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

[Here follow a list of participants and brief discussion of unrelated topics.]

1. Forthcoming Foreign Ministers Meeting

Secretary Dulles reminded the Council that the forthcoming meeting of the Foreign Ministers at Geneva had been agreed upon by the chiefs of state last July as a means of carrying out in practice the so-called “Spirit of Geneva”. The Foreign Ministers would face three main tasks: (1) European security and German unification; (2) disarmament; and (3) East-West contacts.

Of the three agenda items, the most urgent and difficult was the first. Secretary Dulles said he could say this without in the least minimizing the importance of the disarmament task because this task would be primarily carried on under the aegis of the United Nations rather than by the four Foreign Ministers.

. . . . . . .

These developments, continued Secretary Dulles, were certainly weakening the European NATO structure and if we press the NATO Powers of Europe beyond the point they are willing to go in view of their own judgment and their own public opinion, we will merely contribute to accelerating the process of NATO’s disintegration. Essentially, our effort should be now to see how much of the original NATO structure can be salvaged rather than to devote ourselves to trying to preserve every part of it in the form we desire in the United States.

By way of illustration of the above point, Secretary Dulles pointed out that in the first months of the Eisenhower Administration we had come up with what we called “the long haul” concept for application to NATO. This move had turned out to be very wise. If we had not put it into effect, the whole NATO structure might have collapsed. At the present moment we are in another stage when it will again be necessary to make an analogous decision. We simply cannot stand pat and browbeat our NATO Allies into accepting our entire position. For example, it might be that a plan for European security which puts rather more emphasis on a reunified Germany, friendly to the West, would be more effective than a plan which puts all the emphasis on securing German membership in NATO and [Page 617] the Brussels Pact. With reference to this point, Secretary Dulles mentioned a recent cable from General Gruenther to Secretary Wilson and the Joint Chiefs of Staff2 which had put the matter very well indeed. Secretary Dulles summarized and quoted General Gruenther’s cable. Our optimum hope, according to General Gruenther, was a reunified Germany’s membership in NATO and WEU. In such a contingency our present NATO strategy would continue as is. Secondly, if Germany does not join NATO and the Brussels Pact but even though neutral is oriented to the West, our NATO strategy would have to be readjusted to deal with this fact.…

. . . . . . .

Governor Stassen expressed the opinion that the Western European Powers were relying too much on the deterrent capabilities of the United States. While we should not, as the Secretary of State had been saying, press them too hard to accept our views about NATO, these Powers should not act as if the deterrent power of the United States was something that could be taken for granted for the indefinite future. Their real security rests on the shield provided by the United States and unless they act in general in a certain way, they cannot count on the continued existence of this shield. Governor Stassen said that he did not mean that we should pressure the NATO Powers but rather that they should recognize this very significant fact.

Secretary Dulles replied that the concept which Governor Stassen had just advanced appealed more to the “classes” in Western Europe than to the “masses”, that is, to those who understood the problems of military strategy, not to the man in the street. Secretary Humphrey pointed out that one of the weaknesses in Governor Stassen’s argument was that the Western European Powers are very well aware indeed that the United States cannot permit the Soviets to overrun and occupy Western Europe. Governor Stassen admitted that this was the case but argued that the Western Europeans were primarily concerned with deterring a Soviet attack rather than in ways and means of countering a Soviet attack in a war which would be waged in Western Europe.

Admiral Radford then stated that he desired to state the position of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the problems of European security and German reunification as outlined by Secretary Dulles. He pointed out that, of course, the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been formulated from the military point of view. The Joint Chiefs agreed in general with the position formulated by the Secretary of State but [Page 618] they were well aware of the dangers inherent in the situation. Certainly the decision now confronting the National Security Council on the issue of European security and German unification was one of the most important decisions that the NSC would ever be asked to make. Accordingly, all possible plans should be laid out on the table.

. . . . . . .

