PPS files, lot 65 D 101, “S/P Papers, August–October 1954”

Paper Prepared by Leon W. Fuller of the Policy Planning Staff 1


US Policy Toward Europe—Post-EDC

(May I call your attention to my earlier paper, “An Appraisal of US Policy Respecting Europe” of June 10,2 written in anticipation of the possible rejection of EDC; most of it, I believe, remains valid.)

i. the us stake in europe today

Following the presumed demise of EDC the US must reassess its vital interest in Europe in the new situation. To what degree is our national interest engaged here inevitably and irrevocably?

Defeat of EDC in no way diminishes this interest. We have lost a battle, not a war, and this loss points not so much to the need for withdrawal or retreat, much less surrender, as to a change in tactics, possibly in basic strategy. Our recent setback in SE Asia, despite the very partial and problematical recouping of our fortunes through the SEATO pact, and our still dubious strength in the Near East, make clear how isolated and disastrous our world position would be if Europe were lost. Nor does EDC’s defeat mean that our prime objective of European strength through union is at fault or should be discarded. It does mean that we should weigh possible faults in our strategy. EDC failed, in the last analysis, because in the showdown it represented to many Europeans, particularly French, a US project to force premature federation along military lines involving a high risk of ultimate German predominance in a European union, and with a too apparent concern for realization of EDC as a device for mobilizing German armed forces. This view of our EDC policy was the more [Page 1171] pronounced because recent developments seemed to point to (a) the lessened necessity to secure German ground forces for a prospective nuclear war, if war should come, and (b) the lessened likelihood, in view of presumed Soviet calculations of their own interests and world strategy, that there would be a general war involving Europe.

The US decision on German rearmament was made in 1950 in the shadow of the Korean oubreak. The decision that must be made in 1954 concerning our next moves on this and related issues must be made in the light of the four-year evolution of the world situation, involving the progressing nuclear revolution in the art of war, the evidences of modified Soviet World strategy, the obvious weakness and incapacity of France, the startling economic and nationalistic evolution of West Germany to potential great power status, the continued aloofness of Britain from the continent, and the growing nationalist disposition of our recovering European allies to resent US ascendancy and to work out national policies of their own. These are the realities which confront us, even through our involvement in Europe and our stake in maintaining it as a strong anti-Soviet bastion of the free world remain also as inexorable realities.

ii. the hot war dilemma

Earlier NATO and EDC planning was in anticipation of a possibly imminent hot war in Europe, Strictly military planning, of course, must continue to envisage this eventuality in realistic fashion. But our diplomatic and political strategy vis-à-vis Europe can no longer be guided mainly by consideration of this eventuality, as a point has been reached where, to Europeans, the outbreak of a hot war could only mean utter catastrophe, whatever its formal outcome.

Speculation on this theme is hampered by the difficulty in picturing the “next war” if it comes to Europe. We might assume that the U.S. and Soviet nuclear capacities would cancel each other out by non-use, and the war would be fought with conventional forces only. This would probably mean an early Soviet conquest of Western Europe. But current JCS strategy would seem to mean that U.S. nuclear capacities would be used in strikes against (a) major military and industrial objectives within the Soviet orbit, and (b) West European objectives (as the Ruhr) in event of their take-over by the Soviets so as to deny additional military capabilities to the enemy. There is the possibility that the Soviets, on the verge or at the inception of war, would seek to bribe the Europeans into non-resistance by offering immunity from air bombardment and even from military occupation. This, if successful, would seem to reduce a war to a long-distance air-atomic exchange between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., by-passing or over-passing Europe. But it seems improbable that in any event, Europe could remain uninvolved for long. Another conceivable possibility [Page 1172] is that the U.S. and U.S.S.R. would virtually wipe out each other’s nuclear capabilities early in the war, and that from then on hostilities would continue mainly with conventional ground forces in Europe. Furthermore, the development of certain new types of nuclear weapons, such as guided missiles, and of new techniques of nuclear defense, seems now unpredictable in its bearing on a war in Europe.

At any event, the expectations of Europeans of the probable consequences to them of an all-out war are horrendous enough, and with justification. This feeling, in conjunction with their prevailing estimate that a Soviet attack is not likely, their sense of relative weakness, inadequacy and vulnerability in the situation, and their suspicion and cynicism concerning U.S. intentions, creates a difficult situation for us, given our assumption which remains valid that only [by] the creation of massive, pooled strength in Western Europe can our vital objectives then be attained.

The U.S., therefore, would probably do well to “sell” its European defense program to its allies mainly on its merits as a deterrent to Soviet aggression. Our own military strategists must, of course, plan for all contingencies, which may include choices of action in event of a hot war extremely unpalatable to our allies if they were publicized (early retreat to the Rhine or farther west, scorched earth policy in evacuated areas, etc.). But our general position should be that we aim to create the strongest possible collective security structure through NATO, including arrangements for maximum effective use of unconventional weapons, in order to set up a successful deterrent to Soviet aggression. The underlying premise would be that, in event of hot war, this collective security complex would be utilized in accordance with the west military and political judgment in the given situation. How it would be used cannot and need not be pre-judged in advance, and the U.S. would do well to avoid excessive legalistic precautions to insure its “rights” regarding military decisions and actions in Europe, particularly respecting the employment of nuclear weapons. An excess of zeal would probably stimulate violently nationalist reactions and undermine rather than strengthen the edifice of collective military strength and political morale.

