8. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1

11144. NATUS. BUSEC. Subject: Technological Gap. Ref: State 118575 circular.2

While topic of “technological gap” is not on the agenda, initial meeting of Conference of National Armaments Directors February 13 offers a first test of whether NATO is going to do something about the “technological gap” besides talk about it.
We are in general agreement with the analysis and basic U.S. posture set forth reftel. Looked at from the point of view of enthusiasts such as Fanfani, this analysis comes perilously close to the rather chilly U.S. reply that (a) the “technological gap” between Europe and the rest of the world is larger and more important than the gap between Europe and the U.S.; (b) the U.S.-Europe gap is primarily a question of political and economic organization, and insufficient effort on the part of the Europeans; (c) the U.S. has been generally forthcoming in making scientific and technical information available and in its readiness to cooperate with its European allies whenever they were willing to meet us halfway, so that U.S.-European technical cooperation is essentially a matter of trying to do a little better what is already underway; and (d) no single step, whether a “Marshall Plan” or a cooperation project, initiated by the U.S. cld substitute for an across-the-boards effort by Europeans to improve scientific training, support of basic and applied research, modern management techniques, intra-European industrial and governmental cooperation, and continued enlargement of markets and industries.
Sensible Europeans recognize these things and are trying to bring their governments and private leaders to act on these premises. Hearing them said gently by the U.S., in NATO and in the OECD and other Atlantic institutions, can help these Europeans, and we should not hesitate to speak the truth as we see it.
One result may be a more vigorous European partnership with us in nuclear energy cooperation in EURATOM, in space cooperation in response to the President’s general offers or our specific defense [Page 18] COMSAT offers in NATO, last year and in cooperative research development and production in the military field under the general auspices of NATO. Some concrete cooperation of this kind needs to come about. Such major activities will be a visible demonstration to the Europeans that their dialogue with us on technological cooperation is leading to concrete results. It will also respond to the political need to show that Atlantic cooperation is better than European independence—even if European selfhelp is an indispensable prerequisite to cooperation.
In NATO we can anticipate a good deal of general discussion of the nature and causes of the “technological gap.” We will probably conclude that the Europeans will need to get together in some fields through institutions like the European Communities either to cooperate or to compete with us effectively. Analyzing how technical advance can be transformed into technological progress will probably be recognized as the domain of the OECD.
These will be meritorious conclusions—but they will leave the question: what then can NATO actually do besides exhort? Some things are underway and can perhaps be given additional impulse: these include the defense communications satellite program, and such excellent NATO institutions as the SHAPE and SACLANT technical centers.
But the broadest, most important, and most central NATO role should properly be in fostering cooperation among NATO governments in the general field of military technology and future weapons research and production. It has, in the past, been a frustrating field in which to seek cooperation—but if we fail to find significant areas of cooperative development and production, then NATO will be subject to the criticism that it has failed to contribute in its peculiar area of responsibility to doing what could be done with the “technological gap” problem. Conversely, since a major reason for European difficulties in weapons development even with bilateral U.S. help is that the industrial capabilities and markets are too small on a national scale, we can use the current dialogue on the “technological gap” to urge again a broader European base and a multilateral approach.
As the “technological gap” comes under intensified discussion at the ministerial level and in public, NATO is just breaking in new machinery in its continuing effort to identify and initiate cooperative arms development and production. The Conference of National Armaments Directors is the capstone of a new committee structure which is intended to be more flexible and pragmatic than the old apparatus, dismantled last year, which succeeded in holding innumerable discussions and exchanges of information, but put in train very few actual hardware programs.
Because this is the first CNAD meeting, it needs to be a success. And because if NATO is to be relevant to the “technological gap” problem over the long-term, it must be so in this area, the U.S. representatives in the CNAD meeting should act and speak in a way which will move in this direction.
As a minimum this means two things: (a) the U.S. representative to the CNAD must be fully aware of the work and thinking of the Hornig Committee and be prepared to respond to the interest of his colleagues by saying something about how the U.S. views the problem and the potential contribution of the CNAD and its supporting committees to its solution; and (b) he should stress the importance of a flexible and pragmatic approach which, in the CNAD and in the advisory groups, seeks to identify practical programs of cooperation of mutual benefit to two or more NATO countries. If there is no other, the Defense COMSAT program is one obvious example to use—but surely there could be others.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1967–69, SCI 1–1 EURW–US. Confidential. Repeated to the White House for Hornig, to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and to Brussels and Rome.
  2. Document 7.