Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Perkins)


Subject: Tripartite Meeting with Benelux

Present: Mr. Acheson Mr. Morrison M. Schuman
Mr. Perkins Mr. Barclay M. Seydoux
  • Mr. Van Zeeland, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium
  • Dr. Stikker, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Netherlands
  • Mr. Dupong, Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Luxembourg

Mr. Acheson opened the discussion by pointing out that an attempt had been made to establish closer contact with the Benelux and to this end discussions had been held with representatives of the Benelux countries before and during the recent discussions in Washington.2 If these conversations had been reported to the Ministers, there was little to add. He indicated that if Germany became a partner in the European Defense Force, they were entitled to a new status. This was, of course, subject to inherent limitations due to the fact that a peace treaty could not now be established. However, the suggested arrangements went as far as possible in the circumstances in giving Germany a free hand. There were still problems to be solved, such as the status of the forces of the Occupying Powers under the new arrangements and what contractual obligations there should be as to the defense burden to be borne by the Federal Republic. This probably should be based on an equality of burden in relation to what other countries participating in Western defense were doing.

[Page 1310]

In response to an inquiry for comments Mr. Stikker stated that he felt that the procedure used in Washington in keeping Benelux informed was excellent and thought that the general direction of the conversations was absolutely right. He said, however, there were some questions that he wished to raise. The first of these was that he recognized the difficulty of establishing a contractual relationship on the defense cost to be borne by Germany. The second was that he wondered about the question of equality of status. Did this mean equality of status with the three Occupying Powers? If so, what consideration was given to the fact that Germany did not have outside responsibilities as did these three Powers? He indicated that the Netherlands did not object to participation of Germany in NATO but hoped that equality did not mean that Germany would be in on the Standing Group.

Mr. Van Zeeland indicated that he agreed with the procedure and proposal which they had heard about. He was not worried about the unsolved problems—feeling that these were technical and soluble. He felt that on Germany’s share of the burden the principle to be followed was that it should be broadly equal to that of others. He felt that the military participation could be taken care of through the EDF. The budget would then cover the cost of the army and such other costs for defense as it could. The question of the division of the German budget between its own army and the support of other forces in Germany was a technical question and not too disturbingly difficult. He felt it was important that the Western Powers should not take untenable positions with Germany, and the Germans must not feel that they were suppressed. He questioned the desirability of establishing a Council of Ambassadors, feeling that this might contribute to a feeling of suppression by the Germans and wondered if the three Ambassadors in Germany would not in fact constitute a Council without being so named.

Mr. Stikker asked if the question of NATO membership would be discussed.

Mr. Acheson replied that no doubt this question would arise, but that it should not come up now.

Mr. Morrison agreed that the question of NATO membership should be deferred and felt there were certain questions which had not yet been dealt with which need action. He pointed out the obligation of the Germans to pay for their own defense and said that they would have a case for claiming relief of occupation costs when they were paying for their own forces. He further indicated that he felt that the relationship of the Occupying Forces needed adjustment under the proposed set-up and that they should be certain that they were exercising economy in their expenses to justify continued contribution of the Germans to these expenses.

[Page 1311]

Mr. Acheson pointed out that once the agreements were signed the occupation forces became defense forces. Therefore, the German contribution was to defense, not to occupation.

Mr. Morrison raised the question of what would happen if the Germans did not contribute their full share to total defense.

Mr. Acheson said that the situation was most difficult since the Germans really were entering into two contracts—one with the Occupying Powers and one with the EDF. The relationship between these two obligations had to be worked out.

M. Schuman indicated that he felt strongly that the Germans must contribute adequately, and that this problem was now under discussion.

Mr. Acheson agreed, but indicated that the amount which the Germans should contribute should not be excessive or we would repeat the experience after the first World War.

Mr. Stikker said that he had been impressed by the development of the EDF. However, their mention as members has been, perhaps, premature. He asked how the work of the EDF would proceed and particularly what England meant by saying that it hoped to be associated with it.

Mr. Morrison replied that England did not intend to contribute troops.

In response to Mr. Stikker’s inquiry as to where he could get more detailed information, M. Schuman referred him to M. Alphand.

Mr. Stikker indicated that they have difficulty with the EDF formula, but might be able to follow some other formula, and, therefore, were particularly interested as to how the British proposed to proceed.

In response to Mr. Van Zeeland’s inquiry as to what the next procedure should be, Mr. Schuman indicated that first of all there should be a treaty of the five most interested Powers and that after that there should be general approval of the twelve Members of NATO.

  1. For a report on the first meeting with the Benelux representatives on September 11, see memorandum of conversation, p. 1214; the second meeting took place at 3:30 on September 14 at which time Byroade, Seydoux, and Allen explained the decisions that had been reached on Germany and gave the Benelux representatives copies of the declaration on Germany, the Foreign Ministers communiqué, and the paper on general principles regarding the contractual relations with the Federal Republic. A report on the second meeting, not printed, is in file 396.1–WA/9–1451.