S/S–NSC Files, Lot 63 D 351, NSC 15 Series

The Secretary of State to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Souers)1


My Dear Mr. Souers: In accordance with the policy recommended by the National Security Council, and approved by the President, in July 1948 (NSC 15/12), the Department has been endeavoring to carry out certain restrictive actions in the field of civil aviation against the U.S.S.R. and its Satellites, including Yugoslavia.

In recent weeks the Department, in the face of increasing difficulty in fully implementing this policy, reached the conclusion that review of the policy was desirable and on June 1, 1949 requested the Secretary of Defense to secure the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff concerning the present validity of the military security considerations underlying NSC 15/1. We have now received a reply from the National Military Establishment which indicates that the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the “containment” aspects of the policy cannot be justified solely on military grounds and that there are military advantages to be gained by such civil air penetration of Soviet controlled territory as may be arranged through bilateral agreements on a reciprocal basis. The Department is currently studying these views and expects in the relatively near future to present to the National Security Council recommendations for the modification of NSC 15/1.

I believe, however, that a more immediate problem confronts us. Since the Tito-Kremlin break, the Department has been considering the possibility of differentiating between Yugoslavia and the members of the Soviet bloc in the application of NSC 15/1 and, based on the attached analysis of the present situation, has now reached the conclusion that Yugoslavia should be placed in a category separate from the Soviet bloc and exempted from the restrictions against Satellite operations outlined in NSC 15/1.

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The urgency of the matter arises from the fact that several Western European Governments have been approached by the Yugoslav Government with a view to negotiating bilateral civil aviation agreements. These Governments have requested our views. We believe that a prompt reply should be given, since the accomplishment of our present policy objectives toward Yugoslavia would be adversely affected should it become evident to the Yugoslavs that the U.S. Government was blocking these negotiations.

I therefore suggest that NSC 15/1 be modified by the inclusion of an additional sub-paragraph immediately following paragraph 2(A) under “Recommendations” reading as follows:

  • “i. In view of the breach between Tito and the Kremlin and the evidence at hand that Soviet control of Yugoslav civil air operations has been eliminated, Yugoslavia should be exempted from the above restrictions so long as the present breach is maintained.”

It will be appreciated if you will secure the concurrence of the other members of the National Security Council with this proposed change in NSC 15/1 as expeditiously as possible.

Sincerely yours,

Dean Acheson

Memorandum Prepared by the Department of State3



1. In accordance with a policy established by the NSC in July 1948 (NSC 15/1), we have been endeavoring, in cooperation with other like-minded countries, to carry out the following restrictive actions aviation-wise against the U.S.S.R. and its Satellites, including Yugoslavia:

To prevent their civil air operations outside the Soviet sphere;
To deny them exports of aviation equipment.

2. (A) Following the Tito-Kremlin break the US assumed a less restrictive export policy toward Yugoslavia than toward the other states of the Soviet sphere. This new policy, based on the consideration [Page 210] that it is in the national interest of the US to keep the Tito regime in being, was confirmed by the adoption of NSC 18/2 in February 1949,4 under which licensing of exports to Yugoslavia, including both 1–A and 1–B items, has been eased. Since February the gulf between Yugoslavia and the U.S.S.R. has deepened. Our policy, in so far as it is aimed at helping to prevent both a Tito-Cominform reconciliation and the replacement of Tito by a Moscow-dominated regime, has been successful.

(B) Our revised export policy, however, has not been accompanied by any modification of our civil aviation policy toward Yugoslavia which has continued to be based on NSC 15/1.

3. (A) In April of 1949 the Department informed the Italians that the United States, mindful of Italy’s somewhat specialized relations vis-à-vis Yugoslavia, saw no reasons why Italy should not discuss with Yugoslavia, in a preliminary and non-committal manner, the possibilities of an exchange of civil air rights on a limited (short term) and strictly reciprocal basis.5 This minor deviation from the restrictive measures called for by the civil aviation policy has been the only relaxation vis-à-vis Yugoslavia aviation-wise which the Department has approved.

