CFM files, lot M–88, box 158, Secretary’s briefing book

United States Delegation Minutes of the Second Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the United States, United Kingdom, and France Held at Washington, September 12, 1951, 3:00 p.m.

Tripartite Min–2
Mr. Acheson (U.S.)
Mr. Morrison (U.K.)
M. Schuman (Fr.)
Also Present
U.S. U.K. France
Mr. Jessup Sir Oliver Franks M. Bonnet
Admiral Wright Sir Pierson Dixon M. Alphand
Mr. Spofford

[Here follows a table of contents.]

Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Middle East Commands

Mr. Acheson, noting that “many questions could be decided which could not be answered”, turned to certain points raised by Mr. Schuman during the previous session. As to a political authority over a Middle East Command, it was hoped to obtain military cooperation without the political commitments and hence there would be no superior political body. This was a somewhat theoretical matter, however, for in practice the military committee would get its direction from the NATO governments, which would give informal if not public guidance.
Mr. Schuman wished to dispel a possible misunderstanding. He saw no advantage and in fact some real difficulty if the Middle East Command were included in NATO. While he would vote for the admission of Greece and Turkey to NATO, he wished to raise certain problems which would result from this action. He recognized that the [Page 1263] Standing Group had done its best to resolve the various problems. He would recommend to his Government, which was not yet aware of the plan, that it accept the Standing Group’s proposals. However, he wished to state two reservations: (a) The Middle East Command should be autonomous and outside of NATO and should be an integrated command. In view of French traditional interest in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Lebanon, France should be accorded an appropriate place in the command and be given the position of Assistant Commander in Chief, (b) He recognized that there would be an Eastern Mediterranean Command headed by a British admiral to support the Middle East Command. In the Western Mediterranean, where France has special relations with Africa, and across which reserves must come to support the defense of Europe, France had the duty and right to request that a French admiral be in command. As to Mr. Acheson’s comment on the political direction for Middle East Command, he read between the lines a possible solution. However, the situation was not yet entirely clear in view of the need for a unified policy in the Middle East.
As an additional question Mr. Schuman asked what the Standing Group planned to do with respect to the Straits, would they be under SHAPE, the Middle East Command or both? Admiral Wright replied that the Standing Group recognized the critical and strategic importance of the Straits and the fact that they were located near the dividing line between the southern flank of the European Command and the Middle East. In all probability defense of the area would involve Turkish ground troops and air and naval units from General Eisenhower’s command. The various commanders concerned with the Straits would act under mutually agreed plans which had been approved by a NATO authority.
As to the views of the Standing Group with respect to the Western Mediterranean Command, Admiral Wright said that there were many factors involved. General Eisenhower recognized the special position of French naval forces in the Western Mediterranean and their responsibility for lines of communication between North Africa and southern Europe. Yet the Western Mediterranean was a confined naval area in which there would be a number of other combat operations. The French Commander would work with and be under General Eisenhower’s Chief of Command for the southern area, Admiral Carney.
[Page 1264]
Mr. Schuman replied that Admiral Wright’s comments appeared to be somewhat different from those in the Standing Group’s paper on the Mediterranean Command.1 He understood that under SHAPE there would be several commands of which one of the most important would be for the Western Mediterranean. It appeared that this would be a geographic command rather than a merely functional one for the transport of troops.
Admiral Wright commented that the naval forces in the Mediterranean would have two tasks, to support SHAPE in Europe and to support the Middle East Command. In the Western Mediterranean the naval command structure would have to be of a nature to carry out functional tasks of transport across the Mediterranean, which was one of the most important lines of communication to Western Europe. The special interests of France in this area were recognized, but all the details have not yet been worked out.
Mr. Acheson said that he understood that a naval command was to be established in the Western Mediterranean under the command of a Supreme Commander, and that the French Government was interested in having a French admiral in this position.
