89. Position Paper Prepared by the Officer in Charge of Inter-American Security and Military Assistance (Spencer)1

MFM D–2/3


(To be raised only at foreign initiative)

Anticipated Position of the Foreign Governments

Some members of the U.S. Senate have manifested a strong interest in the establishment of regional military forces, under the auspices Officer the OAS, for use in connection with the settlement of intra-American disputes, and presumably, for use in resisting aggression from outside the hemisphere. This interest has been publicized widely in the Latin American press and has provoked some informal comment by Latin American officials. The Latin American reaction has been preponderantly negative, with the following notable exceptions:

The Chilean Foreign Minister2 has suggested the establishment of a vigilance committee to maintain surveillance of the Caribbean area with a view to discouraging intervention. He has suggested that such a committee might be given authority to request individual countries to contribute navy and air forces to be utilized for patrolling areas outside the territorial limits of individual States and reporting to the committee military movements observed in the area.
The Ecuadoran Defense Minister3 has expressed to the Chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board,4 who has responded negatively, the hope of the Ecuadoran Government that a hemispheric defense force, “like NATO in Europe”, may eventually be established to “give the hemisphere initial protection and security in the case of aggression from outside”.

Recommended U.S. Position

The U.S. should support the majority Latin American position at the Conference, which is expected to be negative, regarding the establishment of small regional patrol or police forces under the control of the COAS for use in connection with intra-American disputes. A contribution of patrol units under the command of individual countries has been accepted by the COAS in connection with previous [Page 320]intra-American disputes (see discussion, paragraph 3 (b), below). For U.S. position re vigilance committee concept, see position paper on agenda item No. 1.
The U.S. should oppose the establishment, at this time, of regional forces under the COAS or IADB to resist aggression from outside the hemisphere, on the ground that the regional defense problems which motivated the establishment of NATO forces are quite different, in character and scope, from the problems of hemispheric defense against outside aggression.



U.S. Congressional Sentiment

When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considered the mutual security legislation this year, a number of Senators, particularly Senators Fulbright, Smathers and Church, favored the establishment of inter-American forces under the control of the Council of the OAS or the Inter-American Defense Board. The Senate version of the mutual security legislation stated specifically that a designated amount of the total funds appropriated for the Latin American military assistance program now being conducted on a bilateral basis must be used for the establishment of regional forces or else devoted to economic assistance. However, this provision was not included in the legislation finally approved by the Congress and signed by the President.5

U.S. Senators who favored the concept of regional forces appeared motivated by the following considerations: (1) they believed that if U.S. military assistance were extended to Latin American countries through multilateral rather than bilateral channels the U.S. would avoid a great deal of the type of Latin American criticism which was manifested against the U.S. bilateral program during the Castro rebellion in Cuba; (2) they believed that regional forces could be maintained at less Latin American expense than existing Latin American military establishments, and at less U.S. expense than the cost of our present bilateral military program; (3) they believed that regional forces might prove useful in the settlement of intra-American disputes under the Rio Treaty.


Latin American Reaction

Although we did not query Latin American governments officially, the proposal provoked considerable comment in the Latin American press. These reports, together with informal comment by Latin American representatives, indicate very little enthusiasm for the proposal, principally because: (a) the Latin Americans have a preference for handling conflicts between American States without resort to armed force; (b) individual countries fear the future possibility that [Page 321]such forces would be utilized against themselves under circumstances which they would consider in violation of the principle of non-intervention.

Considerations Underlying U.S. Position
The establishment of regional forces would require agreement by American States at an appropriate inter-American conference. Such agreement is at present unlikely, in view of the prevalent Latin American preference for handling disputes without resort to armed force.
Intra-American disputes which have arisen, to date, for consideration under the Rio Treaty have demonstrated no requirement for regional combat forces under the control of the COAS. In several of these cases, important functions have been performed on behalf of the OAS by small numbers of military officers assigned to the OAS by the U.S. and Latin American governments. Their functions have been limited to advising the OAS Committee members and carrying out observation operations with land, air and sea patrols. In no case has it been necessary for the OAS to resort to military force to end a conflict. It is recognized, of course, that intra-American disputes requiring the use of armed force to preserve the peace may arise in the future, and that the COAS, in such circumstances, may find it necessary to call upon American Republics to contribute military assistance on an ad hoc basis for that purpose. While advance military planning for such a contingency would facilitate the expeditious and orderly assemblage and operation of required military units, if and when they should be required, this subject should not be raised at the Conference in view of the Latin American attitude described in paragraph numbered (2) above.
While the cost to Latin Americans of maintaining a small mobile regional force for use in settling intra-American disputes would be less than the cost of maintaining existing Latin American military establishments, virtually all countries would consider the cost of regional forces additive to their present military expenditures. Regional forces would not release a significant quantity of Latin American military funds for economic development.
The establishment of regional forces to resist an aggression from outside the hemisphere would not, at present, be in the U.S. interest. The U.S. is already providing 12 Latin American countries with bilateral grant military assistance for this purpose. If regional forces should be established, it would be virtually impossible to limit participation, since most countries would feel compelled politically to participate, irrespective of their military or financial capability to do so. Furthermore, individual countries would consider that they could not afford politically to assume military responsibilities in connection with regional forces of significantly less magnitude than neighboring countries clearly eligible, for strategic and economic reasons, to assume [Page 322]more important roles. In such a climate there would be great pressure upon the U.S. to concur in the unrealistic recommendations of 20 Latin American countries regarding the matériel requirements of a regional force, and in addition, great pressure for the U.S. to provide greater quantities and more costly equipment than it is now providing 12 selected countries in the current bilateral program.
  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1418. Confidential.
  2. Germán Vergara Donoso.
  3. Gustavo Diez Delgado.
  4. General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.,USMC.
  5. Reference is to the Mutual Security Act of 1959.