91. Memorandum of Conversation0

SUBJECT

  • Dutch Request for US Statement on NATO

PARTICIPANTS

  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador J.H. van Roijen, Netherlands Embassy
  • Mr. E.L.C. Schiff, Minister, Netherlands Embassy
  • Mr. Robert H. McBride, WE

Ambassador van Roijen opened the conversation by indicating that Prime Minister Luns would be very happy to come to Washington to see the Secretary as soon as possible. The Dutch Ambassador indicated he realized it would probably be better to wait for a while. The Secretary agreed. Ambassador van Roijen said that Prime Minister Luns would, of course, like to come as soon as convenient.

Ambassador van Roijen then discussed the Spaak resignation briefly and said it would be unfortunate if this were due to any feeling of frustration with regard to progress in NATO. The Secretary said he thought we must conclude that the Belgian internal question was dominant in Spaak’s decision. He noted that Spaak had been planning to come here very soon and that if our frustration with NATO were the reason for his departure he probably would have waited to make his decision until after his visit here. However, we were not entirely certain as to what all Spaak’s motives might be.

Ambassador van Roijen then passed to the Dutch view that it would be important for the United States to make a forthright declaration of support for NATO prior to the meeting of the six Heads of Government in Paris at which time the Dutch believe that the French will try to formalize political consultation of the Six. The Dutch believe that this would lead to a split in NATO and that organized political consultation [Page 251]among the Six would cause difficulties and would lead to an inner grouping within NATO. Ambassador van Roijen said his Government believed that Chancellor Adenauer particularly was awaiting some such statement from us. Ambassador van Roijen said that there would inevitably be difficulties if the Six developed along these lines. He said that there were certain uncertainties with regard to US attitudes toward NATO now. He thought this would lead de Gaulle to take the position that the Six should not wait for a clarification of US attitudes but should proceed to organize the Six more closely. Under present circumstances the Dutch feared that Chancellor Adenauer would accept the French view. Ambassador van Roijen continued saying the Dutch believe that de Gaulle would take the line that one cannot count on the United States and that US departure from the continent was inevitable; therefore, the Six should band together. The Dutch believe that a statement by the US would be particularly helpful with the Germans.

Ambassador van Roijen said that the Netherlands Government had always favored integration but that French leadership has given it a different coloration. De Gaulle still has in mind an old-fashioned coalition type of arrangement. In this context political consultation has developed differently from the original concept.

The Secretary wondered if we gave a forthright and pervasive statement of support for NATO, how this would be interpreted in various capitals. Ambassador van Roijen said that in Bonn he believed it would be interpreted as meaning that German fears regarding redeployment of US forces were unjustified. The Dutch Ambassador said he realized we were somewhat hesitant since we expect that Europe should undertake a greater share of the defense burden. He said he sympathized with this view but said that nevertheless US leadership was eagerly awaited in Europe.

The Secretary thanked the Dutch Ambassador for his timely and useful suggestions. Ambassador van Roijen said that US statements regarding NATO by the new administration had so far been phrased more in the negative than in the positive sense and that the Dutch would hope for a vigorous and positive statement. The Secretary said that the State of the Union message1 was primarily addressed to US internal opinion. The Secretary then wondered if a public statement along the lines suggested by the Dutch were required or if our thoughts could be communicated by diplomatic channels to the key individuals. He thought that a public statement would set off questions and speculation regarding specific steps and actions which we were not yet ready to contemplate. Ambassador [Page 252]van Roijen said that he personally thought a public statement would be better but that a private communication would be satisfactory if the Six Heads of Government could point to it during their forthcoming session. Mr. Schiff mentioned the possibility of conveying the US views through a statement to the North Atlantic Council. Ambassador van Roijen thought that a personal message might have greater weight and said that on thinking it over he did not believe a public statement was really required.

The Secretary said that he was interested in the Dutch presentation because he had riot heretofore thought that the meeting of the Six Heads of Government would lead into such concrete developments. Ambassador van Roijen said the Dutch view was that the die would be cast at this meeting. The Secretary asked if the Dutch were worried that closer political integration of the Six might lead to divided loyalty within NATO. Ambassador van Roijen replied in the affirmative and said that one of the problems was that the Germans did not at this time wish to take a position contrary to that of the French. The Secretary inquired if he thought that a political consultation among the Six along the lines envisaged by de Gaulle would give a strong focus of policy for the Six to Paris. Ambassador van Roijen replied in the affirmative and said that de Gaulle’s idea clearly was that France should speak for the Six and develop common policies in advance of NATO meetings, which would then be communicated to NATO. Ambassador van Roijen concluded saying that the Dutch felt that closer integration among the Six in the political field would be satisfactory if it were based on the principles which govern the economic communities but if it developed along the lines envisaged by the French it would be unfortunate.

The Secretary said we would consider this whole matter urgently and added that he was having a meeting on NATO later in the day.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 375/1–3161. Confidential. Drafted by McBride and approved in S on February 12.
  2. For text of the State of the Union address, January 30, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, pp. 19–28.