65. Letter From President Kennedy to Chancellor Adenauer0

Dear Mr. Chancellor: The weeks and months immediately ahead seem certain to call for hard and crucial decisions affecting the future of the Atlantic Alliance; and the preservation and strengthening of that Alliance, to which both our nations are committed and to which you have devoted so much of your life, require the most frank and intimate communications between ourselves and our two governments. I want very much to receive your views as to specific ways that you and I can work together to help restore the prospects for broader European community and Atlantic partnership.

At a time when the communist world is beset by internal political and economic disarray, it would be a tragic mistake for the West to dissipate the momentum it gained in the Caribbean and elsewhere by reversing its drive toward greater unity. Already there are signs that Soviet confidence and intransigence have been bolstered by the evidence of Western dissension. I need not tell you that a prime ambition of Soviet foreign policy for the last 17 years has been to split the Western alliance, to separate the United States from Europe and thereby to emasculate our common defensive posture. Surely it is inconceivable that their ambitions are now to be realized without apparent effort on their part.

I would also be less than frank if I did not convey to you my grave concern over the mounting suspicion in the American Congress and public that this Nation’s presence and views are no longer welcome in Europe. Those who feel that $45 billion and 16 years of continuous economic and military assistance have earned us nothing but the hostility of certain European leaders and newspapers are likely to take out their resentment by pressing for a return to restrictive, isolationist concepts that would end Western unity and, according to our best military judgment, seriously weaken the security of Western Europe as well as the United States. I intend to do everything in my power to prevent this trend for, as this Nation made clear in rejecting the proposed “3 power directorate” as well as in supporting the United Kingdom’s application to the EEC, Western unity and security cannot be assured if any major power is denied its proper role. I am hopeful, however, that I will be aided in these efforts by a visibly constructive response in Europe to our continued explorations on trade, on a multilateral nuclear force and on other cooperative undertakings, including the possibility of an Executive Committee in the Alliance such as Mr. Ball discussed with you.

[Page 165]

I am hopeful, in short, that your government will make clear its view that the action at Brussels must not end the effort for wider European unity, rooted in the search for a consensus and a recognition that the present balance of forces requires increasing Western solidarity. I believe your government shares my view, that, once Western Europe and the United States begin to deal with the Soviet Union on the basis of separate demands and conflicting approaches, thereby enabling Mr. Khrushchev to play one off against the other in his ambition to seize Europe and isolate the United States, the certain disintegration of our security and all our hopes for the future will have irreversibly begun.

I am hopeful, therefore, that our two nations share a common determination to find a way by which the West can soon present to Mr. Khrushchev once again the kind of strong and united front he has heretofore faced in Berlin, in the Caribbean, and elsewhere around the world. If the successful demonstration of that united strength has recently caused him to pause momentarily in his movements against us—and that is far from clear—that is surely no reason for us to abandon our own movement toward unity.

Because the decisions of your government will be particularly crucial in determining which path we are to follow, I repeat my strong hope that you and I can work together on a close and confidential basis, and that you will give me your full and candid views as to how the Alliance can now regain its former forward thrust.1


John F. Kennedy2
  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text.
  2. On February 2 the Department of State informed Dowling that rather than presenting this letter from the President, he should ask the Chancellor for his views on the ideas expressed in it. (Telegram 1782 to Bonn; ibid., Central Files, Pol 15–1W Ger) On February 4 Dowling reported that the Chancellor had told him that after 10 years the United States surely needed no assurances of his support of U.S. policy. When Dowling tried to explain the U.S. concern, the Chancellor was unreceptive except to repeat variations of his belief that de Gaulle was a staunch friend of the United States. Dowling concluded that he had made no impression at all. (Telegram 2002 from Bonn; ibid.)
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates the original was signed by President Kennedy.