41. Telegram From the United States Delegation at the North Atlantic Ministerial Meeting to the Department of State 1
Polto 1392. Subject: First NAC restricted session 11 a.m. Dec 11.2
Meeting was called to order by Martino who acted as chairman. Lange (Norway) who spoke first made following points:
- Recent actions of Soviets in Hungary and Middle East have shown they are as brutal as ever and have dissipated the illusion of reduced tensions and underscored the importance of maintaining NATO unity and strength.
- These Soviet actions may mean relapse to Stalinist methods in some satellites but probably not Poland and perhaps Czechoslovakia or within Soviet Union itself, where basic forces causing the Soviet leaders to move away from mass terror probably cannot be reversed. Thus liberalization approved at 20th Congress3 will probably continue inside Soviet Union and after a period in satellites as well.
- Soviets still appear to want to avoid war under conditions of atomic stalemate; hence we should expect Soviets to continue economic and political offensive.
- The NATO paper on Soviet economic growth4 does not stress enough the differences in consumers’ standards between Soviet Union and West and the increased burden of depreciation of Soviet industry. There is also danger of overstating Soviet economic assistance to the less developed areas especially compared with the Western effort. Even so, their challenge is serious.
- To counter it West must foster its own growth by closer cooperation in creating the Scandinavia Common Market, European Common Market, and European Free Trade Area. The current crisis is short-term and can be overcome with U.S. help.
- The Middle East crisis must be considered in context of relations with the less developed nations which is so important for West. Regarding the British and French action in Egypt he expressed shock and surprise at lack of consultation and disregard of NATO treaty and UN Charter. The British and French action could only harm relations with the Afro-Asian nations and Western influence there. He had no desire for recriminations but felt frank discussion of the crisis was essential for health of the Alliance. He would talk about question of consultation later under the report of Three Wise Men.5
- He considered that under UN Charter there was no right for unilateral use of armed force except defense against aggression. Thus not even having exhausted peaceful means the Israeli British French were not justified despite provocations.
- Despite its weaknesses UN is only hope for achieving rule of law and obligations under Charter are paramount. Justice as well as peace is required but cannot be achieved by force. The UN emergency force is not designed to compel solutions to the Suez or Arab-Israeli issue.
- The West must seek by diplomatic means to bring out real community of interest between consumers and producers of oil and all users of the Canal so as to bring pressure by the Afro-Asian powers as well as the West for fair solutions of the Canal dispute and Arab-Israeli issue. NATO must convince these Asian nations that it is not a coalition in support of colonial interests of some nations and show that it stands for peaceful change within the nations and for the dependent areas.
Secretary Dulles then spoke. (Substance in immediately following telegram.6)
Lloyd (Great Britain) after expressing pleasure at recovery of the Secretary7 made following points:
- Both the crisis in Hungary and Middle East shed light on Soviet policy. As Soviet trends paper shows, Soviet policy, like ours, has been influenced by the atomic factor and danger of global war. Khrushchev had said as much on his visit to England.8 While war might still result from irrational acts we should assume that Soviets still want to avoid war even though hostile. Hence Soviet effort is not early military aggression but longer range growth in power and economic penetration. The NATO paper on Soviet growth may overstate somewhat but still shows that their rate of growth will be rapid and will make them strong competitor in world markets within decade or so.
- Hungary has shown how strong is popular opposition to Soviet domination in satellites. By their statement of October 30 Soviets recognized the strong nationalist feelings and were prepared to make concessions so long as East European nations remain within Soviet bloc. They have shown they are ready to use force to prevent [Page 108] any defections from bloc. The sharp shift in their actions in Hungary which occurred when Nagy demanded free elections and renounced the Warsaw Pact shows where they draw the line.
- These events are likely to have further effects in satellites which could cause pressures for West to intervene with the probability of a direct Soviet response and World War III. Khrushchev said that Soviets would fight for Soviet Union and Warsaw members and that warning should not go unheeded. The West should not intervene in such a case. If that is our policy we should avoid encouraging satellite people toward violent uprisings and stress instead evolutionary change. The BBC has followed such a restrained policy. Thus in Poland we should encourage gradual evolution, not forceful change. Members should discuss issue.
- In Hungary our objective should be free elections. Certainly we should not encourage the present government or appear to condone its actions but we should avoid any concerted break and seek to maintain our missions in Belgrade so as to keep open that channel. There is no need to change our policy toward the other satellites. We can hope by fostering exchanges to encourage critical attitude among intelligentsia. Britain intends to concentrate on Czechoslovakia for the present.
- As to Yugoslavia he felt the Soviet policy of rapprochement had come to an end with the circular to the other satellites.9 He thought that a doctrinal battle was in process and doubted whether Tito now had great influence in either USSR or satellites but thought it might increase.
- We should recognize the continuing hostility of USSR and should take advantage of the great troubles which they are facing. They have had recent reports of discontent among students, intelligentsia, and even some army officers which may be important but we should not indulge in wishful thinking. Our aim should be to foster growth of critical faculty in Soviet Union and satellites. Outside we can use the recent events to destroy the myth that history is on Soviet side or that Communism is the wave of the future. This should be especially important in Asia.
- For present British opinion would oppose any wide exchange program with Soviets and much of it has been suspended. They intend however, to continue some exchanges with a pragmatic basis.
- These are largely short-term points. On more basic issues such as German unity we should continue to press the existing policy. In particular NATO should consult on all these matters.
- Regarding the Middle East he welcomed frank comments by
Lange and the
Secretary. While he felt it important to look to the future and
not to the past he did have several comments to make:
- Before Britain and France intervened the situation had not been peaceful but had been deteriorating rapidly. In the month between September 10 and October 11, 116 people had been killed on the Israeli border.
