PPS Files: Lot 64D563: PPS 63 Series

Paper Prepared by the Policy Planning Staff1

top secret

PPS 63

Comment on NSC/56, August 31, 1949, “U.S. Policy Concerning Military Collaboration Under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance”

The problem is stated: “To assess and appraise the position of the United States with respect to the military aspects of the implementation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, with particular reference to continued military cooperation among the American states”.

There are three major considerations included in the comment on the NSC paper: (1) the Organization of American States and the nature of the Rio Treaty, (2) the background during the past few years of inter-American military cooperation, and (3) the type of Latin American military establishments best fitted to meet the needs [Page 609] of hemisphere defense and the security interests of the United States. While reference is made to certain specific paragraphs in the NSC paper, the comment applies generally to the paper as a whole.

the organization of american states and the nature of the rio treaty

1. Reference is made in paragraph 16 of the NSC paper to the interest of the United States in the Organization of American States “as a regional defense arrangement”.

The Organization of American States is much more than this. The inter-American system has been in process of evolution for many decades. The Charter of the Organization of American States, which was signed at the Bogotá Conference in 1948, states in Article 1:

“The American States establish by this Charter the international Organization that they have developed to achieve an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity and their independence. Within the United Nations, the Organization of American States is a regional agency.”

The essential purposes of the OAS, as set forth in its Charter, are: (a) to strengthen the peace and security of the continent; (b) to prevent possible causes of difficulties and to ensure the pacific settlement of disputes that may arise among the Member States; (c) to provide for common action on the part of those States in the event of aggression; (d) to seek the solution of political, juridical and economic problems that may arise among them; and (e) to promote, by cooperative action, their economic, social and cultural development.

Among the principles reaffirmed by the American States are that the solidarity of the American States and the high aims which are sought through it require the political organization of those States on the basis of the effective exercise of representative democracy; that the American States condemn war[s] of aggression: victory does not give rights; that an act of aggression against one American state is an act of aggression against all of the other American States; that controversies of an international character arising between two or more American States shall be settled by peaceful procedures; that social justice and social security are bases of lasting peace; and that economic cooperation is essential to the common welfare and prosperity of the peoples of the continent.

2. Paragraph 9 of the NSC paper states that the sacrifice of gains secured in the field of Latin American military collaboration “would tend to nullify the inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance”.

Paragraph 14 states: “The Latin American nations must be ready and able to assume their military obligations under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance in order to ensure the uninterrupted [Page 610] delivery of raw materials upon which any major United States war effort will depend, and in order to minimize U.S. military manpower requirements in Latin America under emergency conditions.”

Paragraph 15 states that the United States has an implied moral commitment to conclude, without delay, those military agreements “necessary for the implementation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance”.

Hemisphere defense has been a matter of interest to and cooperation among the American nations for many years. Inter-American preoccupation with the matter did not commence during the last war. For example, the subject is dealt with in the Convention for the Maintenance, Preservation and Reestablishment of Peace, signed at the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace at Buenos Aires in 1936;2 in the Declaration of Lima, signed at the Eighth International Conference of American States in 1938;3 and in the Declaration of Reciprocal Assistance and Cooperation for the Defense of the Nations of the Americas, signed at Habana in 1940.4

The bases of the Rio Treaty, according to the Report on the Results of the Rio Conference, submitted to the Governing Board of the Pan American Union by the Director General,5 are: (a) recognition of the right of collective self-defense, in the United Nations Charter,6 and (b) obligation of solidarity in the face of aggression, established in the Declarations of Habana and Chapultepec.

None of this would confirm the implications of the paragraphs in NSC/56 which are cited above.*

[Page 611]

On the contrary, the proceedings of the Rio Conference made it quite clear that the Treaty was not meant to provide an impulse toward increased armaments of the American continents. Resolution XI of that Conference reads as follows:

“The Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security declares: That its primary purpose as well as that of the Treaty which it has concluded is to assure the peace and security of the continent and, consequently, that no stipulation of the Treaty nor any of the obligations created under it should be interpreted as justifying excessive armaments or may be invoked as a reason for the creation or maintenance of armaments or armed forces beyond those required for common defense in the interest of peace and security.”

The Secretary of State, in his statement on the Military Assistance Program before the House Foreign Affairs Committee,7 observed:

“We are bound with our American Republic friends and neighbors in the Rio Pact of Mutual Assistance. Under this program we intend to help them in procuring equipment. Equipment will be made available to them on a cash reimbursement basis in accordance with a provision of the proposed legislation especially designed to help meet the procurement problems of the American Republics and certain other friendly countries.”

