Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State
- Netherlands Views on European Defense Force and on Relations with Indonesia
- The Secretary
- Assistant Secretary George W. Perkins
- Ambassador Selden Chapin
- WE—Joseph W. Scott
- Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Dr. Willem Drees 1
- Ambassador J. H. van Roijen of the Netherlands
After an exchange of courtesies, the Prime Minister said that he would like us to have his Government’s views on the European Defense [Page 590] Force. He said that the Netherlands Government had not originally been enthusiastic about the EDF. This was not because they minded relinquishing sovereignty to a Supranational authority; they were doing that in the Schuman Plan. They did, however, have a number of serious worries about the EDF; and the Prime Minister thought that the Netherlands could participate only on the following conditions.
- The Netherlands must remain a member of NATO in full and good standing.
- For symbolic reasons, it was important that the EDF treaty and the NATO treaty should remain in force for the same period of time.
- In defense matters, the Netherlands is not prepared to accept the decisions of one man. What they want is a collegial structure along the lines of the Schuman Plan. Its members, however, need not be under governmental instructions.
- The Netherlands cannot accept a common budget as conceived in the original French plan. As long as there was no real political federation of Europe in which there was a Supranational authority which would have total responsibility and corresponding authority to raise taxes, etc., the Netherlands cannot allow outsiders to determine military expenditures and thus social expenditures for the Netherlands people.
- The Netherlands will have to secure guarantees of the above desiderata before signing a treaty. The Prime Minister thought it would be “grotesque” to expect that Benelux could successfully oppose Germany on any important issue once Benelux were an actual member of the EDF.
The Prime Minister concluded his opening remarks by saying that the French thought Benelux would be forced to participate in the EDF under pressure from the U.S. The French were mistaken about this and he wanted us to realize that we were asking his country to join in a tight-knit defense community with two of the most unstable governments in Europe. He added that Italy was 40% Communist and France was 25% Communist. So long as this was true, the Netherlands did not want to participate in any federation with an assembly in which they could be overwhelmed by the voting strength of France’s or Italy’s Communist factions.
I told the Prime Minister that I was familiar with many of the doubts he had expressed regarding Netherlands participation in the EDF. As to the first concern he had mentioned, I said there was no doubt so far as we were concerned that the Netherlands would continue to be a member of NATO exactly as at present. So far as Dutch political relations with other members of the European Defense Community [Page 591] were concerned, we assumed that each member of the EDC would continue to be represented as independent countries on the NATO Council.
With regard to the other prerequisites the Prime Minister had mentioned, I told him I thought there was an area in which agreement could be reached. The treaty could, for example, contain guarantees which should take care of any Netherlands’ worry that its economic stability might be jettisoned by others through the imposition of financial burdens.
As for any general worry the Netherlands might have regarding possible domination by Germany in a defense organization, I told the Prime Minister it was our view that the best way, and perhaps the only sure way, to avoid the building of a complete national military establishment by Germany was provided in the EDF. I said that I knew the Dutch believed Germany should come into NATO as a full member. On the other hand, this would not be possible for the French to accept unless the Germans were first brought into an EDF in such a way as to preclude the rebuilding of a complete national military establishment by Germany.
In conclusion, I told the Prime Minister I hoped that at the meetings to be resumed in Paris tomorrow, each governmental representative would be able to maintain a sufficiently fluid position to render remaining differences negotiable.
The Prime Minister again summarized, in briefer form, the Netherlands concerns he had expressed above, adding that Benelux experiences to date in negotiation with the Germans, French and Italians had not relieved them of these worries. He emphasized particularly a tendency on the part of the French, each time the Dutch thought they had made some headway, to keep going back to the original French plan. This made it difficult to know just where they stood at any given time. He hoped, however, that at the forthcoming meetings of the EDF Ministers there could be some final decision taken. On the matter of constitutional difficulties, the Prime Minister noted that this was more of a problem in Belgium than in the Netherlands. He said that the Dutch were going to amend their Constitution and have general elections next summer anyway. He didn’t believe the Belgian Government, however, wants elections at this time because the present Government has only a four vote majority in Parliament.
Ambassador van Roijen asked what would be the effect on U.S. public opinion if an EDF treaty could be signed but not ratified by the time of the NATO Council meeting in Lisbon. I replied that I was sure this country would consider it a great step forward if an EDF treaty had been signed by the time of the NATO Council meeting in Lisbon. It was understood here that ratification was a lengthy process and no one would expect ratification to be completed by that time. On [Page 592] the other hand, we did not want to see the training of German troops postponed until the ratification process was completed since this might take several months.
