16. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Leddy) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Warnke)1

Dear Paul:

As you know from our reporting cable,2 Ambassador Ronne told us on April 1 that the second paragraph, the “escape clause” of our proposed note,3 would be unacceptable to the Danish Government.

In his discussion with me, Ambassador Ronne indicated that he understood the problem that we were addressing in Paragraph 2 of our draft but stated that this situation need not be spelled out in advance. The implication of what Ronne said is that in a serious crisis it goes without saying that military requirements would be overriding. While a written escape clause might nevertheless be helpful in justifying an overflight of Greenland in an instance where time did not allow us to obtain the agreement of the Danish Government, I do not believe that the lack of such a written understanding would critically limit our freedom of action in circumstances of a grave and sudden threat. Therefore, I propose that we offer the Danes only the first paragraph in reply to their note of February 26.4

I shall, on presenting our reply, reiterate the possible requirement for U.S. overflights under the circumstances described above: i.e., those where a grave and sudden threat does not allow time to obtain the agreement of the Danish Government.

This solution of course, will not involve an outright prohibition of nuclear weapons flights over Greenland, as the Danes proposed in their February 26 note. Further, it should serve to prevent this issue from jeopardizing the 1951 Greenland Defense Agreement under which we operate electronic surveillance systems in that territory and maintain the air base at Thule.

I would appreciate your comments at an early date.


John M. Leddy 5
  1. Source: Department of State, Danish Desk Files: Lot 73 D 167, Thule Crash—Internal Memos. Secret. Drafted by Trippe and Klebenov and cleared in L, G, and EUR.
  2. Document 15.
  3. Attachment to Document 14.
  4. Document 11.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.