It will be seen that while we were willing to give certain assistance in procurement on a cash basis, we did not undertake any moral commitment “to find ways and means to enable Latin American Governments to procure arms to the extent necessary to ensure their continued interest and cooperation”.

The position taken by the Department of State during the work of the Foreign Assistance Correlation Committee was that, although the Rio Treaty and the Charter of the Organization of American States do not commit the United States to provide military equipment to the other American Republics, the United States during recent years has actively fostered the concept of inter-American cooperation, including the standardization of military organization and equipment. Accordingly, the Department felt it was essential that legislation providing for military assistance to foreign nations authorize the transfer to the other American Republics, on a reimburseable basis, of amounts of military equipment compatible with their economic conditions and with the needs of hemisphere defense.

The Director General of the Pan American Union, in his Report on the Results of the Rio Conference, made it clear that there was no obligation to reach prior agreement on the measures that would be [Page 612] necessary for action in collective defense should the need therefor arise. He observed in his report:

“But there might be some confusion between the right or obligation of collective self-defense and the application of collective measures of defense, and that confusion may give rise, also, to the erroneous belief that to exercise that right it is necessary to coordinate in advance the measures to be taken, in consultation. The American States had little doubt about this, and in my opinion they were right not to admit any. Because collective self-defense, as a right, is derived from the United Nations Charter and as an obligation it is derived from the Treaty of Rio de Janeiro. The rest is pure procedure.”

In commenting upon other action at the Rio Conference, the Director General of the Pan American Union expressed the concern he had felt over the fact that economic cooperation is not being given the profound study that the problems created by the terms of the war deserve. He said that many of these problems, if not solved soon, might well lead to serious disturbances and disorders and injure the political and social stability of the American continent. The Director General then made the following significant comment upon the armament question:

“I should like to call the attention of the members of the Governing Board to another proposal, which also reflects accurately the prevailing sentiment of the Conference on the meaning of the Treaty of Rio de Janeiro and its immediate consequences. It is Resolution XI, on armaments and the obligations created under the Treaty, the text of which is sufficiently clear in itself not to require additional comment. Nevertheless, its importance lies in the fact that in the opinion of some regions not represented at the Conference, what was created at Rio de Janeiro was a military alliance of this part of the world, with the object of preparing for an inevitable world war. The American States did not understand it in that way. On the contrary, it is clear for them that the Treaty assures the peace and security of the continent, and that to sign it for the purpose of embarking upon an armament race would be illogical and absurd. [Underscoring added]8 For the majority of us who were present at the Rio de Janeiro Conference, if not for all, war has been conclusively banished from the hemisphere, as far as the possibility of aggression by one American State against another is concerned. If that had not been the feeling of all signers of the Treaty there would have been a determined effort to leave some loophole for a possible aggressor, and that there never was, throughout the deliberations. Since that is the case, there is no reason for the Latin American countries to start in now to raise their armaments to previously unknown levels, under the pretext that they will need them for the defense of the hemisphere. It is possible that it will be desirable to seek a certain uniformity of materiel and technical training among the military forces of the continent in order to [Page 613] be ready for the only possibility of war that can be considered now that we have the Treaty, namely, aggression against America coming from outside of America. But if we were going to build up in each Latin American country armies and armaments capable of individual defense against any aggressor that might dare to challenge the hemisphere, united by the Treaty of Rio de Janeiro, we would have condemned our peoples to poverty; we would have sacrificed them to the prospect of having to defend themselves when their domestic economy had been weakened by huge expenses that the majority of them are not capable of meeting, and ought not to meet if they have any real conception of the relative importance of their respective fundamental problems. The Conference did not hesitate to condemn any armament policy that goes beyond what is necessary and indispensable for the common defense. And that concept, stated in a resolution, should be taken into full account and even be considered as one criterion in interpreting the Treaty and the spirit behind it.”

The foregoing comment indicates the desirability of a reexamination of the approach to and the interpretation of the implementation of the Rio Treaty as set forth in NSC/56.

background of inter-american military cooperation

Paragraphs 3 and 4 of the NSC paper deal with inter-American military cooperation “in order to achieve complete acceptance of U.S. military standards”. It is stated in paragraph 6 that the Latin American nations are aware of the existence of this standardization program, and have eagerly awaited its implementation since 1945, and have considered themselves bound by the inter-American treaties and by the bilateral staff conversations to the principles contained in the President’s directive.

