The Secretary of State to Foreign Minister Stikker 1

top secret

Dear Dirk: From our past conversations, I know the importance which you and your Government attach to the view regarding the duration of the EDC treaty which you have so consistently advocated. We have not expressed any views on this discussion because of our confident belief and hope that the nations directly involved would be able to work out an acceptable solution of the problem. It now appears that this has not been done and the resulting crisis gravely threatens the whole defense edifice which all of us are trying to create in Europe as well as the great movement toward European unification which these treaties will forward. No one has contributed more to these accomplishments than yourself. You also know the situation in the US so well that I need only mention the adverse effect that a setback at this time would have on US support for Europe.

I am sending this message only because of this critical situation, because of the vast importance which we, in common with the other countries concerned, attach to the success of these efforts, and because I know I can rely upon your friendship to receive this message in the spirit in which it is sent.

The purpose of this message is to urge that you and your Government consider once more whether something along the line of the proposal which Mr. Schuman made today does not go a long way to meet your problems. As I understand it, his proposal was to include in the EDC treaty something about as follows:

“The present treaty is concluded for a period of fifty years from the date of its entry into force. In the event that the NAT should cease to be in effect before the expiration of the present treaty, member states shall consult together and agree on measures to be taken.”

I understand that some such provision would be acceptable to the other five states. The difference between this proposal and your position [Page 668] is that your position maintains the clear legal right of the Netherlands to withdraw from the EDC should the British end their guarantee to the EDC states, which would occur in the event that under Article 13 of NAT they withdraw from the obligations of that treaty.

The legal difference is, of course, clear. But I wish to urge upon you that the essence of the two situations is not really different. The actualities of international affairs do not depend upon naked, legal rights. They rest upon maintaining between the contracting parties the conviction that the contract will continue to preserve their basic interests. This in many situations which you and I could mention leads to modification of the contracts between states when that is necessary to continue that result.

I believe that, if any change in the international situation as far reaching as the withdrawal of the UK should take place, member states would be forced to do what the Schuman proposal requires: That is, to re-examine their position and to reach conclusions which would be satisfactory to all of them. In no other way could any institution so vital to the security of all six be continued.

Therefore, it seems to me that, while the Schuman proposal does not provide for the legal right of withdrawal which you desire, it does recognize the situation which you have insisted upon: That is, that the change in NATO which I have mentioned would require a review of EDC and a new meeting of the minds on what steps are necessary to meet it.

I hope that you will be willing to give these thoughts careful consideration, and I know that you will do all in your power to aid in solving the impasse which firm adherence to the two attitudes mentioned above would produce.

Since I know that you have been acting under instructions from your Government, I am asking Ambassador Chapin to bring this message to the attention of Prime Minister.

With warm regards,

  1. Transmitted in telegram 690, to Paris, May 21, repeated to The Hague, with instructions to deliver to Stikker at Strasbourg “by quickest possible means. In any event Achilles should take it with him when he goes there Thursday”. At the same time that Acheson drafted and transmitted the source text, he also drafted and sent telegram 1512 to The Hague which reads: “Next following tel to Strasbourg via Paris contains personal message from me to Stikker. Please deliver copy immediately to Prime Minister informing him it was sent after I had consulted with the President. Remind him of the tremendous importance which the American Congress and the American people attach to the successful conclusion of the contractual relations with Germany and the EDC, not only for the immediate accomplishments involved, but because of the great effect on the movement toward unity in Western Europe. You should also tell him that Congress is now considering new appropriations for the Mutual Aid Program and that a set-back in the present developments in Europe would, we fear, come pretty close to terminating the interest of the Congress in the Mutual Security Program” (740.5/5–2152). On the same day, Acheson submitted a memorandum to the President enclosing the source text. The memorandum reads: “You will recall that I called you last night regarding the difficulty with the Dutch over the question of duration of the European Defense Community Treaty. I am attaching a copy of the message which I sent to Mr. Stikker on this matter. A copy of this message was also delivered to the Prime Minister of the Netherlands who was told that the message had been sent after consultation with you. I will appreciate confirmation of the verbal authorization you gave me last night to send this message.” A handwritten notation on the memorandum reads: “Approved 5/22/52 Harry S. Truman” (740.5/5–2252).