Representative Laurie C. Battle to the Director of Mutual Security (Harriman)
Dear Mr. Harriman: As you can readily understand I am very much concerned with the administration of the Mutual Defense Assistance Control Act of 1951 (P.L. 213, 82nd Congress), frequently referred to as the Battle Act. I have just completed a detailed survey of operations under the Act which has included 6 weeks of study in Europe during which time I observed the operation of the controls of exports to the Soviet Bloc in 8 countries of Western Europe.
To summarize frankly, and perhaps bluntly, my impressions of the performance under the Mutual Defense Assistance Control Act I must say that in general I am not satisfied with what I have found. I say this in spite of the fact that a substantial degree of control has been imposed on exports from Western Europe to the countries behind the Iron Curtain and that I am acquainted with many specific accomplishments in denying strategic items to the Russian war machine for which you deserve commendation and [Page 897] which, if known to the people of the United States, would receive their hearty approval.
I plan to report my findings in detail to the Committee on Foreign Affairs but I am submitting to you immediately a brief statement of my observations together with certain suggestions in the hope that it may be possible to improve the effectiveness of the Mutual Defense Assistance Control Act and eliminate some of the principal causes of criticism of it before the next session of Congress.
First, it seems to me that the status of the lists of items to be embargoed or restricted is unsatisfactory. The Administrator of the Mutual Defense Assistance Control Act is required to determine which items should be embargoed by foreign nations to effectuate the purposes of the Act. In arriving at this determination an embargo list was established which contained fewer items than the United States was embargoing at that time. The United States continues to embargo 28 items which other countries are permitted to ship. I find in addition that the European countries which cooperate in an international organization (COCOM) to control exports to the Soviet Bloc have refused to agree to embargo 4 items on the Mutual Defense Assistance Control Act list. They have agreed to consult with the United States before any export of these 4 items and no shipments have been made since the Act went into effect, but nevertheless our allies have refused to agree to deny Russia these strategic materials.
Therefore, it seems to me that this entire situation is indefensible. Successful negotiations in reaching agreement on this embargo list is a necessity if a crisis is to be avoided when COCOM members decide to make such shipments. Also if materials are important enough for the United States to embargo they are important enough for the recipients of our aid to embargo.
Furthermore, I believe that there are a number of strategic items which are not now subject to embargo which should be embargoed. I believe this because the specialists in our own agencies in Washington say that these items should be cut off but report that such action has not been taken because other nations would not agree. The United States should consider the problems and points of view of other nations and get all the evidence other countries can give us as to the significance of particular items to the Soviet war machine. Nevertheless, the decision as to what items are to be embargoed under Public Law 213 is entirely a United States decision and we should not permit anything to be shipped which in our judgment should be stopped merely because other nations disapprove.[Page 898]
In my judgment action under the Mutual Defense Assistance Control Act has not been taken with the speed, vigor, decisiveness or aggressiveness necessary to obtain the maximum effectiveness in helping to win the war in Korea or to gain the advantage over Russia in the cold war by denial of war materials from the West.
In Europe the Battle Act effort is focused on COCOM and the Consultative Group rather than on work with individual countries. COCOM, although it is in almost continuous session, apparently concentrates primarily on low level discussions of details and decisive action is taken only by the Consultative Group which has met only three times (January, June and September 1952) since the Act went into effect. Except for Germany, comparatively little effort seems to be devoted to working with the export control officials of the individual countries to improve their control procedures and to develop new and better methods of reaching Soviet Bloc vulnerabilities. There seems to be little bilateral negotiation with individual governments to prepare the way for and speed up action by COCOM and the Consultative Group.
All this takes too long and appears to leave our allies in doubt as to just what we want, how badly we want it and where we are going.
It is my belief that in order to get effective administration of the Mutual Defense Assistance Control Act it is necessary to take the following steps:
- Make the Administrator of the Battle Act responsible for negotiations with foreign governments. There is a lot of organizational and operating confusion now because the State Department and the Administrator of the Act are both directly involved in everything. Negotiation with foreign governments is one of the biggest jobs there is under the Battle Act. Success or failure in this field will make or break the program. Unless the Administrator has this responsibility he cannot properly be held accountable for results.
