5. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Warnke) to Secretary of Defense Laird1


  • USNATO Checklist for the New Administration

Ambassador Cleveland has presented, in the form of a “checklist,” a review of the main policy problems which the US faces in NATO. This memorandum summarizes for your information his 42-page cable (Tab A)2 and presents our views on these major issues. No action need be taken at this time on any of the matters discussed.

The cable comprises a general discussion of current US policy in the areas of (1) political consultation and (2) defense planning; a number of questions in these areas; specific recommendations on certain matters; and, in all cases, his views on the question. A detailed summary of the defense planning questions with USNATO recommendations and rationale, together with ISA comments, is at Tab B.3 Our comments below are in brackets.

Defense Planning

The major defense planning issues concern (1) how the burden of the defense effort should be shared by the US and the Allies, and how resources should be allocated; (2) the US balance-of-payments problem; (3) the possible further redeployment of US forces from Europe; (4) the role of France in the NATO defense system; and (5) consultation on the use of nuclear weapons. A summary of these major issues follows:

1. Sharing of the Defense Effort, and Allocation of Resources. The US has been trying for some years to get the Europeans (who average around 5% of GNP for defense as against 10% for the US) to take over a larger share of the defense burden in Europe, to correspond to their spectacularly improved economic position. The thrust of US efforts has been to induce the Europeans to improve the quality—equipment, training, stocks—of their conventional forces. There is plenty of (US) nuclear power in the Alliance. If the Europeans would improve their [Page 23] large standing armies to be fully effective, the US could reduce somewhat the number of US ground forces and air forces deployed in Europe on a permanent basis.

Ambassador Cleveland argues that we cannot reasonably expect a larger effort from the Europeans; that we will be lucky to keep it at the present level; and that to avoid further erosion and give a lead to further improvements in European forces the US should, after Vietnam, consider doing “more” in Europe. [We disagree. We should be getting substantial relief from our Allies. A substantial shift of the burden is overdue. So long as the US goes on carrying a disproportionate share, there is no reason for the Europeans to do more. The US doing even more in Europe will be more likely to retard than to encourage major new European contributions.]

2. The Balance-of-Payments Problem. Ambassador Cleveland believes that a multilateral scheme for alleviating balance-of-payments problems has some promise and suggests that we should seek agreement among NATO members on a formal policy of cooperation. [As Mr. Nitze told Ambassador Cleveland very clearly on 15 January, Treasury/State/Defense are convinced that any multilateral scheme promises only delay in the bilateral negotiations and have instructed Ambassador Cleveland not to encourage NATO study of a multilateral payments scheme. Germany is the key NATO country for the US balance of payments problem. Of $1,790 million of US defense expenditures in NATO countries in FY 1968, half—$888 million—were in Germany. Any “multilateral” scheme is bound to come back in the end to Germany as the burdened party. A one or two-year study in NATO will give the Germans an easy excuse to avoid substantive negotiations in the meantime, at least in part. State/Treasury/Defense remain opposed.]

3. Redeployment of Forces from Europe. Ambassador Cleveland argues that this can only be done if we make “some reasonable promises about keeping the remaining troops in Europe for a predictable period.” He says that, for the time being, we should bargain for European improvements in return for a US freeze of troop levels in Europe. [He does not explicitly comment on the REDCOSTE program, decided in December 1968 by the Secretary of Defense, and providing for the streamlining of forces in Europe—combining headquarters, tightening logistics, redeploying to US miscellaneous support functions—with an estimated savings of $393 million in budget and $145 million in balance of payments net outflow by the end of FY 73, plus a return of 45,000 personnel to the US.] Ambassador Cleveland also stresses the need for full consultation, over a long period of time, prior to any major withdrawals.

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[There is confusion between reductions through streamlining and support reorganization on the one hand (REDCOSTE), and withdrawals of major US combat units on the other. We have tried to clarify the difference. No major combat unit reductions are currently proposed. The issue rather is how to reduce our BOP and budget problems without impairing combat effectiveness in Europe. We think the best course is to proceed apace with REDCOSTE (the nature and general financial aspects of which have now been revealed in the press)4 and tell our Allies promptly and fully just what REDCOSTE is and what it is not.]

[At the same time, we must remain flexible and be able to take advantage of our increasing strategic mobility and—hopefully—increases in the European defense contribution. Where it is clearly in the US interest to make further redeployments in the future without adversely affecting NATO’s overall defense posture, we must be free to do so. We should therefore avoid a “freeze” of current force levels or agreement to any form of advance “consultation” with NATO which might unduly restrict our freedom of action.]

