13. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Denmark1

128993. Subj: Greenland.

Ambassador Ronne, at his request, called on Assistant Secretary Leddy at 5:00 pm March 8. He was accompanied by Fergo. Ambassador said he was leaving March 11 for lecture tour of 16 to 18 days duration. He asked if there had been any developments in regard to Danish note of February 26.2 Mr. Leddy replied that we were working with DOD and hoped to have a reply soon. At Ambassador’s request, Mr. Leddy agreed to April 1 meeting with Ambassador.
Ambassador Ronne asked if we had any preference for manner of implementing proposed supplement to 1951 Agreement on Defense of Greenland. Mr. Leddy said that our preference would be for a confidential exchange of notes. We had not been thinking in terms of a formal agreement that would legally preclude nuclear storage and/or overflights (as distinct from undertakings providing for consultation) and we could not, of course, publish any agreement on this matter.

At this point the Ambassador presented the following two alternative drafts for a “Danish/American Agreement about nuclear policy in Greenland.”

“Alternative 1. Activities under present agreement shall not include the storing in and introduction into Greenland territory including Greenland air space of nuclear weapons.

Alternative 2. Under the present agreement no nuclear weapons may be stored in or introduced into Greenland territory including Greenland air space.”

Mr. Leddy again raised doubts about the wisdom of a formal amendment to the agreement that would legally and permanently preclude nuclear weapons in or overflights of Greenland.
Ambassador then raised question of public statement. He said public USG confirmation of absence nuclear weapons in and over Greenland necessary due to pressures in Parliament. He said that he saw USG statement as way to put an end to public and parliamentary discussion of matter. He added that such discussion could only raise new problems in regard to Greenland. He said that he understood our policy considerations but pointed out that Denmark, out of loyalty to US had gone against its own standing policy during recent Chicom representation problem in UN Security Council.
Mr. Leddy pointed out necessity of USG adhering to no comment practice re nuclear deployment and overflights. He said that departure from this practice would jeopardize US nuclear deterrent; that this was a security question that involves all of us. Mr. Leddy pointed out that issue was wider than Danish US question; that if we made exception for Danes we would then have this exception cited to us by every country with a current or future nuclear question. Mr. Leddy also asked why, if Danish Government said categorically that there was no nuclear storage in or overflights of Greenland, the Danish people would not believe their own Government. He also asked if Soviets were providing Denmark with assurances they were not overflying Danish territory with nuclear weapons (at this point Fergo pointed out that Danes never knew if Soviet ships transiting Danish home waters did or did not carry nukes). Ambassador said, with no great conviction, that Soviets had stated they did not operate nuclear overflights.
Mr. Leddy concluded Greenland discussion by stating that we were conscious of the extent of the problem and that we hoped, on the Ambassador’s return, to have something to put on table and discuss.
Ronne then remarked that he had recently met Dobrynin at social function and that latter had asked if Ronne had seen recent newspaper articles on US overflight suspension and asked if the Danes had seen any confirmation of this decision. Ambassador Ronne had replied [Page 23] that he was only concerned with overflights of Danish territory, concerning which he had no misgivings on US policy.
Ronne then asked if we intended to reply to Soviet Aide-Mémoire of February 10.3 Mr. Leddy said he felt that we probably should reply, that a reply was in preparation, but that we were in no hurry. He pointed out, however, that in the context of US-Soviet relations, it was not unheard of to let such a message go unanswered. (On leaving the building, Fergo expressed to SCAN officer the hope that Danes would be consulted in advance of any reply to the Soviet Aide-Mémoire.)4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 15-4 GREENLAND-US. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Klebenov on March 12, cleared by Toon in substance, and approved by Leddy. Pouched to Moscow.
  2. Document 11.
  3. The aide-mémoire was transmitted in telegram 113631 to Moscow, February 11. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 17 US)
  4. In telegram 131152 to Moscow and Copenhagen, March 15, the Department transmitted the text of a proposed reply to the Soviet aide-mémoire but specified that the Danes not be consulted. The text of the Department’s March 21 reply to the Soviets was transmitted to Moscow and Copenhagen in airgram CA-6730. The text of a second Soviet aide-mémoire on the B-52 crash, dated April 9, was transmitted to Moscow and Copenhagen in airgram CA-7282, April 15, together with a covering note stating that the Department saw nothing to be gained by replying and did not plan to do so unless the Soviets publicized their aide-mémoire. Telegrams 113631 and 131152 and airgrams CA-6730 and CA-7282 are ibid.