67. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Canadian Views on Arrangements for Preparation for Summit Meetings


  • The Hon. A. D. P. Heeney—Canadian Ambassador
  • Mr. Sol F. Rae, Canadian Minister
  • The Hon. Livingston T. Merchant—Acting Secretary
  • Edward T. LongM
  • Mr. Wharton D. HubbardBNA

Ambassador Heeney, accompanied by the Canadian Minister, S. F. Rae, called on the Acting Secretary at 5:30 p.m., Friday, January 15, 1960.

The Ambassador stated he had received a telegraphic instruction from Canadian External Affairs Minister Green, telling him to call on the Department to explain Canada’s views regarding the arrangements for the preparation for the forthcoming Summit Meeting. He gave Mr. Merchant two copies of a paraphrase of the telegraphic instruction1 and added that he had also received a telephone call that day from Mr. Green emphasizing his concern about this subject. Mr. Heeney pointed out that a similar action was being carried out simultaneously by the Canadian High Commissioner in London and by the Canadian Ambassador in Paris. (Copy of the Canadian paraphrased telegraphic instruction is enclosed.)

Mr. Heeney opened by saying that Mr. Green was preoccupied with the question of the full utilization of the NATO Council mechanism in preparing for the Summit and believed strongly that this was the best [Page 170] way in which the entire NATO could be carried along to an effective presentation of the NATO position vis-à-vis the Soviets at the Meeting. This was also the position of Prime Minister Diefenbaker, he said, and the latter might feel obliged to discuss this in the Canadian House of Commons, now in session, if he were questioned on it by Mr. Pearson, Leader of the Opposition.

In describing the Canadian preoccupation, Mr. Heeney began by referring to De Gaulle’s letter of September, 1958,2 proposing the establishment of a Tripartite Directorate for NATO, and to Diefenbaker’s emphatic rejection of that idea. The Canadian Ambassador stated this was still the view of the Canadian Government.

[6–1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

Ambassador Heeney said the Canadians were well prepared to accept the primacy of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States as the Western Big Three because of their great responsibilities. They also accepted the necessity of Germany being represented on the Working Group of Four discussing Berlin and the general German problem. But this was as far as the Canadians were prepared to go with regard to according special status to Germany and they did not wish to see the Committee of Four concept, inclusive of Germany, extended to the consideration of other problems. [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

[1 paragraph (9 lines of source text) not declassified]

Mr. Merchant said he thought that this situation was, unfortunately, a matter of confusion and misunderstanding—one which had occurred because of action taken, ironically, to obtain a diametrically different result than that represented by the anxiety of the Canadian Government. This misunderstanding was attributable to two factors.

A good many NATO partners had complained of being left out of things, and Italy was a good example. It was thought that Italy would be mollified by being included in the Working Group of Five—and furthermore, there was merit in her pretensions. Thus, in trying to propitiate Italian demands, and completely inadvertently, the unfortunate illusion seemed to have been gained that this constituted some sort of fundamental change in the NATO mechanism. Mr. Merchant thought that perhaps it might have been better for the United States to forewarn the other NATO Members of the reasons for this step. Mr. Merchant also pointed out that these arrangements had been made at a time when only one Summit Meeting was anticipated and not four, as subsequently became the case. The fact that there were to be four, and not just one, may have given the impression that these procedures were to be permanent. This was not the case.

[Page 171]

Another factor concerned the Working Group of Four. Mr. Merchant said there had been a suggestion made at the Council which had been accepted by the United States for a number of reasons:

Because of the nature of Khrushchev’s gambit, the first and principal topic of consideration was the problem of Berlin and the general question of the future of Germany. It was only natural that Germany should be included in the body set up to consider this subject—and this is how the Working Group of Four had come into existence.
In the course of its deliberations, the Working Group of Four had agreed to meet again — irrespective of formal NATO Council meetings—because of the nature of the problem and discussions. But its agenda would remain that of Berlin and Germany.
The idea of a Committee of Four had been thought possibly superior to the utilization of the Big Three in considering the German problem for it would obviate the feeling of a de facto tripartite directorate—De Gaulle’s original idea.

To pull this background picture together, Mr. Merchant said the United States believed that the Working Group of Four, dealing with the German question, was legitimate, and that this was also the case with the work of the Working Group of Five. Furthermore, since Germany naturally had a very real interest in the disarmament question, and because it seemed best to avoid the creation of any unnecessary, new groups concerning Germany and disarmament, and since three of the Five sat on the Four, this appeared to be a useful way in which to keep the Germans informed in the general disarmament proceedings. There was not, of course, any tie between the two groups except within the NATO Council context. To reiterate, Mr. Merchant said the Five was the sole group concerned with actual work on general disarmament and it would not report to the Four but to the NATO Council.

Mr. Merchant also took the occasion to point out, lest any outside partner believed that its security in disarmament matters was being decided by the Five, that the agenda of this group concerned General Disarmament, a rather ephemeral subject to begin with. There might not be a great deal, in fact, to report to the NATO Council and, finally, to delineate the picture on these two Working Groups possibly more clearly, it could be said that the findings of the Five would naturally be reported to the Four, but as individuals and not as a Group. There was no thought on the part of the United States of establishing a supervisory or intermediary function for the Four.

To finish, Mr. Merchant touched on the third Working Group, that envisaged for East-West Relations. The Italians had questioned the advisability of the Germans sitting in with the Big Three on this matter— thus ostensibly extending the scope of the work of the four powers sitting together from the original agenda of Germany and Berlin. The [Page 172] United States considered this point well taken and Germany had been persuaded to withdraw from the Group of Four on the question of East-West relations. What remained was the Big Three plus a NATO representative. [9 lines of source text not declassified]

[2 paragraphs (7 lines of source text) not declassified)

Mr. Heeney thanked Mr. Merchant for his résumé of the American view of these questions and reiterated that the chief concern of the Canadian Government in this matter was that the ad hoc nature of the Committee of Four be clearly recognized and that no de facto situation should come about even though inadvertently, whereby a screen or supervisory group would be erected between the other NATO partners and the Western Big Three.

For his part, Mr. Merchant said he was glad to have had such a frank discussion with Mr. Heeney. [2 lines of source text not declassified]

Both Messrs. Merchant and Heeney agreed that it was not necessary or advisable to make any official, public pronouncements on procedural arrangements developed during the pre-Summit negotiations.

The meeting came to an end at 6:15 p.m.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–PA/1–1560. Secret. Drafted by Hubbard, initialed by Merchant, and approved in M on January 26.
  2. Not printed. This 7-paragraph paraphrase described the Canadian position on presummit working groups [text not declassified].
  3. For text of De Gaulle’s memorandum of September 17, 1958, see vol. VII, Part 2, Document 45.