Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs (Achilles)
Subject: U.S. Support for Brussels Treaty
|Participants:||The Prime Minister of Belgium|
|The Belgian Ambassador|
|The Acting Secretary|
The Prime Minister came in to pay a courtesy call and to exchange views on the current situation in Europe. He began by asking whether we considered the Five-Power Treaty satisfactory.
The Acting Secretary replied that we considered it very satisfactory indeed and the M. Spaak’s visit was most opportune. The U.S. Government was actively studying how it could best support and reinforce the Treaty and we would accordingly be grateful for M. Spaak’s views on the matter.
M. Spaak said that he was optimistic and believed that plans should be made on the basis that war would not occur for at least three or four years. He recognized the possibility of accidents but believed that accidents caused wars only if one side were seeking a pretext, which he was sure was not the case at present. In any event, sound plans could not be based upon the possibility of accidents.
He believed the Soviet Government was acting on the assumption that any overt act in Europe would mean war with the United States regardless of whether or not the United States entered into formal treaty relations for the defense of Western Europe. The Russians naturally sought to dominate one country at a time, but were unprepared to risk losing everything by provoking total war over any one country. In contrast to the pre-1939 situation, the Soviets had no desire to fight in Europe. If they attack any European country it would be only to open war against the United States.
If the United States were prepared to enter into formal guarantees of Western Europe such commitments would be universally welcomed in Western Europe, particularly in France, but formal commitments were not the essential need. The real need was for maximum military coordination at the earliest possible date.
The Brussels Treaty is still only a beginning, at present only a piece of paper. This week its Secretariat is being established and next week the Parties will hold military conversations in London. Their purpose [Page 77] will be to plan coordinated defense with the means now available and to ascertain, as in the case of ERP, what the Five must themselves do to increase their defense potential and what else they must have from the United States.
A treaty by which the United States guaranteed the Five Powers, who are not at present directly threatened by the Russians, would risk making other European countries which are threatened fear that the United States had written them off and might encourage the Russians to move against them.
Whether or not the United States was prepared to enter into a treaty commitment, he would like to see the President’s March 17 statement reaffirmed with greater precision. He expects that we will be closely informed of the military talks in London and hopes for our participation in them as soon as possible. While such talks would most naturally be held in secret, the fact that they were being or had been held could not be kept secret and public knowledge that they had been held might be desirable. The British and French are reluctant to proceed with too tight an implementation of the Brussels Treaty for fear of displeasing the United States.1 It would accordingly be desirable for the United States to let the British and French know without delay that the more tightly and effectively the Brussels Treaty is implemented the better we will like it.
Italy might well wish to adhere to the Brussels Treaty shortly after the elections. The Swiss and Swedes would cling to their neutrality but the Norwegians were showing real courage and would probably wish to adhere. The Danes might also. M. Spaak was personally agreeable to these countries adhering to the Treaty but believed that at present they would not see much advantage in doing so except in so far as United States assistance was concerned. Orderly integration of other countries into the military machinery to be set up by the Five was a more important consideration than speed.
Mr. Lovett said that the United States military, who would look at the problem from the logistic point of view also, would think it necessary to consider the continent as a whole. We had already received specific requests for arms from the Norwegians and Danes.
Ambassador Kirk referred to the need for coordinated planning for the production of equipment and agreement as to which types of arms [Page 78] could be standardized on the basis of Continental, British or American production.
Mr. Lovett felt the Brussels Treaty provided an excellent focal point for discussion of these problems. He emphasized that whatever action was taken by the United States Government must represent a completely American and non-partisan policy. He assured the Prime Minister that the President’s statement left no question whatever as to our determination to support the Parties to the Five Power Treaty; the only question was how this could best be done.
- In telegram 1112 of April 6, Lovett informed Caffery that Spaak, in this conversation of April 5, had indicated a French reluctance to “integrate” the Five Power Treaty too tightly for fear of displeasing the United States. Lovett instructed Caffery to tell Bidault that on the contrary the more tightly the treaty could be implemented, the better the United States would like it (840.00/4–648). In telegram 1833 of April 8, not printed, Caffery replied that Bidault “says that the French are not reluctant to integrate five power treaty tightly” (840.00/4–848).↩