4. Telegram From the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to the Department of State1

335. Subject: NATO checklist for the new administration: Part I.

1. We thought it would be useful to try to organize in one comprehensive checklist the business the United States Government will be doing with and through NATO in the months ahead. Not all this business will be considered at the April Ministerial meeting in Washington.2 But the issues highlighted in this series of messages are never far below the surface. Part I of this message, herewith, characterizes all NATO’s main business as a complex transatlantic bargain. It suggests questions often posed in and outside NATO governments, questions which the new administration will face in theory and answer in practice. Part II considers those of the questions that arise in the North Atlantic Council as “political consultation”.3 Part III considers the questions about managing and modernizing the NATO defense system.4

Part I. NATO as an organized controversy.

2. The lesson of two world wars is deeply etched in bipartisan American foreign policy. The security of Americans requires that Western Europe not pass into hands hostile—or even “neutral”—toward the United States. Underlying the transatlantic bargaining in NATO on all sorts of subjects is an implicit but fundamental accord among the fifteen allies on this proposition: and the most basic US aim in the bargaining process is to keep it that way. The North Atlantic Treaty describes a deal—one for all and all for one—but leaves open what each country will do about it. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an organized controversy about the content and balance of the [Page 20]transatlantic security bargain—who is going to do how much, how soon, to carry out the purposes of the treaty?

3. The United States (which has two-thirds of NATO’s GNP, contributes about half of the direct costs of NATO’s defense, and provides the nuclear shield) is at the center of the bargain—that is, each of the other members thinks of itself as bargaining primarily with us.

4. On the defense side, our main object is to get the most effective conventional defense effort out of the 90 to 100 billion dollars which the allies (excluding France, and not counting the US contribution) can be expected to put up during the next five years. The main objectives of our European allies are (a) to keep the United States physically committed to the defense of Western Europe, so that the engagement of our nuclear power is assured; and (b) to buy a right to be consulted by the United States on anything affecting their security.

5. Out of this dynamic deal, our allies get not only the protection of our military power but some negotiated degree of participation in US political decisions that affect their destiny. By committing our resources and sharing our discretion in limited ways, we try to get our allies not only to do as much as possible for the common defense, but also to support our efforts to build a workable world order, especially by making sensible security arrangements with the Soviet Union.

6. In the field of political consultation (discussed in Part II of this message), the main NATO questions which the new administration will have to answer and re-answer are these:

A. How do we reconcile our relations with our NATO allies with our need to deal bilaterally with the Soviet Union?

B. What has recent Soviet behavior in Eastern Europe done to our basic assumptions about East-West relations?

C. Can East-West relations in Europe (including trade and credits) be “managed” from the Western side?

D. How do we use NATO to plan for a system of European security more stable than a high-cost military stalemate?

E. How should we handle the special position of France in all this?

F. What can we expect of NAC consultation on action outside the NATO defense area?

7. In the NATO defense system (discussed in Part III of this message), the current and recurring questions are these:

A. Do we need a change in NATO’s “new” “flexible response” strategy?

B. What force levels, and what kinds of forces, does NATO really need to make the flexible strategy work?

C. If present allied defense budgets, give or take a little, are the “given” level of resources (in the absence of a new East-West crisis), what can be done to make the NATO deterrent viable in the 1970s?

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D. What can be done in the critical area of air defense?

E. Can we bring about a fundamental change in the relative burdens carried by the US and its NATO allies? And how can we best neutralize the balance-of-payments effect of military spending in the common defense?

F. Can we withdraw some of our forces now stationed in Europe?—and how many, when, and how?

G. When, and how, can we get France back in the NATO defense system?

H. How much further do we want to push nuclear consultation and substantive planning in NATO’s successful Nuclear Planning Group?

I. Do we want explicit procedures for crisis consultation in emergencies? Do we want—and can we avoid—reexamination of the process by which “NATO goes to war”?

J. How badly do we want the Europeans to “caucus” on NATO defense matters—and on what issues?

K. How about a European SACEUR?

L. How should NATO react to the increased Soviet presence in the Mediterranean?

M. How can we get the most out of NATO infrastructure (common-funded military construction)? the most for what, and for whom?

N. What projects are the best bets for increased transatlantic cooperations in R&D and armaments production? What changes in US policy and practice are required?

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 4 NATO. Secret. Also sent to the Department of Defense, all NATO capitals, Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Moscow, Prague, Sofia, Warsaw, the Missions at Geneva and the UN, SHAPE, USCINCLANT, USDOCOSOUTH, and USCINCEUR.
  2. April 10–11.
  3. Telegram 336 from USNATO, dated January 24; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 4 NATO.
  4. Telegram 365 from USNATO, dated January 25; ibid.