- Set up an organization with an adequate staff to administer the Act rather than leave the job to interdepartmental committees. Under the present system nearly everyone working on the program has his primary loyalty and responsibility somewhere else. Furthermore, it is necessary to reconcile conflicting interagency views on details of operation before taking action. An organization should be set up which can go ahead with its work subject to normal review and policy guidance from interested departments and agencies but without having every action subject to prior interdepartmental negotiation before it can be taken.
- There should be a Deputy Administrator for Europe who would function as a roving ambassador. He should go to countries where major problems arise and guide our local people in handling the situation. He should train and guide the Battle Act people in each country and should evaluate their work. No one is doing this now. As far as I can tell I am the only one from any branch of the [Page 899] Government who has visited the leading European countries on a survey mission devoted to East-West trade matters since the Mutual Defense Assistance Control Act was passed. There is no substitute for having someone regularly in touch with the entire situation by first hand observation.
With the exception of France, I found the attitude of the European nations much more sympathetic and cooperative than I had expected. In several countries I was able to confer with business men and others on an unofficial basis as a result of personal contacts. In every case there was agreement that it was desirable to cut off strategic items from the Soviet Bloc. In all countries except France there seemed to be agreement that action along this line would be supported by the people even though injury was done to particular firms and industries as long as other nations were obeying the same rules. There was no evidence of deep seated resentment against the program or that any country had been pushed to the limit in obtaining compliance with the program.
Although I found in general a sympathetic and cooperative attitude in the countries which I visited it was very apparent that none of them regarded themselves as directly and urgently concerned with the fighting in Korea. Their approach toward controlling exports to the Iron Curtain countries was that of participants in a long drawn out cold war with years ahead in which to negotiate and maneuver. There was apparently no idea that all of the economic resources of the free world should be utilized in an effort to hasten a decision in Korea.
In all my conversations in Europe I emphasized the necessity for ending the secrecy concerning many of the operations involved in controlling exports to the Soviet Bloc. I pointed out that as long as Members of Congress and the American people see newspaper headlines about shipments that get to the Iron Curtain countries in spite of the Battle Act and no headlines about the accomplishments of our control efforts it is unlikely that our foreign aid program can survive. Again, with the exception of France my point seemed to be generally understood and accepted. I feel sure that a determined move by the United States can get agreement to make public most of the essential information concerning the control of East-West trade.
In London I found that deliveries are continuing and have been made since the beginning of 1952, in accordance with a previously announced schedule, of items on the embargo list for which prior commitments exist. I do not understand how this can occur without an exception being made as provided in the Act.
The present situation with regard to prior commitments puts the entire program in a bad light. A second tanker is being built in [Page 900] Denmark for Russia. A series of exceptions apparently are contemplated for shipments made by other countries to fulfill pre-Battle Act contracts. The effect on Congressional opinion will inevitably be adverse. It will be extremely difficult to defend the foreign aid program in the next Congress when these facts are brought up in debate. I believe it is essential that something be done to alter the situation.
In closing I should like to make the point that my investigation has convinced me that the Executive Branch gives a lower priority to the control of exports to the Iron Curtain area as a device for gaining an advantage over the Russians in the present world conflict than I think is desirable. I believe that the Congress desires that a higher priority be given to this effort and will enact further legislation if necessary to assure that the desired emphasis be given.
Let me assure you that although my comments are critical my motives are entirely constructive. The important thing is that strategic items be kept away from the countries behind the Iron Curtain. I believe that we can and should do a better job than is now being done. I hope it will be possible to make substantial improvements before the next session of Congress and that the entire foreign aid program will benefit if this can be done.
I will be glad to discuss any of the points I have raised in greater detail and I want to cooperate in every way possible to improve operations under the Battle Act.