360. Minutes of Meeting at Embassy Paris, May 311

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    • Department:
    • The Under Secretary
    • Deputy Assistant Secretary Blumenthal
    • Deputy Assistant Secretary Schaetzel
    • Embassy BONN:
    • Ambassador McGhee
    • Mr. Cronk
    • Embassy BRUSSELS:
    • Ambassador MacArthur
    • Mr. Catlett
    • Ambassador Tuthill
    • Mr. Fessenden
    • U.S. Mission GENEVA:
    • Mr. Evans
    • Embassy THE HAGUE:
    • Mr. Howe
    • Mr. Abrams
    • Embassy LONDON:
    • Ambassador Bruce
    • Mr. Beale
    • Embassy LUXEMBOURG:
    • Ambassador Rivkin
    • Mr. Cunningham
    • Embassy PARIS:
    • Ambassador Bohlen
    • Mr. Reinstein*
    • Mr. Anderson
    • Mr. Farley
    • Mr. Brown
    • Mr. Stibravy
    • Embassy ROME:
    • Mr. Williamson
    • Mr. Ainsworth
    • Rapporteurs:
    • Messrs. Allen, Anschuetz, Davit, Finn Robinson, of Embassy Paris
    • *Also rapporteur for evening session
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The Under Secretary thought it appropriate to make some comment on the U.S. balance of payments situation. It appears likely that natural forces will bring an equilibrium in five or perhaps four years. Among the natural forces he had in mind were the trend toward inflation in [Typeset Page 1546] Europe and the slowing down of European growth rates. Nevertheless, in spite of the measures already taken, we are obliged to look very hard at what can be done, especially in attempting to work out a way of reducing the burden of maintaining our forces in Europe. He said we will have to be very firm on this within one or two years, and that the situation is complicated by the policy of the French in creating a force de frappe and submarine fleet.

Ambassador Bohlen pointed out that so far the French have received only an informal statement from us regarding the current status of Mr. Gilpatrick’s offer last fall to consider favorably the sale of a skipjack type submarine. He felt that it was under the circumstances, more or less incumbent upon us to clarify our position. Mr. Schaetzel thought that a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. Ambassador Bohlen asked if we intend to hold to this line, and if not, when do we drop it.

The Under Secretary said that the French are constantly calling into question U.S. intentions with regard to the maintenance of its forces in Europe, in effect calling into question our honesty. This was a point he had sought to draw to the attention of Couve de Murville in their conversation a few days previously. He asked if the initiative wasn’t up to the French. Ambassador Bohlen felt it was important both that the American position should be made clear, notably in NATO, and at the same time that no inference should be permitted which would unjustifiably raise French expectations.

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Mr. Schaetzel returned to his comment on how the situation has changed. He pointed out that there has been Nassau and also the MLF. He noted that any favorable action by the U.S. with regard to Skipjack would produce the worst possible impression elsewhere and, particularly, in Germany and Italy where we have been making strenuous efforts to convince these governments that the surface mode was the most desirable one to be used in connection with the MLF. In the past, suggestions have also been made to the Germans and the Italians which might have led them to believe the U.S. was prepared to cooperate in some way in the construction of nuclear-powered submarines.

The Under Secretary drew the discussion back to the balance of payments question. He said there has been some consideration of proposals for troop redeployment. He said there were two conditions for this: (1) that the military effectiveness of our forces stationed in Europe not be diminished; and (2) that it not create undue political problems. He asked for comments on this question, and suggested that it might be possible to reduce logistical support troops without reducing combat efficiency.

Ambassador Bohlen commented that there has been no effort on the part of the French to move the U.S. to disengage in Europe. He [Typeset Page 1547] expressed the view that General de Gaulle’s remarks in this connection were made with a very long-term context in mind. He had never seen any statement indicating the French would like us to move out of Europe in the immediate future. He was of the opinion that, under the circumstances of the withdrawal of the Jupiter from Italy and Turkey so soon after Cuba, it was difficult not to give an impression of a deal with the Russians. He mentioned the effect closing some military installations in France would have on the French employment situation and argued that if there is to be any reduction in U.S. forces stationed in Europe we should have ample time to prepare the way. If we cannot present the reduction in a convincing fashion he thought the consequences would be undesirable.

The Under Secretary supposed that it would be necessary to argue convincingly in NATO that the cut in strength would not lead to a reduced combat capability. He asked whether it should also be discussed with the governments. Ambassador Bohlen thought this was the sort of thing we should discuss directly with General de Gaulle in order that he not receive misleading impressions from other sources.

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The Under Secretary pointed out that if the European countries could give us help on our balance of payments problem we wouldn’t have to reduce our forces in Europe. Ambassador Bohlen noted that the French had shown little responsiveness to our proposal to sell the residual rights in our $4 billion MAP program for $250 million. Ambassador MacArthur asked if the approach mentioned by the Under Secretary wasn’t susceptible to misinterpretation.