Mr. Schuman was of the opinion that when his Government considered the entire problem, including the Middle East Command, it would be influenced by the command situation in the Western Mediterranean. The present explanation was not sufficiently clear to permit an immediately favorable decision. In making his own point of view precise, he repeated that he would ask his Government to accept the proposals of the Standing Group provided: (1) That it was clearly understood that the Middle East Command would be an integrated command and that an adequate position in the command would be given to France, including the position of an Assistant Commander in Chief. (2) That the Western Mediterranean Command would be so regulated as to reserve the command position to a French admiral and that his responsibilities would be similar to those of the U.K. admiral in the Eastern Mediterranean Command. Whether the French commander went directly to Eisenhower or through an intermediary such as Admiral Carney was not as important as some other elements of the problem. Moreover, in defining the area over which the French admiral would command he considered it to be between the coast of North Africa and France and between the coast of Spain and Sardinia. The command would not include the waters around Italy or the Adriatic. Mr. Schuman asked his colleagues to recognize that in reaching a governmental decision technical questions were not the exclusive considerations.
Mr. Acheson said that as to the first point it would be immediately taken under consideration and that while no answer could [Page 1265] be given at the moment, the proposal appeared reasonable. As to the second point, while the Standing Group’s paper dealt with two commands, one in the Middle East and one in Europe, Mr. Schuman appeared to propose a third area command. This obviously presented difficulties. Moreover, on appointments General Eisenhower would have to be consulted. Admiral Wright commented that the prime task in the Western Mediterranean was to support General Eisenhower. There would be many kinds of forces in the area, anti-submarine, carrier forces, convoys, et cetera. The military operations would be under the southern flank commander. The French navy would have important responsibilities but other units would be involved. It, therefore, appeared desirable to have a functional rather than an area commander. Mr. Acheson suggested that these questions needed further study, perhaps by the Standing Group representatives here at this meeting.
Mr. Morrison hoped that there would be no delay in reaching agreement on the proposals in the Standing Group. He was not entirely sure that the Western Mediterranean problem depended upon the Middle East Command. At the same time he recognized a relationship between the Western Mediterranean and Atlantic Command problems. It would be desirable if all of these problems could be cleared up during these talks.
In Mr. Schuman’s opinion one could not disassociate the various phases of the problem. The commands in the Western Mediterranean and the Middle East were related, as well as in the Atlantic. These were all related to the admission of Greece and Turkey into NATO, although at the same time they went beyond the Greek and Turkish question. He regretted the differences but they were due to the situation. Mr. Morrison suggested that further informal conversations at this meeting might bring progress and assist Mr. Schuman’s communication to the French Government.
Mr. Schuman asked whether or not Turkey was in accord with the proposals on the Middle East Command. Mr. Morrison replied that on July 3 Turkey recognized that the defense of the Middle East was a key to the defense of Europe and that if Turkish security were assured it would assume its full responsibilities along with the U.S., U.K. and France in such a defense organization. On July 20 the Turkish Foreign Minister declared that if it joined the NATO it would enter into negotiations to play an effective role in the Middle East. At Strasbourg on August 2 the Foreign Minister stated that Turkey would make no difficulties in cooperation once admission to NATO was arranged.
Mr. Acheson noted that there was no thought of imposing a decision on Turkey but hoped that the three Ministers could reach an agreed position on which to negotiate with Turkey. While it appeared [Page 1266] that the Ministers had done as much as they could now, he hoped that the matter could be dealt with urgently.
Mr. Schuman said that he was not quite clear concerning the urgent need for a position with respect to the Middle East Command since negotiations with Turkey would not be taken until later. What should be decided first was the admission of Greece and Turkey to NATO. On this the Ministers agreed. The constitution of the various commands, however, could be kept separate.
Mr. Morrison replied that the Middle East Command was relevant to admission to Greece and Turkey and would be a factor at Ottawa in persuading some of the more reluctant countries to agree to admit these two countries. He was glad that Mr. Schuman had said that the two questions should not be confused and that there appeared to be no difference of principle with respect to the Middle East Command. In his opinion the Western Mediterranean Command question was separate and though urgent was not as urgent as the others, and he hoped that the French could come to an agreement on the Middle East Command urgently.
