611.57/7–3153: Despatch

No. 825
The Ambassador in Norway (Bay) to the Department of State

No. 85
  • Reference: Oslo despatch No. 1121, June 26, 1953;1 and Department’s circular telegram No. 53, July 23, 19532
  • Subject: Norwegian Attitudes Towards the United States

The Department’s telegram under reference was received just one week ago, which is to say seven days before the effective date of my resignation as Ambassador.3 However, I feel it important that I should submit a reply before leaving office rather than turn such a problem over to my successor, for he will not have had opportunity to be familiar with Norwegian official and public attitudes over the past months. In my despatch no. 1121 of June 26, I covered much of the ground involved, based primarily upon an evening of full and frank discussion with the Foreign Minister himself and several other key figures in the Labor Government and Labor Party, but which also included broader background coverage from other sources. In fact, my previous despatch is practically a complete reply to the Department’s telegram, but as my last official act I think it well to take up the Department’s questions specifically in an effort to give direct answers.

[Page 1769]

The Department’s first question is whether there is mistrust among Norwegians of United States motives underlying our policy towards the USSR. In my view the Norwegians do not distrust our motives, but they are more inclined than they have previously been to question the soundness and stability of our judgment. There is a general feeling that too many Americans have an unduly emotional and alarmist attitude towards Communism which makes it difficult for us to form objective judgments as a basis for wise and moderate policies. We must remember that the Norwegians are accustomed to Communists in their midst, and some of the soundest present Labor Party leaders were not far from being Communists themselves in pre-war days. They feel that they have the internal Communist situation under sufficient control even when, as at present, about 6% of the national vote goes Communist, which is to say about 100,000 votes. It seems to be their impression that Communists are relatively far less numerous in the United States, and hence their concept that we have allowed ourselves to become unduly alarmed, especially concerning the internal dangers of Communism. Some ranking officials also have doubts concerning our estimate of the Communist danger in Europe and lean to the reported British view that Russia is hardly likely to initiate a military sweep across Western Europe in the immediate years ahead. While they appreciate fully, of course, that such could happen and that it is likely the Russians have the strength with which to mount such an aggression, yet in gauging the probabilities they feel we may be too much influenced by strictly military considerations set in a background of alarmism and without due respect to seasoned political considerations.

The Department’s second question whether there has been a lessening of confidence in U.S. intentions adequately to support its allies, both individually and collectively, in measures designed to strengthen free world security, raises the question of isolationism. Norwegian officials are watching carefully to see whether isolationist pressures within Congress and also upon Congress are gaining headway. Completely confident of President Eisenhower’s basic position and guiding principles, there exists an undeniable feeling of uncertainty of his ability to gain the necessary support from Congress. Strictly in terms of United States military and economic aid for Norway, there has been no indication whatsoever of criticism on the part of the Government or the public. They know we do not expect to provide further direct economic aid, but realize we have aided them most generously over the past five years, and that such contributions had to end sooner or later. As for military equipment and supplies, those at all familiar with the situation understand that we have already programmed enough equipment to make possible [Page 1770] the planned build-up of their forces. Just how they will maintain the ultimate level of strength and equipment is a problem to which they are, perhaps naively or just politicially, rather shutting their eyes.

The Government has not yet obtained foreign financing to cover its anticipated 1953 foreign exchange deficit, which will probably be a large one. (Minister of Commerce Brofoss recently estimated that after capital transfers the balance of payments deficit this year will total about 500 million kroner.) Norway may be faced with a very serious problem if foreign loans and credits are not forthcoming and the terms of trade and shipping do not improve. As already stated, however, I do not find that even the most apprehensive Norwegian blames this situation upon us, or expects us to write blank checks indefinitely for future deficits. On the other hand, the Government, together with both labor unions and trade circles, is far from confident of U.S. intentions to direct its own domestic and foreign economic policies so as to contribute to economic and political stability in Western Europe and, by the same token, to free world security. Government officials express to us their fear that the present U.S. restrictive monetary and fiscal policies may lead to a recession and that the “Republican” Administration may not be prepared to take effective remedial measures. They feel that such a development would have drastic consequences for Western Europe. Not only have Norwegians been not too sanguine about possiblities for U.S. tariff liberalization, but indicate grave concern lest protectionist pressures in Congress may force the adoption of a more restrictive trade policy.

The Department’s third question concerns the possibility that the United States is not living up to its leadership responsibilities. I believe there is such a feeling here which I shall endeavor to define. The Government has been much disturbed in recent months over what it has considered a failure by the United States to assume the initiative and to adopt the flexibility called for in the fluid situation brought about by Stalin’s death, and a period in which many read signs of a receptive attitude on the part of the new Soviet regime. Perhaps it could be said they have held with Sir Winston Churchill in believing the time has come for face-to-face discussions of a general nature between the top officals of East and West. They feel we have adhered too rigidly to policy lines adopted long ago to cope with an entirely different situation. There is evidence, however, that this attitude has been modified somewhat by the US–UK–French proposal for a four-power foreign minister’s conference [Page 1771] which a key Labor Party leader has described as a “great forward step.”4

On specific issues I might say that our continued insistence on the vital necessity of the EDC and our position on Communist China seem too inflexible to Norwegians. They believe that EDC cannot possibly be accepted by France and Germany so long as there is hope for settlement with Russia on German unification. The Department already knows Norway’s position on the Chinese situation as last reported in my despatch 1121 of June 26.

