758.5/2–2150: Telegram

The Ambassador in Sweden ( Matthews ) to the Secretary of State

top secret

233. I am grateful for the information contained in Deptel 96, February 16, 1 p. m., on Department’s current trend of thinking on [Page 23] our objectives regarding Sweden and appreciate the opportunity to comment thereon. I do so with some hesitancy since I am naturally not in a position to see more than this small corner of the whole picture. I am glad Department concurs in desirability review of NSC 28/1.

I concur fully in Department’s estimate of lack of popular support in Sweden for participation in NAT at this time but note that in weighing question Department refers to our “inability at this time to meet probable Swedish demands for concrete steps to insure its security”. Does this imply that we can meet successfully Norwegian and Danish demands? Does the Department refer to tangible military aid and planning in time of peace or to the far greater security factor of presumed American military support in case of Soviet aggression?

I note Department’s desire that Sweden “move away from her attitude of neutrality” and belief “there is considerable scope for this without arriving at point where Sweden would be prepared for pact membership”. In one sense this seems to me ambiguous and not entirely fair to Sweden. A gradual abandonment of neutrality by Sweden means taking sides with the West and opposing to a certain degree Soviet expansion or strategic strengthening (East-West trade controls). Can Sweden be expected to do this without the security afforded by membership in a group capable of opposing such expansion such as the Atlantic Pact nations, particularly the US?

In second full paragraph Deptel 96, Department mentions as advantages of pact membership “participation in strategic planning” and “access to classified military information”. This raises an important aspect of relationship between pact members and non-members as applied to Norway and Denmark vis-à-vis Sweden. I do not know whether this problem has yet been considered by any NAT organization. One thing is certain, however, the Swedes will make every possible endeavor through every possible channel to obtain all information available to pact members. I am extremely skeptical that any NAT body could successfully prevent Norwegians and Danes from making such information available to Sweden privately in event withholding thereof is decided upon. This is particularly true in view of the importance Norway attaches to Swedish defenses which I will mention below.

I certainly agree that change in Swedish neutrality is a long-range rather than immediate line but in granting radar license now we encourage Sweden to believe, as it anxiously hopes, that it can obtain the benefits of security without the obligations of the pact, thus making the goal ever more distant. I certainly fully concur that, “we do not wish to force Swedish decision” but I am not sure that we should encourage the present false sense of security which only [Page 24] strengthens the hand of Swedish neutrality advocates. In a sense granting the radar license implies a certain confirmatory confidence on our part in Sweden’s greatly exaggerated belief in her own strength and ability to maintain her neutrality by providing a major means for her to feel more secure even though she will not be. (I have often emphasized the extraordinary Swedish over-estimate of their own military strength and under-estimate of that of USSR, which many Swedes still regard as that of Finn winter war.)

While I am in no position to judge, I question, given America’s great productive capacity, that letting Sweden go “to other end of the line” and do without US Government procurement will in effect materially prevent Sweden from obtaining such future equipment as she may seek.

With reference to Norway’s desire to improve Sweden’s defense net I fear that we may run a risk of fostering a false sense of security in Norway by encouraging Norway to believe that Swedish defense (a) is stronger than it is in fact and (b) that it will be utilized on Norway’s behalf if war comes. As set forth in mytel 762 August 2, 1949,1 I do not believe that Sweden as long as it maintains its neutrality policy will ever voluntarily come to Norwegian or Danish defense in the event of war provided any possible means of avoiding, or holding the illusion of avoiding, full Soviet occupation or obstruction of Sweden remains. Should not Norway be encouraged to abandon any illusions in this regard and to look to the West for her security?

Since equipment covered by present application involves no release of classified material and is not desired by other NAT members, I agree withholding of license might be regarded as act of pressure with possible adverse consequences. If the license is granted, however, I am confident that Swedes will make every effort to utilize the decision as means of convincing Norway and Denmark that advantages of pact accrue to non-members as well as to members. While even pro-neutrality Swedes concede added security afforded Sweden by existence of NAT they have never abandoned their anxiety and belief that Norwegian and Danish membership therein brings war closer to Scandinavia. If Swedish Government saw any possibility of persuading Danes and Norwegians to withdraw from pact, it would leave no stone unturned to accomplish this. I think, therefore, if license is granted reasons should be carefully explained to other pact members.

One last point. I note Department makes no reference to numbered paragraph 7, mytel 167.2 I assume from this that larger considerations involved in radar license outweigh the leverage we might obtain in [Page 25] securing greater Swedish cooperation in controlling 1–A and 1–B list shipments to the East. If such control is important I must repeat, however, we are relinquishing one of the few real cards we hold.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Dated February 7, p. 15.