711.56340B/1–1653: Telegram

No. 692
The Minister in Iceland (Lawson) to the Department of State

top secret

153. Pass Akers OSAF. Department Instruction Number 27, June 20, 1952;1 letter December 19 to Ronhovde.2 Foreign Minister informed me in conversations yesterday and today that after long consideration all factors he regretfully concludes it definitely unwise from viewpoint Icelandic Government to grant principal additional military facilities we propose, prior to general elections coming June. This pertains to base X-ray program and any other items similar character involving formal decision Icelandic Government. He willing review program with me in effort meet my request that permission be granted for every possible element of program in which time important factor and which would not seriously conflict with above-mentioned Icelandic Government policy. I am hopeful such items as rotational training at Keflavik, needed additional personnel for AC and W and for navy patrol squadron will be included, but no assurance any specific item yet.

Foreign Minister made decision recognizing probable favorable recommendations from General Oen,3 after review “operational paper”4 and with full consideration present military urgency as [Page 1519] constantly called his attention by me and explained to Icelandic Government by various US Pentagon officials. I argued for decision immediately following General Oen’s comments which I thought would make widespread favorable impression public and suggested presently unknown attitude newly organized Social Democrat Party might prove to be favorable, thus warranting immediate Icelandic Government action. Despite these arguments Foreign Minister insisted political risk too great and he absolutely convinced pre-election granting requirements would contribute materially to strength of CP in elections.

Although keenly disappointed this postponement, feel that further protests my part, following my frequent and persistent urgings during past six months would avail little. Last resort seems be NATO approach through Icelandic NATO representative with tangible results decidedly questionable. Despatch follows.5

  1. See footnote 2, Document 689.
  2. Not found in Department of State files.
  3. In October 1952, the Icelandic Government requested the Norwegian Government to send an experienced military planner capable of making an independent appraisal of the U.S. military requirements which had been under negotiation since late June. The Norwegian selection for this mission, General Oen, arrived on Jan. 7 and had not yet submitted his recommendations when the Icelandic Government informed Minister Lawson that the negotiations could not be continued.
  4. In the course of a visit by Finletter to Iceland in early August and during subsequent conversations between Lawson and Icelandic authorities, the Icelandic Government expressed its desire for a formal statement by U.S. negotiators of the overall role to be played by Iceland in U.S. policy. A 16-page “operational paper”, drafted in the Department of Defense and transmitted to Reykjavik by instruction 2, Oct. 3, was the U.S. response to this request. (711.56340B/10–352)
  5. Despatch 197 from Reykjavik, Jan. 20, contained Lawson’s judgment that the negotiations had broken down essentially due to the weakness that plagued the Icelandic Government since the death of the President of Iceland, Sveinn Björnsson, on Jan. 24, 1952. It also contained a memorandum of conversation, Jan. 16, which recorded the discussion between Benediktsson and Lawson mentioned in telegram 153. (711.56340B/1–2053)