S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1: NSC 71 Series

Report to the National Security Council by the Secretary of State1

top secret
NSC 71/1

Views of the Department of State on the Rearmament of Western Germany

The Department of Defense, in NSC 71, has raised for discussion the question of the rearmament of Western Germany. It is understood that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are not pressing for the immediate rearmament of Western Germany, but rather, recognizing the political implications, are urging that steps be taken to create conditions in Europe under which agreement could be obtained from all concerned on this question.

The pace of events, both as regards Germany and as regards European attitudes towards Germany, is fairly rapid. The United States Government is determined, and the British and French Governments have recently expressed complete agreement, that we must bring Germany as quickly as possible into close and firm association with the West and that we must create conditions so that the strength of Western Germany can be definitely added to the strength of the West. This implies not only that Germany should be brought into Western organizations, but that this should be done in a manner which so definitely commits Germany to the West that her future choice between East and West cannot be in doubt. The progress that has been made through the Council of Europe, the OEEC, and other arrangements for a real framework of strength in Western Europe including Germany has not been altogether up to the hopes and expectations of the Department of State. We now have, however, in the recent Schuman proposal for the pooling of heavy industries in Europe,2 a project which gives real encouragement as regards the possibility of firmly cementing Germany into Western Europe. If such a proposal is successful, we may hope to see the French willing to agree to an approach to German questions which hitherto has been impossible for any French Government to support. Other steps are being taken, such as [Page 692] the European Payments Union,3 which all point to the tightening of Germany’s ties with the West. The three governments have agreed to actively study in London this summer the question of modification of controls and restrictions on Germany.4 It seems apparent, barring some unforeseen circumstances, that we are well on the way to lifting all but the most basic security controls. This should allow Germany, both legally and practically, to begin taking her normal place in Europe.

It was quite clear, however, both in the tripartite meetings in London, and in the meetings of the North Atlantic Treaty Council,5 that the rearmament of Germany, and hence her inclusion in NAT, was considered premature to the point where profitable discussion cannot yet be held on this subject.

There are many considerations, looking only at Germany, which must enter into such a decision. We can never forget that we have a double problem. Even confronted with the Soviet menace as we are, we cannot ignore from the long-range point of view the vital importance of obtaining the right kind of Germany. High Commissioner McCloy believes, and the Department of State thinks he is right, that we are now and will continue to be for the next year or eighteen months in the most critical period as regards the development of attitudes and conditions which will influence Germany for decades to come. We are still in a position to shape the direction of these developments as our prestige in Germany is still great. We can expect this influence to diminish rather rapidly, and we wish to make the most of it while we still have the opportunity. In this connection one fact of great significance cannot be overlooked. The truth is that the majority of Germans, and particularly the democratic elements we are supporting, do not today desire to see Germany have armed forces. This is true of the rank and file of the German people, and not only of their elected spokesmen. They do not feel that their government is as yet truly representative of the people and they have seen to their disadvantage the effect of military influence on their past governments. Under such conditions, to force the German uniform back into the picture would without question act to the disadvantage and disillusionment of those elements in Germany on which we place our hope for the future. From the viewpoint of reaching our occupation goals in Germany, it is certainly to our advantage to delay the remilitarization of Germany in any form, at least until [Page 693] we have had more time to develop democratic tendencies on the part of the German people and a more responsive form of government. Although world conditions could conceivably force us to abandon this portion of our program, at the present time we consider that the disadvantages of so doing clearly outweigh the risk we may be taking by not adding German manpower in a military sense to the West.

We must weigh carefully whether an abrupt reversal of our policy of demilitarization in Germany at this time would in fact add strength to the West. Certainly such a course would not add strength if it resulted in undermining Western Allied unity. Without substantial unity there can be no strength. The French, as has been stated before, are moving rather rapidly, considering their past traditions and policy. In the opinion of the Department of State this trend could be entirely reversed by an attempt on our part at this time to bring about the rearming of Germany. Such an attempt would likewise be a decisive factor of some significance in our own political life as large segments of American opinion would undoubtedly be thrown into very active opposition. We must also consider whether we can not obtain the maximum contribution by Germany to the strength of the West during the present stage without the use of German armed forces. In the face of the present economic and financial situation in Germany, Germany can hardly contribute, and still maintain conditions under which she is an aid to the reconstruction of Europe, more than the 22 per cent of her present budget which is used for support of the Western occupation forces. We must look upon this as a contribution to Western military strength rather than as the support of forces occupying a defeated country. The possibility of production in Germany of non-ordnance items of equipment for NAT forces could also be a factor in strengthening such forces. Here again, as in most questions, the problem is one of finance. This question has perhaps not been fully explored and the Department of State believes that the Defense and State Departments should look into this question more carefully.

