252. Circular Telegram From the Delegation to the North Atlantic Council Ministerial Meeting to Certain Diplomatic Missions 0

1151. From US NATO Del. Following summarizes NAC Ministerial session afternoon April 21 (first business meeting).

Spaak opened meeting by suggesting message from Council to Secretary Dulles conveying best wishes for his speedy recovery.2 He then, by prearrangement,3 suggested that two statements be read dealing with the Germany-Berlin problem. He emphasized need for complete secrecy; said no verbatim record would be kept, but that a COSMIC Top Secret record of these papers would be on file with the International Secretariat.

France (Couve de Murville) then read tripartitely-agreed report on contingency planning for Berlin.4

U.K. (Selwyn Lloyd) read quadripartitely-agreed report of Western position on German reunification, European Security and Berlin. (This being airgrammed to addressees this telegram.)5

U.S. (Herter) read a message of greeting from Secretary Dulles.6 Acting Secretary then gave a review of international situation, placing Berlin problem in perspective of other threats around world during past year. (Statement being pouched to addressees this telegram).7

U.K. took floor again to give present British thinking regarding Germany-Berlin problems. Agreeing in general with U.S. résumé of world situation; Lloyd said it was necessary to look into future and to try to devise ways of avoiding “a situation of choice between war and a resounding diplomatic defeat”. He made following points:

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U.K. believes Soviet leaders have basically more to lose from relaxation of tension than West has. While USSR has made remarkable progress in certain fields, their system has failed in providing human wellbeing. Therefore, any relaxation of tensions will tend to accentuate pressures upon Soviet leadership to devote more resources to human needs;
Nevertheless, British leaders convinced by recent trip that Khrushchev genuinely wants negotiations, certainly on Berlin;
U.K. favors Summit meeting after Foreign Ministers conference, because: (1) they convinced Khrushchev alone can make major decisions; (2) Soviets unlikely act unilaterally on Berlin if Summit meeting in prospect; (3) public opinion will demand Summit meeting before being willing undertake preparations for war.
Re Germany and Berlin, U.K. position is that West must be firm in protecting Berlin’s right to freedom; West must avoid a neutralized Germany; West must avoid “disengagement” in sense of any pulling apart of forces, discrimination against forces of any country, or discrimination in weapons. West must avoid any security disadvantages in considering ideas in security field. UK does, however, see advantages in inspection in an agreed zone as providing precedent favorable to West, and some safeguard against surprise attack.
On question German unification, UK had no new thoughts, but considers method of presentation needs careful study.
On Berlin, optimum, of course, is Berlin as capital of reunified Germany, but UK recognizes that West’s position in Berlin extremely exposed, and existing arrangements vague and tenuous. Rights of occupation, although legally sound, not publicly convincing in UK view. UK thinks West should take good look at status quo and determine whether some new and better basis for protection Berlin’s freedom cannot be worked out without abandoning present legal basis. These preliminary thoughts on which UK seeks views its Allies.

France (Couve de Murville) gave general exposé French position, emphasizing France believes that USSR wishes negotiate both on Berlin and Germany rather than fight. France believes present situation grave and tense, but stresses that tension created by Soviets who are aiming for two legal entities in Germany. Stressed military confidence USSR, noted that while this not a good basis for conference, it nevertheless evident that Khrushchev wants to negotiate at Summit.

Taking considerably tougher line than Lloyd, Couve said manner in which Soviet challenge on Berlin was made requires absolute firmness and resolution in West. Further, Berlin’s exposed position makes a firm Western response doubly necessary. Stressing difficulty and danger of detailing successive Western positions, Couve warned against going much beyond Western Four report at this stage. Defined points on which France thinks can be no compromise:

(1) Maintenance of Western garrisons in Berlin, stressing absolute need to hold to present legal basis of occupying powers; (2) avoidance any step leading to de jure recognition of GDR.

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France supports keeping NAC well informed, as NATO support in this situation very important.

Brentano indicated that he would wish to speak April 3. The Chairman suggested discussion be adjourned until April 3 to give opportunity for reflection and preparation of views.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–WA/4–459. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Nolting on April 3 and cleared by Timmons and Merchant. Transmitted to all NATO capitals except London, Bonn, and Paris, which were informed by separate cable on April 2. (Topol 3313 to Paris, repeated to Bonn, London, Berlin, and Moscow; ibid., 396.1–WA/4–259)
  2. The verbatim record of this session, C–VR(59)13, April 2, is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1236.
  3. A copy of this message is ibid.
  4. Herter briefed Spaak on the outcome of the tripartite and quadripartite meetings at 8:30 a.m. on April 2 and told him who would present the two reports to the Council. (Memorandum of conversation, USDEL/MC/8; ibid., CF 1235)
  5. See Document 251.
  6. Not printed, but see Document 251; the report was transmitted in circular telegram 513, April 2. (Departent of State, Central Files, 396.1–WA/4–259)
  7. A copy of this March 29 letter is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1236.
  8. Transmitted in circular airgram CG–516 on April 3. (Ibid., Central Files, 396.1–WA/4–359)