The Embassy in the United Kingdom to the British Foreign Office 1


The American Embassy refers to recent discussions with the Foreign Office concerning the joint course of action with respect to civil aviation policy toward the USSR and its satellites.2 There is attached [Page 26] in this connection the text of a document which the Department of States proposes to use as a basis for instructions to certain United States Missions. The United States Government hopes that His Majesty’s Government will find itself in agreement with the policy set forth in this statement.

If such agreement is reached, it is proposed that the substance of this statement be transmitted by the two Governments to the United Kingdom and United States Missions concerned. In this way, it should prove possible to avoid differences in understanding and interpretation by such Missions in explaining the joint course of action to third governments.


Paper Prepared by the Embassy in the United Kingdom 3


Civil Aviation Policy Toward the USSR and its Satellites


[Here follow the texts of paragraphs 12 through 16 of document NSC 15/3, January 5, pages 56, renumbered 1 through 5.]


Our previous policy, NSC 15/1,4 called for (1) the blocking of civil air operations of the USSR and its satellites outside the area of Soviet control, and (2) the prohibition of the sale or export of civil aircraft and associated aviation equipment to Soviet or satellite agencies, as well as the denial of the use of facilities for overhaul, refitting and maintenance to USSR and satellite aircraft. These restrictive measures were to be carried out on a “common front” basis through the cooperation of other like-minded countries of Europe and the Near East. As an initial step toward the implementation of this policy, the Department of State sought the concurrence of the British Government. His Majesty’s Government agreed with respect to the export aspects of the policy (2 above) and concurred that USSR and satellite civil air operations to the Near Eastern, South Asian and African area should be prevented. They did not, however, agree with us completely concerning “containment” of USSR and satellite air operations to Western Europe.

[Page 27]

After some discussions our two governments reached agreement upon a joint policy which called for full implementation of the export aspects of the policy (NSC 15/1) and a less restrictive implementation with respect to satellite air operations (i.e. instead of attempting to “contain” satellite air operations completely, we would grant permission for satellite services outside the area of Soviet control if such concessions were necessary as a quid pro quo to obtain such services as we required, and were actually ready to operate, in satellite territory). We also agreed that, while facilities for overhaul, refitting or major maintenance should be denied to Soviet and satellite aircraft, the use of such minimum facilities as were necessary for the operation of such satellite air services as might be permitted and for securing adequate facilities for our own services in satellite territory would be authorized. Also, as provided for in the proposed policy, we agreed to make parallel approaches to other countries to persuade them to cooperate with us in putting the joint policy into effect.

The joint efforts of our two governments met with some success. With the cooperation of other friendly countries, a blockade against the export or sale of aviation equipment to the USSR or satellite agencies was successfully established and satellite air operations to the Near and Middle East were blocked. Some difficulties, however, were encountered in carrying out the air transport aspect of the policy insofar as satellite air operations to Western Europe were concerned. It developed that there was not a clearcut understanding between His Majesty’s Government and ourselves with respect to the severity of the restrictive measures intended in this respect. This problem soon became reflected in the attitudes of several Western European countries who began to show uncertainty as to how tightly they should control satellite air operations to their territories.

Under these circumstances, the Department of State considered it advisable to review the United States policy (NSC 15/1), from which our joint policy stemmed, and concluded that it would be desirable in this connection to secure the current views of our military authorities concerning the military security factors involved. We were subsequently informed by the Department of Defense that the Joint Chiefs of Staff believed there were military advantages to be gained by such civil air penetration of satellite territory as might be arranged through bilateral agreements between satellite states and non-curtain countries on a reciprocal basis, that is, the granting of landing rights in non-curtain states, including the United States, to satellite states in exchange for similar landing rights in satellite territory. Our military authorities, however, did not believe a balance of advantages were obtainable through an exchange of rights between Near Eastern, South Asian, and African countries and any satellite state and that [Page 28] continued “containment” of satellite civil air operations in that area was required in our national interest. It was concluded that our policy (NSC 15/1) should be modified to bring it into consonance with such revised views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and with current political, economic and civil aviation considerations.

comparison between new and old policy

It is believed that it will be of assistance to the addressee missions charged with the responsibility of implementing this new policy, as well as to those to which this instruction is being transmitted for information, if the similarities and differences between the new policy and its predecessor are highlighted.

An important, if not the most important, common denominator between the new and the old policy is the fact that the United States believes that civil air operations of USSR and satellite air carriers outside the area of Soviet control are motivated primarily by military considerations and are opposed to our national interest. This conclusion was contained in NSC 15/1 and has been reaffirmed in NSC 15/3.5 There has been no essential change, therefore, in our estimation of the nature of the problem with which we remain convinced the United States and other non-curtain countries must effectively cope. Secondly, we continue to believe it imperative that our multilateral effort to prevent the sale and export of aircraft and associated aviation equipment to Soviet and satellite agencies be continued. Furthermore, we continue to believe that Soviet and satellite air operations to the Near Eastern, South Asian and African area should be blocked. Finally, we still consider that the predominant consideration underlying the problem is that of military security. This concept found expression in our previous policy and is reemphasized and confirmed in our new policy.

