215. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Problems of the NATO Alliance


  • United States
    • The President
    • Ambassador Finletter
    • Mr. J. Robert Schaetzel, Deputy Assistant Secretary, EUR
    • Mr. Christopher Van Hollen, EUR/RPM
  • NATO International Staff
    • Mr. Dirk U. Stikker, NATO Secretary General
    • Mr. John Getz, Special Assistant to Mr. Stikker
[Page 620]

NATO Force Planning Exercise

The President opened the substantive portion of the conversation by asking Mr. Stikker about the status of the NATO Force Planning Exercise. The Secretary General replied that although the French had vetoed the initial concept of this exercise, a compromise had been reached and some progress was now being made. As a result of the compromise, the NATO Council would be much more directly involved from the start. This procedure had certain advantages, but it might also mean that the problem of handling the French could become more difficult. The purpose of the exercise, Mr. Stikker said, was to reconcile NATO strategic requirements, force levels and military budgets. However, the French position was that the work on the basic NATO strategic document [MC 100/1]1 must be completed first. If the French adhered to this position, difficulties would arise because they would have prematurely fixed one of the three elements which were to be reconciled as a result of the entire exercise.

France and NATO

On the broader question of France’s role in NATO, Mr. Stikker said that he did not think that as Secretary General he could subject himself to a open conflict with the French. Instead, the task was to find some system of “mutual forbearance”. If General de Gaulle wished to hold full responsibility for France’s defense and for the deployment of French forces, and if he wished complete independence within the Alliance, there was no chance that the General’s viewpoint could be changed. However, the business of the Alliance must be carried forward and not threatened by all-out French obstruction. Therefore, an understanding should be reached with the French that despite France’s position the other members of NATO would be permitted to continue to work toward a system of closer integration. The problem was how to obtain such an understanding from de Gaulle. Mr. Stikker suggested that since the NATO Secretary General did not exist in de Gaulle’s eyes and since the Secretary General also had no real contact with the French Government, an understanding regarding France’s role in NATO could only be reached at the Chief of State level. Noting that he was planning to visit Bonn later in the month, Mr. Stikker said that he planned to raise the possibility of a policy of “mutual forbearance” with Chancellor Erhard.

The President said that while he could see the advantages of such an agreement for other members of the Alliance, he was not certain that General de Gaulle would see any advantages in it for him. It would reduce France’s opportunity to exert its influence within NATO. Mr. Stikker [Page 621]commented that a substantial segment of French opinion did not approve of de Gaulle’s views on a French force de frappe and many Frenchmen were unhappy about France’s isolation.

NATO Force Planning Exercise (continued)

Reverting to the NATO Force Planning Exercise, the President said that he was aware of de Gaulle’s attitude toward NATO and toward the purportedly dominant US influence in NATO. However, he wondered about de Gaulle’s objection to the strategic studies which were proposed. He presumed that de Gaulle did not wish anyone to sit in judgement on what he considered to be the sovereign prerogatives of France. Mr. Stikker agreed that this was the basis of the French objections and explained that, at present, the problem was in the hands of the NATO Standing Group. The Standing Group must give instructions to the major NATO Commanders. But the French insisted that, before any definitive instructions could be given, some decision must be reached on the basic NATO paper, MC100/1. Here, problems arose because the French wished to use the bomb sooner than others. Thus, the French were in a position to exercise a veto on the entire NATO Force Planning Exercise unless the others acceded to their request that agreement first be reached on the strategic studies.

The President said that it seemed to him that it would be better to have the strategic study undertaken in line with the French desires rather than to have nothing at all accomplished. He asked what Mr. Stikker’s reaction would be if the French insisted on pursuing their study. Mr. Stikker replied that he would be compelled to accept this approach. Ambassador Finletter explained that the Ottawa agreement2 placed stress upon the inter-relationship between forces, strategy and resources as well as the inter-play between various risks involved. Thus the fulfillment of this goal would help to break down the conflicts between the US and its European Allies and would also contribute to the overall political cohesion of the Alliance.

NATO Forces vs. Resources

The Secretary General said that last year his NATO Staff had made a study of the gap in dollar requirements in NATO and had concluded that over a two-year period NATO countries should spend $7 billion more than they were now spending. Subsequently, there had been a $2-1/2 billion increase in expenditures which represented some improvement. Another study was designed to determine what European countries were buying in Europe for their troops and what the US was buying as well for its troops. This study revealed that the US was spending [Page 622]approximately $12 billion on 25 M+30 divisions while the Europeans were spending $6.8 billion on 75 M+30 divisions. In other words, for one half the money the Europeans were able to support three times as many divisions, a discrepancy which related largely to the higher basic US costs, wages for troops, etc. This discrepancy and the reasons for it was the type of subject which would be carefully examined during the Force Planning Exercise.