If we must be more candid with our European allies as to our expectations and plans for a hot war, we might picture it somewhat as follows. However it comes, if it is clearly the “real thing,” we would plan maximum air-atomic strikes at once against Soviet military and industrial centers, communications, and all points of vulnerability where the Soviet war potential might be weakened or crippled. We assume the Soviets would reciprocate against the US in like fashion, but would have far greater difficulties than we due to distance of bases, lesser nuclear capabilities, etc., in delivering a knockout punch. Meanwhile, Western Europe might or might not be invaded by the Soviets [Page 1173] (they might be successful in blackmailing our NATO allies into refuse [refusing] cooperation by offering to refrain from atomic bombardment, or even invasion, but in that event we could still deliver massive air strikes against Soviet objectives). In a relatively short phase, characterized by the exchange of atomic blows between the US and USSR, we should be able to do such crippling damage to the Soviet war machine (and its “infrastructure” and sources of supply) that the Soviets either would be in no position to invade Western Europe or to hold it for long if they did (CIA’s view). Thus we could assure our allies of two probabilities: (1) that they would not have to suffer a prolonged Soviet occupation, with subsequent destructive “liberation” by us, and (2) that we would not find it a military necessity to adopt a large scale “scorched earth” policy toward Western Europe as a means of denying it to the Soviets.

This, at least, is one concept of a future hot war that might not be too discouraging to our allies, and might induce them to give us their full cooperation in building up our nuclear strategic capabilities in the area.

iii. priority objectives

It would seem futile, on several counts, to make the attainment of absolute European defensibility a priority objective. If ever attainable—which it was not, according to military estimates, even given the full attainment of the Lisbon goals with German forces in being—it seems even less so now as the development of the atomic equation tends to cancel out whatever edge the West has had, due to superiority of atomic armaments. And economic, political and psychological factors all militate against making the attainment of “absolute” defensive capacity in Europe a prime objective.

Therefore the US is driven by logic and reality to place the main emphasis on two cold war objectives (this is on the assumption, pretty well validated today by the best intelligence estimates, both civilian and military, that the Soviets are extremely unlikely to gamble on a hot war at least for the next few years). These are (1) the strengthening of the deterrent effectiveness of the NATO military establishment to a maximum degree (which would also increase its potential effectiveness if war did come), and (2) halting any further trend to the disintegration of the free European community and promoting its economic, political and psychological strength through unity within itself and through closer ties with the extra-continental NATO powers (UK, US, Canada).

There are not, of course, new goals, but nothing in recent developments would appear to invalidate them as basic, short and long range, objectives. Recent failures may throw much light, however, on difficulties, methods and tactics, and help us in shaping future policy. In [Page 1174] general, we require a more pragmatic and flexible approach, less dogmatic reliance on any particular concept or project, a less overtly aggressive sort of leadership in relation to our NATO allies, yet with persisting firmness in pursuing really vital objectives, more patience and self-restraint. Inasmuch as the problem is immediately European we should defer to, and encourage European leadership in the inception and implementation of specific plans. We should seek to influence the evolution of European planning and action only in so far as this is essential to harmonize it with the inexorable, minimal purposes of a global strategy in which we are, by necessity, the prime leader and mover.

iv. short-run policies

The above considerations should shape our thinking and planning about Europe and determine our long-range objectives. But we face an emergency and quick decision and action must proceed on a number of aspects of the European situation that cannot wait. The following courses of action are suggested as best fitting the actual situation that now confronts us, with the promise that any course now decided upon must evolve pragmatically in a “trial and error” fashion as we progress upon it, and that no “council of perfection” based on philosophic insights however profound can assure us a fool-proof blue print to guide us in a colossal venture in “social engineering” in which we must deal constantly with unforeseeable complexities and human imponderables.

A. Germany

It is clear that the status question must be resolved at an early date. We must probably scrap the London protocols and move farther toward a grant of sovereignty by three-power action, qualified only by reservations concerning the conditions of German rearmament, and Berlin and all-German questions. This move should not be clogged with legal or bureaucratic verbiage or thinking but should be sweeping and generous, for its psychological impact on the Germans. “Membership in the club” must be established without quibbling reservations.

As to German rearmament—the actual procedure, not the right, which should be established by return of sovereignty—the U.S. should, first of all, avoid the attitude it has displayed for years, that this is of primary urgency in order to strengthen NATO. We might do well to appear somewhat indifferent, merely assuming that it will come to pass eventually, and not giving France or the Germans themselves any opportunity to blackmail us or pry from us excessive concessions as a price for quick results. We should exert a more restrained influence, in the background, deferring to European leadership and thinking as to ways and means. We should indicate that we want a plan generally [Page 1175] acceptable to all our European partners, as the issue is an immediate, life-and-death issue for them.