Paragraph 5 observes that the continuance of the establishment of U.S. military missions in Latin America, the training of foreign nationals in United States institutions, and combined joint staff planning “is contingent upon the provision, by the United States, of the armaments required by the Latin American nations for the maintenance of armed forces in being”. It also is stated in paragraph 16 that “it devolves upon the United States to find ways and means to enable Latin American governments to procure arms to the extent necessary to ensure their continued interest and cooperation.”

All of these assertions appear to be questionable in the light of the principal pertinent documents, namely SWNCC 4/10, SANACC 360/11, and 360/12,9 and the President’s message of May 1946 regarding “The Inter-American Military Cooperation Act”.10

[Page 614]

SWNCC 4/10 is headed: “Proposed Joint Statement by State, War and the Navy Departments to be Approved by the President”. It is understood that this proposed joint statement subsequently was approved by the President. If there is an additional specific Presidential directive, it should be attached to NSC/56. SWNCC 4/10 reads in part as follows:

“With this in view, the Department[s] of State, War and the Navy will be guided in all matters of military cooperation and execution of the policy and measures enunciated above by the following general principles:

The cooperation of the United States will not be extended to any other American republic so as to provide it with a military establishment that is beyond its economic means to support.
Training and equipment shall not be made available by the United States to the armed forces of any other American republics where there is good reason to believe that they may be used for aggression or in order to threaten aggression, against one of its neighboring American republics, thus prejudicing the primary objective of inter-American unity.
In accordance with the democratic principles that the United States represents and upholds throughout the world, and on which its moral credit is largely based, every effort shall be made to insure that the training and equipment afforded by the United States to the armed forces of the other American republics shall not be used in order to deprive the peoples of the other American republics of their democratic rights and liberties.

It is clear that the program of collaboration envisaged above is a program for the military defense of the Hemisphere and, consequently, falls within the field of responsibilities of the War and the Navy Departments. It is equally clear that measures taken in accordance with the program envisaged above will bear importantly on the foreign relations of the United States, with American and non-American nations alike. Consequently, the Department of State, being responsible for the conduct of the foreign relations of the United States, has a concurrent and coordinate responsibility with the War and the Navy Departments in the carrying out of the program envisaged above. So that the State, War and Navy Departments may be in a position to meet their respective responsibilities as indicated above, all plans shall be made and all measures in the carrying out of this program shall be taken with the approval of the War and Navy Departments in respect to defense policy, and with the approval of the Department of State in respect to foreign policy.

In order to realize this division and coordination of responsibility among the three departments, it has been agreed that:

The War and Navy Departments shall assume the initiative (based on bilateral and subsequent military staff conversations) in preparing the basic plans for indoctrinating, training and equipping the armed forces of each of the other American republics in accordance with the policy set forth above. These plans, set forth in such detail as is practicable, shall be submitted [Page 615] to the Department of State and no action shall be taken to put them into effect until this Department has indicated that they are not in conflict with this government’s policy.”

The three general principles set forth in SWNCC 4/10 are extremely important ones. They are in general accord with the spirit in which the Rio Treaty subsequently was negotiated. They should be faithfully observed in any military cooperation extended by the United States to the Latin American nations.

In May of 1946, the President transmitted to the Congress a Bill cited as “The Inter-American Military Cooperation Act”. The President’s message makes clear that the draft legislation is designed to facilitate the military cooperation essential for the maintenance of continental peace and security and that care should be exercised that the United States not encourage military and naval establishments beyond what security considerations require. The President referred to the cordial relations of collaboration with the armed forces of other American Republics, within the framework of the Good Neighbor Policy, which had been maintained for several years by our Army and Navy. He said that under the Bill the Army and Navy, acting in conjunction with the Department of State, would be permitted to continue in the future a general program of collaboration with the armed forces of our sister republics with a view to facilitating the adoption of similar technical standards. The President observed:

“This Government will not, I am sure, in any way approve of, nor will it participate in, the indiscriminate or unrestricted distribution of armaments, which would only contribute to a useless and burdensome armaments race. It does not desire that operations under this Bill shall raise unnecessarily the quantitative level of armaments in the American Republics. … It is incumbent upon this Government to see that military developments in which we have a part are guided toward the maintenance of peace and security and that military and naval establishments are not encouraged beyond what security considerations require.”