The new concept of balanced North Atlantic forces is of course a factor in considering the eventual use of German manpower. If this concept proves successful in practice it would provide a framework in which a limited German rearmament might be manageable, especially in the eyes of the Europeans. Here again the framework has not yet been worked out to the extent sufficient to remove present obstacles.

In considering the possible creation of German armed forces, whether of the “balanced” variety, or otherwise, it is important to re-emphasize one point; The West Germans at present are overwhelmingly [Page 694] anti-Communist and are repeatedly outraged by Soviet actions. Their ties to the West are not, however, so strong nor their sense of outrage and fear so great that they might not be tempted to make a deal with the East in response to changed circumstances or a clever Soviet move. It would not add true strength to the West to create a strong military force in Germany whose loyal support in the long run could not yet be counted on with reasonable certainty. There is no short-run, danger whatever of the Federal Republic turning its back on the West. In this respect our policy in Germany has been wholly successful. But it should again be stressed that more time is needed for German political development and for anchoring Germany irrevocably in the West by ties of economic and political self-interest. It is also pertinent to point out that after building further strength in the West, and before re-arming Western Germany, we shall probably wish to make a further effort to reunify Germany.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have also commented on the desirability of approving the establishment of a federal German police force as an initial step in the rearming of Western Germany. The Department of State is in full agreement that the present German police force should be strengthened, and it will press for action in that direction. The question as to whether this force should be directly under the Federal Government or whether additional and especially trained units should be created in the German States which could be used by the Federal Government is still to be decided and is probably not of great interest to the Department of Defense. The creation of a federal police would require a change in the German constitution. Knowing also the characteristic and unhappy use of central police by the Germans, we would want to define the functions of such police rather specifically by law. We wish to see additional strength of a true police nature but we do not wish to recreate a force which can readily be misused domestically by the central government. This question is now before the High Commission for recommendation to Governments. We do not consider this step as the initial phase of the rearmament of Western Germany which we believe to be a quite distinct and separate problem.

In summary, our present German and European policies are designed to create with the maximum speed possible the conditions under which Germany can be more completely aligned with the West. These policies recognize the need of direct German contribution to the strength of the West. The Department of State does not believe, however, that the time has come in this process for the United States publicly to advocate or otherwise press for action in the question of the establishment of German armed forces. It should also be remembered [Page 695] that Germany is presently contributing 22 per cent of her budget for occupation costs and cannot be expected to contribute much more.6

  1. Attached to the source text were a cover sheet and a note from Lay (neither printed), indicating that this report was being circulated for the information of the National Security Council. The initial draft of these views was sent as an attachment to a memorandum from Byroade to Acheson, dated June 13, not printed, and except for minor textual differences, the draft is identical with the source text. A one-page summary memorandum of these views, not printed, was given to President Truman on June 30. (S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1: NSC 71 Series)
  2. For documentation on the Schuman Plan, see vol. iii, pp. 691 ff.
  3. For documentation on the European Payments Union, see vol. iii, pp. 611 ff.
  4. For documentation on the Intergovernmental Study Group on Germany, see pp. 737 ff.
  5. For documentation on the meetings of the North Atlantic Treaty Council in May, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  6. NSC 71 and 71/1 were considered by the National Security Council at its 60th meeting on July 6 with President Truman in attendance, but further action was deferred until its next meeting. The Council also agreed to study the two papers further and to say nothing about their consideration by the Council. (NSC Action 313: S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1: NSC Records of Action) However, the question of Federal rearmament was not taken up at subsequent NSC meetings and apparently Was merged with the consideration of the larger problem of the Federal Republic’s contribution to the strengthening of Western Europe (NSC 82 Series) which arose in September. Regarding this, see Secretary Johnson’s letter to Secretary Acheson, August 17, vol. iii, p. 226.