51. Telegram From the Delegation at the North Atlantic Council Ministerial Meeting to the Department of State1

Secto 10. Secretary opened talk with Brentano and Hallstein May 3 by saying he felt reunification should be kept in the forefront and used as test of new Soviet attitude in view Soviet agreement at Summit Meeting to reunification through free elections. He intimated that problem of relationship to disarmament had been somewhat exaggerated. He said Soviets are overextended in economic terms and might reduce in force for economic reasons. Western powers should determine their force levels in light their estimate of danger. Brentano expressed general agreement. He referred with satisfaction to communiqué issued at end Anglo-German talks and said that, after initial misunderstandings, Germans had reached full understanding with French which was reflected in new directive to Moch.

Brentano said that while he hesitated to use term initiative in connection with reunification, he felt in order to show public opinion our position it would be necessary to take joint initiative. Question of timing would have to be considered. He indicated purpose was clearly to demonstrate to the man in the street our proposals and reasons for Soviet rejection. He believed it was not generally understood how far Western powers had gone at Geneva in their offers to USSR. [Page 94] He assured Secretary German initiative with Soviets would not become beginning of bilateral negotiations and that Federal Republic would proceed only with full agreement of Three Powers and possibly other (NATO governments).

Secretary raised support costs question, saying he felt impelled regretfully to say Federal Republic had not been as responsive as it should have been to its obligations in this matter. US had tried to orient its policy to support Federal Republic. It was unpleasant to encounter this type of situation. We hoped that the question was on way to solution since he understood from luncheon conversation with Selwyn Lloyd that it was going somewhat better. However, he wished to express his concern to Brentano. Brentano said form of presentation proposal at end of last year had been unfortunate. If matter had been presented differently, it might have been better received. He regretted manner in which question had developed and had attempted to present it before cabinet. He was determined to find reasonable solution in light of political aspect and would report to Cabinet on his talks in London and Paris. Secretary said that we would approach problem in sympathetic fashion and indicated desirability finding some solution in politically acceptable form.

Secretary asked Brentano status of conscription legislation, remarking that 12-month period of service was inadequate. Brentano said law would be passed but he could make no assurances regarding period of service, which he indicated has become partisan issue. The Secretary, Gray and Merchant impressed on him seriousness of problem which would be created by German adoption of 12-month period. They pointed out it is likely to result in other countries cutting their conscription period with serious consequences for NATO military strength. Secretary said it had been expected German membership in NATO would add to NATO’s military effectiveness. If first important act of Federal Government was of this character effect would be to weaken NATO. Brentano reiterated political difficulties apologetically, saying that some people thought it would be better to adopt 12-month period and win next elections.

The Secretary expressed to Brentano his thoughts on further development of Western organization as suggested in recent New York speech. He said he was not thinking of it as some new gadget to add to NATO but of fundamental solution to problems facing West. This problem was how, in the first place, to maintain unity of West and prevent Soviets from exploiting difficulties between Western powers. Second there was a problem of dealing with under-developed areas and how to meet difficulties caused by Soviet aid and exploitation of feelings of non-white races. Third was problem of how free enterprise system could deal with Soviet competition operating on political motives and without regard to costs or profit factor. He thought [Page 95] these problems should be studied by Western nations either in NATO or possibly in council organized outside NATO. Hallstein said Federal Government in general agreement. He suggested that there should be body composed of representatives of five or six governments able to extend aid rather than use of NATO Council. Present meeting, however, should confine itself to urging member governments to do everything possible to counteract Soviet moves.

The Secretary referred to forthcoming visit of Icelandic Foreign Minister to Bonn. He said it would be helpful if Chancellor could mention base question Gudmunson. Brentano agreed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 740.5/5–456. Confidential. Repeated to Bonn and London. Secretary Dulles was in Paris for a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, May 4–5. For documentation on this meeting, see vol. iv, pp. 5184.