259. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • German Defense Situation and the Aftermath of the Summit Breakdown


  • Mr. Franz Josef Strauss, Defense Minister, Federal Republic of Germany1
  • German Ambassador Wilhelm G. Grewe
  • German Minister Franz Krapf
  • Colonel Repenning
  • The Secretary
  • Under Secretary Livingston T. Merchant
  • Assistant Secretary of Defense John Irwin
  • Mr. Foy D. KohlerEUR
  • Mr. Martin J. HillenbrandGER
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Defense Minister Strauss began by noting that he had had an extremely interesting trip to a number of points in the United States during the past two weeks. As Defense Minister he had to take special care to avoid mistakes, since in this modern era an error in purchasing equipment could prove extremely expensive. In this connection, he referred to the Canadian attempt to develop a modern interceptor which began in 1954 and ended in 1959 with the abandonment of production plans. This involved a loss of some $500 million. Strauss then quickly mentioned a number of points which he had visited in the United States.

The Secretary said he wished to express his gratitude for the fine attitude which Defense Minister Strauss has shown towards NATO. The Secretary felt more strongly than ever that the free countries of the West must hold together firmly. Strauss agreed that this was the only conclusion which could be drawn from what had happened in Paris. He said that a recent Sulzberger article had created a misunderstanding of Chancellor Adenauer’s attitude by portraying him as being glad over the failure of the Summit.2 It was true that German officials had not been optimistic about Summit prospects, but they would have welcomed a real success at the Summit, for example, in making a contribution to disarmament. It was true that German leaders were afraid that concessions might be made on Berlin for which Germany would have to pay the price. Such a price would ultimately affect the entire Western Alliance, since Berlin had become a symbol of the firmness and determination of that Alliance. The German view, Strauss continued, was that the Soviets would not move ahead immediately against Berlin but would probably shift the crisis area elsewhere, perhaps to the Far East. They would, of course, come back to Berlin again after a period of time had elapsed. The Germans believed that Khrushchev’s rage in Paris was not spontaneous but calculated, although he had lost control of his manners. He had arrived expecting too much weakness on the part of the West, especially the United Kingdom, and when he became aware that there was no possibility of splitting the West on essentials, he then “decided to lose control of himself”. It seemed probable that he would wait until after the American elections before moving again in Berlin, but there was always the possibility, and this was a big question, whether he would choose the time just before the American elections to take such action. The Secretary noted that Israel had made the same mistake when it moved a week before our elections on the assumption that the American Government was incapable of action.3

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Strauss said that the Federal Government was worried about the possible success of the anti-German campaign of the Soviets. This had achieved some progress in the UK among certain trade union leaders, certain newspapers, and certain political groups. Relations between the GDR and these groups in the UK had been established and strengthened. Quite a few visits had been exchanged, and UK visitors to the GDR had made a number of awkward statements. There was no doubt but that the Federal Republic was the main target of Soviet psychological warfare.

In response to the Secretary’s query as to whether Soviet attacks on Adenauer had made the position of the German Ambassador in Moscow a difficult one, Strauss said the Chancellor had shown absolutely no reaction. The Secretary noted that the US Ambassador is a representative of the President, whereas the German Ambassador did not represent the Chancellor but the President of the Federal Republic.

The Secretary observed parenthetically that we were thinking seriously of holding a meeting at the time of the UN General Assembly in an attempt to simplify the many anachronistic protocol problems which modern states have inherited from the days of the monarchies, e.g., with respect to credentials, arrival and departure greetings, official visits, etc. The world was getting too small for this kind of thing.

The Western Powers should worry somewhat more than they have, Strauss continued, about the political and psychological warfare conducted by the Soviets. The Germans were not so much worried about their military threat, since they did not believe Khrushchev would actually take action involving a major risk of war. With respect to Berlin, the Germans felt that the Soviets would give no plausible reason for Western retaliation through the use of military force. They would measure everything out in order to avoid a real military provocation. When the Germans tried to put the subject of psychological defense on the NATO agenda, Strauss observed, Canada and the United Kingdom protested that this was not a NATO responsibility. The Federal Republic felt that it was very much a NATO responsibility, being convinced that a hot war would never come if the West can win the psychological battle. If this were lost then the war would be lost too before the fighting actually started. The Germans were a little discouraged when every effort on their part to pursue this subject was brushed off and regarded as a German idiosyncrasy. In Japan, Strauss noted, the Communists had been very successful in formulating slogans which generated the wrong associations—for example, US plus security pact equals war, or US bases equal physical destruction of countries in which located. They were attempting to do the same in Germany but so far had failed because Chancellor Adenauer had a stronger position than Kishi. The high living standards in the Federal Republic also made a difference, since demonstrators [Page 685] could not be hired at a cheap price to march in the streets. He could not predict what would happen in Germany if there were to be an economic depression; hence the importance of continuous economic growth.

