27. Letter From Secretary of State Rusk to Secretary of Defense McNamara0

Dear Bob: It might be useful, at some point in the near future, for the two of us to discuss with the President the subject of troop withdrawals from Europe.1

Study of the potential political effects convinces me that, other than limited adjustments dictated by organizational or other technical considerations, there should be no further withdrawals of our troops from Europe pending conclusion of the present special Stikker NATO force review, and beyond that, until or unless we are convinced that such withdrawals would, in balance, benefit our security position.

Several issues are involved:

  • First, in the current European political climate, US reductions would raise the fear among Europeans that more cuts would follow, as a part of a pattern of US withdrawal from Europe. DeGaulle’s hand would be strengthened. As a result, the immense American political influence over a delicate and vitally important complex, which it has been possible for us to exercise largely because of our major troop presence in Europe, would be weakened.
  • Second, I am not persuaded that it would be wise to alleviate our balance of payments problem through troop withdrawals, certainly not before all other avenues for easing the problem have been exhausted.
  • Third, a major withdrawal would force us to accept what is essentially a nuclear trip-wire posture in Europe since our involvement in two world wars in the last half century demonstrates that in a world-wide crisis complete disassociation from Europe is entirely infeasible. Allied progress toward a balanced strategy and force structure in Europe would stop and instead the Europeans would probably cut back their own non-nuclear forces. Although I share your concern that the US 7th Army, fully equipped and trained to fight, has very weak allied forces on both flanks, I believe we must first assure ourselves that further strengthening of these flanks cannot be realized before we seek other solutions. To do otherwise would involve our accepting a dangerously lowered nuclear threshold, with higher risks of political collapse or nuclear war. Berlin, especially, would become more hazardous.
  • Fourth, US force deployments in Central Europe have contributed immensely to the creation of a military environment conducive to the development and maintenance of German political and military stability. Particularly with the transfer of government about to take place in Germany, we cannot risk the reduction in our influence over German affairs which would result from a major withdrawal of US forces.

Finally, it seems to me that no substantial withdrawal should be carried out or even planned before completion of the new NATO planning exercise aimed at mutually relating the strategy, the forces, and the budg-ets within the Alliance. In the wake of a series of major US actions affecting European security, taken without what Europeans regard as adequate consultation, a unilateral change in our forces in Europe could be disastrous to the cohesion of the Alliance.

While, as I said, I do not rule out limited force readjustments for logistical streamlining or other technical reasons, any readjustment must be carefully handled if we are to avoid serious political damage. Therefore, I would hope there can be full participation from the outset by us in any discussions of proposed change in existing US military deployment in Europe.

In the discussion with the President, it might be useful to broaden the participation to include other members of the Cabinet or the NSC. In any event, I am sending a copy of this letter to McGeorge Bundy for his information.

With warm regards,


  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Subjects Series, Balance of Payments and Gold, 6/62-9/63. Secret. A copy was sent to McGeorge Bundy.
  2. Secretaries Rusk and McNamara met on July 15 to discuss this question before meeting with the President. A memorandum of their conversation is in Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330.
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.