Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Western European Affairs (Byington)



  • Meeting of Certain Foreign Ministers1 to Exchange Views Concerning NATO Meeting on December 15.


  • Mr. Kraft, Denmark
  • Mr. Eden, United Kingdom
  • Mr. Shuckburgh, Private Secretary to Mr. Eden
  • Mr. Schuman, France
  • Mr. Pearson, Canada
  • Mr. Bech, Luxembourg
  • The Secretary of State
  • Mr. Perkins
  • Mr. Byington

Mr. Kraft said that he had been very pleased to request this meeting [Page 344] at the suggestion of Mr. Pearson. He wished to bring up the question of a NATO meeting in Paris on December 15. He had already had an opportunity to consult with Mr. Lange of Norway and Mr. Luns of the Netherlands, neither of whom were now in New York. Mr. Lange had expressed himself very strongly in favor of holding a meeting in Paris on December 15. Mr. Luns, while not as keen as Mr. Lange, had also been in favor of it. Mr. Kraft assumed that Mr. Luns would want to consult with the other Netherlands Foreign Minister. He had communicated with Lord Ismay to ascertain the latter’s views and had learned that in Ismay’s opinion failure to hold a meeting as planned on December 15 would have a very bad effect on public opinion. Ismay considered it would be both useful and in the general interest to hold the meeting in Paris as planned.

Mr. Kraft said there were a number of things that could be taken up at this meeting. First, there was the annual review. He felt that some sort of a report could be submitted for consideration and decision; second, there was the German question; third, Lord Ismay’s reorganization—what he had accomplished up to date and his plans for the future; fourth, he understood there was a paper which had been prepared by the Standing Group, and, finally, he pointed out that only one NATO meeting had taken place this year instead of the three that had been promised. At this point he turned to Mr. Acheson and asked him for the US view. He said that he assumed there had been no change in policy towards the NATO as a result of the elections in the U.S.

The Secretary replied that the elections did not change in any way the U.S. attitude toward NATO. He did not know, however, what would be the position of the new administration with regard to financial aspects of the question. He said he thought that consideration of the annual review would have an important bearing in that regard. As far as holding the meeting on December 15 was concerned, there were some disadvantages. It was now clear that the gap between force goals and financial capabilities would not be covered in the annual review in time for the December 15 meeting. In other words, the gap between what was possible and what was desirable had not been closed. Accordingly, he doubted whether at the meeting in December we could report much progress.

The Secretary also referred to the problem of public opinion. Any communiqué that was drawn up as a result of this proposed meeting will have little to say about Germany, which will probably not have ratified the EDC by that time; nor will the EDC have received consideration in the Parliaments of France and Italy or the Benelux countries. There would be little to say about the annual review. In short, it would be a slim communiqué. Consequently, we should give a good deal of thought, if the meeting were to be held, to preparing [Page 345] public opinion. The Secretary also suggested that the Chairman should have similar consultation with those governments in NATO not represented here at this meeting before any decision was made. Finally, he concluded that the U.S. attitude was one of being glad to be in accord with the general view of the other members of the organization. In other words, we were not urging that a meeting be held in December but would go along with any general recommendation concurred in by the others.

Mr. Eden said it seemed to him that there was a balance of difficulties but on the whole holding a meeting had less disadvantages than did postponement. Also, he felt it important that we should relieve Western Europe of any misconception that the U.S. attitude towards NATO had changed as a result of the election. He felt that holding the meeting as planned would help in that regard.

Mr. Schuman suggested that the group examine what items were ready, not only for discussion at the meeting, but also for a communiqué. He feared that we would not have much to say. The report of the Military Committee would not be ready, policy questions of common interest were also without decision, the threat of the Soviet aggression was not material for the communiqué, and defense plans were not ready. Kraft interpolated saying there was a paper on this. Schuman concluded by saying that even though there was not much that could be put in a communiqué he still thought it was better to have a meeting and would go along with that proposal if the others agreed, although he did not feel strongly.

Mr. Pearson said that obviously military topics were not ready for productive discussion or decisions. He pointed out, however, that it was widely known that there was going to be a meeting. He felt it would be unfortunate for it to become known now that this meeting was postponed merely because we were not ready to discuss military plans. He felt that the NATO in the public mind was already too identified with military plans and that postponement would accentuate that impression. Moreover, he thought postponement would be interpreted as having to do with the results of the U.S. elections. He believed we could produce a communiqué and that we should hold the meeting. Moreover, we ought to get away from the impression that we can only have NATO meetings when there is an important decision to announce. He thought at this meeting in December it might be better to have small delegations and that in a quieter atmosphere we might be able to accomplish a good deal. In any event, there would have to be another meeting in two or three months.

Mr. Bech said he felt there should be a meeting. He asked how far off would we have to postpone this meeting in order to have a satisfactory communiqué. Mr. Schuman replied at least two months. Mr. [Page 346] Bech said that would be too far off and that we should have the meeting on December 15.

Mr. Kraft said he agreed with Mr. Pearson’s argument about avoiding an impression that we had NATO meetings only when there was something important to announce. He said that he was convinced a meeting would be very useful at this time to discuss existing problems and it was also important to Lord Ismay that he should report on the way he is reorganizing the Council, what he plans for the future, and that he should obtain the views of the Ministers of the various NATO countries. Mr. Kraft said he would write to the other NATO Foreign Ministers asking for their views. He felt sure that they would all be in favor of holding a meeting. He then urged that the Foreign, Defense and Finance Ministers of each country all come to the meeting. Mr. Pearson said that he did not think all three had to be there. The Secretary said he would like to have some latitude about his colleagues being present. He would urge them to come; a lot would depend on the annual review, and whether it would be far enough along to justify the presence of the Secretary of the Treasury. However, if his colleagues did not come they would send their deputies. After further discussion the question was left without commitment by any of those present. Mr. Pearson again emphasized that it should be a small meeting and considered by the public as a ministerial meeting at Paris, not a big meeting such as the one at Rome. In other words, it was a regular NATO meeting at its own headquarters in Paris.

A discussion then took place with regard to what Mr. Kraft should tell newspaper correspondents who were already asking him whether there was to be a meeting in Paris or not. Mr. Eden suggested that to head off speculation Mr. Kraft should say that he knew of no change in present NATO plans, but any announcement would be made from Paris probably in about two weeks. Mr. Kraft agreed to this and Mr. Pearson stressed the importance that the announcement of the meeting should not come from New York. It was agreed that Mr. Kraft would follow the line suggested by Mr. Eden. Mr. Kraft said that he would probably make the announcement of the December 15 meeting when he went to Paris on the 25th of this month to discuss with Lord Ismay necessary preparations.2

  1. The Foreign Ministers were in New York for the Seventh Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly which met Oct. 14–Dec. 22.
  2. A summary of this meeting was transmitted to the Department of State in telegram 379 from New York, Nov. 14. (740.5/11–1452)