Multilateral Force (MLF)

Asked by the President about the status of the Multilateral Force (MLF), Mr. Stikker said that he wished to make two points: first, regarding the veto and, second, relating to the MRBM question. With reference to the veto, he said that present plans would give every country a veto over the use of the force. He was worried about this procedure, [4 lines of source text not declassified]. At the same time he was convinced that the US at present should not give up its veto.

With regard to the MRBM question, Mr. Stikker said that he hoped that if the MLF came into being, it would take care of General Lemnitzer’s MRBM needs. He recalled that in his paper to the Standing Group,3 General Lemnitzer had requested 568 MRBMs which he considered necessary to cover targets vital to Europe. At present, Mr. Stikker continued, the US had three submarines within the NATO framework and the UK had four submarines, providing a total capacity of about 120 MRBMs. If the MLF added 200 more MRBMs to the overall NATO total, there would still be a gap of about 260 MRBMs. Despite this gap, Mr. Stikker said, he did not believe that any European leaders would wish to accept 260 MRBMs within their territory. On the other hand, European countries would not accept the gap involved and it was therefore important to insure that this gap could be closed in such a way to get rid of the MRBM problem which had been hanging over the Alliance for some time.

The Secretary General suggested that when he went to Bonn he might explore on a personal basis with Erhard would not accept whether he would be prepared to accept 260 MRBMs on German territory. He had the strong impression that Erhard would not accept MRBMs and that it therefore might be useful to sound out the Germans on this subject. The President asked what would happen if Erhard responded affirmatively, noting that this was a subject which would have to be handled carefully. He agreed that NATO should try to get rid of the MRBM problem, noting that it tended to whet appetites and that the required targets were already covered. The important thing however was the symbolic aspect of the MRBM requirement and he hoped that this symbolism could be transferred to the MLF. With regard to the veto [Page 623]problem, the President noted that [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] the actual formula for control would have to be negotiated out among the participating countries. From the US viewpoint, Congressional attitudes must be considered.

Ambassador Finletter commented that Mr. Stikker had put forward the idea under which the US would have a veto while the other European countries collectively could work out arrangements for a form of European veto rather than to permit individual European countries to exercise a veto. Such a concept would fit in well with European desires and with the Atlantic Partnership concept. The President said that some formula might be worked out on the basis of contributions to the Force under which, for example, 100 might be required to fire out of a total number of 130, with the US and Germans making up 40 each and with the US retaining the veto.

Asked about the current interest of various European countries in the MLF, Mr. Stikker said that the Germans were definitely interested, the Italians had been interested up to the present time, the Greeks and Turks were interested but lacked money, while the Dutch and Belgians remained doubtful; In response to the President’s inquiry as to whether the experimental ship could become operational before a final decision was reached on the MLF, Ambassador Finletter replied affirmatively noting that the MLF group in Paris had agreed at its first meeting to proceed with the experiment using a U.S. guided missile destroyer and a supply ship. Mr. Schaetzel commented that at the recent Ditchley Conference on strategic problems, which was attended by about 20 Britishers, the initial British reaction to the MLF was quite negative. However, in the course of three days intensive discussion in which the origin of the MLF was explained, the political and military aspects reviewed, and all alternatives considered, the attitude of the British participants toward the MLF changed 180 degrees. However, the main problem was still the extremely difficult position of the British Government.

Possible French Action in 1968

The President asked whether it was true that France was prevented from changing NATO before 1968. Ambassador Finletter explained that there was some confusion on this point. The situation was that in 1968 any country, after giving one year’s notice, could get out of NATO. But this did not mean that the year 1968 necessarily had further significance in terms of a basic NATO reorganization. Mr. Schaetzel commented that when France’s future attitude toward NATO was discussed while Couve de Murville was in Washington recently, Couve left the impression that France had no specific plans to seek a change in NATO at this time.

[Page 624]

Position of NATO

At the conclusion of the meeting, the President commended Secretary General Stikker for his strong leadership in NATO, observing that although commentators continued to write about NATO’s “disarray” the organization was still strong. As an example, the President cited Italy, stating that without the NATO tie it was quite likely that Italy’s entire political orientation might have already shifted to the disadvantage of the West.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, Def 4 NATO. Secret. Drafted by Van Hollen and approved in the White House on October 19. The meeting was held at the White House.
  2. Brackets in the source text. MC 100/1 has not been found.
  3. See Document 199.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. Near the end of a luncheon for Stikker, Rusk and the Secretary General discussed the December Ministerial Meeting and France’s attitude toward NATO. A memorandum of their conversation is in Department of State, Central Files, NATO 3.