217. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk and Secretary of Defense McNamara0

I have read the letter of November 17 from the Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense,1 and I think it important to note, in the absence of the Secretary of State, that letter does hot fully reflect the most recent discussions between the President and the two Secretaries.

It is the President’s view that we should not undertake a sharp confrontation with the Germans or the French over NATO strategy in future weeks. The President does not desire that any members of the government should undertake extensive argument with the Germans on strategic concepts during the Erhard visit, because he intends to review this matter himself with Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara, and General Taylor in preparation for the NATO meetings. In these circumstances it does not seem to me that there should be serious discussion with either Schroeder or Von Hassel on the problems of NATO strategy, and in particular I think it would be a mistake for officers of the United States Government to assume that a policy paper of April 1961 is Holy [Page 627]Writ. If Chancellor Erhard desires a military briefing it would of course be valuable for him to have one, but this briefing should be guided more by Secretary McNamara’s speech of November 18,2 which had explicit approval, than by any other document.

Finally, I believe that time will be saved in the long run if detailed staff discussion of the plans for the NATO meeting can be held in abeyance until the President has a chance to discuss these matters with Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara, and General Taylor.

McGeorge Bundy
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, Def 4 NATO. Top Secret.
  2. In this letter Rusk suggested that the United States needed a “solid presentation” on strategic policy for the NATO Ministerial Meeting in December and stated that Erhard needed to be briefed during his forthcoming visit on the outlines of this presentation. (Ibid., Def 1 NATO)
  3. For text of this speech, see Department of State Bulletin, December 16, 1963, pp. 914–921.