151. Letter From Secretary of State Dulles to Foreign Minister Cunha 1

Dear Mr. Minister: I have just read the broadcast which you delivered April 4 on occasion of NATO’s seventh anniversary. May I therefore begin by conveying to you personally the expression of my most sincere appreciation for the remarks which you made concerning role played by US in defense of our common civilization and for your support in face of certain criticisms which have recently been directed against US. As I indicated in my press conference few days ago2 I regard it as sign of strength rather than weakness that countries bound together by ties of common interest can indulge in frank and open [Page 456] comment on each other’s policies. It was most heartening to learn of your spontaneous and friendly words of support which will not go unnoticed in this country.

Your statement was particularly timely in view of recent action of Icelandic Parliament. I know that you will agree that this is a matter of the greatest importance to the Alliance not only because of the strategic importance of the Icelandic area, but also because of the necessity of maintaining our strength and unity in the face of the flexible and dangerous tactics of the Soviets. In so doing, we must be flexible ourselves, but we must never waver in our determination to assure our liberties.

It is too early as yet to tell how the situation will develop in Iceland. Elections will be held on June 24 and it is our hope that by that time there will be a fuller and wiser appreciation of the implications of the Althing resolution. Meanwhile, it is our desire to deal with the question calmly and without heat, allowing time for the second thoughts which usually follow actions whose implications are not fully understood at the time. You will perhaps have noted that the President’s3 and my public press statements were calculated to encourage such a period of calm and searching reflection.

Several of our other NATO allies have already expressed to us their concern over the Icelandic resolution. I do not doubt that in time these misgivings will become quietly known to the Icelanders and will have a salutory effect. The Icelanders have made known their continued attachment to NATO and I am sure that the common aims and purposes basic to that relationship will prevail over the specific issues that have recently arisen.

Permit me to add one final word concerning what I believe would be the beneficial effect on the above problem of early conclusion of a new Azores defense agreement. I do not wish to press you unduly since I realize that your government desires to give careful thought to a proposal of such importance. However, if we could achieve a meeting of minds and conclude a new agreement governing the peacetime use of the Azores facilities in the next few weeks I can think of nothing which would set a better example. Not only would it be of inestimable help to NATO supporters in Iceland but it would help to check the growth of the dangerous tendencies elsewhere which we both deplore.

Dulles 4
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 740.5/4–555. Secret. Transmitted in telegram 398 to Lisbon, April 7, with the instruction that the Embassy should stress to the Foreign Minister that it was a personal message, not for publication. Telegram 398 is the source text. On April 10, Bonbright reported that the letter had been delivered the previous day. (Telegram 435 from Lisbon; ibid., 740.5/4–1056)
  2. For the transcript of Dulles’ press conference on April 3, see Department of State Bulletin, April 16, 1956, pp. 438–443.
  3. For the transcript of President Eisenhower’s press conference on April 4, in which he commented on the resolution of the Icelandic Parliament (Althing) in favor of moving U.S. forces out of Iceland, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956, pp. 368–381.
  4. Telegram 398 bears this typed signature.