4. The Role of France in the NATO Defense System. Ambassador Cleveland states that there is no reasonable prospect for a basic change in NATO defense relations with France while DeGaulle is in power. He also cautions against developing US-French bilateral ties in defense, for example in nuclear matters, of a kind which would weaken the solidarity of the integrated NATO defense system. [We believe that we should use every opportunity, including legitimate US-French bilateral discussions, exercises, exchange of personnel, and arrangements for use of French real estate, to develop close de facto French military relations with the US and with NATO. This can be done at a level below the threshold of political visibility. After DeGaulle closer cooperation may become possible even on a higher level. We believe that adequate discussion of our procedures and our reasons with our Allies can avoid an adverse impact on allied interests. The other Allies follow this practice (Germany, UK) without adverse effect on the Alliance. We can, too.]

5. Consultation on the Use of Nuclear Weapons.

a. Discussions of Nuclear Policy in the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG). Ambassador Cleveland (1) believes that the advantages of continuing to talk with our Allies in the NPG about “the political and military complexities of nuclear warfare” clearly outweigh the risks of discovery by the Europeans that questions such as how to use nuclear weapons tactically have no easy answers, but (2) cautions that we should not raise too many doubts about the usability of tactical nuclear weapons, since this “would obviously erode the deterrent.” [We believe (1) that the [Page 25] NPG must think hard and in detail about the pros and cons of the various possible concepts for using nuclear weapons (particularly “tactical” weapons) in NATO’s defense; (2) that we should give the NPG members the benefit of our analyses of nuclear warfare in Europe (including our doubts); and (3) that we should continue to seek to bring about modifications in our Allies’ thinking about defense so that they will recognize the need to purchase and support a force posture that both deters the more likely forms of aggression against Europe and provides options short of widespread nuclear war in Europe or general war if deterrence should fail.]

b. Consultation in NATO in Crises on the Use of Nuclear Weapons. Ambassador Cleveland states that the paper on consultation developed by staffs of NPG countries (and the International Staff) in Brussels for NPG consideration represents a relatively harmless statement of principles and assumptions about the “mechanics of consultation”, and that US footdragging could cause this subject to become a fairly major political issue. He only hints at the very difficult constitutional issue underlying discussions of “mechanics”—who controls NATO’s use of nuclear weapons in wartime, the Council or the US?—noting that the consultation discussion in the NPG involves the “unwillingness of sovereign states to delegate war or peace decisions.” [We and the Joint Staff strongly believe that discussions in Brussels about the “mechanics” of consultation are bound (1) to lead to examination of “how NATO goes to war”—an exercise which can prove extremely divisive and is not likely to produce any beneficial results, even of a procedural nature; and (2) to generate pressures for new restrictions that we could well find unacceptable and harmful to the deterrent. Moreover, in our judgment the alleged European desire for detailed consultation procedures does not reflect interest in NATO capitals (except the Netherlands), but rather has been encouraged by NATO Secretary General Brosio, his International Staff, and several Permanent Representatives who have a strong personal interest in consultation procedures. For these reasons, we believe the nuclear consultation question should be reserved for the personal attention of Ministers at the next NPG meeting in London in May, and that in the meantime we should strongly discourage any further PermRep or staff discussions of the matter.]

Political Consultation

In the part of his telegram dealing with the political issues in NATO, which will be addressed primarily by the Department of State, Ambassador Cleveland stresses the need for increased political consultation with the Allies. The most important of his specific recommendations are:

1. That the new Administration give early confirmation that it will consult in NATO about US-Soviet arms limitation talks (SALT), and [Page 26] that we give this confirmation even before we decide when and how to pursue the subject with the Soviets;

2. That the new Administration initiate a NATO study of the situation in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and its implications for East-West relations, which would form the basis for discussion at the NATO Ministerial Meeting in April; and

3. That a related study be made of the kinds of East-West contacts, which in light of Czechoslovakia, will best advance NATO’s interests.

Paul C. Warnke
  1. Source: Ford Library, Laird Papers, Accession 2001–NLF–020, Box 1, NATO, Vol. 1. Secret. The memorandum is stamped “Sec Def has seen” with the stamped date of January 30, 1969. All brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 4 and footnotes 3 and 4 thereto.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. See, for example, William Beecher, “U.S. Weighing Plan to Reduce Noncombat Troops in Europe,” New York Times, January 26, 1969, p. 7.