Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Lovett)

top secret
Participants: Secretary Marshall
Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg
Mr. John Foster Dulles
Under Secretary, Mr. Lovett

The first part of the discussion was devoted to background fill-in for the Secretary and Mr. Dulles and the matter of broad decision was postponed until the various details of the United Nations problem involved in any Senate resolution were considered.

[Page 105]

Apart from the mechanics in the UN Charter itself, Senator Vandenberg felt increasing concern about the possibility of his Committee bringing out a resolution on the lines previously discussed, feeling that any such resolution would immediately be subject to amendment and that it was quite likely that Senator Wherry, Senator Brewster, and some of the others might try to tack onto it amendments relating to Palestine. He said that he regretted that the political considerations were becoming increasingly difficult to deal with as the conventions1 approached and indicated some doubt as to whether he could get the desired resolution through the Senate, even assuming that his Committee reported it unanimously.

In this connection, he asked me to see Senator Walter George, as the senior Democratic member, and find out if he was still opposed to “military ERP” as he had expressed himself several days ago. I agreed to undertake this as soon as we could get the program in a little better shape. I was directed by the Senator to approach Senator George with two basic arguments: (1) the matter of doing something about the flood of United Nations resolutions in the Senate; and (2) the position in which we found ourselves as a result of the appeals to us for arms and assistance for Western Europe which required some answer inside the UN if possible, and how he felt about military aid along ERP lines.

On the broad policy matters covered by the amended paper,2 which were carefully considered, the Senator indicated an important change in the tactics heretofore under consideration. He had obviously given considerable thought to the paper and raised two objections which he felt were of cardinal importance:

  • First, we should not be in the position of inviting countries to come to us with their shopping lists, because if we did we put ourselves in the position of a second Soviet trying to set up another string of satellites; and
  • Second, we were shooting at the problem with a shotgun instead of a rifle and were trying to blanket too much of the world in a so-called regional pact which neither geographically nor politically could be adequately supported by arguments.

With respect to the North Atlantic area countries, the Senator pointed out the importance of trying to bring Scandinavia in in some way as that had great vote appeal in the Senate because of the considerable areas of the country involving high proportions of Scandinavian voters.

[Page 106]

Dulles challenged the basic paper on somewhat the same grounds and it was interesting to see his objections coincide with those of the Senator without any prior discussions. In fact, Dulles had high-spotted his views before the Senator’s arrival. Dulles’s feeling was that, in any approach we make to the problem, we must have three things in the front of our minds:

  • First, we must under no circumstances be in the position of inviting people to come to us with requests for arms or military guarantees;
  • Second, in any program of association with an area group justified geographically and economically, we must make it clear throughout that we are talking about an association of free peoples who must give continuous and visible evidence of their maximum efforts to take care of themselves on the basic principles of ERP, providing in the undertakings some method whereby, if they become Communist, they are automatically stricken from the group; and
  • Third, the agreement should also be designed to further the basic concept of ERP to the end of ultimate union or fusion among the Western European countries. He emphasized that any attempt to freeze the Western European countries in their old habits of thought, association and economics would be futile and, in his opinion, against our national interests.

After a great deal of discussion, Vandenberg and Dulles, who were frequently on different sides of the points considered, agreed that the idea of a so-called regional pact as the formula accepted by the President in his role of host was a great mistake. They pointed out that the regional pact system involved Articles 52, 53 and 54, whereas our approach was based for the most part on Article 51. They pointed out further that the ganging up principle of a regional pact would be unfortunate at this time since it might tend to create a series of regional pacts scattered around the world which would give grounds for the accusation that we were trying to destroy the United Nations by a multiplicity of collective security arrangements rather than a centralized one.

On the matter of not issuing the invitation, the Senator, the Secretary, and Dulles were in full agreement. Among other arguments advanced in addition to those mentioned above was the feeling that this would reduce the likelihood of the step being provocative by having the five power signatories merely seek to become associated with sources of supply and assistance in the Western Hemisphere. Later in the discussion Senator Vandenberg supported vigorously the concept of the “limited and natural” regional arrangements and indicated that he would be prepared to have the Senate resolution support some such formula. There was unanimous agreement that the United States should not be in the position of taking any engagement for assistance of any sort which would be automatically brought into [Page 107] being by the act of someone else. It was pointed out that the present draft gave full protection in that respect, but Dulles in particular, and later the Senator, said that they thought the proposed statement by the President of interim action by this counry under Article 51 went unnecessarily far and was undesirable if the Senate resolution contained proper language.

Several alternatives were proposed and discarded and it was finally agreed that the Department would endeavor to produce two papers—first, a draft resolution which would “fit on one page”. The Senator said he understood that he was already known at the working level as “one page Vandenberg”, but that he was alarmed at the verbose drafting of the State Department, and offered as proof that the main points could be stated briefly and clearly a resolution he himself had typed.

The second paper was to be a revision of the recommendations heretofore proposed to produce the following steps:

A resolution to be requested of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by this Department;
Following such a resolution and, upon completion of Senate action, the Department to arrange for the five power signatories of the Brussels Pact to ask this country to consult with them on matters affecting international peace and security; and
Upon receipt of this invitation, the President to announce, in effect, that this country was prepared to accept an invitation to consider association on the basis of self-help and mutual aid among the European participants with such regional arrangements as affect its national security.

The consensus was that it would be desirable to have the Brussels Pact countries invite Canada at the same time and it was hoped that they would also invite to such a consultation Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, the Brussels Pact countries, and perhaps Portugal, although great doubt was expressed as to the desirability of this step. All felt that the inclusion of Italy, unless it had theretofore become a member of the Brussels Pact, would be a mistake since it would destroy the natural geographic basis of the North Atlantic area. It was suggested that the North Atlantic area might be more narrowly defined by a title referring back to the wartime western approaches agreements. General Marshall suggested that we look those up. I was directed to have the Department of State, prior to any further firming up of procedures involving the regional pacts, get the transcript of debates between Vandenberg and the Egyptian delegate at San Francisco, Mr. Hassan Pasha, on the subject of regional pacts.

Dulles and Vandenberg both thought that this country had taken certain positions defining a regional pact, and mentioned particularly [Page 108] that it was the Monroe Doctrine and the Act of Chapultepec which had been in their minds in the comments made on regional pacts and that some ingenuity was used in order to make possible the extension of the regional pact system to Central and South America. Dulles stated that the justification for this was a clear historical association of over 125 years; that such association in the North Atlantic did not exist as far as he knew, and he felt that we should check back over the debates as well as explore the suggestion made by the Secretary on the western approaches. It was the Secretary’s recollection that both in World War I and World War II there were some arrangements made with respect to the protection of this area, notably involving Iceland in the second World War. It was his recollection that Britain had had some arrangement in the first World War for naval refueling or similar services.

The paragraphs dealing with Greece, Turkey and Iran were still not acceptable, largely because of the inclusion of the Middle East regional pact idea. It was the general feeling that this country, already being involved in Greece and Turkey, would need little more to indicate its continuing interest. In the case of Iran, they felt that there was not much we could do and that an undertaking along the lines contemplated would be an empty gesture on which we might be called and thereafter disclose our inability to make good. There was no disagreement as to the desirability of finding some method to indicate that we were going to stay in the picture but no one felt happy in the solution presently offered.

Robert A. Lovett
  1. National Democratic and Republican conventions.
  2. Reference here is presumably to NSC 9/1 with its revision of paragraphs 8–14 of NSC 9. See p. 101.