102. Telegram From the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Regional Organizations to the Department of State0

Polto 1484. Mr. Acheson met with NAC in private session April 21. Prefaced his remarks by stating his work with Washington study group reviewing NATO policy done as private citizen in association with officers of State, Defense and Treasury, etc. Group had no idea of revising policy but recognized importance of looking at situation to see what had changed and of ensuring all Departments followed same policy line. [Page 296] Not his place to discuss proposals of US Government as this was task of Ambassador Finletter. He proposed, therefore, to talk about considerations and thinking underlying recommendations of study group.

Group thought first of all in terms bringing NATO back to primary position in US foreign policy. No doubt in 1949 that treaty which linked American Continent and Western Europe was keystone of US foreign policy. In ensuing years, however, this view of NATO had been more honored in statements than in actions. Important conclusion of group is how US should act on this principle. Many obstacles to this in US as in other countries, especially in implications for domestic policy. Group thought principal points on which difficulties arise are largely in UN, relations with peoples of less developed areas, and formulation military policy.

Group considered problems insoluble unless they fully discussed and talked out. Best place for this in North Atlantic Council where Ambassadors well acquainted with each other and more inclined to talk frankly than elsewhere, live in close proximity with each other and can discuss problems informally prior to meetings, and where security record of organization is very high. US study group was impressed that NATO organization lends itself admirably to consultation on problems arising not only in treaty area but outside. Such consultation in Council did not exclude regular channels of diplomacy which often advantageous.

Acheson pointed out that for fruitful consultation, necessary for participants to listen with view to altering their judgements as appropriate. Also, since NAC is Council of governments, country raising question should have formulated point of view, be prepared to state it, have it criticized and be influenced by views of others.

Acheson emphasized it height of folly for countries to go to UN in times of trouble to have policy made for them. If they had no ideas, policy in UN would be determined largely by new states quite ignorant of subject matter. Moreover, policy is watered down in UN to lowest common denominator. Asserted UN not glittering hope of world as some think, though it plays important role. Stressed NATO, if ready create military and national will for defense, is more likely than any other organization to be central hope of world. Believed it was erroneous to think, as some countries, there is choice between policy of standing by allies and sympathy with people of less developed areas. There is no hope for peoples of these areas unless members of NATO alliance stand together for defense and use economic power to assist less developed areas within framework of free system.

Against this background of ideas, Washington study group agreed NATO should be made central but not necessarily final point of decision. In some cases, agreement might not be possible but unity of alliances [Page 297] should be maintained and point established beyond which disagreement should not go. Also NATO consultation should anticipate, to extent possible, events before they happen which would make agreement easier when action necessary. Above all, necessary to be practical and not be worried by inability to agree on ideological relationships. Important thing is to be together on practical steps that can be taken immediately, e.g. in less developed areas, should be prepared to take action re education, economic development etc., that can exert strong influence in these areas and help choke off impractical resolutions in UN. Stressed NATO nations too great and too powerful to be called on to vote in UN on abstract questions having no useful purpose. Also pointed out NATO nations among themselves should not avoid discussing matters for ideological reasons. Pointed out for example, Monroe Doctrine no reason why Cuba should not be discussed in NATO Council.

Turning to military matters, pointed out Soviets now have tactical nuclear weapons and advantage which West had held in 1956–57 now has been equalized. As indicated in various Norstad speeches, West now going back to idea threshold must be raised before nuclear weapons used. Important to be able to enforce pause for reflection as to whether nuclear weapons should be used. These questions raised in UK paper on long-range planning. Thinking of Washington group had started at this point with emphasis on necessity to make decision. Felt that if conventional arms must be strengthened, it should be done by modernizing existing forces where needed, making them more mobile, and bringing them to MC–70 goals. Acheson stated this should not be difficult if De Gaulle, as all hoped, secured Algerian settlement and when German divisions brought up to strength. Further effort also required by other members of alliance. Required, however, setting of priorities, not to extent of displacement of “other things” (i.e. nuclear weapons) but with a priority on conventional buildup not present in past.

In approaching these problems, Acheson made clear, as President had recently stated to military committee, American forces and nuclear weapons would not be withdrawn from Europe. It was less clear, however, how we should move in nuclear field than in conventional field. There was idea emphasis should be on water-borne rather than land-based missiles. While decision on this point beyond his competence, Acheson stressed we currently have water-borne missiles and not MRBMs and from practical point of view, therefore, should use what we have while we consider other measures.

