170. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Tyler) to Secretary of State Rusk 0


  • The Attitude of our Allies Toward our Pressure for Increased Conventional NATO Forces

I would like you to have my own personal estimate of how our European allies see this question, and of their reasoning.

First of all, I think we have failed to convince governments of the soundness of our arguments. Europeans believe that any Soviet aggression against NATO forces on the European front would escalate rapidly and automatically to general nuclear war. In other words, they do not accept the premise of the possibility of a limited military engagement with Soviet forces in Europe. This leads them to look for some explanation other than the one we give, for our pressure in favor of increased [Page 492] conventional forces. Generally speaking, they read into our arguments a reluctance on our part to commit ourselves to the use of nuclear weapons for the defense of Europe in the event of Soviet aggression. They attribute this reluctance to a US desire to find a way to reach a compromise with the Soviet Union short of general nuclear war, and worry lest this should take the form of some kind of a deal over Europe. Furthermore they reason that a NATO defense strategy which envisages dealing with a Soviet non-nuclear aggression, however limited, by conventional forces only, has the effect of encouraging the Soviets to believe that there is a possible area of military conflict in the heart of Europe in which they can engage with impunity in so far as nuclear warfare is concerned. While the Germans are the most vocal on this aspect of the subject, it is my impression that the peoples of Europe in general do not believe that an increase in the NATO conventional potential would add to the degree of security which they now enjoy.

The consequences of this general state of mind are that neither governments nor public opinion are likely to make the effort required to bring their conventional forces up to the NATO force goals.

Whether they would do so if faced by the alternative of US withdrawal of troops, I do not know, but I have my strong doubts.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 375/1–2863. Secret. Drafted and initialed by Tyler. The source text bears the notation “Secretary Saw.”