33. Response to National Security Study Memorandum 901


[Omitted here is the table of contents.]


A. INR Research Memorandum INRM–9 of January 30, 1970. “The Mediterranean Basin: A Poor Prospect for Regionalism” (S/NFD/CD)

B. Summary of NSSMs dealing with the Mediterranean Region

C. [3 lines not declassified]

I. A Concept of the Mediterranean2

The Mediterranean is a diverse and complex region that can be viewed in a number of ways.

A recent study of the Mediterranean region (Attachment A) found that:

—aside from oil, the littoral states had relatively little trade with each other,

—they were widely divergent in their economic, cultural, and political positions, and

—they had no meaningful interest in common that arose from their location.

It found no sense of Mediterranean “community” and concluded that a regional approach to the area was not likely to be fruitful.

Yet undeniably there are grounds for viewing the Mediterranean as a whole:

—From a defense planning point of view, it forms a coherent area, and this view is particularly relevant because of the presence of rival US and Soviet fleets.

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—The European Community’s (EC) growing relationships with the region underline the Mediterranean’s position as the “Caribbean of Europe.”

—The Mediterranean has been the scene of intense political activity in the past few years. (Of the ninety NSSMs issued thus far, seventeen have dealt with Mediterranean problems directly and several others have had indirect relevance. The most relevant of these are summarized in Attachment B and provide a useful rundown of most of the issues in the area that have concerned US policy.)

It is worthwhile, therefore, to take a look at the Mediterranean region as a whole to see what insights emerge from a broader approach. One way to do this is to see the Mediterranean as the locus of two classes of problems.

—A series of sub-regional interactions, both hostile and cooperative, have developed within the region, and

—A number of larger international concerns impinge directly on it as a whole.

The principal sub-regions are: the Western European countries of the northern coast; the “Northern Tier” countries of Greece, Turkey and Iran plus Cyprus; the Arab-Israeli complex; and the Maghreb.

In addition, of course, there are a number of factors that relate two or more of the regional countries for particular purposes. For example:

—the loss of Wheelus Air Force Base3 made it necessary for the US to seek training facilities elsewhere in the Mediterranean area.

—Oil produced in Libya, Algeria and the Middle East supplies much of Europe’s energy needs.

—US-supplied military equipment supporting Turkey’s or Greece’s NATO role raises mutual apprehensions.

—The coup in Libya raised various concerns in a number of Mediterranean countries, especially Tunisia, Morocco and Italy.

—A US decision to resume military supply to the Greek government may have repercussions on the unstable Italian domestic scene, as would attempts to bring Spain into NATO.

Such sets of interrelationships, plus the many bilateral problems that the US has with Mediterranean countries, present however only the pieces for a mosaic of the region. The picture takes on some shape when we consider the extra-regional influences on the Mediterranean.

Three of the most important elements that affect US interests on a broader scene interact in—and in policy terms define—the Mediterra[Page 120]nean much as, in the high-school physics experiment, overlapping beams of red, blue, and yellow light yield a white area at the point of their convergence. These elements are:

—The Arab-Israeli conflict,

—the US-Soviet relationship,

—and moves towards a “unified Europe.”

The Arab-Israeli conflict has evoked a response from nations well beyond the Mediterranean area, but the nature of the Mediterranean states’ response has been conditioned by their geographic location. Particularly since the 1967 war, the Arab cause has found increasing support around almost all of the Mediterranean. By triggering reactions from France, the Soviet Union, and the US, the Arab-Israeli conflict has become the single most important “Mediterranean” issue.

By interacting with the US-Soviet confrontation, the Arab-Israeli dispute has provided a favorable climate for the increased Soviet activity. The striking increase in the Soviet role has forced the littoral states and others to reassess their positions and relations with their neighbors as well as their ties with the US.

The gradual trend towards unification in Europe is the most promising factor affecting the region. France and Italy are charter members of the Common Market and Europe is a potent economic magnet for all of the littoral states. Spain, Turkey, Greece, Israel and the Maghreb states have already set out upon a path that is likely to lead them to an increasingly intimate economic relationship to a Europe that is moving toward economic integration.

In order to approach the question of the Mediterranean in the most productive manner, a discriminating multi-faceted approach thus seems most useful:

—We should not think of each individual country in isolation. The interrelationships are extensive, and especially in the Eastern Mediterranean there is no issue that has implications approaching those of the Arab-Israeli dispute either for our bilateral relationships or for the countries themselves.

—We also cannot think of the Mediterranean as a single region (except, perhaps, for some aspects of defense planning) in the sense that Latin America or Western Europe can be dealt with as a region.

—We can, however, deal with certain problems within the Mediterranean area within a sub-regional framework (e.g., Cyprus, Maghreb).

—Finally, we can enlarge our focus to include factors that reach beyond the immediate Mediterranean region (NATO), the roles of outside actors (the US and USSR), and the three problems described earlier that impinge upon the area from outside.

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A Mediterranean area seen as the interaction of outside forces on the one hand, and sub-regional problems on the other, provides a coherent and useful tool for a fresh perception of the problems affecting the region. With such a focus we can better approach the decisions that will have to be made to accommodate our Mediterranean policies and posture to the changes that have taken place there and the changed view that we have of our own world role.

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  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–170, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 90. Secret; Exdis. Prepared by the Ad Hoc Interdepartmental Group on the Mediterranean. NSSM 90 is Document 31. See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIX, Eastern Europe; Eastern Mediterranean, 1969–1972, Document 272.
  2. For purposes of this study, the Mediterranean region is defined as the countries touched by the Mediterranean Sea. In specific cases, however, it is useful to draw the picture somewhat more broadly—e.g., in discussing oil, the Persian Gulf cannot be excluded; Iran is an integral part of the “Northern Tier”; and one cannot omit Jordan from a discussion of the Arab-Israeli problem. [Footnote is in the original.]
  3. The United States agreed in December 1969 to vacate Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya in June 1970.