17. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State1

3754. For Acting Secretary. Ref: Deptel 2873.2 Ambassador Finletter and DCM (in the absence from Bonn of Ambassador McGhee) saw the Chancellor at noon today. State Secretary Westrick, Ambassador Grewe, and Assistant Secretary Krapf were also present. After DCM had made the points in reftel, Finletter described the Friday White House meeting in which he said the entire question of MLF policy had been thoroughly covered. The President had carefully considered the subject and was fully cognizant of the need to move ahead. The study phase has now ended and we must now go into an action phase. Finletter added that he had received specific instructions in Washington on the work to be done in Paris.

After reviewing the British and Italian situation, as well as the relationship of Cyprus to Turkish and Greek participation, Finletter noted that the time set for U.S. adherence to the MLF Charter seemed to be the earliest appropriate since 1964 and [sic] was a U.S. election year. We [Page 38] wanted to be sure that a tight schedule was maintained both in Washington and in Paris, where work would proceed parallelly, in order to reach our objective before the end of 1964. Finletter observed that close German cooperation would be required in order to enable us to exercise the strong leadership necessary. We believed that U.K. would eventually come in, though it might not be prepared to do so at first. We also thought that the concrete situation was such as to favor other governments joining MLF.

Erhard said the President could be assured of continuing German support of the MLF in which his country had a large stake both for political and technical military reasons. As far as France was concerned, without denying the existence of the Franco-German treaty, the Germans wanted to avoid any suspicion that they sought any part in the French “force de frappe.” A major point favoring the MLF was that it would tie the U.S. and Germany together in Europe.

Erhard then reviewed the MLF situation in various countries he had recently visited. He was convinced that the U.K. would eventually come in, even under a Labor government. In Italy at first there had been real distrust of the MLF. In response to Italian fears regarding French hegemony and the implications of the “force de frappe,” he had found a particularly effective argument to be that the MLF was the best way to neutralize the “force de frappe”. Even Nenni had seemed persuaded by this. Dutch participation was not 100 percent clear, but he thought they would come in. As to Germany, there could be no doubt about its adherence. Among other things, the MLF provided a useful argument against Soviet charges that contemporary German leaders were revanchist. Their joining would be the best proof that they had no nationalist aspirations in the weapons field.

Erhard went on to say that there would be no trouble in getting the MLF through the Bundestag. While there were some opponents, these were not significant. This was essentially a bipartisan issue on which the SPD would support the government.

In response to Erhard’s query, Finletter said he did not believe the U.S. Congress provided any basic problem on the MLF. In espousing the policy on MLF which had been explained to the Chancellor, the President had expressed his confidence that the Congress would approve the Charter which would be negotiated. In response to a further query, Finletter added he did not think this would be an issue between the parties in the U.S. There was nothing in the Republican tradition which would necessitate their opposing the MLF.

Erhard added that it was, of course, important that as many countries as possible be brought into the MLF. Finletter observed that we wanted this too. However, the MLF was a daring innovation necessary to the solidarity of the West. People did not always take kindly to new [Page 39] ideas, and this was a subject which had not yet demonstrated mass appeal. There was a real need of leadership and of German cooperation with us in the Paris Working Group. We were convinced that support for the MLF would snowball once it became indisputable that it was going to succeed. People would come to recognize it as indispensable to the kind of solidarity which the West requires.

Grewe observed that Ambassador Finletter had made clear that we were moving into a new phase in the MLF discussions. This would involve intensive U.S.-German discussions required to keep the momentum up. These might become public, in fact it might be desirable that they do so. Erhard commented that the German Government would not seek publicity in this matter, but it was clear that such cooperation between the two countries was necessary to progress. He did not fear that public discussion of this cooperation would cause any trouble in Germany.

Finletter noted that Germany was the first country to hear directly of the results of the Washington decisions. An important start had been made by the U.S. making clear its intentions. An intense effort was not required to achieve the desired goal by the end of the year. Erhard reiterated that the President could be told that Germany was fully prepared to cooperate. He looked forward to discussing this subject further during his anticipated meeting with the President in June.

Comment: This was a highly useful launching of consultations following upon the White House meeting. Erhard was well briefed and gave unqualified support to the action program implied in the schedule presented to him. Although the Foreign Office was represented at this meeting, Finletter plans to return to Bonn early next week to meet with Schroeder (who will be in Bonn for a few days before leaving for his Latin American trip with Luebke), and possibly Von Hassel, to have more detailed discussions of specific work involved during the balance of 1964.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF(MLF)1. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Paris for Finletter, London, Brussels, Athens, and Ankara.
  2. Telegram 2873 to Bonn, April 15, instructed McGhee to see Erhard and/or Schroeder to inform them of the decisions taken at the White House meeting on April 10. (Ibid., DEF(MLF)) Regarding the meeting, see Document 16.