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Digital Archive International History Declassified

June 07, 1963


This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY)

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    The Council of Ministers report on the NATO council meeting in Ottawa, which Minister of Foreign Affairs Luns and Minister of Defense Visser attended. Luns spoke privately with President Kennedy about the attitude of the French and the possibility of an independent German nuclear arsenal. Visser visited weapons centers in the United States and emphasizes the need to accept American leadership in the defense of Europe.
    "Meeting Minutes, Council of Ministers of the Netherlands, 'NATO Council in Ottawa and Visit to President Kennedy' ," June 07, 1963, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, National Archives, The Hague, Council of Ministers, access number, inventory number 753. Obtained and translated by Bastiaan Bouwman.
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Council of Ministers

7 June 1963

2b. NATO council in Ottawa and visit to President Kennedy

Minister [of Foreign Affairs] Luns reports that Minister [of Defense] Visser and he attended the meeting of the NATO council in Ottawa. For the Dutch delegation it was satisfying that in Ottawa the plans regarding a multilateral nuclear force were not raised, nor were they discussed informally. During his visit to Washington, however, it did become clear how seriously the American government takes these proposals. Beforehand, during the [Labour Party member of parliament] Vondeling interpellation, the [Dutch] House of Representatives had displayed agreement with the government’s position of staying on the fence. The speech of British Foreign Secretary Home in the NATO council was powerful. The French Minister [of Foreign Affairs] Couve de Murville gave a long introduction about his understanding of the content of the NATO proposals, but his conclusion was phrased in only general terms. No hard words were spoken during the NATO council, while the final communiqué was easily accepted.

During speaker’s visit to President Kennedy the latter brought up the issue of New Guinea, which put speaker on the defensive. Speaker proposed the president to not enter into discussion about this subject any more, but only “to agree to disagree.” Subsequently President Kennedy and Secretary [of State] Rusk made clear their warm appreciation of the Dutch attitude in the European issues. Failure of the GATT consultations would certainly have nourished isolationism in America. The president was highly critical toward the attitude of the French President de Gaulle. During the last ten minutes the plans regarding a multilateral nuclear force were discussed. A year ago the German Chancellor Adenauer was in America, where he argued that as long as he was solidly in control of the Federal Republic, it would not acquire nuclear weaponry, but that this would change as soon as he would leave. Speaker denied the validity of these claims, because West Germany, when faced with a choice between France and America or a choice between Russia and America, will always choose America. Speaker also asked the president to consider clearly telling the German federal ministers that an independent nuclear armament of the Federal Republic is impossible. At this time the Dutch government cannot take a decision and such a decision is not to be expected before December. It is possible that only West Germany is willing to help pay for a multilateral nuclear force. Subsequently speaker discussed this with Secretary Rusk. Rusk believed that a secret clause concerning nuclear armament had been added to the French-German treaty. Rusk asked speaker to tell the German Minister [of Foreign Affairs] Schröder that German nuclear armament would lead to grave problems.

Minister Visser also visited President Kennedy, after a trip along various weapon centers in America, together with NATO Secretary-General Stikker, the Belgian Minister [of Foreign Affairs] Spaak and Greek and Turkish ministers. The discussion immediately turned to the multilateral nuclear force, with regard to which Stikker said that this point had not been discussed in Ottawa, but that the proposals will be studied sympathetically. Speaker put forward that the defense efforts of the European countries are still below the minimum asked for by the military leadership of NATO. A multilateral nuclear force would add a further burden, which speaker does not consider immediately feasible. Secretary Rusk afterwards said that he had greatly appreciated speaker’s explanation; he has the impression that within the American government there are different opinions about these plans.

The prime minister [de Quay] is of the opinion that, militarily speaking, it is hardly of any importance whether the Netherlands joins a multilateral nuclear force or not. This could lead to the Netherlands focusing on conventional weaponry. NATO countries’ decision to participate in this or not will be exclusively political in nature. It is therefore important to know how the matter is viewed by West Germany, France and Russia. Minister Luns points out that even with a multilateral nuclear force the power to decide on its use will remain with the American president. In Ottawa, the British Secretary Home repeated that his government reserves the right to use its nuclear force for its own purposes. Minister Visser remarks that the Netherlands also withdrew forces from NATO for the protection of New Guinea. This is fundamentally the same as Home’s caveat. Minister Luns agrees.

The American government is irritated by the actions of the French, but has nevertheless agreed to the appointment of an official of the French National Bank as Jacobson’s successor as the director of the International Monetary Fund. Speaker has voiced his annoyance at this to President Kennedy and Secretary Rusk.

In the last NATO meeting that he attended as minister, Minister Visser again pointed to the duty that we have to build NATO’s defense together; otherwise speaker does not think it likely that a satisfying solution can be found. In the Netherlands too there are great problems, especially regarding people. Speaker is, however, convinced that a proper buildup of NATO ultimately cannot be sustained if it is to proceed amidst divisions among the various countries. During his trip through America he was deeply impressed by the enormous American defense effort. It would be suitable for the European countries to show sober-mindedness by accepting American leadership in the defense of the West, which would mean a supplementary role for European defense.

Furthermore, Minister Luns has learned that the American government is rather concerned about the state of the business cycle and the balance of payments. There are two currents of opinion about how to counter these problems. The unemployment rate in America is double that of England, which is already worryingly high. Kennedy and Rusk were also very worried about the difficulties surrounding the Negro question.


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