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

top secret

As you know, I came in late on the work which is being done on “Western Union”. I have now had a chance to familiarize myself with the problem and I wish to give you my thoughts on the subject. I have discussed the matter with Bohlen;1 and the following may be taken as substantially his views as well as my own.

I believe that the appeals from Bevin and Bidault spring primarily not from a worry about whether we would be on their side in the event they are attacked by Russia, but from their feeling that we do not have any agreed concept between ourselves and themselves as to [Page 109] what we would do in the event of a Russian attack, and particularly what steps, if any, could be taken to save the continental members of the Brussels Union from the dual catastrophe of Russian invasion and subsequent military liberation. I suspect that their fears on this account have been heightened by reports of the attitude prevailing in some parts of our military establishment and of the U.S. press to the effect that there would be absolutely no point in our considering any plans for stopping or delaying a Russian advance anywhere in Western Europe, since the Russians “have the capability of overrunning all of Europe and the Middle East”.

If this analysis is correct, what the Western Europeans require from us is not so much a public political and military alliance (since the very presence of our troops between Western Europe and the Russians is an adequate guarantee that we will be at war if they are attacked) but rather realistic staff talks to see what can be done about their defense.

The time may come for us to proceed with the sort of thing which has been under discussion this week with Senator Vandenberg and Mr. Dulles. I do not think that it has come yet; and I fear that to advance along these lines before we have gone into the military realities may not only fail to achieve our main purpose of giving the Western Europeans an adequate sense of security but may even open up rifts among the Western Europeans which would be highly undesirable at this moment.

I think the Congressional resolution is all right and can come at any time; but before we proceed with the rest of the program I think we might better examine the possibility of

sending someone to Europe for exploratory staff talks with the Western Europeans with a view to seeing what can be done about coordination of military measures in the event of war with Russia, and
taking further exploratory soundings on the political level in Europe to find out more about the views of other European countries whose participation is envisaged in our present program.

At the same time, I think we might urge upon our own military establishment the desirability, from the immediate political and psychological standpoint, of convincing the Western Europeans that we have not made up our minds to complete defeatism with respect to Western Europe and are willing to explore with them all serious suggestions as to how a Russian advance could be at least delayed and impeded in the early stages and possibly eventually halted at some point or another.

George F. Kennan
  1. Charles E. Bohlen, Counselor of the Department of State.