The Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense ( Marshall )
Dear Mr. Secretary: By letter of December 30, 19501 the Acting Secretary of Defense requested the Department of State to approach the Canadian Government with a view toward obtaining a broad agreement to cover certain SAC operations involving Goose Bay, Labrador, and Harmon Air Base, Newfoundland. The suggested substance of a communication to the Canadian Government in this regard was attached.
Following on this request, a series of discussions have been held with the Canadian Ambassador in Washington and with officials of the Department of External Affairs in Ottawa. It is clear from these discussions that the Canadian Government is not in a position to give prior consent to the use of Canadian bases and territory for the activities set forth in the letter of December 30, 1950. The Canadian Government feels it must always reserve the right, as a matter of national sovereignty, to refuse the use of these bases however unlikely the exercise of such right would be in certain clear circumstances. On the basis of the talks that have been held with the Canadian Government, the Department of State has good reason to believe that Canadian consent to the use of its territory for atomic strikes would be speedily [Page 844] forthcoming in the event of (1) Soviet armed attack on the North American continent, (2) Soviet armed attack on one or more of the NATO countries (except in situations where the issue is obscure), or (3) in any other situation that would mean global war.
As to certain deployment operations of the SAC including overflight of Canada with non-nuclear and/or nuclear components and storage at Goose Bay of non-nuclear and/or nuclear components, the Canadian Government wants such requests put to the Canadian Embassy in Washington by the Department of State with as much advance notification as possible. For its part, the Canadian Government is prepared to reply promptly to such requests through the same channel. In recent weeks this channel has been used on several occasions and, although the advance notice has been exceedingly short, the Canadian Government has responded promptly and affirmatively. While the Canadian Government is not prepared to give agreement now to any and all such deployments in the future, there is every reason to believe from the discussions which have taken place that the Canadian Government will, in fact, give prompt approval, provided the suggested channel is used and maximum possible notice is given.
In view of the foregoing, the Department of State feels that further pressure on the Canadian Government to give prior agreement to the use of Canadian bases for atomic strikes or to the use of Canadian territory for the deployment of atomic weapons (either with or without their nuclear components) or to over-fly Canadian territory with such weapons would not yield the desired results. Instead, the Department feels that the matter should be dealt with in the following informal way:
- Frequent consultations should be held between appropriate officials of the Department of State and of the Department of Defense on the one hand and the Canadian Ambassador on the other, such consultations being directed toward a mutual examination of developing world situations that may or may not necessitate the use of atomic weapons. Such approach should go a long way toward satisfying the Canadian desire to be consulted in these matters while at the same time avoiding a situation wherein, if pressed further to give prior agreement, the Canadian Government would feel it was impelled to give a formal negative answer. By a continuing process of consultation on developing world situations, it is thought that the Canadian Government will find itself more readily in a position to allow the use of its territory for atomic strikes in the various contingencies that may develop in the future.
- Requests for permission to make use of Canadian territory for the deployment of atomic weapons (both without and with their nuclear components) or to over-fly Canadian territory with such weapons should be addressed to the Canadian Government by the Department of State through the Canadian Embassy in Washington, and the reply of the Canadian Government should be routed through the same channels. As much advance notification as possible should be given [Page 845] by the United States and the Canadian Government is prepared to respond to such requests as promptly as possible.
The Canadian Government is prepared to proceed along the foregoing lines. The Department of State considers that the above consultations and channel for handling requests provides an informal mechanism whereby Canadian consent to the use of her territory for SAC operations will be expeditiously forthcoming if and as necessary. Recent experience with such requests to the Canadian Government fortifies this conclusion. The effectiveness of the suggested procedure and the likelihood of attaining the end result required will be enhanced if all possible measures are taken to see to it that the Canadian Government is given as much advance notification of prospective actions as possible.
- Not printed.↩