the work of other (economic) organizations in which the Parties are or may be represented but shall on the contrary assist the work of these organizations.” Its inclusion would give substance to the concept of a positive rather than purely negative treaty.)
Provision for individual and collective effort, on the basis of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, to strengthen the individual and collective capacity of the parties to resist aggression (Vandenberg Resolution).
(Note: This would provide the basis for the reciprocal extension of material assistance, in advance of any armed attack or threat to [Page 247] the peace, and for coordinating arrangements for production and strategy.)
Provision for mutual assistance in meeting an armed attack in the exercise of the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter. (Rio, Article 3(1); Brussels, Article IV).
(Note: With respect to the commitments of full members:
The United States representatives, feeling that approval of any treaty by their Senate would be greatly facilitated if the Rio text were adhered to as closely as possible, suggested that this provision should be on the following lines:

An armed attack by any State against a Party shall be considered as an attack against all the Parties and, consequently, each Party undertakes to assist in meeting the attack in the exercise of the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter.

The European representatives felt that their Governments would wish to see the provision conform as closely as possible to the corresponding article in the Brussels Treaty, and that it should therefore be drafted on the following lines:

If any Party should be the object of an armed attack in the area covered by the Treaty, the other Parties will, in accordance with the provisions of Article 51 of the Charter, afford the Party so attacked all the military and other aid and assistance in their power.

The following was suggested as a possible basis for compromise:

C. Provision that each Party should agree that any act which, in its opinion, constituted an armed attack against any other Party in the area covered by the treaty be considered an attack against itself, and should consequently, in accordance with its constitutional processes, assist in repelling the attack by all military, economic and other means in its power in the exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter.

The Canadian representative thought that the Canadian Government would prefer a provision along these lines.)

Provision for immediate consultation in the event of armed attack with a view to reaching agreement upon collective measures and, pending agreement upon collective measures, provision for the taking of such immediate measures as are within the power of each Party in fulfillment of the obligation contained in the preceding article and in accordance with the principle of mutual solidarity (Rio, Art. 3, Par. 2; Brussels, Art. IV).
(Note: The United States representatives believed that this provision should also be patterned on the Rio text and suggested that it should be on the following lines:

Each Party, pending agreement upon collective measures, will determine the immediate measures which it will individually take in fulfillment of the obligation contained in the preceding paragraph and in accordance with the principle of mutual solidarity. Immediate consultation shall take place with a view to reaching agreement upon collective measures.)

Delineation of the area within which an armed attack will bring articles 5 and 6 into operation. (Rio, Art. 3; Par. 3 and Art. 4; Brussels, Art. IV).
Provision to the effect that measures of self-defense taken under articles 5 and 6 may be taken until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. (Rio, Art. 3, Par. 4; Brussels, Art. V).
Provision to the effect that the Parties will immediately advise the Security Council fully concerning measures taken under articles 5 and 6. (Rio, Art. 5; Brussels, Art. V).
Provision for consultation (a) in the event of a threat to the integrity of the territory or the sovereignty or the political independence of a Party, (b) in the event of an armed attack against a Party outside the area delineated in article 7, (c) if the security of any Party should be affected by an armed attack against a nation not a party to the Treaty, or (d) in the event of any other fact or situation which might constitute a threat to the peace. (Rio, Art. 6; Brussels, Art. VII, Par. 2).
A statement that none of the provisions of the Treaty shall be construed as impairing the rights and obligations of the Parties under the Charter. (Rio, Art. 10; Brussels, Art. V).
Provision for establishment of agencies necessary for the effective implementation of the Treaty, including in particular Articles 4, 5 and 6, such agencies to be so organized as to be able to exercise their functions continuously. (Rio, Arts. 11 and 21; Brussels, Art. VIII). Provision that any two or more Parties might establish or maintain special machinery between themselves to facilitate the execution of the agreement.
Provisions covering accession, ratification and duration. (Rio, Arts. 22–25; Brussels, Arts. IX and X).
(Note: The question of including a provision for disqualification under certain circumstances of any of the signatories from enjoying the benefits of the Treaty requires further consideration.)
  1. This memorandum is referred to in subsequent meetings and correspondence as “the Washington paper.”