- Soviet penetration by technicians and arms, which we knew about, was apparently greater than realized according to the Israeli information from Sinai.
- In the light of this situation it is hard to describe the Israeli action as aggression, especially when Egypt, Syria, and Jordan formed a combined command with the avowed purpose of destroying Israel. France and Britain intervened in good faith to stop the spread of the war and succeeded in doing so. Before the ultimatum the other Arabs had been ordered to join. Thus there is more justification for the British and French action than some have admitted.
- The French/British action has not damaged the interests of the West if advantage is taken of the opportunity created by the action and by the UN response, but if the UN does not act effectively it will damage itself and the prospects for peace. The UNEF is a great step which could contribute despite the disputes about its functions and the fact that some nations would not want similar forces in their territory. He hopes that NATO members will help to extend the scope of the UNEF in time and space.
- Soviets have also suffered a setback despite the propaganda advantages. The damage to Nasser’s military prestige has also hurt theirs. Even so, they might still get control over Egypt, Syria, and the Canal and pipelines. He would not want to scorn moral force, but the forces of evil can make progress by physical means, especially in the many vacuums where there are no policemen. You must face such situations with realism. Today’s trouble may result from failure to do so in the past. This NATO meeting must consider the flanks in the Middle East and the broader scope of the interests of its members and the need for common policies. The British/French action has brought these problems to a head and given NATO and the UN a new opportunity.
Mr. Pineau (France), after thanking Lange for his manner of handling the Middle Eastern problem, made the following points:
- In the interest of solidarity, NATO will have to decide what should be the area of the obligations. He questions whether the Alliance can be less than worldwide in the geographic limits of solidarity. NATO must consider such issues as the Israeli question before they become critical.
- He approved everything said by Mr. Lloyd.
- Israel had to recognize that the UN has had the Arab–Israel question before it for years but has not seriously tackled it since its existence was not even accepted by the Arabs. Israel considered that preventive war was its only means of protection.
- He then turned to the question of Egypt. Britain and France had shown good will to Egypt by a British withdrawal from the Suez base and by French disregard of Nasser’s interference in North Africa. Then came the Canal seizure. While the first London Conference gave some hope, the second one was less encouraging.10 The [Page 110] French and British, not abandoning their efforts to settle by peaceful means, turned to the UN. While the Security Council adopted the Six Principles,11 these were not made effective either by action or negotiations with Fawzi whose commitments were not backed up in Cairo.
- When Israel decided to act under these conditions, French and British had to decide what to do. Even if they had not intervened, the Canal would probably have been blocked. They sought to limit the damage by confining the hostilities and protecting the Canal zone. They should probably have gone on for several more days despite the call for a cease fire so as to occupy the whole zone, which would have enabled them to prevent Nasser from sinking some of the boats and helped in reopening the Canal more quickly.
- On the moral question, the letter of the UN Charter should not be taken too literally. In the case of Korea, would we have failed to intervene if the Soviets had vetoed action, or would we let the Soviet veto prevent action against aggression in Europe. Also, we must define when aggression begins, especially since preparation and subversion can be serious threats as in Egypt and Syria. If East Germany rose up like Hungary, the West Germans might be expected to react even without UN action. The double standard in the UN was shown by the stress on Suez instead of Hungary because the pressure on the democracies was likely to be more effective than on the dictators.
- He did not regret the action taken but took pride in their French/British compliance. But the UN must take more effective action to require compliance by the Communist nations. Some nations voted against France and Britain and abstained on Hungary. If we accept this double standard, it will allow the Soviet Union to move in on Asia and Africa by subversion and other means.
- As to Lange’s remarks on colonialism, this myth has given rise to many criticisms which are unjustified. Often it has been used to justify disregard for international commitments. Even so, he favors aid to the underdeveloped countries (as shown by the Pineau plan)12 but this must be based on their respect for obligations undertaken and maintaining of order in these countries. Without those, no investment or technical assistance is feasible.
- In the case of Tunisia and Morocco, France has given freedom but has received no gratitude. Nonetheless, France has voted 48 billion for these areas. He will talk later about Algeria.
- He considers that he understands the positions of Lange and Dulles. He only asks that they recognize the realities of a world which is not as moral as we might wish.
Meeting adjourned at 1:10 p.m.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 740.5/12–1156. Confidential. Drafted by Bowie. Transmitted in two sections and repeated to the other NATO capitals and Moscow.↩
- The summary, C–R(56)69 (part II), and verbatim, C–VR(56)69, records of this session, both dated December 11, are ibid., Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 825. The summary record of the Council meeting held from 10:30 to 11 a.m., when the Secretary General’s report was noted, is dated December 11, C–R(56)69 (Part I), and is in the same file.↩
- Reference is to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union held in Moscow, February 14–25, 1956.↩
- No copy of the Note by the Chairman of the Committee on Soviet Economic Policy, C–M(56)139, has been found in Department of State files.↩
- See footnote 4, Document 47.↩
- Polto 1393, infra .↩
- Dulles was recovering from surgery performed on November 3, 1956.↩
- Reference is to Bulganin’s and Khrushchev’s State visit to England, April 18–23, 1956.↩
- On October 30 the Soviet Government issued a declaration on relations with the satellites which stated its position on the stationing of advisers and troops in Eastern Europe. In discussing the situation in Hungary, it stated a counterrevolutionary regime would not be tolerated there.↩
- The 22-power London Conference, August 16–23, 1956, and the Second Suez Conference, September 19–21, 1956, also held in London, were convened to discuss the Suez crisis.↩
- Text of the Six Principles adopted by the U.N. Security Council on October 13, 1956, is scheduled for publication in a forthcoming Foreign Relations volume.↩
- See footnote 5, Document 19.↩