112. Memorandum of Conversation0

SUBJECT

  • NATO Aspects of Berlin Planning

[Here follows a list of participants.]

The Secretary invited Mr. Stikker to discuss Berlin planning, as he saw it, from the NATO point of view. Mr. Stikker said that the Council had been active on Berlin since mid-August following a brief period to digest the Secretary’s presentation of August 8.1 He described the arrangements that had been made for the August 21 meeting2 on the Berlin military build-up and General Norstad’s subsequent briefing of the Council.3 Mr. Stikker thought that the responses of NATO Governments on defense measures had been rather good thus far on the whole, but said there had been more difficulty on the matter of economic counter-measures.4 Some of this difficulty was due to the fact that the Council did not like to be confronted with the conclusions of others. However, the Council had created an ad hoc committee to study this problem and was concentrating at the moment on legal questions deriving from bilateral and multilateral trade agreements. Mr. Stikker thought some governments were going so carefully into those legal problem as to lose sight of the basic issues. He observed that this reflected a psychological problem some Council members did not have the same feeling of urgency as the Four Powers and time is required to [illegible text—generate?] the same attitude in other governments. He pointed out that another aspect of the problem is the insistence of certain NATO members on the importance of having a program in the political field to accompany the military build-up. In recognition of this attitude, the Council had undertaken private and informal discussions on the question of negotiations in the hope that points might be developed [Page 327]which would be helpful to the Foreign Ministers Meeting. Reverting to economic counter-measures, Mr. Stikker said the Council had concrete proposals to deal with in this field, and, although it had been asked to sign on the dotted line, it was his duty to do his best to obtain full cooperation from NATO, and he would do so.

The Secretary said he was concerned regarding the Council’s attitude on economic counter-measures. These measures might have to be put into effect rapidly in order to obtain maximum impact on the Soviet Bloc, short of resort to military measures. The NATO reaction to the Four Power recommendations was not a new one and illustrated a dilemma frequently facing the U.S. in dealing with NATO. He noted that the U.S. is usually criticized for lack of leadership if it does not put forward firm proposals, but that it is criticized equally for dictating to others when it does submit firm recommendations. The Secretary said that precise proposals do not mean that we want to preclude full consideration by the Council and are not prepared to consult on differing points of view. He observed that the heart of the problem was probably the fact that some other NATO Members may not recognize the full seriousness and urgency of the Berlin situation. He indicated some surprise at the fact that there was a better NATO response on the military build-up than on the problem of economic counter-measures, and wondered if this reflected a belief by some that military action really will not take place and they are, therefore, reluctant to commit themselves on economic measures that could involve sacrifices. The Secretary thought that, if this was a correct appraisal, we might do well to discuss the serious prospects of military action on Berlin. He added that it might be desirable to communicate with Heads of Government on the situation.

Ambassador Caccia said it was important for all 15 NATO Members to be in a position to put economic counter-measures into effect and the Secretary agreed. Ambassador Alphand surmised that some governments are more willing to take military measures, which they can decide as a matter of national policy, than to take economic counter-measures which affect important vested interests. The Secretary observed that it was important to have a full discussion in the Council of economic counter-measures and their effects, because in doing so we would be able to consider what the economic impact would be on some NATO Members. Mr. Stikker thought the problem was one of persuading governments to pass the necessary internal legislation and wondered if it would be useful to have a Heads of Government meeting as a means of exerting maximum pressure for action. The Secretary said he had not meant to suggest a Heads of Government meeting, but rather the usefulness of communicating with Heads of Governments. Referring to suggestions by the Norwegian and Belgian Permanent Representatives, Mr. Stikker thought it might be desirable to have a Council [Page 328]meeting in Washington as the best means of conveying the Washington sense of urgency to NATO. He alluded to the trade difficulties that economic counter-measures would impose on Iceland and Greece and suggested that NATO should develop some formula to compensate for such difficulties when the curtailment of trade exceeded a certain percentage of trade. He said he knew Iceland well and that a definite commitment for economic compensation would be needed before Iceland would agree to engage in economic counter-measures. Mr. Stikker asked that he be permitted to have some flexibility to propose a solution along this line in Council discussions.

The Secretary said he had supposed that the problem of economic compensation would be raised by the countries most adversely affected. He hoped it was not generally assumed that the U.S. would take on the task of protecting all countries from any adverse economic impact. He asked Mr. Stikker how the NATO machinery would handle this question. Mr. Stikker said the Council should first make decisions on the principles involved and that it could then work out the details in the Committee of Economic Advisers. He thought there was no need for new machinery. Ambassador Grewe expressed the hope that NATO Members could be persuaded that economic counter-measures would be better in some situations than military action, or no action at all. He illustrated this by reference to the possibility that civilian air traffic might be stopped by indirect or administrative means and said this would be a situation in which military action should not be taken, but which would require some definite counter-measures. Mr. Stikker noted that the NATO ad hoc committee on economic counter-measures was due to produce its report by September 23 and urged that there be more contact between the Ambassadorial Group and NATO in the meantime. Ambassador Caccia hoped the Ambassadorial Group would be able to report soon to the Council and to invite any ideas that other Council members might have. Ambassador Alphand said that the Ambassadorial Group did not want to [illegible text—dictate?] to the Council, but thought it should be precise as possible in its recommendations. Mr. Stikker said the dominant NATO interest was in the importance of having negotiations first; many members felt that only if negotiations failed should they resort to economic and military measures. Thus it was difficult to get them to focus on such measures. The Secretary said he found it difficult to conceive what arguments anyone could use against resorting to an economic embargo if access to Berlin were actually cut off. Mr. Stikker agreed but said that as of now some members merely talk about the [illegible text—aperture?] profonde.

In response to the Secretary’s request, Mr. Kohler described the pattern of activities on Berlin within and under the supervision of the Ambassadorial Group. He said that the Group would soon forward a new [Page 329]report on economic counter-measures but hoped that this would not deflect attention from the decisions in this field already requested of the Council by the Ambassadorial Group. He thought the Group could contribute more to NATO discussions and probably should. Mr. Kohler asked if Mr. Stikker had any suggestions to this and said that the group would be glad to try to implement them. Mr. Stikker said he had two thoughts. One was that he should have more information on what was actually going on, so that he could better guide and influence the Council discussions. His other thought was that the Council should meet in Washington for a few days. Mr. Kohler said the latter was a good suggestion that the group would wish to consider. He asked if it would help if one of the four Permanent Representatives should make periodic reports to the Council, perhaps once or twice a week. Mr. Stikker thought this a useful suggestion and suggested that the reports should be made to restricted meetings of the Council.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330. Secret. Drafted by Magill and approved in S on October 1. A summary of this conversation, between the Four-Power Ambassadorial Group and Stikker, was transmitted to Paris in Topol 318, September 10. (Ibid., Central Files, 375/9–1061)
  2. A summary of Rusk’s presentation on Berlin on August 8 and the discussion that followed was transmitted in Secto 50 from Paris, August 9. (Ibid., Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 1943)
  3. A summary of the August 21 NAC meeting was transmitted in Polto Circular 5, August 22. (Ibid., Central Files, 375/8–2261)
  4. A summary of Norstad’s presentation on August 23 was transmitted in Polto Circular 9, August 23. (Ibid., 375/8–2361)
  5. The NATO Economic Countermeasures Working Group began meeting on August 25. Reports on its sessions and report are ibid., beginning with 375/8–2561.