No. 349


Memorandum by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Bonbright) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Matthews)1

top secret

Subject: Negotiations with Norway

[Page 766]

The attached telegram from Mr. Raynor2 points a finger at a situation which has been giving us increasing concern.

Nearly three months ago a State–Defense team went to Oslo to explore with the Norwegians the best means by which US military requirements in Norway could be met. Although there was doubt in our minds at the time that government level agreements would be desirable or necessary to accomplish our objectives, Defense prepared a draft which the team took with them.3 From the outset of the discussion in Oslo the Norwegians spoke of a government agreement, and our team tabled a slightly modified version of the Defense draft.4 The Norwegians finally countered with a draft of their own5 and that version has been under consideration for several weeks. The Norwegian draft is relatively innocuous in its terms, and Defense is pushing us to request substantive changes which we have reason to believe the Norwegians will not accept.

The Norwegian Defense Minister, who has led the discussions from their side, three weeks ago said he had changes to propose.6 These have not been forthcoming and the negotiations are at an apparent standstill. We tend to believe this silence is significant and that it may reflect Norwegian reluctance to enter into a public agreement which they have been willing to discuss with us chiefly because they thought we needed one.

[Page 767]

Our increasing concern grows out of several facts such as (1) the obvious reluctance of the Norwegians to enter into a public agreement of real substance, (2) the effect on Norway of the Soviet barrage of sharp notes to Norway regarding NATO, the base issue and Spitzbergen,7 and (3) a possibility that our requirements in Norway might be substantially achieved without a public government to government agreement. L leans strongly to this latter view.

In view of the fundamental questions raised by the above developments, we propose to have a thorough review of the problem and, if you concur,8 would like to call Snow, Counselor of our Embassy back to Washington to give us a thorough briefing on the situation in Oslo.9 We will, of course, tell Defense that we are bringing Snow back.10

State–Defense discussions have indicated that Defense strongly desires a government level agreement. It is possible that after having had Snow’s views and advice, we may decide that a formal agreement with Norway is neither politically wise nor really necessary. If so, Defense may prove difficult to convince, and I wish to alert you to this possibility.11

  1. Drafted by Ronhovde.
  2. Not found in Department of State files.
  3. The original proposed draft executive agreement prepared by the Department of Defense, dated August 1, was enclosed in a letter from Robert Lovett, Acting Secretary of Defense, to the Secretary of State on August 22. Enclosed in the same letter was a paper, also dated August 1, listing U.S. military requirements in Norway. (757.5/8–2251)
  4. The slightly modified version of the Defense draft was a copy prepared by the U.S. negotiating team in Norway, dated August 22, and later amended according to suggestions from the Department of State contained in telegram Repno 6 to Oslo, August 30. (757.5/8–2951) Telegram Norep 4 from Oslo, August 31, contained the text of the modified version mentioned here. (757.5/8–3151)
  5. Telegram Norep 6 from Oslo, September 12, contained the text of the Norwegian counterdraft which had been given by the Norwegian Defense Minister to an Embassy representative on that date. (757.5/9–1251) Telegram Norep 7 from Oslo, September 14, reported a meeting between the U.S. members of the negotiating team and members of the Norwegian Foreign Office. It contained a comparison of the U.S. and Norwegian drafts, and explained why the Norwegian draft was much less specific than the U.S. version. Bay reported, “Gen agreement would in Nor view constitute broad framework politically acceptable in Nor within which he [Boye] expected number of secret mil agreements might be made. … Nor Govt wishes avoid any action which would focus public attention on US operations in Nor under agreement.” (757.5/9–1451)
  6. Telegram Norep 18 from Oslo, October 26, reported a meeting with the Defense Minister the previous day in which he said he wanted to reword part of the draft slightly in order to make it politically more acceptable to the Storting. (757.5/10–2651) Telegram Norep 20 from Oslo, November 3, reported a meeting on that day with the Defense Minister in which he said he had not yet had time to prepare his revision. (757.5/11–351)
  7. Regarding this Norwegian-Soviet exchange of notes, see Document 346.
  8. A handwritten note in the margin initialed by Matthews read “I concur.”
  9. Telegram 499 from Oslo, November 20, reported that Snow was leaving Oslo on November 22 and planned to arrive in Washington the following day. (757.5/11–2051)
  10. At this point in the source text Matthews deleted the following clause: “and will inquire whether Defense wishes its team to return with him,” and commented “They may want to bring their team back tog[ether] but we hope not.”
  11. For a record to Department of State discussions with Defense on the type of agreement necessary, see the editorial note, infra, and the memorandum of conversation, Document 351.