93. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • NATO


  • German Ambassador Wilhelm Grewe
  • Mr. Franz Krapf, Minister, German Embassy
  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Martin J. Hillenbrand

Ambassador Grewe said that the German Government was particularly concerned about recent developments in NATO, symbolized [Page 257] by the resignation of Secretary General Spaak. He noted that the references to NATO by the President in his recent speeches had received a good reception in Germany, both among the people and in Government circles. Maintaining the strength of NATO was a matter of grave concern to Chancellor Adenauer, the Ambassador continued. He had instructed Defense Minister Strauss, prior to his recent visit to New York, to take every opportunity to urge a resumption of active United States leadership in NATO.

The Secretary said he wanted to ask a question intended purely as such and not to indicate a point of view. We have the feeling that a number of our friends in Europe are looking for fresh United States leadership. If we assume that we are prepared to do what we can but also consider how Europe has changed since 1948, if we lead, will there be followers? Ambassador Grewe responded that, as far as the Federal Republic was concerned, the answer would be in the affirmative. The Secretary observed that, in view of the changed situation in Europe, perhaps what was called for, rather than unilateral public leadership on our part, was the intensification of consultation within NATO so that the organization would move ahead concertedly without worrying about who was leading. Ambassador Grewe said he believed the situation was such that something overt in the way of leadership from the United States was necessary. A number of developments, particularly recent actions by President de Gaulle, had made the situation ripe for such open and strong leadership. His government felt that the question of a suitable successor for Spaak as Secretary General was crucial. The Secretary said we assumed that the North Atlantic Council would discuss this question. We have had some preliminary views, not actual nominations. The Council appeared to be the most natural forum in which to discuss this question so that the whole organization could move ahead unanimously behind the man eventually selected. The Secretary General was an international civil servant. It was perhaps better, therefore, that he be a representative of a small country like Stikker or Lange, who could more easily be detached to fill the position. This was a matter, however, to be discussed. Ambassador Grewe observed that, on a purely personal basis, he would like to suggest that consideration be given to the appointment of Dean Acheson to succeed Spaak. He could think of no better symbol of NATO rejuvenation. The Secretary commented that there was no more devoted friend of NATO than Dean Acheson, but he did not suppose that he would be available for a full-time post, though he could not speak for him, since it was the first time, in his knowledge, that the suggestion had been made. He supposed that an American should not be the Secretary General, especially with General Norstad continuing as SACEUR, although the qualifications of Mr. Acheson were, of course, [Page 258] superb. Ambassador Grewe noted that there had been difficulties originally with Spaak’s appointment, but these had been overcome.

After observing that Spaak was always an interesting man, the Secretary went on to say that we had been expecting a visit from him during February. We gathered that the lure of the Belgian political situation had proved decisive. Ambassador Grewe said that he had the impression that Spaak had been gravely disappointed by the December NATO Ministerial Meeting, particularly with the rejection of his views as to NATO’s appropriate role in the economic field. The Secretary observed that it was good that the Secretary General have a lively ambition for his organization.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 375/2–161. Confidential. Drafted by Hillenbrand and approved in S on February 20. According to Rusk’s Appointment Book the conversation took place at 4:30 p.m. (Johnson Library) Rusk had also discussed NATO with Brosio at 1:47 p.m., and the Italian Ambassador stated that although Italy had no objection to Stikker as a replacement for Spaak, it wanted to put up its own candidate. (Memorandum of conversation; Department of State, Central Files, 375/2–161)