45. Action Memorandum From the Acting Director of the Office of International Scientific and Technological Affairs (Pollack) to Secretary of State Rusk 1


  • Preservation of European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO)


This morning Mr. Richard Faber of the United Kingdom Embassy, acting on instructions of the Ambassador who had just received a letter from the Foreign Office, suggested it would be useful if you could mention to Mr. George Thomson that the United States is hopeful that the United Kingdom will not withdraw from ELDO.


ELDO, created in 1960 largely at the initiative of the United Kingdom which supplies 38 percent of the ELDO budget, is now facing a major crisis due to the threat of United Kingdom withdrawal (composition and functions of ELDO attached).2 This threat is motivated largely [Page 93] by budgetary concerns and doubts as to the cost effectiveness of the British investment in ELDO.

The British Foreign Office has staunchly supported continued participation in ELDO because of its implications to British relationships with the Continent and the Common Market, and because of adverse impact on European multilateral developments that would follow a breakup of ELDO.

Comparable considerations ran through the minds of various officials of the Department and NASA. Additionally, we preferred multilateral to national programs of launcher development, we were concerned about possible Soviet moves to fill the vacuum that would be created by ELDO’s dissolution, and we related Europe’s technological development to its participation in major space activities. Our general concerns about the consequences of ELDO’s dissolution were conveyed to the British prior to the ELDO meeting on April 28. Partially as a consequence the British Cabinet decided against immediate withdrawal and the ELDO meeting resulted in a six-week “reprieve”. The crucial ELDO meeting will now be held on June 9. The British Cabinet will be meeting on May 26, according to Mr. Faber, to settle the British position to be taken at that ELDO meeting.3

Although State and NASA are in general agreement that ELDO ought not to fail there is as yet no agreed interdepartmental position on this matter. Deputy Under Secretary Johnson has convened an interdepartmental meeting for this coming Thursday, May 19, which I will chair, to develop a government-wide position. Although there are involved problems of communication satellite policy and export of booster technology, I am reasonably confident that we shall end up encouraging the continuation of ELDO and expressing a willingness to provide ELDO with meaningful support, if this should prove necessary.


That you seek an opportunity to express to Mr. Thomson your concern about the possible United Kingdom withdrawal from ELDO and inform him that we are currently studying ways in which we might be helpful to ELDO’s future program.

  1. Source: Department of State,SCI Files: Lot 68 D 383. Limited Official Use. Cleared by J. Robert Schaetzel (EUR). A copy was sent to Ball. A May 16 cover memorandum attached to the source text reads: “Amb. Johnson believes you should be aware of the attached for your meeting with George Thomson but does not believe you should take the initiative in raising it. E.J.S.”
  2. Not printed. Member assessments were: U.K.—38.79 percent; France—23.93 percent; Germany—22.01 percent; Italy—9.78 percent; Belgium—2.85 percent; and the Netherlands—2.64 percent. Australia contributed the use of the Woomera Range.
  3. Telegram 7206 from Paris, April 28, reads: “the only new pro-ELDO argument having any impression on [British] Prime Minister was suggestion of possible U.S. interest in cooperation with ELDO.” According to sources, the argument had enough impact to reverse a previous U.K. decision to “make a clean out.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, SP 11 ELDO)