110. Record of Meeting Between President Kennedy and the Secretary General of NATO (Stikker)0

Also present: Mr. Finletter, Mr. Acheson, Undersecretary Bowles, Assistant Secretary Kohler, Assistant Secretary Nitze, Mr. Owen.

Mr. Stikker said that it would be hard to get Continental acceptance of the proposed improvement of non-nuclear forces (with which he agreed) unless the Continental countries felt that adequate nuclear power was being deployed on the Continent. He spoke of the need to ensure that the previously proposed Mace missiles would be replaced by more modern missiles, e.g., land based MRBMs.
It was indicated that the Pershing missiles (which have a shorter range than MRBM’s, and cannot reach the USSR) would be deployed on the Continent.
Mr. Stikker said that he hoped that the most modern missile system (whatever it might be) would be deployed on the Continent.
The President indicated that the question of MRBM’s was for the fairly distant future and that, for the present, the alliance should face up to immediate tasks, e.g., improving existing forces. The President said that we were developing our own views about the specific goals which needed to be attained and would communicate them to the alliance about mid-July. In doing so, we would indicate that our views were of course, subject to change in the light of our allies’ desires. He stressed this point.
Mr. Stikker suggested that perhaps the discussion of NATO strategy should be deferred, so as not to create differences in NATO at a time of crisis over Berlin. Mr. Finletter felt the discussion should go forward, and that discussion of concrete programs—rather than generalities—would strengthen the alliance.
The President stressed that the proposed improvement in conventional forces did not imply any weakening of the nuclear deterrent. He asked Mr. Stikker to emphasize this point, whenever he could. The President emphasized that the improvement of non-nuclear forces was not a new policy; it was simply trying to fulfill a policy to which NATO was already committed. No one would argue that existing non-nuclear forces were adequate. The non-nuclear build-up would complement nuclear forces—not replace them. Very great nuclear power was already deployed in Europe.
The conversation then turned to Berlin. The President suggested that this should be the main issue for all of us in the period ahead. The need for firmness was stressed. There was some discussion of European attitudes and of what Chancellor Adenauer’s position would be at the height of the crisis. Mr. Acheson suggested that the Chancellor sometimes seemed ready to accept the division of Germany, and at other times seemed to make German unification a major objective of his policy. It was agreed that the latest Ulbright statement made Communist intentions regarding Berlin more clear than Khrushchev had done.
The meeting concluded with Mr. Stikker asking about the President’s discussion of NATO with General de Gaulle. The President reported that the General had not changed his basic views about NATO, but that the General had indicated that he would not press his views this year, while the Berlin crisis was festering.
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, NATO. Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text.