The Prime Minister said there would be no difficulty with the Netherlands Parliament ratifying anything the Netherlands Cabinet signed because the Cabinet was such an accurate reflection of the political complexion of the States General. He did think, however, that there would be difficulty with any EDF treaty in the French, Belgian and German legislatures.
I said it seemed to me from what I had heard that there was an area in which problems posed by the EDF could be worked out, that I thought it extremely important that we keep our present momentum and that it would be a tragedy if this were not done.
The Prime Minister said that on the whole general question of rearmament he had been represented in the U.S. press as lacking enthusiasm for a vigorous Netherlands defense effort. He said that he was enthusiastic about the Atlantic Pact because he believed that it was the Atlantic Pact which would keep the Russians away, not a European army. He was convinced that the Russians were not going to commit aggression against Western Europe by direct armed attack. He thought their attack would be through infiltration and subversion. He believed the Russians were acting in Europe on the basis of an old saying to the effect that you need not “cut anyone’s throat when you can put poison in his soup”. Following up this line of thought, he said it was obviously necessary to maintain economic stability in order to prevent undermining by the Russians. If we go too far in the direction of military expenditures, obviously the economic and political consequences would be considerable. He mentioned neutralism as being one such consequence. These considerations called for finding a proper balance between economic and military expenditures. Finally, he said it seemed to him the greatest military danger from Russia was in Africa and in Asia, that the Russian threat to Western Europe would continue in the form of efforts to weaken the West economically.
I agreed that there had been some tendency on the part of soldiers, both in Europe and here, to ask for more military outlay than it was possible to support. The findings of the TCC bore this out.
The Prime Minister in response said the Dutch had increased their taxes, had cut their consumption, had cut their investments, had cut their construction of housing, and that their budgetary position was accordingly good. Moreover, tax morality in the Netherlands was such that his Government in fact collected the taxes it imposed. Dutch living standards, however, were so low that the present Government could not add the additional 500 million guilders to its 1500 million guilder annual defense budget as the TCC had recommended for fiscal 53. I told the Prime Minister I was sure we in the West could find a way to [Page 593] raise forces of sufficient size and quality to deter aggression without at the same time causing a deterioration on the home front.
Ambassador van Roijen said he had been instructed by his Government to ask whether the démarche we had made recently at The Hague urging the Netherlands to resume talks with the Indonesians regarding the Netherlands-Indonesian Union Statute and the disposition of Netherlands New Guinea should be considered as our taking sides on this issue.* He said that prior to our having made the démarche, the Netherlands Cabinet had in fact already decided to resume the talks. The U.S., however, did not know this at the time we had asked that the talks be resumed and the Netherlands Government wanted to know if this meant a change in our position of impartiality. I told the Ambassador and the Prime Minister that our thought in making the démarche was simply to keep the talks going. The Prime Minister interjected to say the Indonesians never kept political agreements, and he hoped I was aware of all the facts in this situation. He thought I ought to know it seemed to the Dutch that Ambassador Cochran always appeared to side with the Indonesians.
I told the Prime Minister and the Ambassador I was glad they had brought the above matters to my attention and that I would keep them in mind.
- Prime Minister Drees made an informal visit to the United States, Jan. 12 to 24, 1952. He visited New York City, Jan. 12 to 16 (including a brief trip to Bridgeport, Connecticut), Pittsburgh, Jan. 17–19 (including brief stopovers at Niagara Falls and Buffalo), Washington, Jan. 20–23 (including a trip to the Parris Island Marine Base), and New York, Jan. 23–24. Prime Minister Drees’ meetings with American officials in Washington occurred on Jan. 21: he called on Secretary Acheson at 11 a.m., made a 10-minute visit to the White House to meet President Truman at noon, luncheoned with President Truman at Blair House, and paid an informal visit to offices of the Congress in the afternoon. The small amount of available documentation on the Drees visit is all included in file 756.13.↩
- Ambassador van Roijen later told Ambassador Chapin that The Hague had requested the Prime Minister to bring this matter up himself. It was decided here that the Ambassador should bring it up “with the Prime Minister present”. [Footnote in the source text. Documentation on the attitude of the United States with respect to the situation in Indonesia is presented in volume xii .]↩