757D.00/5–1848: Telegram

The Ambassador in Norway (Bay) to the Secretary of State


311. Foreign Minister Lange’s invitation to call coincided with my request for appointment, for purpose recent Norwegian-Swedish discussions subject defense alliance. Principal points his exposition this morning follow:

During February meeting Scandinavian Foreign Ministers Oslo,1 Lange proposed discussion looking toward joint defense program, Icelandic Foreign Minister Benediktsson indicated his country not interested because of Iceland’s isolated position and unrelated problems.
Lange received from Swedish Foreign Minister Undén May 3 proposal Norway, Sweden, Denmark inaugurate discussions defense alliance restricted to Nordic group with further agreement each participating state individually refuse join any great power bloc. Somewhat to Lange’s surprise, Undén’s proposal was generally if not strongly supported by Danish Foreign Minister Rasmussen. Lange expressed willingness present proposal Norwegian Government but indicated practical certainty of rejection due conditions imposed.
Proposal was considered by Norwegian Government and promptly rejected for reason as stated by Lange this would mean forsaking basic principle of freedom for future action and commit nation to well-known principle of Swedish neutrality.
During recent Congress Swedish Social Democratic Party Stockholm, attended also by Prime Ministers Denmark, Norway, Prime Minister Gerhardsen submitted new following proposal: Norway, Sweden, Denmark engage discussions without prior commitments or conditions respecting alliance by any participating state with any other power. Sweden rejected meetings except under original conditions. Lange remarked vaguely Swedish proposal would probably not be unfavorably regarded from East.
Lange stated Bryn, Undersecretary Ministry Defense, discussed Undén proposal in London where British said they view with disfavor idea Norway joining Scandinavian military alliance under above Swedish conditions; on Bryn’s further suggestion Norway might offer mild face-saving concession, not explained to me by Lange, British objected again to any condition relaxing complete Norwegian independence future action.
Replying my question where matter now rests, Lange said little hope getting Sweden out of neutrality rut, at least until after Swedish elections. Lange clearly recognizes acceptance Undén’s conditions would bind Norway to Swedish policy of neutrality, thus surrendering freedom of future action. This, he said, Norway would never do. He agreed my suggestion Norwegian-Swedish alliance under Undén’s conditions would add few assets while putting heavy mortgage on freedom. He then stated with some feeling, “Norway will never so long as I am Foreign Minister close its door to the Western democracies.”

Finally Lange feels Norway will let matter simmer for time being, partly to avoid alienating small minority within Labor Party which believes Norway should make every possible effort collaborate Sweden, but more importantly because he hopes to convince Denmark of absolute futility of neutrality, thus gaining Rasmussen’s cooperation in coaxing Sweden away from neutrality.

When I asked whether this might not prove dangerous delay and what would happen should new crisis unexpectedly arise, Lange smiled and said quietly Norway would then strike out alone to the West.

Sent Department 311, repeated Copenhagen 27, Stockholm 27.

  1. The Foreign Ministers and Ministers of Trade of Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Norway met in Oslo February 23 and 24.