S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 160 Series

No. 214
Statement of Policy by the National Security Council1

top secret
NSC 160/1
[Page 511]

United States Position With Respect to Germany

general considerations

1. Germany presents a problem of critical importance to the United States. This is true because (a) it is potentially the strongest continental European power west of the USSR; (b) it is a major zone of friction and possible conflict between the Western powers and the Soviet Union, especially while divided; and (c) its reliable cooperation with other free European nations is indispensable for a strong and stable Europe.

Basic Factors Affecting Policy

2. United States policy regarding Germany must take account of the following basic factors:

Present and potential conditions in West Germany.
The division of Germany.
The relation of Germany to Europe.
Soviet objectives regarding Germany.
United States security interests.

3. Conditions in West Germany are now favorable, on the whole, despite some sources of possible instability.

Economic activity has recovered to a remarkable degree and now exceeds prewar levels. Political life has been reestablished on a democratic basis and moderate political forces are in control. Both West Germany and West Berlin are strongly anti-Communist and firmly aligned with the West. The Adenauer government has strongly supported European integration, with West Germany as a full participant. The danger of aggression against West Germany has been reduced by the strengthening of NATO forces there. West German participation in Western defense through the European Defense Community (EDC) has now been approved by the German Parliament. West Germany displays a vigor and promise of increasing strength which would constitute a valuable asset of the West, if allied with it.
There are also present some sources of potential instability and risk. Heavily dependent on exports to pay for essential imports, the West German economy would be extremely vulnerable to any economic recession or major contraction of markets. The institutions of democracy have yet to undergo a real test. Within the population there are maladjusted and, to some extent, disaffected elements which might prove politically unreliable under stress. [Page 512] Among these are millions of refugees from the East who have not been fully assimilated and among whom irredentist aims are cherished; many thousands of war veterans and former Nazis who have not fully accepted the democratic order; and many of the youth who are politically apathetic and uncertain of the future. The need for markets might lead to friction with other Western countries and to pressure for closer commercial ties with the Soviet orbit. Under adverse conditions, extremist nationalism, not now a threat, might be able to recruit substantial support from such groups. In that event, a sovereign Germany might prove a difficult and not entirely reliable partner.

4. The existing division of Germany between West Germany and the Soviet East Zone is a vital element in the present situation.

West Germany is far more important than East Germany, with nearly three times the population, about five times the industrial output, and almost twice the area.
East Berlin and East Germany have not been successfully absorbed into the Soviet orbit. The Soviets have imposed police state rule and ruthlessly exploited the economic system for Soviet benefit. Anti-Communist feeling is strong among an overwhelming majority of the population, as evidenced by the popular uprisings beginning in mid-June of this year. These disorders have probably convinced the Kremlin that Soviet control over East Germany can be assured only by maintaining Soviet troops in the area, and that East Germany would be unreliable in the event of war. While these aspects of the disorders might influence the Kremlin in the direction of withdrawal from East Germany, the disorders have also underlined the prospect that such withdrawal would mean immediate collapse of all Communist influence in Germany and a serious further setback for world wide Communist propaganda. Hence, the effect of the disorders on Soviet intentions is uncertain.
The German desire for uniting East Germany with West Germany is strong and has been intensified by recent events. If the West Germans concluded that the West had blocked unity on reasonable terms, it would strain their relations with the West and endanger their pro-Western orientation. Active Western support for unity on reasonable terms will tend to strengthen German solidarity with the West and to encourage continued adherence by a united Germany to a policy of European integration.
Withdrawal of Soviet forces from East Germany might facilitate NATO defense against Soviet surprise attack and might lead to further retraction of Soviet military power from other satellite areas. Freeing East Germany from Soviet control might have a magnetic effect upon the East European satellites.
The Western position in Berlin will remain difficult and a constant source of friction as long as the Soviets control East Germany.

5. The short and long term relation of Germany to Europe imposes inherent limitations on possible policies. [Page 513]

Effective defense of the Continent depends upon German and French collaboration therein. For strategic and logistic reasons a sufficient base for European defense against Soviet aggression can be provided only by the inclusion therein of both France and Germany.
The defense of Europe cannot be separated from its economic and political strength. In order to attain the stability requisite to withstand Communist subversion and to support a reasonable defense structure, Europe must have the capacity and will to solve its economic, political and social problems. Without reasonable internal stability the effort to build up European military power would be futile and might prove dangerous.
The historic enmity between Germany and her neighbors, especially France, must be transcended to permit the kind and degree of collaboration necessary to satisfy Europe’s economic, political, and defense needs.

