27. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Regional Organizations1

Topol 23. London’s 6356; Rome’s 3415.2 It may be useful in light both Italian and UK reactions to proposed MLF schedule to clarify US position in this regard. Hand of opponents of MLF will be strengthened to extent they able misrepresent US attitude as one of inflexibility and unrelenting pressure upon allies to meet fixed timetable regardless political circumstances in states concerned and regardless whether governments stand or fall. Request your views on use of following line of reasoning with Italy and UK on this matter.

US proposed timetable calls for preparations to proceed at such pace as to be ready for decision and signature by November–December. Since these preparations would be undertaken without commitment, we do not see why this schedule should pose insuperable problems for any of governments concerned, and the earlier such preparations completed the easier it will be for post-election UK government and other governments to consider problem in all its dimensions and better position all will be to make decision on signing agreement.

As to signing date, we continue hope and expect that sufficient number of governments to permit establishment of Force may be prepared sign agreement at end current year. But this is, of course, decision for them to make in light of their individual circumstances; while explaining the basis for our own views and actions, we do not intend to apply pressure on them with respect to either substance or timing. As we have often said, no individual country (e.g. Italy or UK) is in our view essential to that end; an additional element whose implications we will have to consider is growing favorable trend in Low countries.

Inability of country to sign at end of year would not of course necessarily deprive it of opportunity to be founding member, since several months would be required for legislative action and deposit of ratification before treaty could come into effect. Arrangements could be made for signing by UK or Italy during this period. Indeed, some Labor [Page 60] spokesmen have indicated that it would be easier for a Labor government to sign if others had already done so, so that UK did not seem to be taking initiative. Even at that stage there would be room for at least some flexibility on date of deposit of required ratification if desirable to achieve broader base for initial components of Force.

Nor do we exclude Charter in sufficiently flexible terms that weapon system add-ons of kind in which UK interested might be provided for in principle in advance of full elaboration of details.

Thus US considers schedule as envisaged already contains the essential elements of flexibility required to meet principal UK and Italian concerns.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files DEF(MLF)3. Secret. Drafted by Vincent Baker (S/MF) on June 23; cleared by Smith, Spiers, Bundy, BNA, S/P, and U; and approved by Tyler.
  2. Telegram 6356 from London, June 22, reported British concern that the United States might attempt to force a decision on the MLF before the new government elected in the fall had time to organize itself. Telegram 3415 from Rome, June 19, reported Italian concerns that a decision on the MLF give due consideration to both the fall British election and the West German elections in the spring of 1965. (Both ibid., DEF(MLF)4)