Strauss asked the Secretary whether he did not think that there should be a branch of specialists in NATO, who understand Soviet psychological warfare methods, to dissect slogans and to hit back in defense of democracy. Every time the Federal Republic suggests such a project it runs up against a rubber wall. The Secretary said he believed the Defense Minister had a real point. Only this morning under Tokyo dateline he had read in the Herald Tribune an article suggesting that the demonstrating students did not really know what the security treaty against which they were demonstrating contained. Mr. Kohler noted that we had tried a few things in this field and had not been particularly happy about the results. Last week we had had a session with Secretary General Spaak with respect to NATO ten-year planning.4 The better coordination of informational and psychological defense policy would be an element in our studies.

Strauss said that the Germans had made a complete proposal in NATO based on the idea of a special bureau to coordinate and evaluate information and to provide answers. His recent experience in Canada where he had made a tour of two weeks had shown him to what extent Soviet slogans had penetrated even into Western countries. For example, the Soviet anti-Nazi campaign, fifteen years after the end of the war, had revived an issue which had little relationship to facts in Germany. The real Nazis in the country amounted to less than one percent. The greater danger was from a narrow-minded nationalism which saw its future in greater contacts with the East or neutralism. He, therefore, very much liked Couve’s recent statement that Germany is in a key position for European security.5 The concern of Chancellor Adenauer had been to link Germany with the West within a greater framework. The Germans wanted to be part of an institutional set-up going beyond purely military goals. The Secretary commented that the Federal Republic had gone along with the community of six.

Strauss noted that, with respect to integration of logistical support within NATO, the Federal Republic had had great difficulty with the Spanish affair.6 The Federal Republic was too small to meet its own logistical and training requirements. If it tried to do so, part of the British [Page 686] press would ask “What is going on in Germany?” or claim that things were getting out of hand. While the French, the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as Denmark, had helped Germany a little, the Federal Republic was still unable to carry out its requirements. One effect had been to increase the price of facilities in Spain to a level which the Germans could not now afford. The Spaniards had now said they were ready to make available certain facilities, but not for explosives. The Germans could stockpile food, medical supplies, blankets in Spain. The Spaniards had also asked how granting these facilities could be combined with the placing of contracts for weapons and ammunition in Spain. Sulzberger of the New York Times, who obtained the original story about the German-Spanish discussions, accordingly should get the credit for having raised the market value of the Spanish facilities, Strauss commented.

Strauss went on to say that he wanted to ask the moral and political support of the US in having some of the WEU restrictions on Germany modified. It was not a question of ABC weapons. He noted that, nine months ago, the Germans had applied to have their allowable destroyer tonnage raised from 3, 000 to 5, 000, since it was impossible to install a suitable air defense (guided missile system) on vessels smaller than 4, 000 tons. Without this air defense, operation of the destroyers in the Baltic, which had been allocated to Germany by the NATO Command, would be suicidal. Four German destroyers were under construction; the other eight required to meet Germany’s MC–707 force goals of twelve would not be built unless the WEU limitation were changed. Strauss said SACEUR should render a straight military judgment on the necessity of any German request and leave the political consideration to the WEU Council. He went on to criticize the fact that under the present WEU arrangement SACEUR was in effect obtaining a political judgment by the practice of a prior canvass of non-German WEU members. In the case of the submarines, the UK had asked for a delay for an indefinite period of time on the ground that it was undesirable to provoke Soviet feelings before the Summit.

The meeting in the Secretary’s office adjourned at this point, and Defense Minister Strauss and his party went to Room 5100 where discussion in a larger group, chaired by Mr. Merchant, was scheduled to take place.8

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762A.5/6–2060. Secret. Drafted by Hillenbrand, initialed by Kohler, and approved in S on June 25 and in M on June 27. The conversation took place at the Department of State.
  2. Strauss visited the United States in June to inspect various military installations and to see demonstrations of military equipment. A memorandum of his conversation with Secretary of Defense Gates on June 15 concerning this hardware is ibid., 762A.5/6–1560.
  3. See Documents 169 ff.
  4. Israel invaded Egypt on October 29, 1956, 8 days before the November 6 Presidential election.
  5. Regarding Spaak’s discussion with U.S. officials on June 13, see volume VII, Part 1, Document 183.
  6. Not further identified.
  7. Reference is to the talks between Spain and the Federal Republic of Germany at the end of 1959 and in 1960 concerning German use of Spanish training facilities, supply depots, and hospitals.
  8. Documentation on MC–70, NATO’s long-range force goals plan, is in volume VII, Part 1.
  9. See Document 260.