6. In Soviet policy control of Germany clearly occupies a central role. The Soviets would like to dominate the whole of Germany as they now do the East Zone. If this occurred, it would gravely endanger our national security. As Western policies have so far frustrated this purpose, the Soviets have devoted their efforts primarily to detaching Germany from the West and delaying its participation in Western defense. With the memory of recent German aggression, the USSR undoubtedly fears revival of German military power as a threat to its security. The Soviet tactics have been to appeal to the German desire for unity and fear of war and to exploit Western differences. In applying these tactics, the Soviets, in the face of increased resistance in East Germany and the satellites, may propose a united, neutralized, disarmed Germany as a means of weakening Allied cohesion, putting upon the Allies or the United States the onus for keeping Germany divided, and repairing Soviet prestige in German eyes. If accepted, unity on these terms would entail loss of Soviet control of East Germany for the present and might complicate the Soviet position in other satellite areas. The Soviets might be prepared to pay this price to prevent the rearming of Western Germany and its integration with the West. They would almost certainly not agree to unity on terms allowing a united Germany to ally with the West, and would be unlikely to permit a united Germany to rearm, except possibly to a limited extent under strict four-power control.

7. U.S. security interests require that the continent of Europe be made as impregnable as possible against Soviet attack or subversion. This requires participation in Western defense, in conformity with paragraph 5 above, of West Germany and, if possible, of a united, democratic Germany from which Soviet occupation forces have been withdrawn. A united Germany, disarmed or neutralized by four-power agreement, would jeopardize these interests by tending [Page 514] to separate Germany from the West and placing excessive military burdens on the U.S. and free Europe.

Reconciling These Factors

8. The United States seeks to reconcile these varied and complex factors by two related conceptions:

A strong, united European community, including Germany.
A unified, democratic and sovereign Germany, allied to the West by its own choice.

9. European Community

We should endeavor to effect the integration of West Germany, or a unified Germany if possible, in an organically united European Community, within the broader Atlantic Community. Such a European Community provides the best means of solving Europe’s economic, political and defense problems. The first step, the Coal and Steel Community, is already in operation. Integration of Germany in the European Community would channel the immense vitality and resources of the reviving German nation into strengthening Europe without endangering Western Security. An evolving European Community could harmonize the interests of its members and reduce the risk of conflicts, crises, and wars. To be viable, it must clearly include both France and Germany. A united Europe would constitute a counterpoise, but not a menace, to the Soviet Union. Once firmly established, it should exert a strong and increasing attraction on Eastern Europe, thus weakening the Soviet position there and accelerating Soviet withdrawal from that area.
The European Defense Community applies this concept to defense. It is designed to harmonize three aims: (1) the securing of a German contribution to European defense; (2) the provision of acceptable safeguards against revival of German militarism; and (3) the cementing of Germany firmly to Europe and the West. There is opposition in Europe, especially strong in France, to re-creation of a German national army. Indeed, many Germans fear the influence on the policies and institutions of the German Federal Republic which might be wielded by a revived military hierarchy of the old type. To attempt to rearm Germany over French objections would jeopardize Franco-German understanding, and European integration, and might disrupt NATO. The EDC seeks to avoid these dangers by combining German and other forces in a common army under the control of European institutions. It embodies the most acceptable solution for German participation in defense.
The six EDC members are now at work on a Constitution to establish democratic parliamentary institutions for governing and extending the European Community.

10. German Unity

The eventual re-unification of Germany is essential for an enduring settlement, both in Germany and in Europe. But German unity must not be bought regardless of price. Since a free Germany is vital to the security of Europe, German unity must be achieved on terms which ensure such freedom. The United States objective [Page 515] must be a united Germany enjoying full internal freedom; free to determine its external relations and alignments, including the right to participate in European defense and in the free European Community; and oriented to the West. The United States must also seek to obtain the withdrawal of Soviet armed forces from Germany, and eventually to the Soviet frontiers, and the elimination of Soviet political or economic control from Germany. A unified, democratic Germany allied to the free world would represent a major step in rolling back the iron curtain and enlarging the basis for an enduring peace in Europe.
The Soviet Union seems unlikely to accept unity on these terms at this time. It is more likely to seek to exploit German desire for unity by offering unification on terms designed to isolate and neutralize a united Germany and thus bar it from association with the Free World. A “neutralized”, unified Germany, with or without armed forces, would entail sacrifices and risks to the West incommensurate with any possible gains. It would deny Germany strength to the West, wreck present and prospective plans for building augmented European strength through union, and open up the whole of Germany to Soviet intrigue and manipulation which would aim at the absorption of Germany into the Soviet bloc. Unity on these terms should therefore be opposed by the West.

