740.5/1–1251: Telegram

The United States Deputy Representative on the North Atlantic Council ( Spofford ) to the Secretary of State


Depto 405. For Perkins from Spofford. Embtel 3837.1 January 10 discussipn by deputies of Canadian reorganization proposal resulted in free and frank exchange of views re top NATO structure particularly proposed council of governments. Leading participants were Wilgress, Alphand, Starkenborgh and Hoyer-Millar. Consensus of opinion was expressed by Starkenborgh when he said that Netherlands favored council of governments because it would do away with present multiple committees at ministerial level whose practice had been to refer questions back and forth and each of which could act on only part of questions put before them.

I said very little during discussion except to express personal view that we had always considered represented governments rather than foreign offices and that there might be merit if annual though probably not more frequent meetings were held with wider high level representation. At end when it was asked which deputies could accept Canadian concept of council of governments in principle, I said I was not instructed. Only other deputy unable to accept in principle was Belgian who also uninstructed. I believe that on Monday when question is to be discussed again Belgium will indicate acceptance in principle.

Situation we face therefore is that of US being only government not ready accept principle of Canadian proposal for council of governments. Possible courses of action seem to me to be (1) take position that present top structure satisfactory and no reorganization needed, (2) accept principle of council of governments as basis for discussion without accepting details of Canadian paper, and attempt to fill out picture along lines satisfactory to US, (3) put forward alternative proposal for reorganization of top structure.

First alternative would not solve question but merely have effect of prolonging discussion and consideration of reorganization. We [Page 27] would be substantially alone in that position. As to third, we can undoubtedly get sympathetic consideration of constructive new proposals, but I believe that if we are going to advance any we should serve notice at Monday’s meeting of our intention to do so.

Believe we should follow second alternative. In any event, we can no longer prevent crystallization of position by 11 other governments without expressing some US position. Appreciate your efforts to get US position formulated and importance of getting one satisfactory to all concerned. At same time I have been stalling since September council meeting and curve of diminishing returns is now falling sharply. In effort to help clarify problem, I submit following further discussion in amplification of thinking in Embtel 37802 and Deptel 2864.3

There is general agreement here and I believe in Washington that council members should and do speak for governments. This is principle of council of governments which I recommend we join others in accepting. While other NAT governments have indicated in general terms more or less agreement with details of paragraphs 6 to 8 of revised Canadian paper there has been little specific discussion and I believe we can secure its development along satisfactory lines if we can take active role quickly enough. Am glad to note in Todep 2034 statement increasing number US agencies attaching importance to NATO as “operating entity”. In this connection wish reiterate views expressed paragraph 1 of Embtel 3780 that forecast as indicated therein would be far more effective and better vehicle for US leadership. Problems with which Canadian paper still seems to deal inadequately and which are apparently bothering Washington may be broken down as follows:

Composition of council to ensure efficiency, responsibilities, and continuity. Believe it should, as indicated paragraph 3 Embtel 3780 and paragraph 3 Deptel 2864, be small and normally composed of FonMins, in any case with only one spokesman for each government.
Making sure views of all agencies concerned are adequately reflected both in policy decisions and operations. This in turn has 3 aspects (a) composition of council delegates (b) formulation of instructions and (c) advisors to deputies. We believe (a) could adequately be met by appropriate defense and other interested agency advisors on council delegations. With respect to (b) commission on internal security affairs should insure adequate coordination of US policy based on views all concerned. Defense and other advisors to deputies as suggested last sentence paragraph 5 (a) Deptel 2864 should cover (c).
Question of personal contact between top officials other than FonMins. This is clearly desirable provided action not held up pending such meetings. In this connection believe solution should include [Page 28] elements both alternatives suggested paragraph 5 Deptel 2864 perhaps along following lines:
SG, with military representative commission [committee], whose members presumably reflect their Defense Ministers’ views, should be action agency in military field and have final decision on operations within framework overall policy decisions of council and political guidance from departments. Defense Ministers would continue meet periodically primarily in advisory relation to council. (I note present terms of reference of defense commission [committee] provide “it shall meet in ordinary session annually and at such other times as it may be requested to meet by the council or as may be deemed desirably by majority of defense commission”). Whether or not SG-military representative commission [committee] renamed “defense commission” as Canadians propose seems of little importance but its role is closer to that assigned to defense commission [committee] by treaty, i.e., “to recommend measures for implementation of Articles 3 and 5” than is role of Defense Ministers.
Council deputies adequately advised by representatives of defense and other ministries would continue as permanent alter ego of council to supervise operating groups as envisaged in 5(b) Deptel 2864 (except for military planning). They would in effect be deputies of all agencies concerned. It might, in time, be found desirable to have defense and other advisors to deputies meet in sub-committees which would further this concept.5

[ Spofford ]
  1. Not printed, but see footnote 3, supra.
  2. January 7, p. 18.
  3. Not printed, but see footnote 2, ibid.
  4. Not printed, but see footnote 7, p. 20.
  5. In the answering telegram 3391 to London of January 13, not printed, Perkins informed Spofford that he personally favored his second position but felt that no decision could be made until the subject was discussed in the Department at Washington with Spofford and Katz, preferably in the coming week (740.5/1–1251).