No. 436
The Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)1

top secret

My Dear Mr. Secretary: I refer to Mr. Nash’s letter of March 16, 19532 concerning military operating rights and facilities in Greece. The Department of State will seek to initiate negotiations to accomplish the Joint Chiefs of Staffs requirements as soon as possible.

In view of the importance which both our Departments attach to the question of Status of Forces, and which led to the meeting between Assistant Secretary of Defense Nash with Deputy Under Secretary of State Matthews on March 16, 1953,3 I wish to reply immediately on that aspect to confirm the understandings resulting from that meeting. Such other questions as might arise from more detailed study of the enclosures to your letter can, I am sure, be worked out between representatives of our respective Departments.

The Department of State is ready and willing to try to establish with host governments arrangements which will result in the most authoritative, firm and extensive waiver of the primary rights of criminal jurisdiction available to them under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement4 which it is possible to obtain without prejudice to larger objectives. The means by which this goal is to be sought will of course depend upon the specific circumstances in each case. In some cases it may be appropriate to seek to accomplish this by written agreement. In other cases, to seek to accomplish a waiver in writing or by formal agreement may be prejudicial to the obtaining or maintaining of the rights sought, or may create political problems adversely affecting our foreign policy, while less formal arrangements might more truly serve the desired end. In assuming its responsibility to try to accomplish such arrangements, the Department of State will assume the concomitant responsibility of determining the manner and form which will best promote those ends.

I think that it is very important that the NATO Status of Forces Agreement be ratified, not only in the interest of establishing a [Page 813] firm basis in the fields which it covers, but also because of the effect which that ratification will have upon the whole common defense effort of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. I believe that our two Departments should make it clear that that agreement provides a reasonable workable basis which, standing alone, would be satisfactory as a measure governing the status of our forces stationed abroad. It would appear to be doing a disservice to the purpose of seeking additional rights and privileges, as well as deleteriously affecting the common defense effort and our foreign relations, if it were to be publicly disclosed that this government would seek additional rights and privileges on a non-reciprocal basis. It would seem that the only public reference to the policy discussed in this letter should be along the lines that we are confident that operating arrangements based on good relations between governments and between our military authorities and local authorities abroad will provide in fact an even greater measure of protection than the satisfactory legal guaranties established by the NATO Status of Forces Agreement.

Sincerely yours,

John Foster Dulles
  1. Drafted by Wolf and cleared with John M. Allison (FE), Jernegan, Walter E. Pelton (L/C), Dulles, and Nolting.
  2. Not printed. (711.56381/3–1653)
  3. No record of this meeting has been found in Department of State files.
  4. 4 UST (pt. 2) 1792.