Turning to question of political control, Acheson recognized national feeling in some countries [that] they must have voice in military decisions re use of nuclear weapons. Question one of establishing general [Page 298] guidelines within framework political authority. Various ideas had been expressed as how this to be done. While stating Ambassador Finletter would convey views, Acheson emphasized there should be no doubt there will be powerful weapons assigned to NATO, that these would be used under circumstances and rules endorsed by Council and that there is absolute certainty that if there is nuclear attack in Europe, US will respond with all weapons at its command. Idea of nuclear war between Europe and USSR in which US would not become involved too fantastic to believe. [1–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] Defense of Europe and US completely linked. Problem is how we must meet such an attack if it occurs, acting rapidly but not too rashly. Acheson emphasized Council must study this with help of military advisers and SHAPE. Stressed that with two times as many people and three times Soviets’ industrial production, inability to oppose USSR would be due weakness in will, not resources.

Acheson’s statement was well received by all delegations which expressed appreciation clear US statement on determination maintain its forces in Europe and utilize all its power in event Europe were attacked. In other comments, Belgium emphasized dependence of smaller countries on support of their allies in UN and elsewhere, impossibility for smaller countries to maintain all three arms of military defense and suggestion such countries might concentrate on those elements of defense most appropriate. In this connection referred to General De Gaulle’s statement1 but drew opposite conclusion smaller countries alone could not provide for their national defense. Belgium also raised question of leadership, emphasizing need for great powers to let smaller allies know about problems, discuss them and suggest solutions. Rejected idea of any Directorate outside NAC. Acheson, in reply, stated problem of greater integration in military forces had been discussed since May 1950 but with little progress. While US certainly not to blame for this, hoped new Secretary General would take up this problem. Acheson strongly stressed responsibility of NAC, as civilian authority, to take action in these fields and exercise control. Said it was because of default of NAC to do so that SHAPE is only place problem being faced. Pointed out there no possibility of getting defense we need in NATO if each NATO country seeks to become complete military power.

UK expressed essential agreement with Acheson’s statement but emphasized in line with previous statements in the Council, that essential thing is to think of deterrent in terms of stopping wars rather than winning them. For this, necessary deterrent be credible, efficient, unified, of correct type and one we can afford. Task of NATO was to decide [Page 299] how this could be done, keeping in mind necessary balance between conventional and nuclear armaments. Acheson, in response, emphasized danger of attempting distinguish between NATO forces that can deter and those that can win war. Emphasized force that will deter must be in fact force that will win. Must think in terms of force that will inflict great damage in case of attack and suffer as little damage as possible in return.

Greece took opportunity to emphasize need for stepped-up “psychological warfare” on part NATO governments, citing Communist advances in Cuba as case in point. Acheson agreed. French PermRep welcomed Acheson’s statement on maintenance US troops in Europe which he felt to be essential element of European security. Indicated, however, De Gaulle difference with Belgium on question of organizing national defense.

Portugal agreed with Acheson’s statements reference UN. Took occasion to point out despite several statements made by Portugal in Council and most recently April 20 statement,2 eight NATO countries had voted against Portugal in April 20 UNGA vote on Angola. Pointed out again this was question of vital importance for Portugal which could have adverse repercussions for overseas territories, for Portugal and alliance as whole. Mr. Acheson expressed his personal agreement.

Norway welcomed Acheson statement as indicating no need for any change in structure of NATO. Norway felt it futile attempt strengthen NATO through organizational devices since present structure entirely adequate. Reference vote in UN, pointed to statement in report to Council on Kennedy-Macmillan talks3 which indicated there might be some advantage in having divergent views expressed by NATO members in UN. Netherlands called attention to various suggestions which had been made for great integration of defense of Benelux countries. Welcomed Acheson’s support of this type of integrated defense, but, in lightly veiled dig at France, said it was impossible to convince populations reference need for integration if no assurance others willing to cooperate.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 375/4–2261. Secret. Repeated to all NATO capitals.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. The U.S. Mission summarized this statement in Polto 1467, April 20. (Department of State, Central Files, 375/4–2061)
  4. Macmillan visited Washington April 4–9. The statement under reference has not been identified further, but Finletter had reported to the Council on the Kennedy-Macmillan talks on April 12. (Polto 1412 from Paris, April 12; ibid., 611.41/4–1261)