56. Letter From the Secretary of State to the Representative at the United Nations (Lodge)1

Dear Cabot : I have given careful consideration to your letters of January 18 and March 15, 1956,2 proposing that we now proceed with the implementation of the NSC decision of last September3 for activation of the Volunteer Freedom Corps on a token basis.

As you will recall, the NSC decision left the timing of the initiation of action to my discretion, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense. At that time, of course, the principal inhibiting factor was the Four Power Conference which was about to begin in Geneva. The picture has changed somewhat in view of the outcome of this conference and in view also of the categorical refusal of the Soviet Government to discuss any change in the status of the Eastern European satellites. At the same time, there are certain other considerations which have convinced me that the present time is not appropriate for implementation of this project. The most important of these considerations are as follows:

It seems clear that the Soviet bloc is currently trying to de-emphasize the military aspects of its aggressive program and is placing reliance on a large-scale political, economic and psychological offensive aimed at neutralizing and dividing our allies and spreading Communist influence in the uncommitted areas. From the point of view of free world opinion, I think it would be a mistake for us to be in the position of seeming to respond to these new tactics by an action which would be regarded as having an essentially military character. While I fully appreciate the fact that the principal value of the Volunteer Freedom Corps would be psychological rather than military, it is by no means certain that this fact would be understood and accepted in other parts of the free world.
I know that you will also agree on the importance of our being in the strongest possible position in the disarmament discussions which have now been resumed. We are all conscious of the necessity that world opinion be convinced of the merits of our position on this subject, and that we avoid implying any lack of confidence in the possibility of success. Although the formation of the Volunteer Freedom Corps would be aimed at the Soviet bloc only in a psychological sense, there is danger that it would be misunderstood by Free World opinion and exploited by the Soviets as being inconsistent with the objectives of the disarmament negotiations.
You will recall that the NSC decision provided that this project would be implemented only with the cooperation of the West German Government. Last September we asked Ambassador Conant what he thought Chancellor Adenauer’s reactions to the proposal might be. He told us that he thought its adoption would raise major political difficulties for the Chancellor and expressed the hope that we would not approach him again on the subject.4 We have recently taken it up with Conant once more and he has informed us that he is still of the same opinion.

I hope you will agree that my reasons for deferring action are sound. From a political point of view, I feel that we must make proper timing a paramount consideration in order fully to realize the advantages of the project and to minimize the risk of adverse consequences. I assure you that I intend to keep the matter under periodic review with these considerations in mind.

Sincerely yours,

John Foster Dulles 5
  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 61 D 385, Volunteer Freedom Corps. Top Secret. Drafted by Joseph Palmer, and cleared with EUR, GER, EE, IO, and S/P.
  2. In his January 18 letter, Lodge presented his arguments for the Volunteer Freedom Corps. He made six points: (1) The Volunteer Freedom Corps would be a step toward carrying out U.S. obligations to the satellite nations; (2) it would combat the Soviet re-defection campaign; (3) it would alleviate fears of West German rearmament by stationing a VFC battalion in Germany; (4) it would provide “nuisance value” and could be a bargaining chip in future negotiations; (5) it would serve as proof to the rest of the Free World that the West is committed to the fight for “freedom and individual dignity”; and (6) it would provide a cadre of trained officers able to “assimilate the mass of anti-communist Slavs” in the event of general war. (Ibid.: Lot 62 D 430, Volunteer Freedom Corps)

    The letter of March 15 has not been found.

  3. Reference is to NSC Action No. 1434; see footnote 5, Document 30.
  4. The correspondence referred to took place in August; see footnote 3, Document 30.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.