5. Telegram From the United States Delegation at the North Atlantic Council Ministerial Meeting to the Department of State1

Polto 2253. On suggestion Norway, Belgium, Netherlands afternoon NAC session May 9 on Agenda Item II (a), (b), (c) was restricted to FonMins, Perm Reps plus three advisers each del (Merchant, Bowie, MacArthur). Following is summary of Secretary’s presentation. Summary of rest of meeting will be reported separately:2

Secretary opened by saying he agreed with what many of previous speakers had intimated and what Pearson had stated explicitly that now is the time for the West to take the initiative. It is appropriate to press Soviets for solutions to problems which desperately call for solution. Feeling on part of all our people is that it is time to seize the initiative. Often the people have a sense of rightness and judgment about these matters which is not always rapidly reflected in the views of the political leaders.

The question now is what kind of initiative should be taken and how can it be taken without avoiding the dangers referred to by Spaak this morning.3

The first point is that for historical reasons it rests with a few of the NATO members to take initiative in the initial stage but that any such initiative by a few can only be limited to opening up the problems. No small or limited group of countries can take the responsibility to solve problems in which others have a real interest and are [Page 15] perhaps even more intimately concerned. The present situation is not like that obtaining during the War when it was imperative because of the circumstances that few countries make decisions affecting others. This is not the time for a small group of countries to exercise War powers cutting across the rights of others. To summarize, a few cannot assume to deal with and dispose of the rights of others. All countries concerned must be brought into the solution of problems in which they have a real interest at the proper time.

The Secretary then asked what a few could do. He felt the most that they could do was to sit down with the Soviets and identify problems calling for a solution and then consider ways and means to bring in those directly concerned. Therefore, Western initiative by several powers must be primarily a procedural and not a substantive initiative. Such procedural considerations involve estimating what problems might be solved by negotiations with Soviets and what problems had best be left for solution in other forums such as the UN.

The Secretary next asked what are problems which might be isolated and identified and to which solutions might be sought by new and vigorous means. In reply, he said that first and foremost was unification of Germany. He believed this must and will be resolved. He did not belong to school who believed unification hopeless. Mentioned that at NAC meeting last December4 most participants believed that hope for Austrian Treaty must be long deferred. It now looked as if Treaty was within our grasp. He believed that same moral forces which had led to present prospect for Austrian Treaty would work against continued division of Germany and would finally prevail. The power of moral influence in the hearts and minds of men is something which cannot be ignored.

A second problem which he believed should be discussed with the Soviets was the repression of human and national rights in the captive states. In any negotiation with the Soviets it is imperative to avoid the danger of creating impression that we accept a divided world and the continuing enslavement of the satellites. If we convey any such impression, we will cause millions of people to give up hope. He believed that the repression of human rights in the satellites should be solved not by violence but by the same forces which exerted such an influence in the Austrian case. Today the state of unrest in the satellites is greater than ever before. This is insurance for the West because if unhappily Soviets began a war, their lines of communication would be threatened by satellite unrest. Therefore, West should discuss the position of satellites in talks with the Soviets [Page 16] in order to let captive peoples know we did not accept their permanent enslavement. Secretary said in alleviating conditions in the satellite states he did not envisage an attempt to create a hostile cordon sanitaire around the Soviet Union but to work toward the establishment of a relationship that is compatible with free and decent relations such as the relationship of Finland.

The Secretary then said atomic threat occupies the minds of all our peoples. In this connection, the President had designated one of our leading officials5 to occupy himself with the question of disarmament, which is a very complex subject. He felt that useful work might be done with the Soviets on disarmament perhaps through the UN or otherwise.

The burden of Atlantic community armament is heavy and while it is not possible to reduce this burden now if some new system of arms limitation should be devised the burden might subsequently be somewhat lessened. This might be a task for NATO.

There is also the Far Eastern problem about which he would talk later. Now there are not adequate procedures for dealing with Far East problems but later perhaps some procedure could be found.

Secretary summarized by saying above are kind of problems for which there are no quick and hasty solutions. To create impression that they could be solved in days or weeks would be illusory and result in our falling into the trap of letting down our guard. Initially, we should not try to deal with the substance of these complex problems but ascertain how we can go about finding solutions more effectively than in the past. He reemphasized that all who are directly concerned with any problem must participate in its solution, that there could be no deals behind their backs, and that there would be no abandonment of US policies as regards itself or third parties. What was required was to approach our problems with new vigor and hope and devise techniques and procedures enabling orderly but not hasty discussion with the Soviets. He pointed out that as long as matters are under discussion between East and West there is much less likelihood of actions which might lead to the calamity of a general war.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 740.5/5–1055. Secret; Limited Distribution. Drafted by MacArthur, concurred in by Merchant, and approved by Dulles. Repeated to the other NATO capitals for the Ambassador only.
  2. Polto 2252, supra.
  3. Reference is to Spaak’s warning against the dangers of confusing and disillusioning the public if expectations from a conference of major powers exceeds concrete results. See Document 3.
  4. For documentation on the NAC meeting in Paris, December 17–18, 1954, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. v, Part 1, pp. 549 ff.
  5. On March 19, President Eisenhower appointed Harold E. Stassen as his Special Assistant with responsibility for disarmament.