The Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs ( Perkins ) to the Ambassador in Italy ( Dunn )

top secret

Dear Jimmy: We have long been concerned with the problem of placing in your hands more information concerning defense planning within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization so as to assist you in your conversations with high Italian officials when they approach you on this and related subjects. It is, however, most difficult of complete solution in view of the NAT security limitations and of the interdepartmental agreements here in Washington which prevent us from sending out specific data concerning the Medium Term Plan and its force and equipment requirements. We are fully aware of the resulting embarrassment which you must suffer at times thereby, and hope that the following background may be of some assistance to you.

We have succeeded in obtaining clearance from the Department of Defense to send our Chiefs of Mission in selected NAT countries the Defense Committee’s Report to the Council on “The Status of Defense Planning”.1 This was included with other NATO documents in a mailing covered by our Memorandum of April 26. On May 8, we sent a further memorandum transmitting two position papers, one of which, A–2/1a,1 gave a condensed summary of NATO accomplishments and of the next steps which we desire. Subsequently, you should have received by pouch from London the pertinent documents resulting from the North Atlantic Council session of May 15–18, inclusive.2 You will note that some of the resolutions regarding the defense effort adopted by the Council stem directly from the U.S. position as stated in A–2/1a mentioned above. Consequently, I believe that some information on strictly military planning is the main requirement to give you a more complete picture.

[Page 1492]

The Medium Term Plan, based on a target date of July 1, 1954, was somewhat hurriedly prepared, as the NATO Regional Planning Staffs had barely six weeks between the receipt of the Standing Group’s “strategic guidance” and the deadline set by that body. In turn, the Standing Group had barely a month to put the regional plans together, with the result that the present plan is only a rough “first edition” and represents essentially a “binding job”, rather than a truly integrated document. Both in State and Defense we are loath to publicize or in any way accredit the requirements of the plan because of its unrefined status and because we fear that the present force requirements and equipment deficiencies (generally believed to be higher than necessary) might cause an instinctive reaction of un-attainability with a resulting wave of discouragement and apathy. This, regardless of the fact that the breakdown between standing and reserve divisions and other related key factors essential for an evaluation of the plan’s feasibility have not yet been even considered. However, the necessary instructions have now been given on the military side of the Treaty with a view to refining the plan to its most economical dimensions compatible with adequate security. We believe that the vastly complicated task of costing the plan should only be finalized in terms of this revision.

In the London Council meeting, we stressed strongly that preliminary work should be pursued vigorously in the military, financial, and production bodies of the NATO. Acceptance of this principle by the other NAT countries is evidenced by the unanimous approval given to the Council resolutions. The achievement of concrete results will depend to a large extent on our continued vigorous advocacy of this method of approach through the United States Deputy in the new central machinery and through United States representatives on other NATO bodies, and by parallel action by United States diplomatic missions in NAT countries. Of course, an essential factor will be the willingness on the part of the United States to do what it expects the other NAT nations to do.

Obviously, the major problem will reside in financing the required forces. The Council, in adopting a resolution pertinent to this problem, recognized the great gap which exists between what we have now and what will be needed, and recommended to governments that increases be made in defense forces. In trying to get at the heart of the problem—adequate strength at minimum cost—we proposed, and the Council accepted after some reluctance and considerable debate, that in increasing forces the governments concentrate on the creation of balanced collective forces, rather than balanced national forces, for the defense of the North Atlantic area. By continued adherence to this [Page 1493] principle and by vigorous United States leadership based on it, we hope to bring about the realization of a defensive strength in Western Europe which would enable those nations to hold out hope of deterring an attack and, if necessary, successfully resisting Soviet land forces until help could arrive.

Nevertheless, we are determined to push forward both the review and the costing of the plan within NATO as an essential requirement for its intelligent consideration, both within the NATO and by the respective governments. Until that time we will be largely guessing, but in view of the gap between Soviet and Western strength, any increase in strength should retain its value, and building up collective strength should be initiated forthwith.

