77. Telegram From the United States Delegation at the NATO Heads of Government Meeting to the Department of State1

Polto 1790. 1) Following is report discussion Germany and disarmament at restricted meeting NATO Foreign Ministers 10:30 a.m., December 17, with SecGen Spaak in chair.2

2) Spaak listed topics on agenda as Germany, disarmament (including Bulganin letters), Middle East, liaison with other collective defense organizations, Africa, and political consultation.

3) Secretary inquired whether this meeting was restricted from standpoint of publicity. Spaak said he intended hold no press conference on this restricted session. There would be a press conference at the end of Heads of Governments meeting this afternoon but he would not communicate any summary of what Ministers might say this morning. For clarification Secretary asked whether Foreign Ministers who wished could make public substance their own statements. Portugal proposed that meeting be considered as absolutely private session and this was agreed. Spaak underlined that nothing was to be said to press on proceedings of this restricted session.

4) Re German reunification and Berlin, Spaak inquired whether anything had changed in NATO’s attitude toward these questions. If as he expected answer was no then it remained to decide what reference [Page 245] was to be made to subject in communiqué. Germany (Brentano) thanked United States and United Kingdom for reference to German reunification and Berlin in their statements at first plenary session. Felt it important mention German reunification and Berlin in final communiqué. If not mentioned absence would be remarked upon. Situation in Berlin always delicate and has become more so in recent weeks. SecGen asked German Delegation prepare draft language for communiqué. Secretary suggested we recall summit meeting at which Soviets agreed to German reunification. This not only reaffirms our desire that Germany be unified in freedom but emphasizes that Western position is that we are asking Soviets live up to an agreement already entered into.

5) France (Pineau) spoke first on second agenda item, disarmament. Pineau said NATO should firmly state its determination to strengthen itself in military field to meet Soviet threat. As parallel, NATO should also emphasize desire for disarmament agreement. He suggested Heads of Governments meeting take decision invite Soviets to meeting at Foreign Minister level with Western Four (United States, United Kingdom, France and Canada) to discuss resumption disarmament negotiations.

6) Speaking for Italy Pella said opportune in terms world opinion to stress difficulties for disarmament which flowed from Soviet attitude. West forced make greater effort because Soviet refusal negotiate seriously on disarmament. He suggested it be proposed to Soviets United Nations Disarmament Commission be convened resume disarmament discussions.

7) Norway (Lange) supported French proposal. Said Soviets had already taken position they don’t accept present United Nations machinery for disarmament discussions. If they now agreed to attend Disarmament Commission meeting, Soviets would lose prestige. To show our good will we should not ask them accept loss prestige. Added that if five Foreign Ministers meet, Norway hoped Western representatives’ attitude would be that proposals West has already put forward are good, but West willing discuss modifications, without any prejudice to our interests.

8) Canada (Smith) suggested that in reply to Bulganin letters NATO countries should take initiative and ask about Soviet attitude toward genuine disarmament inspection and control.

9) United Kingdom (Lloyd) hoped HG meeting would strengthen Alliance, but if no concrete results wrong impression would be created. He said present NATO meeting could not draft satisfactory replies Bulganin letters, nor was it advisable put forward idea summit meeting, which should not take place without much preparation. One thing that could be done was to offer Soviets meeting at Foreign [Page 246] Minister level with Western Four. This offer would put military proposals being made at present meeting in their proper light.

10) Belgium (Larock) thought Pineau proposal for meeting would be best possible reply to Bulganin letters. Letters themselves should not be mentioned in communiqué but NATO should show itself willing seek solutions to disarmament problem. NATO should recall in communiqué where responsibility for disarmament impasse lies. We should also reiterate the correctness of the Western position on nuclear testing, control provisions, etc. If Russia does not accept resume Disarmament Commission discussions, increases in NATO military strength more justified than ever.

11) Secretary said that while United States had no objection in principle indicating willingness try discussions with Soviets at Foreign Minister level on disarmament; however, matter would have to be handled most carefully from standpoint United Nations. Enlarged Disarmament Commission will be meeting in early January. We should do nothing which would cut ground from under Commission. We must remember important countries from other parts of the world represented on Disarmament Commission and they have interest in matter. Perhaps Western Four could address communication to Disarmament Commission, stating willingness cooperate in seeking meeting at Foreign Minister level, but not as an independent action which would undermine the Disarmament Commission before it had a chance to meet.

12) Turkey (Zorlu) said Turkey supported Secretary’s proposal. Stressed purpose HG meeting was primarily to strengthen NATO military defense. No one can doubt good will West has shown in United Nations Disarmament Subcommittee discussions. We must show public opinion that NATO’s will to defend itself is strong. Suggested Soviets be invited attend meeting of United Nations Disarmament Commission in January. Said NATO must not attempt to interfere with work of Commission or to take disarmament out of United Nations framework.