The President’s message concluded:

“In executing this program it will be borne in mind, moreover, that it is the policy of this Government to encourage the establishment of sound economic conditions in the other American Republics which will contribute to the improvement of living standards and the advancement of social and cultural welfare. Such conditions are a prerequisite to international peace and security. Operations under the proposed legislation will be conducted with full and constant awareness that no encouragement should be given to the imposition upon other people of any useless burden of armaments which would handicap the economic improvement which all countries so strongly desire. The execution of the program authorized by the bill will also be guided by a determination to guard against placing weapons of war in the hands of any [Page 616] groups who may use them to oppose the peaceful and democratic principles to which the United States and other American nations have so often subscribed.

In entering into agreements with other American states for the provision of training and equipment as authorized by the bill, the purposes of this program will be made clear to each of the other governments.”

The proposed legislation provided in section 5 that the terms and conditions upon which the cooperation authorized under section 3 is extended to any country shall be such as the President deems satisfactory and the benefit to the United States may be payment or repayment in kind or property, or any other direct or indirect benefit which the President deems satisfactory. So far as the State Department knows, there never has been a complete and accurate estimate of what it would cost the United States to carry out an arms program in Latin America based on the complete adoption of U.S. military methods and principles and U.S. standards of military equipment.

It is stated in SANACC 360/11 that the supply and demand relationship with respect to military assistance necessitates careful consideration of the priority in which military assistance should be furnished to applicant nations. Four areas of priority are listed. The Western Hemisphere is in the third category as concerns long-term military considerations, in the second category as concerns long-term political considerations, and in the third category as concerns the combined considerations. Countries are grouped into seven categories. The only two Latin American nations listed are Brazil and Mexico, which were placed in category 6 for a limited degree of assistance. The SANACC paper recognizes the necessity under an arms standardization program of continuing procurement by the other American countries of U.S.-type material. It is stated:

“The priority position of countries outside the Western Hemisphere should not exclude relatively small transfers of U.S. arms and equipment from commercial sources or from available government surplus to the other American countries.”

SANACC 360/12 contains the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense on SANACC 360/11. The Joint Chiefs were of the opinion that the report is generally sound and will form a basis for decision and action with respect to military aid priorities in peacetime. The Joint Chiefs of Staff viewed with concern the fact that so many countries are listed. They recognized that “substantial” military aid is listed only for the Benelux countries, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom and “limited” and “token” aid naturally would not in practice be given to all of the other countries listed. The Joint Chiefs pointed out, however, that “even consideration of substantial military [Page 617] aid for six countries, limited aid for sixteen other countries, and token aid for thirty-seven more can result, in terms of granted requests, in tremendous commitments.” The Joint Chiefs emphasized that the most careful consideration must be given to our national financial and industrial limitations and our own military requirements before specific decisions are made. They pointed out that limited military aid may well prove difficult to limit once it has been begun and that token aid, by definition, bears to the recipient the implication of more to come; and that aid spread too thin may not be adequate anywhere, whereas concentrated aid where it may best serve the ultimate objective of our own security may be all or even more than we can provide.

Experience with the interim arms program in Latin America has demonstrated that it is almost impossible to avoid costly and disturbing national rivalries in furnishing arms to the Latin American nations. If, as stated in paragraph 16 of NSC/56, “it devolves upon the United States to find ways and means to enable Latin American governments to procure arms to the extent necessary to insure their continued interest and cooperation”, we would undertake a commitment of unpredictable proportions. Complete acceptance and implementation of a hemisphere military plan on the basis of standardization would face us with either of two unacceptable alternatives. The United States would have to dictate the size and equipment of Latin American armed forces in order to protect itself from impossible demands, or the United States would have to accept the requests of the Latin American nations for the arms and equipment they think they need. In the first alternative, we would justly be accused of flagrant intervention in the internal affairs of the Latin American countries. The United States cannot dictate to the Latin American countries in a matter so closely related to sovereign independence as that of national defense. In the second alternative, the Latin American countries naturally would purchase non-American arms and equipment, and so defeat the standardization plan, unless the United States were prepared to meet their requests.

type of latin american military establishments best fitted to meet the needs of hemisphere defense and the security interests of the united states

The nature of the threat to Latin America in the event of war is an important factor in the determination of the type and strength of Latin American military establishments best suited for hemisphere defense and the security interests of the United States.