The principal difference between the old and new policy is in the extension of the tactics which we believe can be effectively employed in combating the threat to our national interests contained in USSR and satellite air operations outside the Soviet area of control. Our previous policy called for only one counter measure: the complete blocking of such operations through the erection of a counter iron curtain of the air along the periphery of the Soviet controlled area by the United States and other countries in Western Europe and in the Near and Middle East. Our new policy, however, envisages the possibility that the United States and certain non-curtain states, particularly certain Western European states, might be able to beat the USSR and its satellites at their own game, i.e. efforts to effect a reciprocal exchange of air services with a satellite state should be made by the [Page 29] United States or other non-curtain states if it can be clearly determined that a net balance of advantages would result, particularly from a military security point of view. This course of action, to be undertaken only after certain definite criteria are met, is an active tactic as compared with the passive and relatively defensive measure to which we previously limited ourselves. The adoption of this additional tactic should not be construed to mean that we have “relaxed” or “softened” our previous severely restrictive policy. Such a conception would be without sound foundation, not only because it would be illogical for us to embrace an “easier” policy in the face of a reaffirmation of the seriousness of the security threat with which we are still confronted, but furthermore because any egress by a Soviet or satellite air carrier into non-curtain state territory would be permitted under our new policy only if the recognized disadvantages of such egress were more than offset by advantages to be gained from penetration of satellite territory.

A second point of difference is that the new policy is global and is intended to be applicable to all areas of the world where USSR or satellite air carriers may attempt to operate; its predecessor, while intended to be applicable to USSR and satellite air operations wherever they might be found, did not specifically include the Far Eastern area.

A third point of difference lies in the responsibility given the Department of State for establishing the identity from a political relations standpoint of those states which should be deemed satellites, whereas the previous policy listed certain satellites by name. Additionally, provision is made in the new policy for permitting minimum facilities necessary for the operation of such satellite air services outside satellite territory as may be agreed to and for securing adequate facilities for United States and other non-curtain air carriers in satellite territory. This modification is intended to reflect only realistic recognition of the fact that if the United States or another non-curtain state should determine that reciprocal air services should be exchanged it would, of course, be necessary to grant the satellite air carrier concerned the minimum “turn around” facilities and servicing necessary to insure reciprocal requirements in satellite territory.

Lastly, the new policy provides for a re-oriented approach to the problem of satellite air operations over the occupied zones of Germany. We recognize the fact that we will probably be unable to continue in all cases to use our position in Western Germany as a barrier to Soviet and satellite air operations. For example, if a reciprocal air service between a non-curtain state and a satellite state transitting Western Germany were established, as permitted under our new policy, we would almost certainly be obliged to grant overflight authorizations to that satellite state even though the United States itself [Page 30] were unable to secure reciprocal benefits in the territory of the satellite requesting such authorizations. This would be particularly true if, following the cooperation between the United States and the non-curtain state concerned which is called for in the new policy, the United States had previously indicated it perceived no objection to such a reciprocal air service. However, if the United States found itself in such a position, i.e. of approving overflights of a satellite air carrier, it would unquestionably endeavor to use such concessions as a bargaining lever to secure air rights in the territory of that satellite in behalf of United States carriers.

  1. The source text was sent to Washington under cover of a letter of May 9, 1950, from Ernest A. Lister, Civil Air Attaché with the Embassy in the United Kingdom, to Thomas A. Carter, Chief of the Aviation Policy Staff, Office of Transport and Communications Policy, not printed, which explained that this memorandum and the enclosure would be handed to the Foreign Office on either May 9 or May 10.
  2. Telegram 203, January 17, to London, not printed, requested the Embassy to inform the appropriate British officials of the finalization of the revised United States civil aviation policy toward the U.S.S.R. and its satellites (NSC 15/3, January 5, p. 1) and to urge British approval thereof (611.6094/1–1750). Telegram 696, February 7, from London, not printed, reported that the Embassy had, as instructed, given to the British Foreign Office the text of the Recommendations 12–16 of NSC 15/3, and the British had commented in a letter of February 3 that they were in general agreement with American views (611.6094/2–750). Some differences of opinion between American and British officials regarding the interpretation of the new policy remained, however, and were the subject of subsequent discussions.
  3. According to the letter of May 9 from Lister to Carter, cited in footnote 1, above, this paper was derived from a “background summary” prepared in the Department of State and sent to Lister under cover of a letter of February 16 from Carter, neither printed.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iv, p. 451.
  5. January 5, p. 1.