No. 600


Draft NSC Staff Study, Prepared in the Department of State2

top secret

U.S. Courses of Action in the Event the Soviets Attempt To Close the Baltic

the problem

U.S. attitude and courses of action in the face of Soviet agitation to close the Baltic to non-Baltic powers.
[Page 1198]


It is not a new Russian thesis that the Baltic should be closed to non-Baltic powers. This view has recently been put forward again in Soviet publications. We believe that closure of the Baltic is not likely of acceptance by Denmark and Sweden unless accompanied by military force; we also believe that Soviet use of military means to close the Baltic is unlikely except in the event of general hostilities, in which case such means should be expected. In fact, in case of general hostilities, it would appear to us that we and our allies would wish to try to close the Baltic with a view to denying egress to, or reducing the effectiveness of Soviet naval power, especially submarines, stationed in the Baltic.
With respect to the means which might be resorted to by the United States to discourage or to prevent the Soviet Union from agitating for the closure of the Baltic, it would seem that suggestion a in paragraph 4 of the JCS memorandum of October 6, 1950,* namely that the United States should make full and frequent use of all existing rights in the Baltic, might have an effect opposite from that intended. Such a course on our part appears more likely to stimulate the Soviet Union to intensify agitation for the closure of the Baltic.
As to suggestion b in paragraph 4 of the JCS memorandum, we believe that the publication of articles in scholarly American journals would contribute to refuting the legality of a Soviet thesis of a closed Baltic Sea. We question the helpfulness to the United States and to other like-minded powers of a rash of articles in the press and the popular periodicals which could be interpreted as an organized campaign.
We agree with the JCS view expressed in paragraph 4c that we should encourage Sweden and Denmark to object strenuously to the Soviet thesis. There is no sign, however, that either with or without such encouragement the Swedes or the Danes are, at the present time, modifying in any fashion their traditional attitude toward an open Baltic Sea. It is agreed that advantage should be taken of all appropriate occasions for diplomatic action by the United States designed to foster the already friendly disposition of Denmark and Sweden toward the United States, and to encourage the respective governments, with the backing of the people, to resist Soviet demands or blandishments. Examples which can be pointed to as situations resulting from successful diplomatic actions in recent years in connection with these two countries are their [Page 1199] membership in the OEEC; Danish entry into the NATO; and their membership in the UN.
In connection with the consideration of possible Soviet reactions to the decision in the NATO to invite the Federal Republic of Western Germany to participate in the defense of Western Europe, examination has been made in the Department of State of the Baltic as one of the areas in which the Soviets might take retaliatory action. We believe that the most likely Soviet move would appear to be increased pressure on Finland. For example, the Soviet Union might endeavor to influence the composition of the Finnish government, or might try to create closer political ties, or to obtain additional military bases. Soviet diplomatic protests might also be lodged with Sweden, Denmark, and Norway against some pro-western action on their part. The USSR might also extend its campaign of terrorizing Baltic trade and fishing by unwarranted seizures of vessels on the high seas. Such an approach toward closure of the Baltic would seem more probable than an outright pronouncement to that effect.
At the same time, Soviet propaganda and war of nerves may be expected to continue, and probably to be intensified, for the purpose (1) of discouraging Norway and Denmark from participation in NATO activities, and (2) of encouraging continued Swedish neutrality while at the same time charging that such neutrality is in fact anti-Soviet.


From the foregoing discussion it is concluded that:
The Soviet thesis of a closed Baltic does not present the United States with any real problem at this time.
The Soviet thesis, unless implemented with military force, is most unlikely of acceptance by either Denmark or Sweden.
The United States should, therefore:
Through unofficial personal contacts encourage the publication in scholarly journals of articles refuting the thesis of a closed Baltic.
Also through unofficial and personal contacts encourage Swedish and Danish publicists to write similar articles for publication both in their own countries and in other countries, including the United States.
Keep in touch with the Danes and the Swedes to ascertain any approaches that the Soviet Union may make to Sweden and Denmark for the closure of the Baltic, and indicate to the governments of these two countries the unalterable opposition of the United States to closing the Baltic to non-Baltic powers.
  1. In a memorandum of October 6, 1950, to the Secretary of Defense (subsequently circulated to the National Security Council as NSC 88, October 17, 1950), the Joint Chiefs of Staff reviewed possible courses of action which might be taken by the United States in the event the Soviet Union attempted to close the Baltic Sea to the warships of non-Baltic nations. For text of the JCS memorandum of October 6, see ibid., p. 58. At a meeting on October 19, 1950, the NSC Senior Staff agreed that the Department of State should prepare for consideration by the NSC Staff a draft report on the problem, taking into account the views expressed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum of October 6. This draft staff study was circulated under a brief memorandum of January 2 from NSC Executive Secretary Lay to the NSC Senior Staff. The draft printed here is a copy of the study transmitted on January 3 to the Bureau of European Affairs by Walmsley of S/A. The copy of the original version of this study as submitted by Jessup to Lay on December 26, 1950 (which differed from the version printed here only in the absence of numbered paragraphs) indicates that the study had been prepared by Higgs and Henry of EUR/EE.

    Regarding the disposition of this draft staff study, see the memorandum of January 19 from Jessup to Perkins, Document 603.

  2. NSC 88. [Footnote in the source text; see footnote 2, above.]