97. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State 0

1632. For the President and Secretary of State from Dean Acheson. Also pass to Ambassador Dowling.

“You have lifted a stone from my heart” said Chancellor Adenauer at the end of our talk on Sunday.

Chancellor came to meet me at the airport and drove me to his own house. I was alone with him and his interpreter from 11:30 until 5:00 pm. We talked together for an hour before lunch and continued with some business and some gossip during lunch. After lunch we talked for about two hours more.

Before lunch he asked me to let him make a considerable statement to indicate his principal concerns. In course of this statement several odd observations turned up. His view of the world situation was that Khrushchev was able and tough, primarily a Russian successor of the Czars and no ideologist. Although he used communism, his chief concern was to consolidate what Lenin had started and what Stalin had so greatly expanded. He wanted to gain his ends primarily by maneuver, though he would use force, if he could do so without substantial risk. One of Khrushchev’s principal objects was to break up NATO, which Adenauer thought had weakened considerably in the last 8 years due to absence of US leadership, and as a result of dissension among allies. He said that when he was in Moscow in 1955, Khrushchev asked him to help him against the Americans and the Chinese. He felt Khrushchev was very much worried about the Chinese, and that any American attempt to come closer to Chinese might produce violent Russian reaction. I asked him if he had seen any indication of such a tendency, and he said [Page 270] no. The US, he said, must reassert its leadership and its interest in NATO and strengthen it politically and militarily, or it would fall apart. Some of the allies believe that we are more concerned with the under-developed countries than with our allies. He felt that there was a lack of political consultation and, from military point of view, that Allied troops in Europe did not know whether there were nuclear arms available to them in Europe. He added he had been told this by Strauss as late as previous day. (Later on, I told him that he had either misunderstood Strauss or that latter was misinformed, because all Allied commanders were thoroughly familiar with nuclear weapons available to them and where these located, as General Norstad would readily confirm. I heard no more about this complaint.) He spoke of the necessity of “NATO becoming the fourth nuclear power”. Said he knew General Norstad had made recommendations to this end, but that no one knew that had happened to them. He spoke of his belief that both Dulles and Eisenhower had written NATO off, and of his anxieties as to policies of new administration. He had heard good reports of Finletter and of his statements to the Council.

To sum up his opening remarks: they were rather the expression of his deep worry, than a rational exposition of facts.

I started by explaining that the President and Secretary of State had instituted a review of the NATO situation by the officers primarily responsible for developing policies with me as chairman of this group, for the purpose of strengthening the Alliance in every way possible. Conclusions had been reached unanimously, and had been substantially approved by the Cabinet members concerned and by the President. These were essentially an American position and in no sense an attempt to dictate to our Allies. The first point was to exercise American leadership in using the NATO Council, both formally and informally, for broad consultations to bring about Allied understanding of emerging problems well in advance and, if possible, agree on courses to be pursued. On such matters as relations with former colonial peoples, we hoped to enlist Allied support for practical steps toward improving conditions, and to minimize ideological differences. In Europe the US Gov would continue to support the policy of integration, and would believe it wise and helpful should the British find it possible to join the Six. USGov would not be in favor of helping national nuclear developments. In the economic field, the policy would be for continued and close consultation within the OECD, and the coordination of national policies on financial, trade, and capital export policies. All of this the Chancellor received with mounting enthusiasm.

We then turned to NATO military matters. I said that the new administration wished to correct some harmful impressions created toward the end of the old one. In his own way and time, the President [Page 271] would make clear to our Allies that American troops were not to be withdrawn from Europe, nor would there be any threat to do so. He would also make clear that nuclear weapons would not be withdrawn except as better ones were substituted. The President fully understood the need for medium-range missiles, and believed that both for military and financial reasons, this had better be done by water-borne than by land-based missiles. He was prepared to take steps to this end. He also appreciated the proper desire of our Allies to play their part in the governmental decision when and how to use nuclear weapons. Several methods had been suggested. The President was willing to explore all of them, and in these discussions would advocate swift and clear methods of decision in event of sudden attacks. We believed with General Norstad, that NATO must have the capability of raising the threshold over which nuclear weapons would be used, and of stopping an attack by forces readily available for a long enough period to permit a deliberate appraisal of the situation, and a decision to move into nuclear warfare. However if the other side initiated nuclear warfare, no doubt existed as to necessity for reply in kind. Foregoing required strengthening of existing forces, better equipment and mobility, and the attainment as soon as possible of MC–70 goals. This would require priority for non-nuclear forces over the next say five years. It would be most unwise and dangerous to continue in our present non-nuclear situation, while such possibilities as trouble over Berlin lay ahead of us. The administration did not regard this as a change of policy but as a readjustment of emphasis, which had become one-sided. Several times I reiterated the point that in stressing importance of bringing conventional forces up to the goals mentioned, the administration had no intention of attempting to fight World War II over again. The sole purpose was to preserve the possibility of stopping military flare-up, without the certainty of quick escalation into nuclear war. The Chancellor received this statement with complete satisfaction.

Chancellor mentioned Berlin, asking whether the administration was giving thought to this issue. I replied that it most assuredly was, and that I had been asked to interest myself in the problem. I added that while the matter was still under study, those concerned were under strong impression that the seriousness of the situation had not been reflected in any adequate preparations, and that both consultation with some of our Allies and energetic preparation seemed urgently needed. With this he emphatically agreed.

At the end of our talk the Chancellor spoke most movingly of his gratitude for my visit, and of the great sense of relief which my report of the attitude of the new administration had brought him. He was looking forward, he said, eagerly to meeting the President and discussing these [Page 272] matters with him. We then adjourned our talk to play a game of bowls, at which he beat me.

May I end, with the concurrence of the Embassy, by again recommending that the attendance at the meetings with the Chancellor be limited, since he speaks much more freely in a small group and thus will disclose his preoccupations and have them removed.”

Suggest Department make any further distribution foregoing message as desired.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.62A/4–1061. Secret; Priority; Limited Distribution. Acheson visited Bonn at the personal invitation of the Chancellor.