The Vice President then inquired of Secretary Dulles what he anticipated regarding the Soviet position at Geneva. Secretary Dulles predicted that the Soviets would say they are not prepared at this stage to discuss German unification at all. They would say they are more than willing to discuss the first stage of a European security treaty in order to prepare the way for subsequent discussions of German unification which Secretary Dulles said meant after NATO had been destroyed. The Vice President asked Secretary Dulles how our Western Allies would react to this Soviet position. Secretary Dulles said he believed they would stand strongly with us and that together we hoped at the very least to be able to induce the Russians to discuss a European security treaty and German unification at the same time. The Vice President then asked whether the Russians were willing to consider giving up their control of East Germany. Secretary Dulles replied in the negative and said the Russian position was not based on security reasons alone but because they fear the effect of the loss of control over East Germany on the satellites. The Vice President then asked whether this Russian position did not provide Secretary Dulles with a little stronger position than was readily apparent at the outset. Secretary Dulles replied that this Soviet position could indeed be used to put the U.S.S.R. in a very bad light from the point of view of world public opinion. Unfortunately, however, there were various ways and means to which the Russians could resort to get themselves out of this bad light.

Secretary Dulles then informed the Council that he was obliged to take his leave in order to meet with the Congressional leaders at eleven o’clock. He believed that a pretty adequate treatment had been given to this item on the agenda.

Governor Stassen informed the Council that work on the second item on the agenda for the Foreign Ministers meeting at Geneva, the disarmament item, had been actively proceeding among the representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom and France. While agreement among the three was not yet complete, a considerable amount of headway had been made. The President’s Special Committee on Disarmament had been kept advised of developments.

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No final position had yet been achieved on the problem of preparing further forward moves by the Secretary of State which had been staffed and agreed in advance and which Secretary Dulles could, if he chose, lay on the table at Geneva.

In closing his statement, Governor Stassen commented on what he described as a “peculiar development.” The Soviet Union had called for a meeting tomorrow of the full United Nations Disarmament Commission despite an agreement reached earlier that no such meetings would occur until after the Geneva Conference had been concluded. Governor Stassen said that we do not know what prompted this Soviet move but in any event the Disarmament Commission would meet tomorrow morning.

Governor Stassen closed with the comment that, all in all, “our record was in pretty good shape”. The Vice President inquired of Governor Stassen as to the reaction in the Soviet press to the President’s letter replying to the letter of Premier Bulganin.3 Governor Stassen replied that as yet he was aware of no reaction in the Soviet press to the President’s letter. Mr. Allen Dulles stated that he would report on this matter when the information was available.

Governor Stassen went on to comment that ever since the President had made his great proposal at the Geneva Heads-of-Government meeting, the United States had enjoyed the initiative on the disarmament issue and that world opinion had been on our side. This had done much to squelch the Soviet propaganda theme of “Ban-the-Bomb”. While public opinion was thus apparently moving favorably as far as the United States was concerned, it was still full of dangers for us. Accordingly, the Secretary of State may well find himself obliged to take further forward steps at the forthcoming Geneva meeting in order to maintain the initiative that we had enjoyed. On the other hand, Governor Stassen stated that the substantive content of such steps would only be taken within existing NSC policy.

The National Security Council:

Noted and discussed oral reports:
By the Secretary of State on the U.S. positions with respect to the meeting, particularly the agenda item on German reunification and European security.
By the Special Assistant to the President on Disarmament with respect to the agenda item on disarmament as a continuation of the discussion at the last Council meeting.
Concurred in the above-mentioned U.S. positions.
Recognized that the Secretary of State should have discretionary authority in developing these positions in the actual course of negotiations.

Note: The above action subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of State.

[Here follows discussion of United States security, the NATO Defense Ministers meeting, the United States information program, Iceland, South Asia, Secretary Dulles’ meeting with the legislative leaders, and the Near East.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted on October 21 by Gleason.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. On September 19 Bulganin wrote to President Eisenhower concerning his proposal (Open Skies) on the exchange of military information and aerial inspection. On October 11 the President made an interim reply and promised to consider the letter further when his doctors allowed him to do so. For texts of both letters, see Department of State Bulletin, October 24, 1955, pp. 643–647.