Minutes of the Fourth Meeting of the United States–United Kingdom–Canada Security Conversations, Held at Washington, March 29, 1948

top secret   security information

Present were the conferees of the first meeting, plus Ambassador Wrong of Canada. Ambassador Douglas convened the meeting at 1415, adjourned it at 1545.

Lord Inverchapel disclosed that London had been informed of the progress of the talks. Mr. Bevin was pleased with the progress made, but had reservations as to idea of approaching Italy prior to the Italian elections; as to inviting Swiss participation (which he felt would court a rebuff); and as to inviting Scandinavian adherence to Brussels until after a North Atlantic Pact was plainly in the offing (since he felt the Swedish would refuse and that attendant publicity would be unfavorable).

In response to Hickerson’s comment that the talks were too tentative to merit official reaction at Mr. Bevin’s level, Inverchapel indicated that Bevin understood that there were no commitments whatever and that work thus far had gone forward only on the pick and shovel level.

Douglas stated that any treaty article committing the parties to war in the event of aggression should in terms of American political realities either be on the model of the Rio pact (with definitions of “armed attack”) or should be explicit in indicating that each party would determine “municipally” for itself whether an armed attack had in fact occurred.

Douglas asked Gruenther whether, from the military point of view, we should be “biting off more than we could chew” in signing the proposed Pact. Gruenther stated that there were differing views among those of the military with whom the question had been very briefly discussed, but that the J.C.S. had not yet been able to consider the military implications.

Gen. Hollis said that the British Chiefs considered the Pact idea a risk, but that the worse risk was to permit one country after another to be picked off by Soviet Communism until we should face a more and more difficult, and finally an impossible, strategic situation.

Hickerson stated that, in his view, the objective of the Pact approach was to stop the Soviet Communist advance, and that this would probably be accomplished by the fact of a drawing together of the free nations in their own defense. Jebb agreed with this view, which seemed to be generally accepted by the political conferees, including Douglas. [Page 70] Gruenther made no comment on this concept, but offered one additional thought.

The necessity for being entirely clear that no commitment to aid a state, victim of attack, should require that aid should be delivered locally. We should retain freedom to carry out action against the aggressor in accordance with strategic concepts. It was agreed that this point should certainly be provided for.

The possibility of including specific mention of China, and possibly other areas thus far neglected, in the preamble to the Pact or in announcing the Pact was discussed. Hickerson stated that this was a question which would have to be settled in connection with the Pact, and that it was a question which the State Department would have to work out: the proposals thus far were, of course, merely skeletal outlines of what might be desirable, and left many important areas to be filled in.

Action: It was decided that the work thus far done should be examined by each group with a view to deciding upon an agreed form of words for the action which would be most desirable, and that a meeting would be called by Douglas no sooner than the afternoon of Tuesday, 30 April [March], at which this agreement might be obtained. There would be no consultation with American political leaders in the meantime, and hence no increase in the likelihood of security leaks. It was possible, but not likely, that Douglas might be able before then to get a reaction from Secretary Marshall as to whether he supported the Pact idea in principle.