13) Denmark (Hansen) supported Norway and Pineau proposal. Agreed no difficulties should be made for United Nations.

14) France said meeting five Foreign Ministers could examine certain disarmament questions and thus prepare way for meeting of Disarmament Commission in January.

15) Italy (Pella) supported United States proposal. Suggested first try have meeting of Disarmament Commission. If this fails, we can always come back to meeting at Foreign Minister level.

16) United Kingdom agreed necessary find formula to show that NATO not usurping task Disarmament Commission. Said discussion with Soviets in meeting of five Foreign Ministers was best formula for West. Proposal for Foreign Ministers meeting would have good [Page 247] impact on public opinion. Suggested saying that we regret Soviets won’t come to meeting of Disarmament Commission, but to show West’s desire get disarmament discussions going again, West is suggesting meeting at Foreign Ministers level.

17) Secretary said that Western Four have status in disarmament picture only as members of subcommittee of a United Nations body. Since parent body recently enlarged, thought it would be strange if subcommittee were to go off on its own. On other hand, perhaps it was intent of Pineau proposal to suggest that NATO should now get into disarmament negotiations directly. That would be another matter and might not be wise. NATO cannot give a new mandate to the Disarmament Subcommittee.

18) United Kingdom said it understood Pineau proposal was not reinstitution of Disarmament Subcommittee. Rather, Western Four would offer on behalf their own countries, have a further disarmament discussion with Soviets.

19) France said United Kingdom interpretation correct. There should be no allusion to United Nations Disarmament Subcommittee. In present state, public opinion would not understand if special pains were not taken to show West ready make new effort get disarmament discussions going.

20) Germany supported United States and said NATO should not ignore United Nations and begin negotiations with Soviets on disarmament.

21) Greece (Kassimatis) agreed NATO should not compete with United Nations.

22) Portugal (Cunha) supported Pineau proposal. This would give public opinion feeling of NATO strength and reasonableness.

23) Turkey said NATO should show public opinion that whole negative attitude on disarmament lies with Soviets. Fifty-seven United Nations countries have already sided with Western disarmament proposals.

24) Netherlands supported Pineau proposal and said Secretary was right, in that in last analysis discussions on disarmament must take place in United Nations.

25) Turkey warned against doing anything that would damage normal standing of United Nations Disarmament Commission. It is not the West which wants an arms race or wishes to dominate the world.

26) Norway said that situation was that at United Nations, in spite Western efforts, deadlock has been reached. Western opinion expects US to make some suggestion to break this deadlock.

27) Secretary said we should remember great battle at United Nations recently was on issue of numbers. Soviets consistently charged that make up Disarmament Subcommittee at four-to-one [Page 248] ratio was unfair to them. Increasing membership of Disarmament Commission to twenty-five went part way to meet Soviet position. It would not appear a new move if we now went back to four-to-one basis.

28) Canada said that she was willing to withdraw and make ratio three-to-one.

29) Spaak suggested that international staff prepare draft text for afternoon HG meeting containing synthesis various points raised this morning and putting up the two formulas that had emerged: invite Soviets to attend meeting of Disarmament Commission and stand on this position, or ask Soviets attend Disarmament Commission but indicate NATO prepared to try something else if deadlock continues. Perhaps another combination of NATO countries on our side could be formed. Soviets might want to bring in other countries on their side. If so, situation could be examined.

30) Secretary again stressed that raising membership Disarmament Commission was effort meet Soviets. To go back to four-to-one would be greater backdown for Soviets. Must not alienate uncommitted countries on Commission. Also clear that Soviets would not negotiate with NATO except through Warsaw Pact. He for one would not favor this. He also urged that meeting not forget United States suggestion put forward yesterday that NATO set up a technical group on disarmament.3 This could have favorable impact. If negotiations are resumed, there will be many difficult technical problems, some of which had to be faced last summer on crash basis.

31) Other items discussed at restricted morning session reported in separate telegram.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–PA/12–1757. Secret. Drafted by Timmons and authorized by Reinhardt. Repeated to the other NATO capitals and Moscow.
  2. The summary, C–R(57)83, and verbatim, C–VR(57)83, records of this session, both dated December 17, are ibid., Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 951.
  3. This suggestion was made by President Eisenhower in his statement to the Heads of Government at their first plenary meeting on December 16. For text of this statement, see Department of State Bulletin, January 6, 1958, pp. 6–8.
  4. Polto 1791, December 17. (Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–PA/12–1757)