No. 136

755.5–MAP/8–2751: Telegram

The Ambassador in Belgium ( Murphy ) to the Secretary of State 1


272. Toisa. Urtel 221, Aug 17, 4 p.m.2 There is no doubt that Van Zeeland will welcome discussion Belg def effort and over-all [Page 286] NATO def effort with the Secretary during Van Zeeland’s forthcoming visit to US (see mytel 263, Aug 253). As Dept is aware he has stated eagerness on several occasions during past months to discuss def effort with Secretary.

No pat formula occurs to us as new approach which Secretary might use to stimulate Belg to increase def effort but after consultation with MAAG and ECA Mission fol considerations are suggested: Secretary might wish support our urgent desire reach with Belgs agreed yardstick for measuring size of Belg def effort and its impact on Belg economy. We believe that achievement such agreement will be more effective and advantageous than continuance gen and undocumented criticism Belg def effort. It is also suggested that in continuing our efforts to increase and accelerate Belg contribution to NATO we shld not ignore growing Belg conviction that US criticisms of Belg effort disregard Belg problems and limitations.

Secretary of course will appreciate Belg polit factors involved with a single party govt in power having thinnest kind of majority in both houses of Parliament and facing serious opposition to increased mil expenditures not only by opposition, which includes Socialists (Spaak’s party), the Liberals and Commies but also among Social Christians who are sole support of govt. Secretary initially might state his understanding of this practical problem which involves a balky Parliament generally disinclined to spend more money or transfer spending to def from purposes which shld be of lower priority. Having made that sympathetic gesture Secretary cld then refer to inadequate job which govt has done to bring home to Belg public need for greater def effort and unwisdom of its resting on its oars as has been case with govt complacently restating at intervals that it is living up to its commitments under medium term plan. As variant govt frequently suggests that Belg is actually living up to its commitments and that its immed neighbors are not doing so. Van Zeeland of course fully aware that standard of maximum performance according to resources as advocated by US involves far more than simply meeting mil commitments freely undertaken (with MDAP aid substantially offsetting econ impact such commitments). He will undoubtedly restate that Belg willing do full share in any multilateral program and no doubt will advance well-worn argument that Belg parliament simply will not go along [Page 287] with proposition that Belg do proportionally more than its continental neighbors even though he personally advocates greater effort.

In discussion with Van Zeeland sight shld not be lost of fact that Belg force commitment has never been subj mil criticism and that Belg mil thinking as evidenced by troop lists now under study by MAAG is well in advance DC 28 commitment. We also believe that actual procurement is coordinate with or in advance of budget estimates so that Belg procurement program as presently outlined is on time and in phase with activation mil units.

In our judgment advance planning mil auths will in itself exert strong upward pressure def procurement and expenditures over remaining period MTDP and Belg spending these purposes very likely be considerably higher than present estimates even if prices do not rise.

We believe Van Zeeland visit offers excellent opportunity again impress upon him urgency for all NAT countries work for closer existing mil, production, and financial gaps.4 In connection with production matters we believe it wld be useful inform Van Zeeland that US is so convinced of availability and need to use Eur productive capacity that we are contemplating limited use funds start production in certain equip fields. Van Zeeland shld be informed however, that if off-shore procurement orders were placed in Belg it wld be primarily for purpose of getting production going and we wld expect Belg continue and increase such production with its own financial support once it was started.

Secretary might also wish express interest in Belg prefinancing plan5 which was inspired by Van Zeeland and say that it has merit and deserves support as long run program to stimulate Eur responsibility and coordination in mil production and as practical method increasing usefulness DPB.

We wld certainly recommend against use of any form of threat of reduction of econ aid or end-use deliveries because (a) it is doubtful Van Zeeland really expects allocation to Belg econ aid this FY and (b) suggestion of reduction of end-item deliveries wld neither stimulate Belg action nor further US objectives.

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Finally reference might be made to eventual application of whatever counterpart funds might be available to def purposes.

  1. Repeated to London, Paris for MacArthur, Frankfurt, and Heidelberg.
  2. Telegram 221 requested the Embassy in Belgium, as well as those at London, Paris, and Heidelberg, to which the telegram was repeated, to suggestions regarding any new approach which Acheson could use to encourage Van Zeeland in stimulating the Belgian defense effort. The Department felt Van Zeeland would want to discuss the subject while in the United States for signature of the Japanese Peace Treaty and attendance at the Seventh Session of the North Atlantic Council at Ottawa in September. (755.5–MAP/8–1751)
  3. Not printed.
  4. In London’s answer to the request for suggestions (see footnote 2 above), Spofford emphasized this same point and added that it should be made clear to Van Zeeland that the U.S. effort was directed not to Belgium’s strictly military performance but toward an increase in the Belgian defense budget closer to the point of the country’s economic capability. (Telegram Depto 273 from London, August 25, 740.5/8–2551)
  5. The plan circulated in the Council Deputies on January 4. See footnote 3, Document 130.