711.4027/4–2849: Telegram

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


1644. 1. Recent developments indicate British, Belgian, Dutch and perhaps other governments have little or no apprehension over scheduled or irregular flights to Western Europe by satellite aircraft, so long as western controlled airlines are permitted reciprocal rights by satellites. This situation may well lead further misunderstanding between US and UK and other Western Europe Governments as evidenced in recent Hungarian chicken flight,1 and may continue undermine effectiveness joint US–UK instruction and memo on satellite aviation policy. Embassy believes situation calls for careful review US policy this connection and submits following comments:

NSC–15 and joint US–UK instruction and memo on satellite aviation policy set forth combination of political, economic and military security objectives.2 None of these documents assesses precise relative importance each of these factors (in part, of course, because they overlap to some extent).

NSC–15 appears place considerable emphasis on commercial civil aviation objective with particular reference in ability US obtain access for its airlines to USSR.

One of conclusions and Paragraphs 1 and 3 of recommendations NSC–15 indicate US would be willing see Soviet airline operate Western Europe, and even to US, once USSR grants reciprocal privileges. [Page 197] US presumably would not hold this view if military security implications were considered controlling factor.

2. In view foregoing, Embassy suggests Department initiate urgent high level review NSC–15 in order determine in light of present political, economic and strategic situation and in view experience gained in course effort implement policy, (1) which of following is at this time basic objective of Western Europe transport aspect policy and (2) relationship of answers this question to future status satellite aviations policy as a whole.

Gain access for US civil aircraft to USSR proper.
So far as possible limit use of aircraft by satellites for both political and economic purposes.
Insure maximum military security of Western Europe.

3. Following Embassy comments apply corresponding alternative objectives outlined above.

British, Dutch, Belgians and probably others are willing exchange flights with satellite carriers. Appears highly unlikely US can expect them modify their position in order promote commercial interests US carriers.
British and apparently others firmly believe it is at least as important have western controlled airline access to satellite countries as to “contain” satellite aircraft. British view based inter alia on belief that air communications between east and west needed in order fully promote economic recovery Europe. They also feel satellite air transport offers little if any significant advantage to Communist agents not already available through other means.
Foreign Office source has indicated British JCS 3 have shown minimum concern over security implications satellite operations Western Europe and they believe any security threat is outweighed by advantages accruing to UK as result opportunity British aircraft to fly into satellite territory.

4. If, after review suggested 2 above, US determines military security aspects this problem are paramount, Embassy believes approach to British should be made, in first instance, through military channels, possibly combined chiefs. Assuming British concurrence, problem might then be broached other governments through western union military committee or Atlantic treaty organization when set up.

If study suggested 2 above shows US objectives (regarding Western European section satellite policy) are primarily political and economic, Embassy believes US must decide whether at this stage air transport “containment” is consistent with our political and economic policies in other respects toward satellite area. If US believes it is consistent with such policies, we must then devise means convincing British, Dutch, Belgians and others of this position, in face their mi willingness concur US views and their desire exchange reciprocal [Page 198] flights with satellites in order promote what they consider to be their own political and economic interest.4

Repeated Paris 307, Bern 34, pouched Brussels, Hague, Warsaw, Budapest, Frankfurt.

  1. It became known in March that the Hungarian Government was seeking permission for a single Hungarian airline (MASZOVLET) flight from Budapest to Amsterdam carrying a cargo of breeding poultry. Permission was also sought from the United Kingdom to overfly the British zone of occupation in Germany. Despite American representations, the Netherlands Government approved the Hungarian flight in return for a later reciprocal KLM flight to Budapest. The United Kingdom also gave permission for the overflight of its zone in Germany despite Embassy protestations to the Foreign Office that the action was in conflict with the joint American-British civil aviation policy toward Eastern Europe. The considerable exchange of messages on this matter are included in Department of State file 862.79964.
  2. Regarding the documents under reference here, see editorial note, p. 184.
  3. The reference here is presumably to the British Chiefs of Staff.
  4. Telegram 1485, May 2, to London, not printed, stated that the Department of State found the message printed here helpful and appreciated and that the problem was receiving full attention. It was suggested that the Embassy inform the Foreign Office that the United States was seriously concerned over the situation and urged the British to “hold line” pending further discussions on the subject (711.4027/4–2849).