443. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Tyler) to the Under Secretary of State (Ball)0


  • Proposed Press Statement on United States-Canadian Negotiations Regarding Nuclear Weapons

Last Friday, January 25, Prime Minister Diefenbaker made a long rambling statement (Tab A) in a Canadian House of Commons debate on foreign policy. In it he revealed that Canada had been negotiating with the United States for arrangements to provide nuclear weapons for Canadian forces “if and when” needed. These negotiations had been classified top secret, at the request of the Canadian Government, and we had no advance warning of the Prime Minister’s remarks.1

In his remarks, Diefenbaker beclouded the whole issue of nuclear weapons for Canadian forces with misleading references to Nassau, to NATO, to multilateral nuclear forces, to NORAD, and to “not enlarging the nuclear family”. His purpose was to stop if possible, and at least to slow down, the momentum towards a clarification of Canadian defense policy which began as a popular movement after the Cuban crisis, and which reached a high point in Liberal leader Pearson’s speech earlier this month, in which he unequivocally called for Canada to adopt nuclear weapons for its forces, as a fulfillment of its existing NATO and NORAD commitments, and for a full review of those commitments.

The Embassy in Ottawa believes that prompt action should be taken by us to clarify the record and to sweep away the confusion which Diefenbaker’s statement can cause in Canadian minds. Ambassador Butterworth sent a vigorous cable on January 27 (Tab B), suggesting a note to the Canadian Embassy which would be released to the public simultaneously. The Political Counselor of the Embassy in Ottawa came to Washington at the Ambassador’s initiative, and our proposal, which modifies the Ambassador’s suggestion, has his approval.

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What we propose is a public statement by the Department, issued anonymously, which in a factual and logical way will clarify our position. The material it contains will be useful to those who oppose Diefenbaker, but the tone is designed not to irritate the Diefenbaker government, or to tempt it to engage in a polemical exchange with us, which a note might well spark.

If you approve this statement and its issuance, we plan to put it out quickly, simultaneously calling in the Canadian Minister and giving him a copy. The interview can be used to make points mentioned by Ambassador Butterworth, but not included in the public statement.

In proposing this statement, we are mindful of the risk. There is no assurance of an early election in Canada, and a Liberal victory in the next election is by no means certain. We have to live with the Diefenbaker government, and there are many matters in the field of defense, in particular, where we urgently need Canadian cooperation. Some of these are more important to us militarily than the provision of nuclear weapons for Canadian forces. Nevertheless, on balance we feel that the statement we propose should be issued, and we think it will inspire respect. Mr. Diefenbaker will or will not decide to use an anti-American line, almost regardless of what we do, and the statement should not push him into any new actions injurious to us. The statement carefully leaves open the matter of negotiations, which have in fact deadlocked because Canada has thus far not accepted any arrangements for warheads for BOMARCs and F–101B’s which appear practical to us. There is some reason to think the Canadian position might change, but not much.

On January 28, Defence Minister Harkness issued a public statement (Tab C) which appeared more encouraging, commenting on what the Prime Minister had said on January 25. In the House of Commons debate afterwards, the Prime Minister did not confirm that Harkness’ statement represented his views. This particular encounter seems to make it all the more necessary that we go on the record with a statement. Our proposal, which has the concurrence of the Defense Department, is attached at Tab D.

Recommendation 2

That you authorize us to issue the proposed statement, and to speak to the Canadian Embassy along the lines of Ambassador Butterworth’s telegram of January 27, to cover points not included in the statement.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 742.5611/1–2963. Secret. Drafted by Armstrong; concurred in by Johnson, Kitchen, G/PM, P, and the Department of Defense; and initialed by Tyler.
  2. Tabs A, B, and D were not attached to the source text. Telegrams 945 and 948 from Ottawa, January 26 (Tab A), transmitted summary and verbatim accounts of Diefenbaker’s statement. (Ibid., 742.13/1–2663) For the full text of this statement, see House of Commons Debates, Official Records, 1962, vol. III, pp. 3125–3128. In telegram 949 from Ottawa, January 27 (Tab B), Butterworth stated that Diefenbaker’s remarks could not go unanswered and suggested that the United States transmit an unclassified note to the Canadian Embassy that would subsequently be released to the press and would set the record straight on the negotiations with Canada on nuclear weapons. Tab C is not printed. For text of Tab D as released, see Document 444.
  3. Approved by Ball.
  4. On February 4 Secretary of State Rusk testified before the Subcommittee on Canadian Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee concerning the reasons that led the Department of State to express its dissatisfaction with Canada on continental defense by a press release rather than through normal diplomatic channels. For text of his testimony and related questions on continental defense and nuclear weapons for Canada, see Executive Sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, vol. XV, pp. 125 ff.