Paragraphs 10 and 11 of NSC/56 mention disturbances in Colombia and Bolivia and the failure to maintain internal order. It is believed that such riots and armed uprisings are political and police problems [Page 618] rather than military problems related to the armed forces and hemisphere defense. It is improbable that increased military strength would prevent violent political disturbances of this character. Furthermore, there is no assurance that police and armed forces will not be infiltrated and subverted by communist and other totalitarian groups, in which event weapons would pass into the hands of people who would misuse them. This already has happened both in Latin America and in other parts of the world. There are numerous examples where weapons used in internal disturbances in foreign countries and in armed clashes between foreign countries are of U.S. origin. In many cases, the United States has been criticized for contributing to these acts of violence because of the fact that the weapons were of U.S. origin.

If the aggressor, in the event of war, had sufficient naval, amphibious, or air-power to land armed forces in the Western Hemisphere, there would be a direct military threat. However, it seems more probable that the immediate threat would be the political one of infiltration and subversion accompanied by internal aggressive action on the part of small but highly organized communist groups. Measures to counter this sort of threat lie in the political, economic, and social fields. What is needed are representative governments that will command the support of their peoples; efficient and loyal police forces which will be immune to communist infiltration and control; economic and social improvements and raised living standards which will provide strong support for stable governments and the maintenance of order; and a faithful observance by all of the American Republics of the principles of collective action for the common security and welfare.

Paragraph 11 of the NSC paper recognizes that the Latin American forces required for the preservation of internal order are generally of the type adaptable to police duty.

It seems extremely doubtful that the Latin American nations will be economically and technically able within the next few years to support military establishments which would provide any substantial combat strength in the event of a major war involving the nations of the Western Hemisphere. There also is a very real danger that substantial increases in armed forces and armaments could result in a weakening of solidarity through the aggravation of national fears and rivalries.


United States interests would be best served by an approach to the Rio Treaty and to inter-American military cooperation different from the one set forth in NSC/56.

A general strategic plan for hemisphere defense could well be studied by the Inter-American Defense Board. Over a period of time [Page 619] it might be possible, perhaps in connection with similar action in the United Nations, to reach agreement upon the armed forces that each American nation would maintain and hold available for hemisphere defense.

Such standardization as is practicable should be sought. Much probably can be accomplished in the fields of communications and detection equipment, etc. It does not seem necessary to give up the obvious mutual advantages of some standardization even though complete standardization does not seem possible in the foreseeable future.

The implementation of the Rio Treaty could develop gradually through the usual inter-American process of evolution, and through the procedure of consultation in specific cases, as provided by the terms of the Treaty itself.

  1. This paper was transmitted on September 20 by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Kennan) to the Department of State Representative on the NSC Staff (Bishop) with the suggestion that the views of the Policy Planning Staff be cleared with ARA and then submitted to the NSC Staff for use in the preparation of the report to be made for NSC consideration.

    NSC 56 underwent subsequent revisions before its approval on May 19, 1950, as NSC 56/2 by President Truman.

  2. Text in Department of State Treaty Series No. 922, and 51 Stat. 15.
  3. Text in Foreign Relations, 1938, vol. v, p. 83.
  4. Text in Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 199, and 54 Stat, (pt. 2) 2491.
  5. Pan American Union, Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security, Rio de Janeiro, August 15–September 2, 1947: Report on the Results of the Conference by the Director General (Washington, 1947).
  6. Text in Department of State Treaty Series No. 993, and 59 Stat. 1091.
  7. The Preamble to the Rio Treaty, after referring to the underlying principles of the inter-American system, states that the Treaty is concluded in conformity with those principles “in order to assure peace, through adequate means, to provide for effective reciprocal assistance to meet armed attacks against any American State, and in order to deal with threats of aggression against any of them.”

    Article 1 of the Treaty contains a formal condemnation of war and an undertaking not to resort to the threat or the use of force in international relations in any manner inconsistent with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations or of this Treaty.

    The Treaty does not contain provisions similar to those of Article 3 of the North Atlantic Treaty [63 Stat. 2241] (separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, to maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack); or to the provisions of Article 9 of the North Atlantic Treaty (to establish immediately a defense committee which shall recommend measures for the implementation of Articles 3 and 5). The procedure outlined in the Rio Treaty, in addition to the undertaking by each party to assist in meeting an armed attack by any State against an American State, is one of consultation as the need therefor may arise (see Articles 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, and 13). [Footnote in the source text.]

  8. Text in Department of State Bulletin, August 8, 1949, p. 189.
  9. Brackets appear in the source text.
  10. For text of SANACC 360/11, as amended by SANACC 360/12 and 360/13, under cover of memorandum SANA–6333, March 16, 1949, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. i, p. 257.
  11. Text in Department of State Bulletin, May 19, 1946, p. 859. For pertinent documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. xi, pp. 86 ff.