Ambassador Bohlen expressed the view that we had made a mistake in the early ’50s in committing ourselves to keeping six divisions in Germany in order to get the French to agree to German rearmament. We ought to try to get back to a situation in which our commitment under the North Atlantic Treaty for the defense of Europe is the essential American contribution. The Under Secretary noted that if Berlin were not a problem, the requirement for conventional forces would be a great deal different.

Ambassador McGhee emphasized that American troop reductions in Germany would be extremely sensitive, that any such reductions would have to be effected over a period of time and after a period of proper preparation and discussion with the Germans. He noted that from a balance of payments point of view, the Offset Agreements with the Germans would make the advantages of such a reduction illusory. He also noted that a reduction of the American division slice at a time when we are trying to encourage the Germans to increase theirs would be extremely awkward.

Ambassador Bohlen noted that under present circumstances the European allies are dependent on the U.S. for their defense notwith [Typeset Page 1548] standing the fact that some reduction of our forces might be necessary, but that a very different problem and atmosphere would be created if the Russians were suddenly to change their position with regard to Eastern Germany. In this event strains within the Alliance could become serious.

The Under Secretary asked how the Germans view their own balance of payments situation. Mr. Cronk said that the balance of payments of the Federal Republic is now in bare equilibrium. The outlook is not too good but the Germans believe the situation will be controllable. Ambassador McGhee returned to the point that we would run into serious dangers with the Germans if we [Facsimile Page 5] drastically reduced the size of our forces there. Mr. Fessenden said that he didn’t think any reduction in our forces is politically feasible, citing the continuing presence of 20 Soviet divisions in East Germany.

Ambassador Rivkin said he had a different view. He thought there was a certain ambivalence on the part of some Europeans toward the presence of U.S. conventional forces in Europe. Some would find a reduction in these forces cause for rejoicing since they would interpret this to mean the end of the Taylor doctrine of the “pause”. Many Europeans don’t want a conventional war and feel that the only real deterrent is the nuclear one. A reduction in U.S. conventional forces in Europe would mean a reaffirmation of the U.S. intention to respond to any attack with atomic weapons. Mr. Schaetzel noted that the “pause” based on the presence of an adequate conventional force was a basic element of U.S. doctrine. Ambassador Bohlen remarked that American reliance on the “pause” is regarded with the greatest skepticism by most Europeans. Ambassador Rivkin thought that the “pause” thesis was not realistic, not practical in Europe.

Mr. Williamson thought that a reduction of our forces in Italy would create problems. He said that when the Jupiter missiles were being removed from Italy, the Italians were extremely sensitive to the timing of the arrival of the Polaris submarines in the Mediterranean so that there would be no time gap in their atomic defenses. He thought, on the other hand, that there was a great opportunity for the reduction in the number of U.S. support troops in Italy.

Ambassador Bohlen said that de Gaulle doesn’t believe a war will take place. He is using the possibility of our withdrawal to sell the force de frappe to his own people. He thought that de Gaulle doesn’t really believe we will withdraw and would be horrified if we did. Ambassador McGhee thought that our strategy is not really as different from what the Europeans would like as they seem to believe. If we could only get down to cases they would find that our strategy is not so different from theirs, Ambassador Bohlen agreed.

Mr. Brown said he was glad the question can now be considered with an open mind in Washington. He pointed out that our commit [Typeset Page 1549] ment at the present time is stronger than it was in 1961 when we had fewer dependents stationed in Europe; there were fewer European troops and the nuclear balance was different. How much reduction in our forces is possible is hard to tell.

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The Under Secretary thought there had not been any discussion of European use of the U.S. capital market either. Mr. Brown replied that this has been discussed. He went on to say that military items are dealt with by means of the Offset Arrangement, which is vulnerable.

The Under Secretary asked to what extent we can expect European help to maintain forces around the world, although this probably carried with it the obligation to consult with them on the use of these forces. Ambassador Bohlen thought we could not give any commitment to consult Europeans on problems in which they are not involved.

Ambassador Bruce expressed the opinion that it would be easier if policy were decided before it is discussed publicly. He thought that the desperate way in which our decisions with respect to other countries have to be announced is very bad. In his opinion, if we reduce our forces, we must show that the reduction will not reduce combat effectiveness. He thought that advance preparation is extremely important in the implementation of our decisions.

Ambassador MacArthur thought that our best chance of carrying out a reduction in U.S. forces lies in the combat effectiveness argument, if it is a reasonably credible one.

The meeting was adjourned with discussion to continue at Ambassador Bohlen’s residence after dinner.


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Attached is a copy of the record of the Under Secretary’s meeting with the Ambassador in Paris on May 31, 1963. Please note that this record has not yet been cleared by the Under Secretary. It is not being distributed outside the Department with the exception of copies sent to the Chiefs of Mission or senior participants represented at the meeting. Accordingly special handling is required.

Benjamin H. Read
Executive Secretary
  1. Force levels and balance of payments problems. Secret. 7 pp. Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330.