9. Memorandum of Discussion at the 262d Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, October 20, 19551

Present at the 262nd meeting were the Vice President of the United States, presiding; the Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; and the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Attorney General;2 the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Special Assistant to the President on Disarmament;2 the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission;2 the Director, U.S. Information Agency; the Under Secretary of State; the Deputy Secretary of Defense; Assistant Secretary of State Bowie; the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director of Central Intelligence; [Page 24] the Deputy Assistant to the President3 Special Assistant to the President Dillon Anderson; Special Assistant to the President Nelson Rockefeller; the White House Staff Secretary; the Executive Secretary, NSC; the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

[Here follows discussion of agenda items 1 and 2, the forthcoming Foreign Ministers Meeting and significant world developments affecting United States security. Item 1 is scheduled for publication in a forthcoming Foreign Relations volume.]

3. Recent NATO Defense Ministers Meeting

Secretary Wilson said that at the meeting the different NATO Commanders had reported on their specific areas of military responsibility. The Standing Group had thereafter reported on the general situation and had presented for the consideration of the Defense Ministers a new three year plan4 for developing the NATO infrastructure and to implement NATO strategy. The infra-structure plan was based on West German membership in NATO which had of course somewhat changed the earlier strategy.

Secretary Wilson said that all of the Defense Ministers were in agreement on the serious weakness of the early warning and radar system for Western Europe. The early warning system, such as it was, was based on the individual national states and there was no significant integration.

The amount of money called for by the new three year infra-structure proposal amounted to a little over a billion dollars in U.S. currency and was designed to carry out the strategy set forth in NATO Document MC 48.5 Meanwhile, the military people were working on a new strategic concept, designated MC 48/1,4 which was a clarification and a forward movement of the old MC 48 strategy.

Secretary Wilson pointed out that all this “business” might well be importantly affected by what came out of the Geneva Foreign Ministers’ Conference.

There had also been much discussion of the German contribution to the NATO over-all costs. The Germans themselves were talking in terms of the sum of nine billion marks—a little over two billion dollars in our money. The British and the Americans believed this figure much too low and thought that the Germans should put thirteen to fifteen billion marks in the NATO pot. The Germans had [Page 25] replied that nine billion was all that they could see their way to offering initially or until the next German elections.

The several Defense Ministers had all been worried about where they were going to find the funds for their country’s contribution in support of NATO. Moreover, not a single one of the Defense Ministers present believed that the Soviet threat to the Western world had significantly lessened. On the other hand, they indicated that public opinion in their countries was not of the same mind. Public opinion was accordingly making it very difficult to maintain existing budgetary sights.

Secretary Wilson stated that the British defense authorities were doing about the same thing in the United Kingdom that their U.S. opposite numbers were doing here, namely, reducing force levels but not reducing expenditures for defense purposes. Indeed Secretary Wilson thought that the next British budget figure for defense might exceed the present level by 100 million pounds sterling, most of which would be spent on new weapons.

Secretary Wilson also pointed out that the British were not keeping their divisions in Europe up to full strength. These divisions were maintained at about 70 per cent of their full strength and General Gruenther had complained of the situation. While Secretary Wilson said that he could not predict that the United Kingdom’s military budget for next year would increase, he did doubt whether the British would reduce the level of their military expenditures significantly.

At the conclusion of his general statement, Secretary Wilson said that he would be glad to answer any questions.

Secretary Humphrey inquired how the German contribution related to the discussion of the NATO strategy. Secretary Wilson replied that the Defense Ministers had assumed that NATO would go ahead with present plans and that there would ultimately be twelve German divisions for NATO.

The Vice President inquired whether Secretary Wilson had at this meeting found any evidence of a “general disenchantment” with the whole NATO concept. Admiral Radford replied that certainly no such disenchantment was evident among the military people at the meeting. It was for this reason that he did not believe that the military men in general went along with the soft positions that their governments had been taking with respect to the forthcoming negotiations at Geneva on the European Security Plan and German reunification.

Secretary Wilson said that he would sum up by stating that the discussion at the Defense Ministers meeting was, on the whole, pretty realistic. Our own U.S. contribution to the new infra-structure plan (Secretary Wilson guessed) would be in the neighborhood of 37 [Page 26] to 40 per cent of the total cost. Currently we were contributing about 42 per cent of the total.

While, said Secretary Wilson, the picture in the Defense Ministers’ mind was generally pessimistic, General Gruenther had stated that if the Soviets were to attack now, the NATO forces could lick them but that things might not be so hopeful in future.

The National Security Council:

Noted and discussed an oral report by the Secretary of Defense on developments at the recent NATO Defense Ministers meeting in Paris.

[Here follows discussion of agenda items 4–8, psychological implications of Geneva for United States information programs, Iceland, United States policy toward South Asia, the forthcoming Foreign Ministers meetings, and United States objectives and policies with respect to the Near East. Items 6 and 8 are scheduled for publication in forthcoming Foreign Relations volumes.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Prepared by Gleason on October 21.
  2. Did not attend the reconvened meeting at 2:00 p.m. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. Did not attend the reconvened meeting at 2:00 p.m. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. Did not attend the reconvened meeting at 2:00 p.m. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. Did not attend the morning session of the meeting. [Footnote in the source text.]
  6. Not found in Department of State files.
  7. See footnote 3, Document 6.
  8. Not found in Department of State files.