64. Summary Record of NSC Executive Committee Meeting No. 390

The President said today’s meeting was preliminary to numerous ones which he thought should be held during the next two weeks on the subject of our European policy. He said the meetings would be most confidential and should not be known to any one. He hoped that it would be possible for us to conduct the reappraisal of our policy without it becoming known because, following a reappraisal, we may decide to make no major change in our existing policy. He said the purpose of the current exercise was to try to see where we are going in Europe without the public surmising that we would be studying proposals for drastic changes in our relation with Europe. The President read the following questions which he said we should seek to answer in the near future.


U.S. trade negotiations with the Common Market

We need to decide what our tactics should be and which questions we should negotiate about first.


Spaak’s political future

Can Spaak survive in Belgium if he continues to advance his anti-de Gaulle position? He is under attack because of his standing with us on the Congo as well as for the position he has taken following France’s rejection of UK membership in the Common Market.


Will the African countries now apply for admission to the Common Market?

Do you think the Belgians and the Dutch would hold up their admission as a means of applying pressure on the French? Would this action come before we know what effect the Common Market tariffs will have on Latin American economies?


What is the future of the NATO multilateral force?

Should we go ahead along this line? Will the French seek to include nuclear arrangements in their new Franco-German treaty? Should Mr. Merchant push forward negotiations for the establishment of the NATO multilateral force or should he wait until we know better what we want to do?

Should we wait for the German Defense Minister to come here or should we send Mr. Merchant to talk to him in Bonn about a U.S./German bilateral arrangement?
How can we get our view to American reporters in Europe so that their stories do not reflect the French point of view?
Can we improve liaison with Washington correspondents of foreign newspapers to ensure that our view is presented and the French press line is countered?
How can we improve our techniques of being certain that U.S. reporters understand our policy and the reasons behind our actions?
What kind of a deal can de Gaulle make with the Russians which would be acceptable to the Germans?

What are the prospects for a tripartite deal with de Gaulle?

Does he still want this? Should we try now to go for a tripartite directorate?


Balance of payments problem

How do we defend ourselves if the French decide to create problems for us in connection with the one billion dollar balances which they now control?


What are the prospects for a French nuclear force?

When will it be a deterrent, even in a limited sense? Would even a few weapons in fact be a deterrent to the Russians?


What should we propose at the NATO meeting in May?

Should we reduce the number of our divisions in Europe and bring them home? Should we close U.S. installations in France?

The President interjected an additional question following point number 9. He wondered if the Soviet position was hardening in view of the fact that the Russians had broken off the current test ban discussions. He asked whether the French had been talking to the Russians and [Page 158]whether Soviet decision to end the test ban talks now had anything to do with the division existing among the NATO allies.

The President said we should concentrate our intelligence resources on finding out everything we can about discussions and negotiations between the French and the Russians. The President concluded his remarks by saying that we can go in four different directions but that, following our study, perhaps our decision would be to make no changes and await further developments in Europe. It was important, however, to deal with the multilateral nuclear force proposal in such a way as not to commit us before we knew exactly which direction we wished to take.

In response to a suggestion by Secretary Rusk, Assistant Secretary Tyler said he had heard from an allied diplomatic source that when the Soviet Ambassador in Paris talked to de Gaulle he presented a fourteen page letter attacking the Franco-German treaty, especially the defense arrangements included in it. Secretary Rusk said de Gaulle’s January 14 press conference had caught everyone by surprise, including close friends and intimates of de Gaulle. Even de Gaulle may have failed to anticipate the worldwide reaction to his press conference.

Secretary Rusk said our relations with the French were proceeding along several tracks, none of them dependent on UK admission to the Common Market. He recalled that we knew there was a possibility that the UK might not be taken into the Common Market, but even so, we had proceeded in NATO to discuss the buildup of conventional forces and ways to improve consultation among the allies. In addition, in the OECD we had seen French support for our efforts to improve economic cooperation among the allies. He urged that we avoid fighting the French in those areas where they are cooperating with us, i.e. in Africa, except in the Congo; in financial matters; and to an extent, in Southeast Asia. He expressed his view that we should not start a vindictive chain of reaction, that we not block every line of policy we are now following toward France.

The President replied that while we did realize that the UK might not get into the Common Market, we did not expect the rejection to be accomplished in the way de Gaulle had done it. In addition, he said the Franco-German treaty had created a new situation. He felt that de Gaulle, certain of our willingness to go to the defense of Europe, was attempting to exploit us. He wondered whether de Gaulle’s next move would be a treaty with Italy. Conceivably, de Gaulle might try to organize the Six and create a nuclear force responsible to this grouping. He said we might not get into an across-the-board battle with de Gaulle but he wanted to be certain that if de Gaulle did continue to harass us, we would be in a position to defend ourselves. The U.S. military position is good but our financial position is vulnerable. Our influence in Latin [Page 159]America has been decreased by the French actions. He hoped for the best but said we must look at all aspects of the current situation. Perhaps the NATO multilateral nuclear force idea is finished. De Gaulle may appeal to Italy and Belgium and the others on the Continent and possibly win them to his European idea.

