840.00/5–1448: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) to the Secretary of State

top secret

2128. For the Secretary and Lovett (eyes only) from Douglas. Gladwyn Jebb handed me the following this evening. I herewith transmit it to you. The first part is a letter signed jointly by Gladwyn Jebb and Star-Busman, the secretary, Brussels Treaty Permanent Commission, transmitting part II of this telegram, namely, the answers to the Defence Ministers’ questions.

Part I

As Your Excellency is aware, in conversation with Monsieur Bonnet and Lord Inverchapel on April 19 Mr. Lovett said that, before initiating conversations with representatives of the Brussels treaty powers, the United States Government would wish to be in possession [Page 124] of answers to certain questions, which he outlined, relating to the common defensive measures which might be taken by those powers.
At the recent meeting of the Defence Ministers of the five powers in London1 it was decided that as their first task the Military Committee should be instructed to prepare replies to Mr. Lovett’s questions, and it was represented to them that this was a matter of the highest urgency. The report of the Military Committee, embodying answers to Mr. Lovett’s questions, which has now been approved by the governments of the five powers, is attached; and in my capacity as Chairman of the Permanent Commission (Gladwyn Jebb), acting for the consultative council of the Brussels treaty, I have been requested by my colleagues to transmit it to you at once with the request that the text should be urgently telegraphed to Washington.
In doing so I wish to draw Your Excellency’s attention to the fact that the answers are provisional only, and that the questions could not in fact be answered comprehensively before the completion of the inventories which the Defence Ministers have instructed the Military Committee to complete and which are now in hand.2
Finally, my colleagues wish me to draw attention to the great secrecy which attaches to the enclosed document, and more especially to answer 1E. It would clearly be disastrous if this information were to fall into the hands of unauthorised persons, and the Permanent Commission for their part are taking every possible precaution to prevent this occurring.

Part II


To answer the Defence Ministers questions:—
Will equipment and resources (including war potential present and future) of the five powers be pooled?
Are the types of equipment of the five powers to be standarised?
Is the military organisation of the five powers to be harmonised?
What forces could the five powers assemble and maintain on the ground, in the air and at sea?
What is the plan of action of the five powers until American help is available?

Answer 1A.

Yes. The five powers have agreed to the pooling of equipment and resources subject to their outside commitments already undertaken. Also they agree that the combined control of this pool will be necessary. Even immediate full exploitation of their limited resources cannot [Page 125] materially change their short term position and such exploitation would undoubtedly be detrimental to their early economic recovery. Moreover, it appears that, in the interests of any defence preparations and of the European recovery plan, the United States and other countries could assist in making up the shortages between the requirements of the five powers and their joint ability to meet them. The financial and economic problems should be dealt with in agreement with the USA, and may entail special measures. Active examination of the five powers’ resources and requirements is now in progress.

Answer 1B.

Yes. It is intended to pursue and extend the standardisation of the equipment of the five powers as much as practicable and as soon as possible without interfering with present production. The extent to which plans for long term standardisation can be advanced at present depends upon American intentions, since it is obvious that standardisation with the USA is equally desirable at an early elate. However, the acceptance of the principle of standardisation must not be allowed to interfere with our immediate preparations or rearmament.

Answer 1C.

Yes. The intention is that the forces of the five powers should be so organised that formations and units are comparable in strength and that they can operate alongside each other with the maximum efficiency under a common command and with a similar system of supply and communications. As a first step, a committee has been set up in London consisting of service representatives, appointed by their respective Chiefs of Staff, from each of the five powers for the joint study of the problems involved. The committee is served by a permanent five power secretariat.

Answer 1D.

The Military Committee have already started on the following immediate tasks:—
The preparation of an inventory of the total military forces and resources of the five powers mobilisable in the near future; and
The preparations of an inventory of the potential military forces and resources of the five powers.
As a result of the above, the five powers will be able to furnish in a very short time a balance sheet of their overall forces. Any figures given before the completion of this balance sheet would be misleading. But it should be noted that the five powers are already reconstructing their armed forces.

Answer 1E.

In the event of an attack by Russia, however soon it may come, the five powers are determined to fight as far east in Germany as possible. If Russia overruns the countries of western Europe, irreparable harm will be done before they are liberated, owing to the Russian policy of deportation and pillage. Their preparations are therefore aimed at holding the Russians on the best position in Germany covering the territory of the five powers in such a way that sufficient time for the American military power to intervene decisively can be assured. [Page 126] The five powers are now assessing their resources and fully recognise that an attack in the near future would find them militarily weak. They also recognise that their plans must be very closely linked to the American strategic concept and the deployment of such forces as they are prepared to provide for the defence of western Europe from the outset.

  1. Reference here is presumably to a meeting of the Defense Conference in London on April 30 attended by the Defense Ministers and Chiefs of Staff of the Brussels Treaty powers.
  2. Douglas, in telegram 2130, May 15, not printed, clarified this reference to inventories “now in hand” with the word that the Military Committee was in process of examining the inventories for the purpose of determining and tabulating (840.00/5–1548).