6. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • NATO Political Consultation


  • Dr. Dirk U. Stikker, NATO Secretary-General2
  • Mr. David Bendall, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary-General
  • Mr. John Getz, Director of the Office of the Secretary-General
  • The Secretary
  • Under Secretary Ball
  • Mr. Philip Farley, USRO
  • Mr. David H. Popper, EUR/RPM
  • Mr. Christopher Van Hollen, EUR/RPM
[Page 11]

Dr. Stikker said that he might say something at the May meeting about the importance of NATO political consultation. However, he was disappointed because while there was general agreement to improve such consultation, NAC discussions tended to be limited to questions of procedure. It was essential to consult on the implications of the French recognition of Communist China, on Berlin and Malaysia, as well as on Cuban trade and credits to the USSR. However, there was little chance of success on the latter two subjects because of the fixed British attitude.

The Secretary noted that in his earlier private conversation with Dr. Stikker 3 he had asked whether it might be useful for the United States to prepare a paper which would assess the possible erosion of United States public support of NATO if the current trends in NATO continued, such as French recognition of Communist China and a relaxed attitude toward Cuba trade and credits to the USSR. When such a paper was prepared, Ambassador Finletter could absent himself while the other fourteen Permanent Representatives discussed it. Usually the question was asked “What is the United States going to do about NATO?” The purpose of the proposed paper would be to seek an answer to the question “What is NATO going to do about the United States?”

Noting that the Belgians had been pressing for NATO consultation on the question of French recognition of Communist China, Dr. Stikker said that the danger was that the Belgians might interpret NATO’s refusal to discuss this question as giving Belgium a free hand to carry out its own explorations with the Communists. Spaak might feel free to make a trip through Eastern Europe because of a belief that there was no common NATO policy with regard to the Alliance’s relationship to the Communist Bloc. Dr. Stikker added that he had attempted to discourage such an interpretation by the Belgians. Mr. Popper pointed out that one of the problems for the United States was that political consultation often seemed untimely because the United States faced specific operational problems which made consultation difficult. For example, one question which had to be considered was whether or not it would be prudent to consult in NAC on the Chinese Communist recognition issue in advance of De Gaulle’s press conference. In reply to a question from the Secretary, Dr. Stikker said that five NATO countries now recognize Communist China, observing that as Dutch Foreign Minister he had favored recognition by the Netherlands, although such recognition had taken place before the Korean War. Commenting on our relations with the French, the Secretary said that there was considerable understanding on fiscal matters, some meeting of minds on trade, and that Secretary McNamara [Page 12] and Messmer4 seemed to get along well. But there was no area of agreement on the larger political issues.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 4 NATO. Confidential. Drafted by Van Hollen on February 5 and approved in S on February 16 and in U on February 11. The conversation was held in Rusk’s office.
  2. Stikker visited Washington February 3–5. A memorandum of his conversation with Tyler on February 3 at 4 p.m. on current NATO problems is ibid., SCI 3 NATO; memoranda of his discussions with various U.S. officials at 10:15 and 10:45 a.m. on February 4 on Cyprus, MRBMs, and NATO force planning are ibid., DEF 4 NATO and DEF 12 NATO.
  3. No record of this conversation has been found.
  4. Pierre A. Messmer, French Defense Minister.
  5. Rusk and Stikker also discussed the May NATO Ministerial Meeting and the relation between NATO civil and military authorities. On the former, Stikker believed it was too early to make an appreciation of the meeting; on the latter, he reported that decisions taken by the Standing Group and Military Committee were seldom based on coordinated governmental positions and this often created problems. (Memoranda of conversation; Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330) Stikker developed the problem of relations with NATO military authorities further in a conversation with Ball on February 4, stating that he was not kept fully informed of their activities and that the only solution was to station a representative of the Secretary General with both the Standing Group and the Military Committee. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid., Central Files, DEF 4 NATO)