The United States Deputy Representative on the North Atlantic Council (Spofford) to the Secretary of State
No. Usdep 17
Ref: Depto 2971 and Depto 2982
Subject: Discussion at Council Deputies Meeting August 29, 1951.
The following is an outline of the discussion which took place in the Council Deputies, August 29, 1951, on the question of a report by a military agency being presented at the Ottawa meeting of the Council:
General Lindsay said that the Deputies’ views had been reported to the Standing Group as follows:
- no military subjects are to be discussed at Ottawa,
- a progress report is needed and might possibly be cleared through MRC,
- the Chairman of the Standing Group should present this report and be available for consultation.
He said the Standing Group has replied that it is responsible to the Military Committee and reports and acts at the direction of the Military Committee. The Military Representatives Committee cannot replace Military Committee except perhaps for overriding reasons which do not now exist. The Ottawa discussions are to be non-military and the Standing Group report would lead to confusion so long as other issues are open. Any report would have to be in the name of the Military Committee which should, therefore, approve it. A report by the Standing Group Representatives would lead to questions and these could hardly be answered without Military Committee approval. A purely factual report would be of no interest or use, since military steps taken since Brussels, SHAPE organizational measures, etc., are all public knowledge already and a recapitulation by the Standing Group would be of no assistance to the Council. The Standing Group adhered to its original views and requested that the Agenda exclude any report by a Military Representative.
UK then said that they insist command structure be included in the Agenda, either separately or to be discussed under some other item, possibly Greece-Turkey. This is their position whether the Standing Group is to be represented or not.
General Lindsay said that the Standing Group views on the command problem in connection with Greece and Turkey would be submitted [Page 644] to governments through the Military Representatives Committee.
UK hoped SACLANT might be discussed.
Canada said, by Standing Group logic, discussions of SACLANT would not be possible without a meeting of the Military Committee.
The Netherlands Deputy said he understood the Standing Group would not be present and therefore will not speak “in support of its own proposals.”
The French said the Standing Group position is indefensible and called attention to Section 11(c) of the Reorganization Paper and particularly to the statement that the Standing Group represents the Military Committee when it is not in session.
UK asked what the Standing Group would do if the first action of the Council at Ottawa was to send for them.
Netherlands said that it is very difficult to say what the Standing Group is and where it stands in NATO. The question had been evaded before but now arises as an inescapable question of principle, although it is too late to take any further steps to change the Standing Group position on the Ottawa meeting. He considered that after time for reflection it will be necessary to proceed to consider the position of the Standing Group to decide whether the Standing Group does exactly as it pleases, forcing its opinions to prevail, subject to nobody’s advice or comment.
The Norwegian Deputy said the Netherlands Deputy touched on the unanimous sentiment of all non-Standing Group countries. Despite General Lindsay’s undoubtedly competent reporting of earlier discussions to the Standing Group, it now appears that only one possibility remains. Non-Standing Group governments must make it clear to the others that this is an important question of principle. In New York 7 Ministers took a dubious view of Standing Group relations to the Organization but bowed to the U.S. opinion. Everybody wants the military apparatus to work. Everybody recognizes the position of the great powers and the need to limit the membership in some higher bodies. The present situation, however, is impossible. If, as seems true, the military apparatus is unsatisfactory, the question must be raised again. He requested Standing Group powers to make this clear to their governments.
UK said he certainly had every sympathy for the non-Standing Group views and further he was extremely irritated to have been made ridiculous by their insisting that command be discussed at the meeting and the simultaneous refusal of his own military to participate.
The Belgians associated themselves with the Netherlands view, and asked if it would be possible to discuss reorganization at Ottawa without the Standing Group.[Page 645]
Italy said this question of principle must be clarified soonest because the organization will not function otherwise.
The Canadian Deputy said he would like a clarification of the relations between the Organization and the Standing Group. He did not like the existence of the Military Committee being used as excuse for inaction or delay. They associated themselves with the views of the Netherlands and Norway.
USDep said that he would convey the views expressed to his Representative on the Standing Group, that the close relationship which was hoped for is not in evidence, and that it is not clear why this is true.
General Lindsay suggested that Norway’s “condemnation of the Standing Group” should be conveyed to the Military Committee, of which the Standing Group is the servant.
The Norwegian Deputy replied in anger, “This is entirely unacceptable. The Military Committee is being used as a subterfuge and an excuse. The Norwegian member of the Military Committee and certainly many others would have made a meeting before Ottawa possible.”
The Canadian Deputy said that we hear that a meeting of the Military Committee is impossible, yet action is taken, for instance in connection with the question of Greece and Turkey command. He insisted that the relationship between the Military Committee, the Standing Group and the Organization should be clarified.
The UK said the simple fact is that the interposition of the Military Committee between the Standing Group and the Council doesn’t work. Perhaps the present structure would be necessary in an emergency but the only sensible thing is that the Standing Group should respond to the Council which, apparently, it will not do.
The Netherlands referred to such words in the Standing Group messages as “information is unnecessary”, “unimportant”, “not needed”, implying that the Standing Group was not competent to make such judgments alone. Netherlands considered the French reference to Section 11(c) of the Reorganization Paper entirely justified and repeated that after more careful consideration they would raise the whole issue for further action.
Mr. Spofford said that one factor which should be considered is that the Standing Group had understood the Ottawa agenda was to be primarily non-military and that this was emphasized in the Standing Group discussion when they agreed that no Military Committee meeting was possible before Ottawa without interrupting other important work. He felt the Standing Group might respond that the present situation is not a precedent for other meetings and in general the Military [Page 646] Committee could meet before the Council. He assumed General Lindsay would report views expressed and US would, with France and UK, discuss the question with their representatives on the Standing Group.
The Deputies then agreed that Item IV(2), “Report by Military Representatives”, should be deleted from the Agenda, although Netherlands suggested half jokingly that it be left in order that the question might be raised in Ottawa as to what had happened to the report.