Secretary Dillon said he agreed that we were weak in the financial area but strong in the political and military fields. He felt that if the French did attack our financial stability we should consider ways of responding by actions in the military and political areas. He noted that the British economic position, as reflected in the market, had already been weakened by de Gaulle’s action. One British reaction might be to withdraw their forces in Germany in order to defend the British balance of payments position. Whether this was a good or bad move, we should be prepared to make our position known.

The President thought that the British, in an attempt to gain the support of Germany, might decide to keep British troops in Germany.

Secretary Ball suggested that we ought to look at our assets as well as the French assets in viewing the future of Europe. De Gaulle is a European and the head of a metropolitan country. In addition, he has the advantage of being able to act irresponsibly. The U.S., on the other hand, is a world power while France is not. The U.S. now has nuclear strength but the French only hope to have a nuclear force later. Since the war, the U.S. has filled the vacuum created by a weak Europe. We have been leading the Europeans back into a wider world. The Europeans need a sense of participating in world problems. Failing to have this sense, they become psychotic.

Secretary Ball said that we turned down de Gaulle’s proposal for a tripartite directorate in 1958 because (a) there was no place in the scheme for the Germans, (b) de Gaulle was presuming to speak for all of Europe, and (c) the scheme was limited to planning military strategy. Mr. Ball said we should now envisage some mechanism which would make possible systematic political cooperation with competent European states. His proposal would mean that Europe would take over from us some of the burdens we have been carrying worldwide and at the same time they would be participating in military planning and control of a nuclear force. He said one way would be to take the proposed Executive Committee which was devised to provide political control of a NATO nuclear force and add to it responsibility for political consultation. The Executive Committee, holding regular meetings, would be available for consultation in crisis situations, such as Cuba and the Congo, and, in addition, could work out a new allocation of responsibility of the European powers for countries in which we are now carrying [Page 160]the entire burden. He envisaged a planning board of directors for world problems.

Mr. Ball said de Gaulle cannot offer the Europeans this kind of participation because France is not a world power. Such an offer by us to the Europeans would have great appeal to the Europeans because it would be a meaningful partnership. Mr. Ball admitted that during the past fifteen years we have gotten into some bad habits and have been carrying all the burden. We would now ask the Europeans to take real responsibility by turning over to them certain countries or allies and telling them we would help the European states on the assumption that they would be in charge of the operation. We would be in the position not of asking them to help us run an area but of offering to help them if they would take on the responsibility of running the area. We would thus be able to exploit the resource of our world power position.

The President replied that apparently de Gaulle does not want to associate with us. Some European states may be prepared to follow de Gaulle while others may not want to get out from under our shelter. We face the decision as to whether we should go around de Gaulle or whether we should wait and then propose to him establishment of the three-power directorate. However, we must avoid an appearance of trying to enter the back door when the front door is closed. We must also recognize that anything we propose may arouse the full force of de Gaulle’s opposition.

Mr. Nitze felt that Secretary Ball’s proposal to expand the terms of reference of a NATO executive committee would cause great confusion. He did not think that political consultation should take place in the Executive Committee because it would mix up the handling of the NATO multilateral nuclear force. He suggested instead that the North Atlantic Council was the proper forum to use for political consultation.

The President said it was mandatory that we get foreign states to help share free world burdens. He said Congress might well conclude that we should not help Europe if de Gaulle continues to act as he has been. He felt that we must get the Europeans to share in the free world programs in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Secretary Rusk said we must plan for the worst case but we should not adopt a policy based on an assumption that de Gaulle has declared war on us across the board.

The President said what we must figure out is what does de Gaulle want during the next two years, recognizing that he would proceed to achieve it step by step. No one, including intimates, knew what de Gaulle was going to say in his January 14 press conference. The President recalled that a sizeable part of the Nassau arrangements was designed to please the French. We did not know how the French would [Page 161]react and we must do better in trying to find out how de Gaulle will act in the future.

Secretary Rusk pointed out that we are in Europe not because the Europeans want us there but because we believe our presence there is essential to the defense of the U.S. He said we cannot permit de Gaulle to force us out of Europe without the greatest effort to resist such a move.

The President said NSC Executive Committee should look at all aspects of the European problem. He thought we ought to have an estimate of the political effect on each European country of de Gaulle’s current policy.

Secretary Dillon asked that we examine the question of how many forces the U.S. must have in Europe. In view of the $750 million cost of our military effort in Europe and the impact of these expenditures on our balance of payments, he wondered whether withdrawal of U.S. forces would be the disaster some say it would or whether Europe could now, by itself and without the U.S. troops on the ground, hold back the USSR.

