7. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • NATO


  • The President
  • Dr. Dirk Stikker, Secretary General of NATO
  • Mr. John Getz, Member of NATO International Staff
  • Under Secretary of State George W. Ball
  • Mr. Philip J. Farley, Political Adviser to Chief of USRO
  • J. Robert Schaetzel, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Atlantic Affairs

Mr. Ball told the President that Dr. Stikker had finished a series of useful discussions with Secretaries Rusk and McNamara and invited Dr. Stikker to summarize the current situation in NATO.2

Dr. Stikker began by noting that De Gaulle’s influence was to be seen everywhere. He was personally not so worried about the Six in view of the cohesion of the European Community and the internal French pressures in favor of the Common Market which together were too strong to permit the General to break up the Community. Dr. Stikker went on to say that this does not mean the French will be easy to negotiate with. For [Page 13] instance, at the December Marathon meeting the French got all they wanted while the Germans made all the biggest sacrifices. However, we must anticipate that De Gaulle would continue to block U.K. entry into the Common Market for this would challenge his dominance.

Dr. Stikker said he was disturbed about De Gaulle’s influence on NATO. He recalled De Gaulle’s attempt to develop a Tripartite Directorate which he did not get and which would have been highly disruptive. French cooperation since then can be obtained only to the extent that this helps France have its own way. Dr. Stikker added that he thinks a Directorate would not work in any event due to the mounting importance of Germany and the increased influence and pride of Italy. Dr. Stikker insisted that he admired De Gaulle as a man but thought it important to appreciate the extent to which he blocked so many avenues of progress. He does not want to take action and thus presents the alliance with a difficult dilemma of how to react. There will either be hard collisions or we shall have to find some way of working around the General. He felt that a collision is not the way to handle him, that it will not change his position. He said, for instance, that the alliance has not been blocked on an air defense system but had succeeded in working out an arrangement in which there was a degree of French cooperation. Dr. Stikker defined this alliance operation as one of mutual respect or tolerance in which the French would not be asked to do things they did not want to do but would not block action by other members of the organization.

Dr. Stikker noted, however, that on many occasions when you need De Gaulle he says no as he had just done on Cyprus.

Dr. Stikker suggested that the danger of De Gaulle could be seen from the press conference3 to which he had listened twice to be sure that he got an accurate impression. Dr. Stikker said this was the same type of nationalism Europeans had experienced in earlier periods. The message was one of power of station, and “no one can control me.” Dr. Stikker indicated that there are many in France who like this talk and this type of strong man. But what had been and will be the reactions in other countries? The French insist they have to have a nuclear bomb but why will not others insist on the same national prerogative. Right now we have a good democratic government in Germany through such leaders as Erhard, Schroeder and Von Hassel, but what does the future hold with men like Strauss and Guttenberg?4 In Italy at the moment there is devoted support for NATO by men like Segni and Saragat.

[Page 14]

The President said he understood, but asked what we could do about this situation.

Dr. Stikker went on to say that a somewhat similar situation arose out of the position of the U.K. No member of the alliance should come to the Council with a rigid position. This induces other countries to perform similarly.

Dr. Stikker referred to the November 18 NAC meeting on credits. He suggested it must be made clear to the British what their obduracy means. He speculated on whether Home actually realized the significance or the implications of British positions in NATO. Mr. Ball injected that there would be an opportunity to talk about this matter when the Prime Minister arrived in Washington, and Dr. Stikker said this was why he was raising the question. He went on to say he was as much worried about what the U.K. is doing now as by the French attitude because both would encourage other countries to act in the same fashion.

The President turned to Mr. Ball and asked what was the status of the Cyprus matter. Mr. Ball replied that he was not going off to London today in view of the fact that there seemed to be some flexibility in the Cypriots’ position and this would give the British a day or two to see what they could negotiate. He said it was much better for the British to take the lead if they were able and willing to do so. He said it would be necessary to watch Ankara very closely for the next few days. There might be involved a week or so of negotiations.

Dr. Stikker said while the immediate problem of Cyprus was not in his compass, nevertheless the implications were of vital importance to NATO. Mr. Ball was asked whether he thought Makarios5 would accept the proposals put forward, to which Mr. Ball replied he thought there was a possibility he would.

The President, turning to Dr. Stikker, said how much he admired his work as Secretary General and the personal sacrifice he was making for NATO. While things were perhaps not as good as we would like them, they were better than we had a right to expect. He said he understood Dr. Stikker’s view on France and this was a problem we would have to live with. He said he had had good visits with Erhard and Segni and looked forward to seeing Home shortly.

  1. Source: Department of State, President’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 66 D 149. Secret. Drafted by Schaetzel and approved in U on February 10 and by the White House on the same day. The conversation was held at the White House.
  2. Memoranda of Stikker’s conversation with McNamara on February 5 and with other Department of Defense officials on February 4 and 5 are ibid., Central Files, DEF 4 NATO. These conversations dealt primarily with NATO force planning, infrastructure, and MRBMs. For a memorandum of Rusk’s conversation with Stikker, see Document 6.
  3. For a transcript of De Gaulle’s press conference, January 31, see Major Addresses, Statements and Press Conferences of General Charles de Gaulle, May 19, 1958–January 31, 1964, pp. 245–258.
  4. Franz Josef Strauss, former West German Defense Minister, and Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg, Bundestag member.
  5. Archbishop Makarios III, President of the Cypriot Republic.