137. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Missions0

1920. Subject: Summary of NATO Meeting in Athens. NATO Ministerial Meeting Athens May 4–6 one of most successful in history of Alliance, resulting in solid accomplishments. Highlights of meeting were (1) full political consultation on East-West problems, particularly Secretary’s statement on Berlin and Germany, disarmament and other major East-West issues; (2) in defense field Ministerial confirmation of guidelines, assurances and nuclear information program; (3) Secretary McNamara’s statement on defense, which contained fullest factual information on nuclear matters ever given Alliance; and (4) approval of resolutions on Greece and Turkey,1 which provides basis for Alliance wide efforts to assist Greece and Turkey in meeting their special economic problems.


Political Consultation. Secretary Rusk’s statement on Berlin very well received by Alliance. Secretary said Soviets up to present had made no significant move to meet West’s vital interests, i.e., continued presence Western forces in Berlin, free access, and maintenance relations between West Berlin and FedRep. At same time, Soviets seem to desire continuation talks and to avoid moving Berlin toward military crisis or diplomatic impasse. Secretary said discussions with Soviets have taken place on three levels: (1) permanent solution German question, which Soviets view in terms their proposals for free city and to which West has [Page 390] counter-proposed German reunification on basis free elections; (2) facts of situation today, re which Soviets stress existence of two Germanies and to which we respond in terms of Western responsibilities for Berlin, the presence of Western forces there and Western access; and (3) finding means of dealing with facts of disagreement, i.e., setting aside points of disagreement and recognizing points of agreement. Secretary said we believe some progress has been made in getting across to Moscow that West is determined to preserve its vital interests in Berlin. Soviets have also shown some, but not much, interest in third level of approach. US believes coming weeks might indicate whether anything in nature of modus vivendi possible. US believes effective contact should be maintained with Soviet Union on Berlin.

Other Ministers, except French, endorsed US position and continued contacts, some giving enthusiastic endorsement. French did not disagree with US position and in fact approved modus vivendi approach. French, however, warned against dangers of prolonged negotiations and particularly dangers of being drawn toward recognizing GDR and neutralization of Germany.

On nuclear tests, Secretary stressed our disappointment over failure achieve nuclear test ban treaty and described US-UK efforts at Geneva to reach satisfactory agreement. Explained that US policy continued be based on President’s March 2 statement.2 Emphasized difficulty making any headway on either nuclear testing or disarmament as long as Soviets continued to be obsessed with secrecy.

Others Ministers endorsed US position, none taking issue with US resumption of tests.

On general disarmament, Secretary stressed US desire make some real beginnings toward disarmament. Stressed considerable negotiations ahead and that we must be certain impact of disarmament in total situation will result in giving no military advantage to either side. Other Ministers also endorsed US position disarmament.

In summarizing East-West relations generally, Secretary stressed difficulty in appraising Sino-Soviet conflict, but pointed out Free World could not derive comfort from Sino-Soviet conflict which in last analysis is difference of view as to how communist world should accomplish its objective of world domination. Secretary said general atmosphere East-West relations improved with respect to techniques, methods, tactics and discussions. Warned, however, against being misled by any atmosphere of détente. Underlying policies of Soviets remain same. Building [Page 391] up Soviet strength is continuing and West must therefore still look to strength which is necessary for its security.

On Far East, Secretary covered briefly West New Guinea in response to strong statement by Dutch, critical of US policy. On Laos Secretary said US is doing its best to persuade Phoumi to negotiate seriously and stressed that US does not have preconception on exact pattern of coalition government but believes satisfactory cabinet might be achieved with serious effort. Secretary said alternatives to successful coalition not attractive. Concluded by saying in future may be faced with serious decision on question of putting forces into Laos or increasing aid. Secretary distinguished situation South Vietnam from that in Laos and explained US had greatly increased aid to help South Vietnam win its own war. Explained function US military personnel and our belief there has been some improvement in Diem’s domestic and foreign policy, although he still has long way to go. US commitment to South Vietnam different from Laos because military factors more favorable and Vietnamese themselves heavily involved. Only other major comment on Far East was strong Netherlands statement, largely attacking US. Secretary avoided direct rebuttal to Netherlands. Other members of Six spoke up in quick succession after Dutch, generally although not fully endorsing Dutch position.

Secretary commented on Latin America describing progress in attitude of Latin American Governments and peoples toward Castroism, as evidenced by Punta del Este. Although tension remains in Latin America on Cuban question, US believes Castro communism being isolated in hemisphere. Secretary said US making great effort on Alliance for Progress. If it moves rapidly, tensions will develop within Latin American countries and between them and US, but we hope adjustments will be by democratic means. Secretary urged Europe give increasing attention to Latin America not only in aid but in trade and wide range other relations so as to tie area closer to Europe.

