The British Embassy to the Department of State 1

top secret


On the 8th March the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs informed His Majesty’s Ambassador at Oslo that, according to reports received from three different sources, the Norwegian Government might be faced with a Soviet demand to negotiate a Pact, as soon as, or even before, a Soviet-Finnish Pact had been concluded. Although it was a foregone conclusion that such a demand would be rejected, the Norwegian Government wished to know what help they might expect to receive if attacked. M. Lange was accordingly putting this question to His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and to the United States Government.2

2. Mr. Bevin fears that there is ground for Norwegian apprehensions and that Soviet demands on Norway will in fact made shortly. As a first step, Mr. Bevin suggests that the United Kingdom and United States Representatives in Oslo be instructed to do their best to infuse some courage into the Norwegian Government. They could point out that Turkey and Persia have successfully resisted Sox let demands and that Norway would be ill-advised to put her foot on the slippery slope by sacrificing her right to conclude pacts with whomsoever she chooses. They could add that, if Norway required outside support to maintain her independence, she would be much more likely to get it by showing resolution rather than by temporising.

3. Nevertheless Mr. Bevin fears that such language may not suffice to induce the Norwegian Government to hold out and he considers that [Page 47] all possible steps should be taken to forestall a Norwegian defection at this time, which would involve the appearance of Russia on the Atlantic and the collapse of the whole Scandinavian system. This would in turn prejudice the chance of calling any halt to the relentless advance of Russia into Western Europe.

4. Two serious threats may thus arise shortly; the strategic threat involved in the extension of the Russian sphere of influence to the Atlantic; and the political threat to destroy all efforts to build up a Western Union. In this situation Mr. Bevin considers that only a bold move can avert the danger. Moreover, the pace set by Russia in Czechoslovakia, then Finland, and now Norway, shows clearly that there is no time to lose.

5. Mr. Bevin has for some time been considering how best to tackle a problem such as that which has now been brought to a head by the impending Russian move on Norway. He considers that the most effective course would be to take very early steps, before Norway goes under, to conclude under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations a regional Atlantic Approaches Pact of in which all the countries directly threatened by a Russian move to the Atlantic could participate, for example United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Eire, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, France (and Spain, when it has a democratic regime).

6. Mr. Bevin gave long and careful thought to the question of inviting the Scandinavian countries to join with the United Kingdom, France and Benelux in the system now being negotiated in Brussels. But he came to the conclusion that this would be a mistake, since France and the United Kingdom, with the Benelux countries, could not by themselves effectively defend Scandinavia against pressure. Nor was there quite the same outlook in France and the Benelux countries as in the Scandinavian countries in regard to the whole problem of Atlantic security. Therefore he decided against approaching the Scandinavian states at that time and cooperation with them has been kept entirely on the plane of the E.R.P. But now that pressure is developing against Norway, which might lead to the encirclement of Sweden, it is necessary to devise practical schemes to meet this danger. The most practical course, in Mr. Bevin’s view, is to work for the following three systems:—

The United Kingdom–France–Benelux system with United States backing;
A scheme of Atlantic security, with which the United States would be even more closely concerned;
A Mediterranean security system, which would particularly affect Italy.

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His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom are pressing ahead with the first system. But in view of the threat to Norway, the Atlantic security system has become even more important and urgent.

7. Mr. Bevin is convinced, therefore, that His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the United States Government should study without any delay the establishment of such an Atlantic security system, so that, if the threat to Norway should develop, we could at once inspire the necessary confidence to consolidate the West against Soviet infiltration and at the same time inspire the Soviet Government with enough respect for the West to remove temptation from them and so ensure a long period of peace. The alternative is to repeat our experience with Hitler and to witness helplessly the slow deterioration of our position, until we are forced in much less favourable circumstances to resort to war in order to defend our lives and liberty. In Mr. Bevin’s view, we can turn the whole world away from war if the rest of the nations outside the Soviet system become really organised, and in turn save Russia herself.

  1. Transmitted to the Department with a note dated March 11, 1948 from Inverchapel to Lovett stating that Mr. Bevin hoped to have some indication of the U.S. Government’s views before leaving for Paris on the 15th (840.20/3–1148).
  2. Ambassador Bay, in his telegram 134, March 9, not printed, referred to his conversation with Lange the day before when he had informed the Foreign Minister that he was not in a position to discuss United States policy on this matter (857.20/3–948).