EUR files, lot 59 D 233, “Norway”

No. 823
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Bonbright)



  • The Secretary of State
  • The Norwegian Foreign Minister, Mr. Lange
  • The Norwegian Ambassador, Mr. Morgenstierne
  • Mr. Bonbright, EUR

Prior to his call on the President the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Mr. Lange, called on the Secretary today at 2:20. He was accompanied by the Norwegian Ambassador.

Mr. Lange began by expressing appreciation for the dinner which the Secretary had for him last evening and for the opportunity for frank discussion which the occasion offered.

He then said that there were only two questions which he wished to take up, the first of which he would not bother the President with:

The McCarran Act.1 Mr. Lange hoped that something could be done to mitigate the effects of this act which created a considerable public opinion problem in his country owing to the large number of Norwegian seamen whose entry into the United States was governed by its provisions. The Secretary suggested that if he felt strongly about it, he should mention this to the President as well.
Northern NATO Defenses. Mr. Lange indicated that he and Mr. Kraft were disturbed by the implications of a plan for the defenses of Scandinavia which have recently been submitted by SHAPE. In brief, this plan envisaged that in the event of a Soviet attack, Denmark could not be held for more than a few days. Similarly, it envisaged that only relatively small parts of Norway could be held and that these would be in the nature of bridge-heads which might be expanded at a later date. The Foreign Minister indicated that while this might be defensible on military grounds, it presented an extremely serious political problem. He and his Danish colleague wondered whether the plan reflected a fundamental change in the view on the part of the Standing Group or whether it was of a more transitory character. In this connection he recalled that President Eisenhower had always spoken of the Northern [Page 1763] defenses as being of the greatest importance and the new plan with its emphasis on the central sector and its weakness on the northern flank was diametrically opposed.

Mr. Lange went on to say that the easy retort to this would be that the Norwegian and Danish base policies were inconsistent with a firm defense of the area. On the other hand, he felt that more weight should be given to the political factors involved as opposed to the strictly military factors. In this connection while he did not minimize the role of political opinion in Norway, he indicated that a basic reason for the Norwegian policy was due to concern about Russian reaction in other areas. He said that both the Finns and the Swedes were fearful lest a change in the Norwegian policy would lead to an immediate increase of pressure on the Finns for the extension of Russian bases nearer the borders of Sweden and northern Norway.

The Secretary said that this was a matter with which the President was much more familiar than he so that he would not comment on it in detail. He expressed appreciation of the reasons underlying Norwegian concern and said that at the time NATO was founded he himself thought that the Norwegians might prefer to wait for two or three years before joining in order to permit the strength to develop in the center and gradually expand northward. He expressed admiration for the courageousness of the Norwegian decision. However, he did believe that it was unlikely that the Russians would be provoked into taking further steps since when they made up their minds to do something they usually went ahead and did it without worrying too much about the excuse. Finally, the Secretary said that he was not in a position to advise Mr. Lange regarding the political problem posed by a change of base policy since that was a matter which the Norwegians themselves would know best how to handle.

  1. Reference is to the Immigration and Nationality Act, P.L. 82–414 (66 Stat. 163), June 27, 1952, which entered into effect on Dec. 24.