In view of the urgency of arriving at a decision as to whether or not something like the present Medium Term Plan is feasible, and if not, of actively pursuing some new and bold approach to the problem, and in view of the unavoidable delays entailed in any twelve-power approach to a problem, we are working with Defense and ECA on a purely United States review of the plan, its cost and implications. While Defense is ever loath to speculate, we believe that it should be possible to arrive at a sufficiently reasonable approximation to allow a decision as to whether the task is realizable or definitely out of the question. In turn, such a preliminary decision would permit us to exert more constructive leadership within the NATO and hasten the corresponding NATO-wide decisions.

With reference to the problem of United States financial support for European rearmament within the framework of the NAT, a difficult obstacle has to be overcome, whether our contribution is to continue for several years at the present rate or whether it might even be increased, as certain people are coming to believe.

All bodies within NATO have, in the course of their recent meetings, recognized the necessity of making a greater defense effort. We do not yet know the extent of this effort, but we are nevertheless certain that regardless of every possible saving it will be at a higher level than at present and that it will be necessary for all NAT countries to assume their fair share of the additional burden. The willingness to do so in the case of each nation will in all likelihood be influenced by what the other countries are doing. Thus, while our NAT partners will tend to look to us to set the example in view of our accepted leadership and because of our greater economic and financial resources, our own public opinion and the Congress will in turn be greatly influenced by the extent to which our friends will have reviewed their own financial and economic ability to support additional military expenditures and by the further concrete steps they take to aid themselves. We [Page 1494] must also be satisfied that they are using what monies they now have available in the most efficient manner for the development of balanced collective forces and not dissipating a part thereof in uncoordinated national prestige projects. This explains our introducing at the Council meeting the thought that economic recovery in Europe has progressed sufficiently far so as to permit in the future an equal priority to expenditures for additional economic recovery and expenditures for additional military security. You can rest assured that no one in the Department is thinking of reversing the priority which has obtained since the end of the war in favor of economic recovery in view of the obvious continuing necessity of both dealing with the internal Communist threat and consolidating the politico-social basis essential to national strength. We do think, however, that the time has come when a slightly higher priority could be allocated to security against the threat of external Soviet aggression. We believe that the Council resolutions as adopted reflect this concept. In general, we are convinced that without some tightening of belts both here and in Europe, collective security will remain a mere plan.

Frequently, the discussion of military plans is confused at the present by the so-called “Luxembourg Plan” of the Western Union. Notwithstanding our efforts to do so, we have not yet been able to find out its exact relationship to the NATO Medium Term Plan. Of course, any achievements by the Brussels Pact powers3 will result in a net gain for the NATO. However, we are inclined to believe that while there exists a relationship between strictly Western Union planning and the NATO’s 1954 project, it is not sufficiently close for maximum efficiency. Some confusion was caused here when the British Ambassador4 mentioned figures to the Secretary as representing the price of Britain’s and France’s security “under current military planning”. A study of the figures, however, revealed that they represented the cost of the Western Union’s Luxembourg Plan (a program going through to the end of 1951). While the figure may be a good one, it is impossible to judge the NATO plan thereby in the absence of precise knowledge of their relationship.

While we understand the value of the Brussels Pact to the Western Union nations because of its precise commitments, we believe these powers tend to overstress this angle in view of the de facto developments within the NATO since the Pact’s signature. Quite aside from this consideration, we think that these nations are slightly unrealistic in tending to emphasize their Western European Region, as full [Page 1495] United States support is required to give consistency to Western European collective defense. Furthermore, this tendency to wear a Western Union hat has been a retarding influence in NAT planning; consequently we hope that gradually the Western Union military planners will lose their Western Union identity and come to function solely as the Western European Regional Planning Group.

Please restrict this letter to the Department of State officer or officers handling these affairs at a high level.

My best, as ever.

Sincerely yours,

George W. Perkins
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. For documentation concerning these NATO Council Meetings, see pp. 85 ff.
  4. The Brussels Treaty signatories were France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. For documentation concerning the Brussels Treaty, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iii, pp. 53 ff.
  5. Sir Oliver Franks.