11. Evaluation of EDC Prospects

Various factors, and especially French and Italian hesitation, have delayed the ratification of the EDC and related Contractual Agreements, designed to restore substantial West German sovereignty, which were signed in May 1952. Although the possibility of holding four-power talks on Germany will tend further to postpone action on these agreements, French ratification of EDC appears unlikely until four-power talks have been held or blocked by the Soviets. The basic policy decisions and compromises of conflicting national interests contained in these agreements are not likely to remain acceptable to the parties concerned unless they are soon implemented.
The United States should support with all available means the creation of the European Community and the ratification of the EDC Treaty. No satisfactory substitute for this solution has yet been found. Continuing reliance on the European Community has the drawback of subjecting our present security program in Europe to the risk of further delays, but the advantages to the United States of its adoption appear to justify the risks involved.2 However, [Page 516] these advantages will be lost if the ratification of EDC is long delayed. Therefore, the United States should review alternative courses of action. Furthermore, it may be desirable to take bilaterally with the West German government certain initial steps in the actual creation and arming of German units, if developments should so indicate and if this can be done without serious repercussion on our relations with France. This, it would be made plain to all EDC signatories, would be to expedite the implementation of EDC when ratified. The implication that such bilateral action would continue even though French ratification was further delayed should provide additional leverage on the French to ratify the EDC treaty at an early date.
If the EDC and the Contractual Agreements are ratified and become operative, the United States should then proceed with all possible expedition to effect the fullest possible integration of the Federal Republic in Western Europe and to build up the military strength of the EDC as an adjunct to NATO. With the EDC in effect, the West would be strengthened in its bargaining power vis-à-vis the Soviets, and in its attractive force on East Germany, and the Soviet position in East Germany made less and less tenable. From the vantage ground of growing strength, the West should then press the political offensive against the Soviets on the German unity issue, and seek through positive and constructive proposals to effect a negotiated settlement.
If and whenever it becomes clear that the EDC3 cannot be realized or will be indefinitely postponed, the United States should seriously explore the possible alternatives. In doing so it would be essential to keep in mind not only the desirability of a German defense contribution, but also the paramount need of preserving our basic interests in Europe, and the necessity for the voluntary collaboration of France and Germany for any enduring solution. If at that time, French acceptance of West German membership in NATO can be obtained, which now seems unlikely,4 this might be the preferable course. Otherwise, the United States should attempt, through renegotiation with its NATO partners and with the Federal Republic, to make new and acceptable arrangements for Germany’s participation in the collective security organization of the West.
Because neither EDC nor any other scheme for West German rearmament can be effected prior to the suggested date of four-power negotiations on Germany, there is no inhibition in the United States proposing with respect to a unified Germany that it should be sovereign, free to rearm and free to choose affiliation with the West through EDC or otherwise. If negotiations are unsuccessful, [Page 517] there should then be added stimulus to the creation of EDC with West Germany alone.

12. Preparation of a Unity Proposal

The recent East German uprisings and the prospect of four-power talks have focused attention on the unity issue. If the Soviets proposed a Germany unified by free elections, but not permitted to ally with other States, and with severely limited military forces, many Germans, despite their distrust of the Soviets and a preference for alliance with the West, might be tempted by such an offer. The best method for handling such a Soviet proposal is a strong Allied position offering Germany full sovereign rights, including the right to affiliate itself with the West. While such a united Germany would probably ally itself with the West, it might choose to remain neutral or to retain freedom of action. Under present conditions, such a risk must be accepted. The Allied proposal must provide a sound position from which to proceed to serious negotiation on a German settlement.
Accordingly, the United States should promptly develop, in cooperation with the British, French, and Germans, a full plan for German unity. This should cover not only the initial stages for holding elections and setting up a German government, but also the basic positions on the issues to be settled in the German peace treaty. Such a plan must, therefore, cover, inter alia, the conditions necessary for free elections, the structure and authority of the all-German government, boundaries of the united Germany, the right of Germany to make alliances and to rearm, limitations on special weapons, and withdrawal of foreign forces. In preparing this plan, it will be important to analyze the effect of the necessary steps on United States and NATO security plans and to prepare any necessary revision or alternatives in case unity should be achieved.