Africa discussed by Belgians, British and Portuguese. Latter gave lengthy statement painting gloomy picture of deteriorating Western position in all areas uncommitted world, especially Africa. Only response to Portuguese by UK, which pointed out such states as Nigeria and former. French colonies, which are sympathetic to West.

Middle East discussed very briefly by Turks.


Defense Policy. In defense field, NATO took major step forward in acting on paper (NATO Document C–M(62)48)3 concerning NATO nuclear policy which had been worked out by Permanent NATO Council since December 1961 Ministerial Meeting. By carefully worked out [Page 392] procedure developed by Stikker to take account of French and Italian problems, Ministers “confirmed” statement of factual situation in conclusions of paper which covered following topics: (1) assurances by US that it will make adequate nuclear weapons available for NATO defense and assurances by the US and UK that their strategic forces will continue to cover as fully as possible all key elements of Soviet nuclear striking power, including MRBM sites, giving equal priority to those threatening Europe as to those threatening US and UK; (2) undertaking by the US and UK to furnish fullest possible amount of information on nuclear weapons and external forces in order give whole Alliance full insight into problems of NATO nuclear defense (NATO nuclear committee established for this purpose); (3) guidelines regarding the use of nuclear weapons by NATO in self-defense [4 lines of source text not declassified]. NATO action on these matters represents significant step forward in enhancing NATO’s nuclear role and hence heading off pressures for independent national nuclear weapons capabilities.

French had reservations on points (3) and (4) above and Italians, because Presidential elections in progress, unable take definitive action at time of NATO meeting. French reservation handled by Stikker asking Ministers to confirm above as statement of factual situation and expressing hope that French could eventually see way clear accept guidelines. Stikker also said that French would be welcome participate in any consultations that might take place. Italian temporary reservations handled by Stikker pointing out that internal constitutional arrangements prevented Italian Government taking definitive action at this time, but that such action anticipated shortly. In discussion French explained their reservation as due to fact that guidelines in no way change existing situation and that nothing new really embodied in document on which Ministers acting.


Secretary and Secretary McNamara’s Statements on Defense. In very restricted session with no notes to be taken, Secretary and Secretary McNamara gave major statements on US defense policy. Secretary led off, setting forth basic principles of US position on NATO nuclear defense policy and NATO strategy. Secretary McNamara then gave to Council fullest statement it has ever received on basic facts in nuclear field. (This message will not attempt to summarize Secretary McNamara’s statement; we are exploring with Defense best means for informing key members addressee NATO posts of content of Secretary McNamara’s speech.) Major purpose was to carry forward process of educating Alliance in basic facts of nuclear warfare and rationale of US views on strategy. General impact of statement seems to have been very favorable and it is our hope that future discussion in NATO Council will follow from principal topics in Secretary McNamara’s statement. French Defense Minister struck only dissenting note in attempting to reply [Page 393] to Secretary McNamara’s criticism of small independent nuclear forces. Germans expressed strongly favorable reactions in comments after meeting.

US commitment of Polaris submarines had major favorable impact. Effective immediately, 5 presently operational submarines are earmarked for assignment to SACLANT. By end 1963, US expects to have committed 12, with 2 withdrawn for overhaul, leaving net of 10.

Subject of MRBMs discussed only briefly, with Secretary making clear our willingness, if our Allies desire, to join in possibility creating sea-based MRBM force which would be under fully multilateral ownership, control, financing and manning. Secretary McNamara supplied technical data on new missile being developed by US. Subject of MRBMs not pressed by other Ministers at meeting, although it is expected that it will be pursued subsequently in the Permanent Council.


Special Economic Problems of Greece and Turkey. After considerable last-minute discussion with Greeks, Council acted on resolutions concerning special economic problems Greece and Turkey. (NATO Doc. CM(62)53)4 These resolutions important because they call upon countries willing and in position to do so to assist Greece and Turkey economically, both bilaterally and multilaterally, and in particular to examine urgently establishment of consortia. Secretary in his statement on this subject, urged that steps be initiated looking toward early establishment of consortia for Greece and Turkey in OECD. Passing of NATO resolution should assist us in efforts obtain larger contribution than heretofore from other NATO Allies, in meeting economic needs of Greece and Turkey.

Statements attributed to Secretary in foregoing are uncleared by Secretary.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–AT/5–962. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Fessenden and approved by Kohler. Sent to New Delhi, Tokyo, and 19 missions in Europe.
  2. Texts of the resolutions on Greece and Turkey are ibid., Conference Files: Lot 65 D 533, CF 2103.
  3. For text of the President’s address to the American people on nuclear testing and disarmament, March 2, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, pp. 186–192.
  4. Not found.
  5. Not found.