236. Telegram From the Delegation at the North Atlantic Council Ministerial Meeting to the Department of State0

Polto 1156. From USDel. Secretary Herter’s meeting with Spaak, December 14.1

Spaak began by referring to General Twining’s statement in Military Committee,2 expressing view that, while leak to press deplorable, large majority NATO members, and he himself, thought statement a good one and points needed to be made. Said most NATO ambassadors had told him this.

Secretary remarked that Couve, whom he had just seen,3 seemed reasonably moderate on this subject, and thought that it would come up in Ministerial Meeting on Wednesday4 (in discussion of military matters) rather than on Tuesday. Said Couve hoped Guillaumat respond.

Spaak said even if we are entering a détente, it is necessary to keep up NATO defenses; the French are definitely standing in way of progress in this field, and there is a sentiment of revolt against this situation in NATO. Burgess noted that there is a similar sentiment among French military and in much of French press. Spaak said in his judgment De Gaulle [Page 534] isolated on his defense policy. Spaak added he did not know whether Debre would raise question of Twining statement when he addresses NATO opening session, but rather felt that he would.

Secretary and Spaak than discussed briefly recent vote in UN on Algerian question. Noted French were disturbed by United States abstention, but Secretary pointed out six members of NATO abstained, and final vote was undoubtedly influenced by fact that United States did not reveal its position before-hand. Said language of revised resolution was almost identical with views expressed by President and Secretary previously, and therefore we could not vote against resolution. Lodge had made statement explaining United States position. (Spaak later said he thought it would be very helpful in NATO if text of Lodge statement were circulated by United States.)5

Conversation turned to military situation in NATO, and Secretary raised question of what procedure should be followed to face up to NATO’s defense problem. Spaak said same question worried him. Remarked that last year’s defense resolution had not yielded sufficient results,6 and that customary annual review resolution was no good unless vigorously followed up. His tentative idea was that small “wise men’s” committee should be asked to examine problem, but we would have to make sure that this did not impede efforts which NATO military are making to get more defense contributions. Said we must gain some time. Thought main question is—what is United States going to do? Is United States going to re-examine its strategic concept for NATO area? Spaak then said that in his opinion requirements of M.C.–70 will not be obtained; the gap is too big. He added that it is important to set a political background at ministerial meeting in light of which military problem should be frankly discussed. Reverting to timing, Spaak said he was not sure whether it was wise to re-examine defense problem right now. Burgess said he thought it would be dangerous to re-examine now, and agreed United States must formulate its own views first although we should not act unilaterally. Spaak said Belgians particularly need to be prodded; they have adopted a “stupid policy”, and United States must speak to them. Secretary told Spaak that United States has already done so on several occasions, but they persist in bringing in Congo as a possible drain on defense resources. This discussion of follow-up on defense matters was inconclusive. Spaak said he would try to summarize after Council discussion but would do so carefully, bearing in mind necessity [Page 535] to avoid proposal for dramatic re-assessment. Thought best to have matter studied in Permanent Council.

There was further discussion of French attitude in NATO. Spaak said that up until now NATO countries had tried to be patient with French preoccupations and tried to be helpful on Algeria but that now majority are losing patience. French say that NATO must be reformed, but they do not participate in NATO and do not make their views clear with respect to reformation. He added that French think leak of Twining statement was deliberate on part of U.S. He referred to De Gaulle’s speech at Ecole Militaire,7 remarking that line taken by De Gaulle was entirely inconsistent with that of NATO. Said he thought there must be a frank discussion in ministerial meeting on air defense and on introduction of atomics. Scandinavians would explain their special position on latter.

Question of rooms for NATO meetings came up. Spaak thought suggestion that military meeting might begin in large conference room, and then be shifted to smaller room if necessary, was good one. He said Lange would make his full speech in opening public session. Debre will probably say something concerning Alliance (Spaak didn’t know what) but he had promised to show his speech to Lange before-hand. Meeting concluded with thought that this would be a very lively three day meeting. Spaak felt that, in addition to NATO pressure on French concerning defense policy, it would be most helpful if the President would address this problem in his private talks with De Gaulle.8 Spaak repeated that French are “completely isolated” on their defense policy and that even Germany would certainly choose NATO and U.S. in preference to tripartitism.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 740.5/12–1559. Secret. Transmitted in two sections.
  2. According to the chronology for December 14, Burgess, Merchant, and Nolting were also present. (ibid., Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1564)
  3. See Document 233.
  4. See Document 235.
  5. December 16.
  6. For the text of Lodge’s statements on Algeria in the United Nations to Committee I on December 2 and to the plenary session of the General Assembly on December 12, see Department of State Bulletin, January 18, 1960, pp. 100–102.
  7. See Document 180.
  8. In De Gaulle’s speech to the Ecole Militaire, November 3, he said that the system called “integration” had outlived its usefulness and that in any war France would have to act on its own in pursuit of its own aims, although it might fight along with allies, each fulfilling its own role. Copies of telegrams 1978 from Paris, November 4, and 2003 from Paris, November 5, which summarize the speech, and a transcript of the speech are in the Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Dulles–Herter Series.
  9. See Part 2, Document 150.