Memorandum by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Kennan) to the Secretary of State

top secret

Mr. Secretary: With regard to Mr. Bevin’s memorandum1 on the formation of a western Union, the following are my views:

1. The project of a union among the western European nations, under combined French-British auspices, is one which we should welcome just as warmly as Mr. Bevin welcomed your Harvard speech.2 Only such a union holds out any hope of restoring the balance of power in Europe without permitting Germany to become again the dominant power.

For this reason, I think you should tell Mr. Bevin that we welcome the undertaking warmly and that he will have our whole-hearted sympathy and support in proceeding with it.

2. However, if the idea is really that which Mr. Bevin sets forth in his memorandum, I do not see that a joint offer to Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg of a treaty modelled on the Treaty of Dunkirk would be the best way to lead into it.

Military union should not be the starting point. It should flow from the political, economic and spiritual union—not vice versa.
The introduction of the note of military defense right at the outset might frighten several of the outlying countries (notably the Scandinavians) rather than attract them.
The role of the German people in any European union will eventually be of prime importance. The general adoption of a mutual-assistance pact based squarely on defense against Germany is a poor way to prepare the ground for the eventual entry of the Germans into this concept.

3. Since the combination of Bevin’s memorandum and Inverchapel’s letter3 leaves some doubt as to what the British really have in mind, I think Inverchapel might be pressed for further details on this subject.

I am afraid there is a tendency among Bevin’s subordinates to view it too much as just another “framework” of military alliances. In my opinion, this would be negative and of little value. If there is to be “union”, it must have some reality in economic and technical and administrative arrangements; and there must be some real federal authority.

4. Again, as in the case of the recovery program, the initiative must come from Europe, and the project must be worked out over there.

People in Europe should not bother their heads too much in the initial stage about our relationship to this concept; if they develop it and make it work, there will be no real question as to our long-term relationship to it, even with respect to the military guarantee. This will flow logically from the circumstances.

George F. Kennan
  1. Ante. p. 4.
  2. Speech at Harvard University, June 5, 1947. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. ii, p. 237, or Department of State Bulletin, June 15, 1947, p. 1159.
  3. Ante, p. 3.