No. 351


Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs (Raynor)

top secret

Subject: Military Base Rights in Norway

Participants: Mr. John Johnson, Associate Counsel, U.S. Air Force
Mr. Hayden Raynor, Director, Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs

Mr. Johnson called this afternoon at my request. I handed him a copy of our letter to the Acting Secretary of Defense of December [Page 769] 41 on this subject, telling him this had been sent over to the Office of the Secretary of Defense by hand and that I wanted the Air Force to have a copy at the same time. I explained that as he would note from the letter, the Department had serious reservations with respect to proceeding with a published agreement, but after the most exhaustive consideration of the question, we had decided not to interpose an objection to this course of action as the Norwegians appeared to be in fundamental agreement with it and had not raised formal objections.

I said that our letter should be interpreted to mean that should the Norwegians formally raise objections to this course of procedure, the Department was strongly of the opinion that we should not press it upon them, and if such a contingency occurred, we suggest to the Norwegians other methods of accomplishing the desired objectives. I also said that we felt strongly with respect to the point about Article 52 of the North Atlantic Treaty, and that in the light of our relations with Norway felt that if we were questioned on this point, we must of necessity give the Norwegians the interpretation contained in our letter.

I told Mr. Johnson that as Mr. Snow had already hinted to him we would probably take a fresh look in the Department at the whole registration question, and if, as a result, a change of policy on this question should occur, we would then, of course, desire to change our approach on this problem.

Mr. Johnson inquired whether State would go along, if, as he anticipated, Minister Hauge indicated willingness to sign the present agreement within a few days after negotiations were resumed3 or whether we would raise further questions at that point. I said that I thought our letter made it clear that if things went smoothly, as he predicted, we would be prepared to go along. I said, however, I thought serious consideration should be given to the desirability of [Page 770] formalizing the underlying arrangements before the overall agreement was made public in view of the considerations expressed in the second paragraph of the letter. I said we felt it was certain that the Soviets would make a strong protest to Norway when the agreement was made public with the result that the Norwegians would become more cautious, and that unless the underlying arrangements were worked out in advance of publication of the overall agreement, we very much feared that we would be unable to get what we wanted in the underlying arrangements. Mr. Johnson appeared to think that providing we had firm agreement on the principles of the underlying arrangements, the details, which he thinks will take some time to work out, can wait. I think, however, he was somewhat impressed by this point which I made.

I said that another factor in our thinking which had not been included in the letter was our feeling that Soviet reaction would be based to a considerable extent on what they saw happening in Norway and not on the contents of an agreement. I said that in our mind the way in which operations were carried out would be of the greatest importance. By way of illustration I said we feel that American personnel should be restricted to the absolute minimum and that considerable caution should be exercised with respect to the program for rotational training exercises. I said that we had a very serious question as to whether bombers should be included in such exercises. Mr. Johnson said he was not in a position to comment on a straight military question of this type, but he thought the military would feel that some bomber practice would be necessary.

Mr. Johnson’s general offhand reaction was that our letter would be understood in the Defense Department and that they would be able to proceed in accordance therewith. He did indicate that, at least in his opinion, we were wrong with respect to the point on Article 5 of the Treaty, and I gained the impression that the Air Force will probably desire to debate this question with us.

  1. Regarding this letter, see the editorial note, supra.
  2. Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty stated that an attack against one or more of the signatories would be considered an attack against all, and in case of an attack each would “assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”
  3. Telegram Norep 24 from Oslo, December 17, reported that negotiations had been resumed. It contained the text of a government-level draft, including changes submitted by the Defense Minister at a meeting that morning, and recommended that the Department of State authorize the negotiating team to inform the Defense Minister that the draft was acceptable to the United States. It informed the Department that the team was proceeding to work out an agreed minute with the Defense Minister stating the principles that would govern implementation of the basic agreement and said the Defense Minister had expressed the intention of concluding that phase of the negotiations within a week. (757.5/12–1751)