86. Memorandum From the Department of State Executive Secretary (Read) to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Proposals for NATO, Tripartite (US, UK, France) or Quadripartite (US, UK, France and FRG) Heads of Government Meeting on Czech Crisis

After careful review, we have concluded that our present course of mobilizing world opinion through the United Nations offers the best hope at this time of influencing the Soviets toward moderation in the present crisis.

We are in close touch with all the allies through the North Atlantic Council and consultations on the crisis are continuing. In the Department’s view, however, an initiative for a NATO Heads of Government meeting, or any dramatic action in NATO, would be inadvisable at present for the following reasons: [Page 253]

It would divert the world’s attention from the UN effort without, in all probability, producing any concrete action that would cause the Soviets to modify their present course.
It would tend to place the Soviet invasion in a cold war context, lessening the moral impact on the non-aligned and dissident communist nations.
The Soviets might even gain a propaganda advantage since they have sought to conjure up a NATO and German plot against Czechoslovakia.
Most of the allies favor the UN approach, and some at least would be most reluctant to participate in a NATO Heads of Government meeting.

Similar reasons militate against a Tripartite (US, UK, France) or Quadripartite Heads of Government meeting at this time. The French Foreign Minister told Ambassador Shriver on August 21 of his opposition to “formal consultations” between the US, the UK and France, since these could only result in a “meaningless declaration” which would be useless. There are even more cogent reasons why a top-level meeting including the FRG would be inadvisable at this time. These include the fact that, historically, the Germans are viewed by many of the Eastern Europeans, including the Czechs, with suspicion.

We consider it important, nevertheless, that while the public spotlight remains focused on New York, the US take action with the allies to demonstrate its leadership in regard to the Czech crisis. We think the best approach would be for the President to send personal messages to Heads of Government of all other NATO countries. We shall be submitting a recommended text for such messages covering a number of points in our current position on the crisis. Such messages would also emphasize the importance of NATO and allied consultations in the present situation.

Secretary Rusk concurs with this memorandum.

There is enclosed a paper analyzing these questions in more detail.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–1 COMBLOC–CZECH. Secret. Drafted by Myerson and cleared by Leddy.
  2. The enclosure, a paper entitled “Courses of Action in the Czechoslovak Crisis,” is not printed.