13. Some Basic Elements Involved in a German Unity Proposal

An all-German government must be based upon genuinely free, secret, direct and universal elections, so as to insure the representative character of the new government. To prevent intimidation of voters in the East Zone regime, it will be necessary, before, during and after the elections, to ensure full freedom of political activity and protection of political and civil rights.
The Allies would be unwise to attempt to specify the frontiers of a united Germany in any proposal. Their position has been that the Oder-Neisse line is temporary and the final boundaries should be fixed in a peace settlement with the agreement of an all-German government. To propose that the Oder-Neisse be made permanent would antagonize many Germans, especially among the refugees. To claim for Germany all the eastern territory would seriously prejudice negotiations with the Soviets and might be considered by many Germans as designed to forestall unity. Accordingly, the negotiating position must be based on readiness to agree to any solution mutually acceptable to Germany and the States immediately concerned.
A Soviet proposal for a neutralized Germany would almost certainly require withdrawal of all foreign armed forces from German [Page 518] soil. Under a Western plan for a Germany with full freedom of action in external affairs, such withdrawal might be necessary temporarily, until Germany invited their return pursuant to her right to make alliances, and permanently if she failed to do so. The possible removal or relocation of the forces of the Western Powers now in Germany would involve the risk of major5 dislocations in present U.S. and NATO plans which would need careful evaluation and replanning to guard against unacceptable weaknesses during any transition. Such planning would take account of the effect of current U.S. atomic superiority, as well as the difficulty of finding places in Europe for stationing troops temporarily withdrawn from Germany and the possible impact of U.S. troop withdrawal upon European opinion. Any plan for phased withdrawal must take account of the effect of the continued presence of Soviet forces for any extended period and the means for ensuring their ultimate withdrawal as agreed.

basic objectives

14. Firm association of a united Germany, or, at a minimum, the Federal Republic, with the West, preferably6 through an integrated European Community, to enable Germany to participate in the defense of the West and make the greatest possible contribution to the strength of the Free World, with the least danger of its becoming a threat thereto.

15. Prevention of Soviet domination over all Germany and reduction both of existing Soviet power in East Germany and of Communist influence throughout Germany.

16. Restoration by peaceful means of Germany as a united state, with freedom of action in internal and external affairs, firmly attached to the principles of the United Nations, capable of resisting both Communism and neo-Nazism and from which Soviet forces have been withdrawn.7

17. A healthy German economy, independent of United States financial assistance, participating effectively in the European Community, in normal world commerce, and in strengthening the economy of the Free World.

18. Maintenance of the Western position in Berlin pending unification of Germany.

courses of action

19. Continue to promote European integration through arrangements such as the Coal and Steel Community (CSC), the European [Page 519] Defense Community (EDC), and the European Political Community (EPC).

20. Seek the participation of the Federal Republic in the Western defense system under NATO command, within the framework of the EDC. In particular:

Press vigorously for the ratification of EDC, especially after failure of any four-power talks.
Once EDC is ratified, provide the maximum feasible military assistance for the rapid formation of combat effective German units through EDC, and the maximum utilization of German productive capacity.
Following EDC ratification, seek at an appropriate time to obtain German membership in NATO.

21. If ratification of EDC does not seem imminent within a reasonable period,8 review other possible courses of action open to the United States with a view to taking such action as may be necessary (a) to bring the Contractual Agreements into effect independently of EDC; (b) to attain rapidly an adequate defense posture in Europe; and (c) to achieve by other means the association of the Federal Republic with collective security arrangements in Europe.

22. Seek to promote an understanding between France and Germany concerning their mutual problems, including a solution of the Saar question acceptable to France, Germany and the Saar.

23. Continue to support the Federal Republic for membership in various international organizations (including, at the appropriate time, the United Nations) while opposing such membership for East Germany (German Democratic Republic).