Mr. Bundy noted that Secretary Rusk was planning to hold a press conference the following morning.1

The President felt that the timing of the press conference was not good and he wondered whether the conference would be useful.

Secretary Rusk said that to call off the conference would create a great deal of speculation. He felt that the conference would be useful in order not to heat up the Common Market problem. He said he did not intend to strike at de Gaulle or aim barbs at the British for the remarks which Macmillan made about national control of UK nuclear forces to be included in the NATO force.

The President said he thought that the Secretary should not give the impression that nothing has been changed in the past few days. He added that if de Gaulle got very rough we would be required to deal with him. He said he believed that after the Skybolt development de Gaulle thought that the British would offer the French a deal or accept de Gaulle’s offer of Franco-British nuclear cooperation but Macmillan had not done so. The Nassau agreement followed and de Gaulle must have decided to act at once. The President said that we had narrowly averted a disaster which would have occurred if the British had decided to join with de Gaulle in a nuclear arrangement. He believed that Macmillan had not understood that de Gaulle was offering the British a French/British nuclear arrangement. He added that Macmillan must now be kicking himself for not having realized that de Gaulle was offering [Page 162]him this arrangement. The President concluded that we had dealt with Skybolt as a weapons problem and that the reaction had surprised all of us.

Secretary Ball said there was one problem which needed prompt attention, i.e. should we try to get the Germans to amend the Franco-German treaty in such a way as to link the Franco-German arrangement to NATO? Secretary Rusk said the Dutch wanted us to try to persuade the Germans to postpone ratification of the treaty or amend it.

The President said we cannot let the Germans think we are telling them what to do, but on the other hand, we cannot let them think nothing has changed. He referred again to “the Mansfield effect,” i.e. the U.S. has done much to help Europe and now the Europeans are acting in this way toward us.

Secretary Dillon said he had been asked by a Congressional Committee about the effect of de Gaulle’s actions on our new trade act and on economic relations in general. He said he told the Committee to look to the State Department for an answer.

The President thought that we should exert pressure on Germany by means of trade proposals instead of asking them to postpone or revise the treaty.

The President said that his list of questions should be revised in the light of the discussion and circulated to the Executive Committee members.

Secretary Ball said that as a result of the breakdown of the Brussels negotiations certain advantages would accrue to us. The Common Agricultural Policy would probably not now go into effect. The agricultural problems, which were Secretary Freeman’s worries, would now be greatly eased. In addition, the Latin American aspect of the problem would not become serious because the Dutch, if they chose, could block the association of African countries with the Common Market.

The President expressed reservations about using Dutch Foreign Minister Luns and preferred to work closely with the British.

Secretary Rusk noted that under no circumstances would the British break their ties with us in order to join the French.

The President responded that the British might have joined the French on the condition that the two of them then come to us jointly. At Nassau they could have proposed establishment of the directorate.

The President said again that the Franco-German treaty is aimed at us, particularly the clause which calls for German/French consultation on NATO matters. He said he realized that others disagreed with him and he hoped they were right.

[Page 163]

Secretary Ball handed the President a draft letter to Adenauer.2 The President, upon reading it, commented that it was too nice and that he preferred to hold it over night, revising it in the morning. He thought that we ought to suggest to Adenauer some of the dangers which Europe would face if we were separated from it. He cited (a) the opportunity to the Russians to fish in troubled waters, (b) reaction in the U.S. which might result in a public demand to get out of Europe, harking back to the major fight which it took to persuade the American people to enter Europe, and (c) the difficulty of exploiting the Sino-Soviet split. The President said de Gaulle can’t move without Adenauer’s agreement, but if we tell Adenauer that he has done fine, he may well think that he can continue to support de Gaulle. The President thought we must tell the Germans that they can’t have it both ways.

The President said we should draw up precise assignments for the studies he requested, review them with the Secretary of State, and circulate them to the Executive Committee members. On Monday or Tuesday the Committee should meet again to see where we are going. On Saturday he would have a chance to talk with Ambassador Bruce. Mr. Bundy said the problems could not be handled in separate compartments but that part of the work could be done by the State group, which is already working.

The President summed up by saying that the basic theme is, given the existing balance of power, a division between the U.S. and Europe can only help the Russians. Our problem is to find out how we can continue to work with the Europeans. If the Europeans do not wish to continue with us, then, indeed, a turning point is here.

As the meeting broke up, the President looked at recent aerial reconnaissance photographs of Cuba and agreed, in the light of Senator Keating’s statement that afternoon, to release some of them to the press. Director McCone was authorized to confront Senator Keating with all our current reconnaissance intelligence in the hope that the Senator would correct his statements of yesterday with respect to the continued existence of missile bases in Cuba.

Bromley Smith3
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Executive Committee Meetings. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. For a transcript of Rusk’s press conference on February 1, see Department of State Bulletin, February 18, 1963, pp. 235–243.
  3. The draft has not been found; the final text is printed as Document 65.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.