857D.20/9–3048: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Acting Secretary of State

top secret
us urgent

5130. For Lovett and Hickerson from the Secretary. Foreign Minister Lange Norway called last evening and brought up Hickerson’s suggestion to Norwegian Chargé Washington that discussions be held regarding subject regional defense arrangements.1 I was impressed by the frankness and sincerity of his presentation.

Lange stated unequivocably Norway desired have such discussions but faced difficult problem of timing. They have just agreed hold discussions with Swedes and Danes regarding Scandinavian defense. For following reasons Lange feels important these discussions take place before talks with us:

Sweden is only military factor in Scandinavia. In elaborating this point, said Swedes might be able develop trained ground forces of 600,000, their navy in Baltic only slightly weaker than Soviets, although air force small it is only air strength in Scandinavia, and Swedish industrial potential. He stressed vulnerability of Denmark and short distance narrow waters separating Danes from Russians at Lübeck. He stressed long borders of Norway, sparse population, and general military weakness. He is fully conscious of importance to West of southern Norwegian coast.
Lange reasons from above background Norway alone too weak [Page 257] military way to contribute anything except brief delaying action, but if Sweden could be brought in something more substantial might be created. Lange is convinced, however, Scandinavian arrangement itself insufficient and must be tied to a broader regional arrangement. He questions advantage to Norway of tie with present Brussels group and, at least by implication, seems to favor the North Atlantic regional concept. Norway, therefore, in Scandinavian talks wishes to convince Swedes of advantages outside tie. He is under no illusion this will be easy matter, but feels must try for reasons just set forth, and
Because of public opinion in the Labor Party and elsewhere in Norway which might not be prepared accept what would amount to break of traditional ties with Sweden until every avenue of cooperation painstakingly explored. Norway has insisted on termination date for these discussions, which he once stated end of January, and later as end of February.
Lange also raised Department’s injunction not inform Swedes our approach. He does not know whether or not it would be wise to do so, but visualizes possibility it might be useful some stage Scandinavian discussions.
Lange put two questions to me:
Would it be possible, considering broad world-wide situation, to defer talks with us until completion Scandinavian talks?
Would we be willing grant him discretion on question informing Swedes our approach?

I replied I would like to think over both questions. Please telegraph me promptly recommendations as to replies I should make with summary reasons therefor.

Repeated to Oslo as 17.

Signed Marshall.

  1. The suggestion referred to here presumably stems from Hickerson’s conversation with Nygaard on September 23 when he summarized the September 9 paper, stating at one point that “It contemplates that other countries in the North Atlantic area should be consulted prior to drafting the pact …” See airgram A–175, supra, particularly the fifth and last paragraphs, including footnote.