No. 603


Memorandum by the Ambassador at Large (Jessup) to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Perkins)

top secret

Subject: Senior NSC Staff Discussion on January 18, 1951 of NSC 88 “U.S. Courses of Action in the Event the Soviets Attempt to Close the Baltic”1

The burden of the criticism leveled by the Senior Defense and JCS representatives at the Department’s paper of January 2, 1951, on the above subject, was that our paper did not address itself to paragraph 5 of the JCS memorandum of October 16 [6], 1950 (circulated by the NSC Executive Secretariat by memorandum of October 17, 1950). Paragraph 5 of the JCS memorandum enumerated possible courses of action by the U.S. in case the USSR officially announces the Baltic to be a closed sea, or by its actions indicates an intention to enforce closure.

My answer to this criticism was that closure of the Baltic, except by force, and in such event as a prelude to or part of general war, was not a present danger, in our opinion, and that therefore the courses of action were academic questions.

Our views to the contrary notwithstanding, the JCS representative was rather insistent that the maximum use by the U.S. of rights to free circulation in the Baltic, including showing the flag, is considered by the JCS important in order to prevent the curtain from moving westward at any time before hostilities; the closing of the Baltic in this fashion would mean, in his opinion, that the Russians could engage in the preparation of bases, etc. in secrecy.

Mr. Finletter for Defense suggested that an intelligent approach to the problem should embrace the views of General Eisenhower, or of the Standing Group of NATO, as to the effect on NATO plans and particularly the Scandinavian role in them, of closure of the Baltic. Mr. Finletter also asked the question whether, in the light of the views in support of an open Baltic by Sweden, Russian strictures or threats would not have the effect of pushing Sweden toward closer relationship with NATO.

The upshot of the meeting was the decision by the Senior Staff that the NSC Staff Assistants of State and the JCS collaborate in the preparation of a new paper covering paragraph 5 of the JCS [Page 1204] memorandum and reflecting the views of the Standing Group (or General Eisenhower)2 and suggesting the probable answer to the question about Sweden asked by Mr. Finletter.

Mr. Hulley of BNA attended yesterday’s meeting for EUR.3

  1. Regarding NSC 88, October 17, 1950 (same as the JCS memorandum of October 6, 1950), see footnote 2, Document 600.
  2. Jessup added the following handwritten notation at this point: “I doubt if we can or should try to get these views. PJ.”
  3. In a memorandum of January 23 to Assistant Secretary Perkins, Jessup reported that the NSC Staff Assistants met on January 23 to discuss NSC 88. He commented on the meeting as follows:

    “The observations made by the Service representatives showed clearly that the people who initiated NSC 88 are interested primarily and almost solely in courtesy visits to Sweden of U.S. war vessels and aircraft, particularly the former.” (S/SNSC files, lot 63D351)