I believe that the recognition of the leadership which we have exercised for so long will suffer in some degree here in Norway unless, in the establishment of our own policies, we are willing to sympathetically give fullest consideration to the viewpoint of the Europeans themselves on such issues as those mentioned above. The issue goes more deeply than the question of economic aid or its possible withdrawal on the part of the United States.

The fourth question is whether United States domestic political events have influenced Norway’s attitude toward United States leadership. Norwegian answers to this question vary somewhat, though the preponderant view seems clearly to be that the names “McCarthy” and “McCarran” symbolize a disconcerting development of undemocratic and irresponsible forces within our country. Norwegians of every hue traditonally resent any assault against civil liberties. A long chapter could be written on this, but it hardly seems necessary, especially in view of what I have previously reported. Suffice it to say that many Norwegians feel that the emotional anti-Communist forces have exercised too great an influence on the foreign policies of the present Administration. They see the President so far as conciliating the opposing and recalcitrant factions within Congress whose positions are thus allowed to loom so large that the foreign policy of the U.S. at times seems difficult to understand. They regard some of the more “extreme” statements made by Administration spokesmen to “appease” such factions as threat to Western unity. I have just been told of the “shocked reaction” expressed by a key Labor Party leader to an Embassy officer regarding the “categorical” nature of the Secretary’s latest statements on the question of Communist China’s admission into the United Nations and its irrelevance to the forthcoming political conference on Korea.

[Page 1772]

During my farewell call on Prime Minister Torp, occasioned by my departure from this post, we discussed several aspects of American foreign policy which relate directly to the questions set forth in the Department’s referenced telegram. Making allowance for a certain politeness and reserve in Mr. Torp’s remarks on delicate questions, I may say that his observations reflected the attitudes which I have described above. Mr. Torp indicated that while Norwegian Government officials still have faith in President Eisenhower, they feel that conflicting forces within the Republican Party are seriously impeding his program and that they have so far dimmed the force and clarity of the President’s views. He observed that Norwegian officials are not acquainted with leaders of our administration, aside from President Eisenhower, and do not know what to expect from them. Mr. Torp’s only response to my question as to his reaction to American political developments was that he felt less sure about the current situation than during the latest previous years and hoped “that the President would show in American politics the same spirit he showed as Commander in Europe.” With reference to the strength of isolationism in the United States, he expressed the hope also that American sentiment would permit the new Administration to continue to demonstrate a positive willingness to cooperate fully with the nations of Western Europe. The Prime Minister expressed understanding of the attitudes of the American people on the future of foreign aid, but said that he hoped personally that aid would continue in such reasonable amounts as would achieve the broad aspects of NATO defense objectives. He added that “we do not feel so sure today as previously about the extent of aid.” Mr. Torp strongly emphasized that no opportunity should be lost to explore any reasonable possibility looking toward the development of new and better relations with the Soviet Union, and hoped that the United States would enter four-power discussions with the view of reaching the highest degree of understanding and agreement.

In concluding our discussion, I asked the Prime Minister whether he believes that the Government and people feel as much faith as ever in United States purposes and leadership toward the goal of political unity. He stumbled a bit on this and then came back to his previous remark that he is less sure of the soundness of our policy today than he has been previously. He ended with the remark that certainly all the free world today must rest its hope largely in our country.

The Department’s telegram closes by requesting the views of Chiefs of Mission as to major factors which should be borne in mind during coming months in determining U. S. lines of action. It is somewhat difficult to make definitive recommendations in this [Page 1773] sense, since much of the problem seems to result from the fluid state of American politics. When the President is able to stabilize his relations with Congress and establish a coherent set of policies in line with his own expressed views, a greater degree of confidence will in all likelihood develop toward the United States among Norwegian officials. In developing our foreign policy tactics, I would place great emphasis on the principle recently expressed to us by the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Norwegian Storting—namely, that far more important than any particular line of action towards the Soviet bloc is the development and maintenance of understanding and unity on major foreign policy issues among the nations of the Atlantic Community.

In conclusion it is my personal view that no great damage has been done to United State prestige and leadership, but that our future course calls for study of ways and means to achieve the above-mentioned European unity without which any nation’s leadership becomes futile. In so far as unity between our country and Norway is concerned, it is certain that the Norwegian Government and all the Norwegian people hold our Government and people to be sincere and determined in our efforts to make every possible contribution toward this end. The only question is the degree to which we may be achieving or failing to achieve this in our present course of action. I believe further that the Norwegian Government and people view with realism the fact that all freedom-loving nations may seek the same goal and yet pursue somewhat different courses as reflected in their foreign policies. A forthright and positive United States foreign policy would do much to clear the atmosphere in so far as Norway is concerned, and particularly so if that policy is directed toward unity among the Western European nations.

C. Ulrick Bay
  1. Despatch 1121, similar in many ways to this despatch, focused primarily on Norway’s attitude toward Chinese representation in the United Nations. (795.00/6–2653)
  2. See footnote 1, supra.
  3. Bay’s appointment was terminated on July 31; L. Corrin Strong, who was appointed to replace him on June 24, presented his credentials on Aug. 10.
  4. The reference here is to a proposal made at the Tripartite Foreign Ministers meetings in Washington, July 10–14, 1953. For documentation concerning these meetings and the note to the Soviet Union, dated July 15, which resulted from it, see vol. v, Part 2, pp. 1607 ff.