We might do well to formulate a tentative plan of our own as a background for discussion and negotiation, but not to be set forth with insistence as “our plan.” Even this plan should be highly provisional and subject to modification in the developing situation. It could, in general, favor (1) clear establishment of the German right to rearm; (2) German admission to NATO; (3) constructive development of NATO in the direction of a more integrated command structure, logistics system, etc., and possibly the exercise of additional powers respecting the size, nature and disposition of NATO forces on the continent; (4) salvaging of elements of EDC through renegotiated arrangements in the general direction of a European arms pool within NATO and conforming to the latter’s requirements; (5) supplementing the above with other moves, somewhat as proposed in the British “Document 6.” It could be assumed that French acceptance of “2” will be contingent on agreement on some of the subsequent points.

Regarding the German unity issue, I feel that the Germans will continue allergic to it, the Soviets and German Communists will exploit it to the utmost, and that our policy will remain at all times flexible and open-minded enough to comprehend necessary moves on this front. For instance, West Germany in NATO should not be bound to renounce her unification objective, and the diplomatic door should always be left open to renewed negotiation with the Soviets on this issue. There is not the complete incompatibility between our projected Western policy for Germany and hopes for German reunification that some assume, because it is clear that our only prospect for successful negotiation with the Soviets on this matter lies in so strengthening West Germany and integrating it with the West that we have a strong bargaining base from which to operate, and which we do not now have.

B. France

We face a grave dilemma here. We must, through our diplomacy, avoid being hopelessly hampered in pursuing our minimal vital objectives in Europe by French veto or serious obstruction, while avoiding, likewise, any policy which would really alienate France and could result only in a weakened and fragmented Europe.

The post-EDC phase has already given France a taste of isolation, and her European allies seem as indignant and determined to move ahead on constructive lines regardless of her opposition as we are. We should, not too overtly, support the tendency to effect France’s diplomatic isolation, not to push her out of the club, but to compel her to a realistic reappraisal of her position and policies. We should continue to respect her legitimate and reasonable demands, i.e., those clearly [Page 1176] reflecting her unique national interests, but make clear, without threats, that we and the other NATO powers are going to move ahead to necessary decisions without her if she proves irrationally obstructive. We must gamble on the hope that such diplomacy will prove successful and that France, in the last analysis, will not prove recalcitrant to a suicidal and destructive degree.

In this spirit, and with such tactics, we should move forward to realize the program suggested in III–A above. We should avoid threatening France with ultimate or imposing deadlines, yet be prepared, in the last analysis to go ahead without French concurrence if necessary, with our other NATO allies, in taking essential actions.

C. Britain

We should employ our diplomatic resources to induce Britain to work closely with her continental allies in working out plans, and encourage her to exert constructive leadership in the matter (Eden already seems to be moving in this direction).

Feeling that Britain should associate herself more closely and integrally with the continent, we should, nevertheless, avoid “pressuring” her in this respect. Our most effective means here is a demonstration that we, too, recognize the need for closer association on our part and are ready to make certain commitments and sacrifices to this end.

D. European Integration

Underlying all our policies and acts should persist the basic concept of a unified free Europe. But we should have learned from our EDC experience to avoid the limelight. There remains a substantial residuum in Europe, even in France, of desire and readiness to move ahead toward a united Europe. We should defer, but helpfully and constructively, to European leadership, recognizing that only plans for association that are developed indigenously and have time to mature in the minds of Europeans, can be ultimately successful. We should largely divorce the European movement, in our own minds and policies, from procedures for securing a German defense contribution. Possibly these procedures can eventually converge with the integration program, but that must come later.

Finally, we must reassess our own relations to an evolving European community, seeking and considering ways and means to establish the maximum ties with this community, even of an institutional nature, that are in conformity with our constitutional limitations and enlightened public opinion. This may be the crux of our whole European policy, and a great institutional [national] debate and decision may well be precipitated on this issue if things move to a major crisis. The choice, at such a stage, may be between a radical move toward institutional [Page 1177] association with free Europe, and renunciation of our major European objectives and programs.

  1. In response to instructions from the Director of the Policy Planning Staff, Robert R. Bowie, Fuller wrote a series of brief memoranda every few days following the French rejection of the EDC in which he attempted to pick up “straws in the wind.” As a result of this assignment, Fuller drafted several papers on post-EDC U.S. policy toward Europe of which this is one. Copies of Fuller’s “Post-EDC European Reactions” of Sept. 3, 9, and 17 are in the PPS files, lot 65 D 101, “L. Fuller chronological”. There is no indication on the source text that Bowie gave this paper further circulation outside the Policy Planning Staff.
  2. Fuller’s 38-page paper under reference is in the PPS files, lot 65 D 101, “S/P Papers, May–July 1954.”