Mr. Schuman replied that he did not see how the organization of the Middle East Command would affect potential opponents to the admission of Greece and Turkey, since it was well known that the Scandinavian countries, who had little interest in the Middle East, were the most reluctant. As to the command organizations, they should not be established piecemeal. Otherwise, there would be various commands in the Mediterranean and the situation would be unclear. An attempt should be made to settle the whole problem and if the Ministers were successful it would greatly facilitate his own position.
Mr. Acheson recognized the urgency of the problem, saying that plans must be moved ahead to discuss the command with the Turks or they would misunderstand. Moreover, since the situation in Egypt was getting no better, urgent security reasons dictated rapid action.
Mr. Morrison hoped that he had not been misunderstood earlier in the meeting for he did not wish to imply that the question of a Western Mediterranean Command was not urgent for the French. He recognized that it was. It was also urgent to reach agreement on the Middle East Command before Ottawa. He was working in the confident hope that the questions raised by Mr. Schuman could be satisfactorily answered.
Mr. Schuman repeated that his Government and Parliament must have a debate before passing the law to invite Greece and Turkey to join NATO. Under the pressure of debate it would be difficult to get agreement on the matter unless his questions were solved. He could not engage himself, his Government or Parliament beyond that. Mr. Morrison appreciated the problem faced by parliamentary discussion [Page 1267] but hoped that the Ministers would be in a position to make the recommendation at Ottawa for the admission of these two countries. Ratification of their admission was a separate matter from Middle East and Western Mediterranean Commands. Mr. Schuman rejoined that in parliamentary debate the question of the Mediterranean Command would inevitably come up and the failure to solve it might risk the ratification vote on Greece and Turkey. Mr. Morrison hoped that Mr. Schuman would accept the Standing Group recommendations and the Ministers were trying to solve the problems he faces. Mr. Schuman promised to do his best and to take into account the statement of Mr. Morrison.
Mr. Morrison noted that there appeared to be no real difficulty as far as the French were concerned in the Middle East Command itself. He asked if the Ministers could agree on the timetable proposed by the Standing Group as follows:
Agreement in Washington on the Middle East Command.
Agreement at Ottawa to invite Greece and Turkey to join NATO subject to constitutional and procedural questions.
Decision to advise Greece and Turkey of this action.
Provision of full information to Turkey with respect to the Middle East Command through diplomatic channels so that Turkey might approach Egypt.
Mr Schuman replied that he could not give a definite answer as to the first step; however, he would try to obtain his Government’s approval with the reservations stated above. As to the second and third points he saw no difficulty. The fourth point concerning Egypt, however, raised a new problem on which he could not yet take a position since he lacked instructions, noting that he had only been informed of this proposal on September 8. Such action possibly involved a new extension of defenses and he required more information.
Mr. Morrison regretted Mr. Schuman had not had earlier information. He noted that the best facilities for such a Middle East Command were found in Egypt. At the same time discussions in Cairo had been going on concerning radical revision of the 1936 Treaty which gave Britain use of these facilities. If the Command headquarters could be made interallied (U.S., U.K., France, Turkey and Egypt) and located in Egypt, it might solve the Egyptian problem. He remarked that the Egyptian Foreign Minister was somewhat impatient and he would like to make him happy.
Mr. Schuman recognized the great importance of the matter to the United Kingdom and he would ask urgently for further instructions.

Admission of Greece and Turkey

Mr. Acheson brought to the attention of the meeting the paper containing a draft agreement and protocol to be used in connection [Page 1268] with the admission of Greece and Turkey to NATO. He noted that this paper, which proposed certain procedural steps, had been delivered to his French and British colleagues that morning and that it had not yet been fully studied.2 It was agreed to discuss this matter the next day.
  1. Presumably Schuman is referring to SG 80/4, dated August 22, p. 575.
  2. The documents under reference here were distributed as WFM T–5/2a and T–5/3a and were subsequently combined into Tripartite D–4, September 13, p. 1301. There is no record of any further discussion of these documents by the Foreign Ministers at Washington.