67. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State 1

2547. Subj: MLF. At my meeting with Schroeder on Jan 7 I found him at a loss as to how next to proceed with the MLF. He felt that the US had [Page 170]lost interest in helping to facilitate reaching an agreement among the interested parties. In this connection he referred to the June 13, 1964 communique of the President and the Chancellor which envisaged signature of an agreement by the end of 1964.2 No one appeared interested in calling the conference planned at the Paris meeting of the five countries December 15.3 He had small hopes of achieving progress in the talks with Wilson here January 22 (he noted that Gordon Walker was not coming). He assumed that nothing important would happen until there could be a high level multilateral meeting.

In reply, I repeated what I had told the Chancellor on my return from Washington. We have not lost interest in the MLF. The US, the Germans and others had developed a position concerning which the British and others had raised questions. In seeking a solution to the question of nuclear responsibility within the Alliance on as broad a basis as possible, we are willing to adjust our initial position in order to seek a wide consensus. In doing so we would insist that the interests of the Germans would be fully protected. We are not leaving the Germans to negotiate the matter out with the British. We are in this together.

We hope that a multilateral meeting can be held soon. In the meantime, we do not wish to exert pressures or establish deadlines in reaching a consensus. We respect the legitimate interests of all concerned. We would not support any agreement directed against the French and believe they (French) should be kept fully informed on this matter. While we had no reason to think they could be persuaded to join an MLF, we wanted to keep the door open for them. There was some basis for believing they might at least acquiesce in an agreement reached by others. When the force de frappe became operational, there are indications of French willingness to coordinate in some way in its planning and targeting.4

Schroeder’s response was that it was very important for the US to correct the misimpression that it was no longer interested in achieving an MLF agreement. He was not specific on how this should be done but [Page 171]apparently had in mind high-level statements or press backgrounders. He concluded by saying that unless we exerted pressure on the British, he was afraid nothing would happen.

Comment: Schroeder’s statements, of course, were made without knowledge of the Secretary’s January 7 comments on future MLF steps to Ambassador Knappstein (Deptel 1921).5 The Secretary’s reaffirmation of our interest in an agreement as well as in a Ministerial meeting will be welcome to Erhard and Schroeder. They will, however, continue to feel that significant movement will not occur without the US playing a more active role than seems we now appear to envisage in obtaining a consensus. There is a widespread feeling here in all circles—government, diplomatic and press—that the US has abandoned interest in the MLF—“that it is dead.”

For this view there are several explanations. The FRG, always reluctant to take the initiative on the MLF, is now even more diffident after Schroeder’s clash with Couve de Murville at Paris and the subsequent weakening of his position here. Secondly, the Germans doubt the utility of bilateral meetings and far prefer a multilateral forum. Thirdly, as Schroeder indicated above, they have almost no confidence that the British will agree to a consensus on MLF/ANF acceptable to the FRG without US pressure. One of the principal reasons for German concern is the feeling that we have left them alone to negotiate the matter out with the British.

In this connection Healey’s BBC interview of December 20 has given the Foreign Office further grounds for belief that the British are more interested in pushing non-dissemination and getting rid of their nuclear capability at a good price than preserving the basic principles of the MLF.

Under these circumstances I feel strongly that we must do more to diminish the German fear that they are to be left alone to negotiate a viable agreement, while the US stands by passively awaiting the achievement of a consensus. I would appreciate it if consideration could be given urgently to the following:

1.
A personal message from the Secretary to Schroeder reaffirming our continuing desire to achieve an ANF-MLF agreement;
2.
Public reaffirmation of this by the President or Secretary or both;
3.
An approach to the British stressing the importance we attach to a successful outcome of the Erhard/Wilson talks, which would permit convening a Ministerial meeting. In this connection we should, I believe, [Page 172]make it clear to the British that we and the Germans are not prepared to accept the ANF without radical change in the direction of the MLF. The impression is given here that the British think they have already won and, with our acquiescence, are merely waiting for the Germans to throw in the sponge.
4.
Advice I can give the Germans with respect to their forthcoming discussions with Wilson.

McGhee
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF(MLF). Secret; Limdis. Repeated to Paris for the Embassy and USRO, London, Rome, and The Hague.
  2. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, June 29, 1964, pp. 992–994.
  3. At this meeting, Rusk had told the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, and West Germany that it would be a mistake to set a precise date for a Ministerial meeting to discuss the multilateral nuclear force although he thought they should aim for the end of January. The intervening period should be used for bilateral meetings to narrow the differences between the MLF and the proposed British ANF. (Secto 21 from Bonn, December 15; Department of State, Central Files, DEF(MLF))
  4. On January 1, the Department of State had informed its Missions in London, Bonn, The Hague, and Rome that further discussions on the ANF should avoid a split in NATO and that in particular discussion in the NATO Council would not be helpful. The Department also advised that it did not envisage further activity by the group of five that had met on December 15, but that bilateral conversations should take place. (Telegram 4113 to London; ibid., DEF(ANF))
  5. Dated January 7. (Ibid., DEF(MLF)) In his meeting with Knappstein on January 7, Rusk reaffirmed the U.S. interest in finding a solution to the nuclear force question, stressing that a consensus of at least German, Italian, and British views was necessary. Rusk added that it would be advantageous for the Germans to talk with the Italians and concluded that the forthcoming meeting between Erhard and Wilson would offer an opportunity for useful bilateral discussions.