24. Promptly develop positive proposals for German unification through international negotiations. In particular:

Develop specific plans for German unity which will assure free elections and full enjoyment of civil and political liberties within a unified Germany, freedom of action for an all-German government in external affairs, and the maximum possibility of association with the free West.
Seek to obtain tripartite (U.S., U.K., French) agreement and German concurrence, on a program for German unification for presentation at possible four-power talks later this year.
Consider the necessary review of strategic requirements and the necessary realignment of NATO planning and force deployments to cover the post-unification situation, including any transition period.
Take steps to prevent the Soviets from paralyzing Western action in Germany and creating division among the Western powers by prolonging hopes for four-power agreement on unity [Page 520] without actually agreeing to talks, or by prolonging such talks unreasonably if they occur.

25. Take such steps as are feasible to promote a healthy economy in the Federal Republic and West Berlin, including reduction of world trade barriers which impede the flow of German goods, development of off-shore procurement, and ratification of the German debt settlement.9

26. Continue mutual efforts to impede the flow of strategic goods and services from and through Germany to the Soviet orbit.

27. In accordance with NSC 132/1,10 the Western powers should maintain their position in Berlin, even to the extent of resisting Soviet pressure at the great risk of general war.

28. Combat communism throughout Germany, and in particular nourish resistance to Soviet power in East Germany (see NSC 158 and PSB D–4511), while continuing general psychological programs to support the other basic objectives (see PSB D–21 and D–21/212).

  1. Attached to the source text were a cover sheet; a table of contents; a note by Executive Secretary Lay, which stated, inter alia, that NSC 160/1 had been approved by the President on Aug. 13 and that its implementation was to be coordinated by the Secretaries of State and Defense; a 9-page financial appendix with five tables which outlined past and estimated future expenditures for the West German military buildup; and a supplement to NSC 160/1, approved by the President on Sept. 12, 1956, which contained a statement of United States policy with respect to East Germany. None of the other attachments is printed.

    At its meeting on Apr. 28 the National Security Council had directed its Planning Board to prepare a report on Germany for submission in May. The first draft of a statement of policy on Germany was prepared in GER on May 12 and revised at a meeting in the bureau on May 13. The Staff Study was prepared separately and the resulting paper transmitted on May 27 to the Planning Board which considered it until August. The first identifiable Planning Board draft, dated June 24, is the same in substance as NSC 160/1, but is shorter, arranged in a different manner, and contains no financial appendix. A July 6 draft, no copy of which has been found, apparently eliminated nearly all references to the EDC and a German defense contribution. A July 31 draft restored these references, and is the same in substance and arrangement as NSC 160/1, but still contains no financial appendix. The final draft, dated Aug. 4 and designated NSC 160, contains a 3-page appendix. The text of this policy statement is indicated in footnotes below. None of the drafts mentioned above contains a statement of policy with respect to East Germany. Copies of the June 24 and July 31 drafts, NSC 160, and related documentation are in S/SNSC files, lot 60 D 351, NSC 160 Series. Documentation on the role of GER in the preparation and revision of the paper is in files of the Office of German Affairs, lot 57 D 344, 311.62.

  2. In NSC 160 the remainder of this paragraph is bracketed in and reads:

    “[However, these advantages will be lost if the ratification of EDC is long delayed. Therefore, if it is not achieved by January 1, 1954, the United States should review alternative courses of action. Furthermore, if developments prior to this date should so indicate, it would be desirable to take bilaterally with the West German Government certain initial steps in the actual creation and arming of German units. This, it would be made plain to all EDC signatories, would be to expedite the implementation of EDC when ratified. The implication that such bilateral action would continue even though French ratification was further delayed should provide additional leverage on the French to ratify the EDC treaty at an early date.]”

    A footnote indicates that this was a Department of Defense proposal.

  3. The first line of this paragraph in NSC 160 reads: “If it becomes clear by January 1, 1954 that”. A footnote indicates that this was a Department of Defense proposal.
  4. A footnote indicates that the Department of Defense would eliminate “which now seems likely”.
  5. In NSC 160 the word “some” appears in place of the word “major”.
  6. The word “preferably” is bracketed in NSC 160. A footnote indicates that this was a Department of Defense proposal.
  7. A footnote indicates that the Department of Defense wanted to make this the first objective.
  8. In NSC 160 the bracketed phrase “by January 1, 1954” appears at this point in the text. A footnote indicates that this was a Department of Defense proposal.
  9. The instruments of ratification of the German Debt Agreements were exchanged on Sept. 15, 1953.
  10. Document 547.
  11. NSC 158 and PSB D–45, both dated June 29, 1953, are scheduled for publication in volume viii.
  12. PSB D–21, Document 156. PSB D–21/2 was not declassified when this volume went to press.