(B) In recent weeks the Yugoslavs have renewed their offers to conclude a civil aviation agreement with the Italians and have made overtures to the … French and the Swiss looking toward the negotiation of similar agreements. In response to queries received by the Department from the later countries concerning present US policy with respect to civil aviation dealings with Yugoslavia, the Department has so far limited itself to the statement that it was currently examining the desirability of considering Yugoslavia as an exception to its general civil aviation policy toward the Soviet bloc.6

4. (A) Several weeks ago the Department, in the face of increasingly evident British reluctance to cooperate wholeheartedly in the implementation of our overall Satellite aviation policy, particularly with respect to the restriction of Satellite civil air operations to Western European countries, reached the decision that a thorough review of this policy was desirable and on June 17 requested the Secretary of Defense to secure the views of the JCS concerning the present validity of the military security considerations underlying NSC 15/1. In view of the fact that the informal views of the JCS subsequently received8 support the British contention that the restrictive measures recommended in NSC 15/1 are no longer justified on the basis of [Page 211] the military security considerations involved, it is expected that the NSC will be requested in the near future to consider some relaxation of NSC 15/1, at least insofar as air transport operations between Eastern and Western European countries are concerned.

(B) Although it has been the Department’s belief that review of our civil aviation policy toward Yugoslavia should be undertaken as a policy decision corollary to the anticipated high level review of our general civil aviation policy toward the Soviet bloc, it has become evident that it will be some weeks before it will be possible to complete the review of the overall policy and that immediate reexamination of our aviation policy toward Yugoslavia should be undertaken.

(C) The Embassy in Belgrade has urged that Yugoslavia be exempted from the strict application of NSC 15/1. The Embassy states that JUSTA, the former Soviet-Yugoslav airline controlled by the U.S.S.R., is now completely inactive and has been reduced to a paper status. It believes that Yugoslav air links with the West would have definite advantages for the West, less for Yugoslavia, and none for the U.S.S.R, and its Satellites.9


1. The elimination of Soviet ownership and control of Yugoslav civil air operations, combined with the evidence at hand of the deep rift between Tito and the Kremlin, warrant the placing of Yugoslavia in a category separate from the Soviet bloc and its exemption from the restrictions against Satellite civil air operations outlined in NSC 15/1. Consequently, the US should take the position that there no longer appears to be any valid reason why any non-curtain state should not, if it considers that political and economic advantages would result therefrom, enter into negotiations with Yugoslavia looking toward the conclusion of a limited (short-term) bilateral air transport agreement involving the reciprocal exchange of civil air rights.

2. The relaxed export policy outlined in NSC 18/2 should be equally applicable to the export of aviation equipment to Yugoslavia.

  1. This letter was distributed to the President and the other members of the National Security Council under cover of a brief memorandum of August 4 by Executive Secretary Sidney W. Souers. Souers recommended that the additional sub-paragraph to the Recommendations of NSC 15/1 (see the editorial note, p. 184) proposed by the Secretary of State, if adopted by the Council, be submitted to the President with the recommendation that he approve its incorporation in NSC 15/1. Souers requested that each Council member indicate his action with respect to the recommendation by completing and returning an attached memorandum approval form as expeditiously as possible (S/S–NSC Files, Lot 63 D 351 NSC 15 Series). National Security Council Record of Action 243, undated, not printed, indicates that as of August 15 the Council agreed to recommend to the President for approval the additional sub-paragraph to NSC 15/1 proposed by the Secretary of State. In agreeing to the recommendation, both the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Air Force expressed the understanding that the proposed revision of NSC 15/1 would not control the export of aircraft and aircraft equipment (S/S NSC (Miscellaneous) Files, Lot 66 D 95, NSC Records of Action). The President subsequently approved the Council’s recommendation on August 16.
  2. See editorial note, p. 184.
  3. The source text is virtually identical with the original version of this memorandum as sent from J. Paul Barringer, Deputy Director of the Office of Transportation and Communication, to Deputy Under Secretary of State Dean Rusk. The only differences between the two versions were the inclusion in the original of a single sentence statement of the problem and a concluding recommendation that the conclusions of the memorandum be referred to the National Military Establishment for concurrence. The original version of the memorandum was concurred in by Robert P. Joyce of the Policy Planning Staff and George C. McGhee, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and African Affairs.
  4. Not printed; see editorial note, p. 868.
  5. See telegram 689, April 13, to Rome, p. 195.
  6. See telegram 2239, June 29, to London, p. 205.
  7. The reference here is to Acting Secretary of State Webb’s letter of June 1 to the Secretary of Defense, p. 204.
  8. The reference here is to Under Secretary of Defense Early’s letter of July 20 to the Secretary of State, p. 206.
  9. This paragraph summarized telegram 644, July 6, from Belgrade, not printed (711.4027/7–649).