Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Joseph J. Wolf of the Office of European Regional Affairs

top secret

Subject: US–Canadian Base Negotiations.

Participants: Peter M. Towe, Third Secretary, Canadian Embassy
Joseph J. Wolf, Bureau of Begional Affairs EUR: RA

Mr. Towe called at 10 a. m. May 10 at his request. He resumed the conversation reported in Memorandum of Conversation of May 7,1 (when he had obtained clarification of the US–Iceland Defense Agreement of May 5, 1951)2 by saying that he would like to obtain clarification, on a personal basis, of some further aspects of the bases field.

He then referred to the fact that the meeting of the PJBD now going on3 might lead to some area of disagreement. In this respect he read from a memorandum of instructions to the Canadian members of the PJBD which he said had been approved by the Prime Minister.4 The instructions made three points.

Canada’s intention to cooperate whole-heartedly and fully with the United States with respect to base requirements in the common defense.
Canada’s firm belief that any rights granted must not be at the expense of Canadian sovereignty.
Long-term leases should not be considered as an appropriate vehicle.

With respect to the latter item, Mr. Towe raised the question as to whether the Iceland formula or something like it might apply. He also suggested something along the line of a year-to-year right of user, rather than a vested right for a fixed period.

I responded that I assumed that if Canada was merely going to grant permission to use bases, such would assume Canadian construction at full Canadian expense. Mr. Towe disclaimed any such Canadian intention, and asked whether the infra-structure conversations now going on in the Deputies5 might not govern these bases. I said that we were studying the infra-structure proposals, but were not yet sure what our position would be with respect thereto. I also said that I thought urgency might compel us to move forward on certain projects before a final overall solution of infra-structure or sharing of the burden was accomplished. Mr. Towe asked what I thought might be a [Page 887] fair financial formula. I responded that we hoped that host countries, would provide the facilities, particularly if they had the raw materials and manpower, and did not have to expend other than local currency. We agreed that overall budget problems would be relevant. Mr. Towe asked whether any such construction would be given credit as a defense effort with regard to the sharing of the burden exercise, and I said that I could not respond officially, but personally believed that such would be the case.

Reverting to the term of the agreement, Mr. Towe said that Canada did not want to establish long-term lease-holds such as the 99 year lease base agreement, or the 20 year term at Goose Bay, nor did it wish the United States to retain rights after the emergency had expired. He pointed out that the North Atlantic Treaty had connotations going beyond the defense effort, and that we all hoped that the Treaty would continue in force after the present defense emergency was over. He indicated that arrangements made under NATO joint planning should be limited in term to the existence of the NATO military requirement as the maximum term. He specifically asked whether all of our requests would be NATO requests. I said I did not know the details of our refined requests at this time.

In this respect, he remarked that the Prime Minister’s memorandum said that the PJBD should be used as the vehicle for negotiation, but said that he personally wondered whether requests for NATO purposes should be obtained through a vehicle other than the PJBD, which had been established primarily with reference to hemispheric defense.

I pointed out to Mr. Towe that from the financial, political, and military point of view, it was necessary to have firm rights which could be used during an emergency and which would not be subject to termination on short-term notice by either party. I remarked that the latter would give no basis for major financial investment, would make uncertain military plans and operations, and would create an atmosphere of political uncertainty. I remarked that the close friendship between Canada and the United States certainly would result in Canadian permission remaining open during any emergency period, and emphasized that it would be best to firm this up clearly in the agreement.

  1. Not printed.
  2. For text, see 2 UST (pt. 1), 1195–1201.
  3. The PJBD met in Kingston, Ontario, May 7–10, and at Chalk River, Ontario, May 10–11. The Journal of the meeting may be found under file number 711.56342/5–1151.
  4. Louis St. Laurent.
  5. The reference is to discussions in the North Atlantic Council of Deputies of the distribution of costs for permanent military facilities built in connection with the NATO program. For documentation, see volume iii.