195. Letter From the Secretary of State to the President’s Special Assistant (Richards)1
Dear Mr. Ambassador: The President’s letter of March 9, 19572 asked you to undertake a special mission to the general area of the Middle East to explain his proposals, endorsed by Joint Resolution of the Congress, for United States cooperation with nations of that region. As requested by the President I am providing you on his behalf with more detailed guidance regarding the first three tasks he has entrusted to you.
“To convey to the Middle East Governments the spirit and purposes of my Middle East proposals as endorsed by the Joint Resolution of the Congress.”
The basic purpose of these proposals is to help the states in the general area of the Middle East, at their request, to maintain their national independence against the encroachments of international communism. The Government of the United States considers that the establishment by international communism of control or decisive influence over any Middle Eastern state would endanger the independence of all the nations in the area and adversely affect the security of the United States.
In order to deter communist military adventures and to maintain an atmosphere of calm confidence on the part of area states, the President concluded that it was necessary to make clear that the United States is prepared to interpose its military power in the event of [Page 455]overt armed aggression by international communism in the Middle East. That part of the proposal relating to the use of the armed forces of the United States is directed at this aspect of the problem.
It is equally essential to strengthen the determination and ability of the Middle Eastern nations to protect their independence against communism subversion. Both the protection offered against direct armed attack and the special programs of economic and military assistance are designed to accomplish this purpose.
No part of the proposal, nor any other policy of this Government, has as its purpose the establishment of a United States sphere of influence in the Middle East or interference by the United States in the internal affairs of any Middle Eastern state. The United States is not seeking, through these proposals to gain any additional military facilities for its own use. This Government is convinced that there is a broad identity of interest between the United States and the nations in the general area of the Middle East. It is on this firm base of common interest that the Government of the United States desires to cooperate with the Governments of the area to their mutual benefit.
Some Middle Eastern governments may ask what relation the proposals have to the possibility of non-communist aggression in the area and to such area problems as Palestine and the Suez Canal. This Government, by various public pronouncements and by its action at the time of the attacks on Egypt, has made clear its determined opposition to any aggression against the political independence or territorial integrity of the nations of the Middle East, and its determination to oppose any such aggression in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations. This policy stands unchanged. The President’s proposals have singled out communist aggression because experience has shown that the communist nations are not dissuaded from undertaking or pursuing aggression by the moral or political power of the United Nations. The proposals are designed to supplement the universal non-aggression principles expressed in the Charter of the United Nations.
These proposals, of course, do not represent the totality of United States policies. The programs undertaken pursuant to the proposals will impede exploitation of area problems by international communism and thus facilitate progress toward their solution. Neither the proposals nor the related programs are, however, intended of themselves to bring about a solution of these problems. United States efforts to assist in this regard are carried on through other activities and channels, for example the United Nations.
While you will need to take account of the intra-area problems, I believe your mission should take the position with area Governments that it is not charged with responsibility for seeking solutions to these problems.
“To determine, after consultations with the Governments concerned, which countries in the area wish to avail themselves of the United States offer of assistance and to participate in all or part of the program.”
In determining whether to participate in the program, area countries may be influenced principally by two factors—the shield offered by the United States against overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by international communism and the prospects of economic and military aid. In discussing the first aspect, your objective should be to instill confidence in the nations of the area, especially in those whose geographic position leaves them most exposed, thus building up or reinforcing the will to resist efforts at subversion. You may point out that while the United States retains the ultimate decision on how to act in a given situation, the Joint Resolution authorizes the President quickly to employ the armed forces of the United States in the event of overt armed aggression by international communism. Countries in the general area of the Middle East whose acts evidence their determination to maintain their independence against international communism may rest assured that in answer to a request the United States would take appropriate action inside or outside of the United Nations.
You are bound to encounter excessive expectations and demands for economic and military assistance, particularly from the Baghdad Pact countries despite the fact that they are already recipients of substantial aid under existing programs. This Government has repeatedly shown its support of the Baghdad Pact, notably by the statement issued on November 29, 1956, and the present program should give further assurance to and strengthen the friendly governments joined in the Pact. While it is not contemplated that the Baghdad Pact should be the vehicle for carrying out the program, the Joint Resolution specifically refers to “any nation or group of nations” desiring United States assistance. I believe this Government should be receptive to requests from groups of nations, such as the Baghdad Pact, for assistance towards consultative institutions, activities and projects which they have worked out in common and which further indigenous efforts to develop regional strength and stability.
The program must do more than register the participation of nations already committed to the free world, such as the members of the Baghdad Pact. While not wishing to give United States friends the impression that they are being slighted, the main effort necessarily must be focused on winning over the waverers whose determination and ability to resist international communism is weak. The United States should be forthcoming in extending assistance when aid is likely to encourage a Government to resist the communist threat and [Page 457]act against it, but should not bolster the standing of a Government which avoids any stand against international communism and in fact tolerates and facilitates the growth of communist influence.
“To make commitments for programs of economic and military assistance, within the provisions of the Joint Resolution and within the limitation of funds appropriated by the Congress, which you deem to be essential and urgent to accomplish the purpose of the program.”
The Congress has approved the President’s recommendations that certain restrictions in the Mutual Security Act with respect to the granting of aid be removed from $200 million out of funds already appropriated thereby granting considerable leeway in determining the most effective use of funds to accomplish the political objectives sought. I believe it is desirable nevertheless to follow, to the extent feasible, the provisions of the Mutual Security Act. However, your primary guide should be whether a given economic or military activity in a given situation will develop or reinforce the will and ability to resist international communism. You will wish to consider, among other factors, whether an activity will help meet an economic crisis, aid in building effective internal security forces or have an immediate political impact furthering the program.
While in the field, you may find certain situations where the need is so evident and urgent that you will wish to take action on the spot. The President has authorized you to do so within the provisions of the Joint Resolution and has asked you to keep him informed, through the Department of State, in regard to any commitments which you contemplate. I am confident that you will consider the effects on existing policies and programs, and the possible reactions of the Congress.
I am most pleased that you have agreed to undertake this difficult mission, which is so important to the national welfare of the United States. The Department of State will make every effort to meet any requests which you may have. I extend my best wishes for a successful outcome to your mission.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 120.1580/3–957. Secret. Drafted by Burdett and Mathews.↩
- Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature and a handwritten notation by Richard Selby that reads: “This letter signed by Sec. on 3/4, at same time as he signed memo to Pres. This letter was dated 3/9, same date as President’s letter to Amb. Richards, so as not to pre-date the President’s instructions to the Ambassador.”↩