18. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Leddy) to Secretary of State Rusk 1


  • Agreement with the Government of Denmark on Nuclear Overflights and Storage in Greenland


In your reply (Tab C) to the Danish note of February 26 (Tab D)2 you stated that the United States Government was prepared to discuss with the Danes the matter of supplementing the Agreement of April 27, 1951 concerning the Defense of Greenland.

The Danish Ambassador has tentatively agreed that any such supplement should take the form of a secret exchange of notes. He has also agreed that future nuclear overflights and storage in Greenland should be subject to consultation between our two Governments. The latter provision is in contrast to the Danish request, stated in their February 26 note, for an unconditional ban on nuclear overflights and storage in Greenland.

On March 31 the Under Secretary authorized me to offer the Danish Ambassador a draft text (Tab B)3 for the consideration of his Government. The Ambassador, on April 1, read our draft and indicated that the first paragraph, which makes nuclear overflights and storage subject to consultation, would be acceptable to his Government. He felt, however, that the Danish Foreign Ministry would object to the second paragraph, in which we pointed out that there may be conditions of extreme emergency under which consultation with respect to overflights would be difficult. He suggested omitting the second paragraph since the situation it addresses does not need spelling out in advance.

After further consultation with the Department of Defense we are now prepared to offer the Danes, as a draft text, the first paragraph only of our April 1 text (Tab A),4 accompanied by an oral notation on my part, pointing out that there could be a requirement for U.S. overflights under conditions of a grave and sudden threat that did not allow time to obtain the agreement of the Danish Government.

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If you concur, I plan to give a draft copy of our note to the Danish Ambassador this week, and tell him that we would be prepared to use that text in a secret exchange of notes supplementing the 1951 Agreement on the Defense of Greenland. I would, at that time, point out again the possible need for U.S. overflights without consultation, under the conditions described above.


That you approve the attached draft note (Tab A).5


Draft Note to be Presented to Ambassador Ronne for Consideration by Government of Denmark

The United States Government assures the Government of Denmark that, notwithstanding the provisions of the 1951 Agreement on the Defense of Greenland, it will not store nuclear weapons in Greenland or overfly Greenland with aircraft carrying nuclear weapons except as a result of a joint decision by our two Governments.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 15 GREENLAND-US. Secret. Drafted by Klebenov on May 7 and cleared by Trippe (G/PM), Belman (L), and Berlack (L/EUR).
  2. See Document 11 and footnote 2 thereto.
  3. Attachment to Document 14.
  4. Printed below.
  5. Rusk indicated his approval on May 10.