The British Embassy to the Department of State

top secret

Substance of a Message From Mr. Bevin of May 14th on North Atlantic Security

Mr. Bevin remains convinced that the only satisfactory way of dealing with present world position, and of ensuring a considerable and perhaps a long period of peace, is the adoption by the American Government of something like the draft programme sketched out in the Pentagon discussions six weeks ago. The mere fact that the United States was prepared to enter into some kind of regional defensive system would, by itself, encourage the democratic forces all over the world and be far the best deterrent to any Soviet miscalculation, which probably constitutes the only serious danger of war in the near future.

To Mr. Bevin’s mind, the fact that the proposed defensive pact for the North Atlantic area might not, at first at any rate, include all the democracies of Western Europe is not a reason for abandoning it. Even if it only included, to start off with, the United States, Canada, and the Five Brussels Treaty Powers, it would be entirely worthwhile. There should, however, be every reason to hope that Norway and Denmark and Portugal would come in, and that Italy might follow suit without making it the cause for political bargains.

In Mr. Bevin’s view, what is wanted in order to encourage the democratic forces and defeat Communist manoeuvres is some definite acceptance of obligations on the part of the United States. The presence of the American forces in Germany affords only indirect assurance to Italy and Scandinavia and the talks on Germany in London have shown that it does not suffice even to remove the perpetual uneasiness of the French as regards their own security. If the French Government could point out to a document signed jointly by the United States, United Kingdom and France they would, Mr. Bevin is certain, have a far less difficult time in convincing the French opposition of the wisdom of pursuing a joint policy in Germany with the United States and the United Kingdom.

There is the further consideration that a Treaty based on Article 51 to which the United States would be a party would be far the best answer to those in our own two countries who are urging a revision of [Page 123] the Charter. Mr. Bevin read with the greatest admiration Mr. Marshall’s statement2 on this subject before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House, and entirely agreed with it. But in default of some positive and spectacular move by the Administration it may be that Charter revisionism will endure and prove to be a real difficulty in the future.

Lastly, it is clear that the ultimate conclusion of some world wide system based on Article 51 to which Mr. Saint Laurent has recently drawn attention3 can only be rendered practicable if the way is prepared by a defence arrangement in the North Atlantic area. It is surely along the road indicated by Mr. St. Laurent that it would be wise if possible to lead our peoples and thus to canalise discontent with the United Nations in the right direction while preserving the centralizing and pacifying functions of a central international authority for reasons so excellently described in Mr. Marshall’s statement to the Foreign Affairs Committee.

It seems to Mr. Bevin to be of the highest importance that the United States should, in the near future, open negotiations for the conclusion of a North Atlantic Pact. Otherwise he fears that a golden opportunity will be missed for rallying the democratic nations of the world, and thus calling a halt to an aggressive attitude we have all had to face.

  1. No indication has been found in the Department of State files of how and when this document was delivered to the Department. A note attached to the file copy indicates that the contents were read to the National Security Council by Marshall on May 20th and then forwarded to Hickerson for his information and action.
  2. Statement before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, May 5, 1948. For extract, see p. 111. For text of complete statement, see volume i.
  3. Reference here is presumably to a review of foreign affairs by the Canadian Minister for External Affairs in a speech in the Canadian House of Commons on April 29.