18 October 1952
Lord Ismay, Vice-Chairman of the North Atlantic Council and Secretary-General
- Since, to my great regret, I do not speak Italian, I have prepared
this statement in the hope that it will provide the answers to some
of the questions which are in your minds, and at the same time clarify
various points about NATO matters which are not always understood.
- First the constitution and powers of the NATO Council. At the Ministerial
meeting in Lisbon last February, it was decided that a Council of
Permanent Representatives should be established in Paris in permanent
session, with effective powers of decision, Accordingly the Council,
as now constituted, can settle important questions, irrespective of
whether Ministers are present or not. For example, the Council recently
appointed General Ridgway as Supreme Commander in Europe to succeed
General Eisenhower and signed his letters of appointment. Again, the
Council negotiated and signed the agreement between NATO and. the European
Defense Community. It goes without saying that each national representative
can only act under authority from his Government: but the same condition
applies to Ministers. Even if the Council in Paris were made up of Prime
Ministers, those Prime Ministers would still have to refer to their
Governments for authority to take decisions on any matters on which
they had not already had instructions. The Council is not a supra-national
authority, and its decisions must be unanimous.
- Might I add a word about my own position. I have a dual capacity
as Vice-Chairman of the Council and as Secretary-General of the International
Staff which serve the Council. In the first capacity I preside over
the meetings of the Council, except when the Chairman is present. As
head of the International Staff, I see to it that the staff carry out
the instructions of the Council and help them in all the ways that a
staff should help. Thus it will be seen that I am not a political Eisenhower
or Ridgway. I cannot speak or issue instructions on my own authority.
I can only speak in the name of the Council and on the authority of
the Council. It is very right that it should be so.
- Let me emphasize that all the members of the alliance enjoy exactly
the same sovereign equality, irrespective of their size, their population
or the extent of their resources. Thus my good friend, Ambassador Rossi-Longhi,
the Permanent Representative of Italy on the Council, can express the
Italian view with precisely the same freedom and force as is enjoyed
by the representatives of the other countries.
- The next Ministerial Meeting of the Council is to take place on the
15th December in Paris.
The main item on the agenda will be the Annual Review of the military
requirements and politico-economic capabilities. This review is a sort
of stock-taking a report on the extent to which we have filled
our commitments for the current year, and a setting up of specific goals
for the coming year and targets for planning purposes for the next two
years. There has been a good deal of talk lately about the possibility
that we may fall short of our proclaimed goals for 1952. On this I would
like to make this point. Wars are not prevented or won by counting heads
or any other arithmetic formula. We must take into account the progress
made in cooperation, standardization of procedure, development of military
leadership at all levels, and mutual understanding. The manoeuvres which
have taken place in recent months on the ground, in the air, and at
sea, have demonstrated how very much progress we have made in developing
the essential team work which is necessary for the smooth running of
international forces. A visit to the NATO Defense College in Paris is
a heartening experience and an encouraging proof of the progress we
are making in our international cooperation.
- But even more important than these features I have just mentioned,
is the unity that binds the 14 nations of the Atlantic Alliance together.
I stress the word unity because that is what matters more than anything
else: that is the real answer to the threat of aggression, that is what
potential . enemies fear more than anything else; that is what they
want to destroy more than anything else. We must be on guard against
the sometimes persuasive whispers and insinuations of propagandists
who seek to magnify our differences and try to drive a wedge in our
unity. Nations cannot afford to stand alone to be picked off one by
one. We have the eloquent evidence of countries that formerly were free,
independent, and important members of the Western European community,
who now have fallen under the domination and imperialistic exploitation
of the Soviet.
- Clearly we must arm up to the limit in order to be as strong as possible
as rapidly as possible, but not at the expense of national bankruptcy.
We cannot afford, through excessive haste to avert the hot war, to lose
the cold one. Our alliance, it cannot be too often repeated, is purely
defensive. Not a ship, not a plane, not a gun will ever be used except
in self-defense. And no one knows better than the Soviet General Staff
that the forces we plan are of a magnitude which can never be put to
offensive or aggressive purposes.
- I would like to make this particular point. It is a curious fact
that we in the Atlantic Community are inclined to blame our own Governments,
our own leaders for the sacrifices which we are making in the cause
of defense, rather than to place the blame where it truly belongs. At
the end of the war, we hastened to disarm, our soldiers were sent back
to the farms and the factories and whatever their civilian occupations
were. This was true of every country in the West. In Russia, the armed
forces were maintained at several times their pre-war strength. Across
half of Europe, Soviet troops kept an iron grip. In 1949, Czechoslovakia,
was dragged behind the Iron Curtain to join Poland, Hungary, Rumania,
Bulgaria, and the Baltic States. In April, 1949, the North
Atlantic Treaty was signed. Twelve countries of the West on both
sides of the Atlantic, and now augmented by Greece end Turkey, were
joined together to help prevent exploitation and imperialism. When we
pay our taxes, when we undergo our military training, when we make the
sacrifices which we are making to remain free, let us place the blame
where it belongs, on the men in the Kremlin.
- Now to turn to the matters which I have had the good fortune to discuss
during the last three days with Prime Minister de Gasperi and his colleagues
who deal with NATO affairs. It is very clear from what the tell me that
they are working in every way to solve Italy's growing problem of surplus
man-power. The North Atlantic Council has already focussed the attention
of the Atlantic Alliance on this problem and only recently the Council
established a working group to delve farther into this serious problem.
I think we all must realize that there is no immediate miraculous solution
to be pulled out of the hat by a magician, but I can assure you that
its successful solution is a matter of common concern to all. I did
not have to come to Rome to know of your problem, but I can tell you
that it has been a major preoccupation of our talks during my stay here.
- We in NATO do not regard ourselves as members of merely a military
alliance, planning for our immediate defence. For although security
must of course get first priority (because if we go under there is no
use planning for any other progress), we are acutely conscious of the
fact that the Treaty makes specific mention of the non-military objectives
of the signatory countries. We have agreed to work together for our
common good. This work must go on, without waiting for the completion
of our defence build-up. Our efforts on the problem of the mobility
of labour is just one example of our efforts in the non-military field,
I would be dishonest if I pretended that we have as yet made much headway
here, but I can assure you honestly that this is a major preoccupation
of us all.
- Another point which was raised at our meeting and which I believe
is of great importance to us all is that of developing a common foreign
policy or, at least, of making sure that all the members are consulted
and have an opportunity to be heard on the major issues of foreign policy
that affect members of the Atlantic Community. This practice of consultation
is developing gradually, and, the habit of working together, of thinking
as a family or a team about our common problems is taking hold. What
we are learning in international co-operation in our unprecedented effort
to build our defences in time of peace, is bound to pay back dividends,
as we increasingly acquire experience in the much broader sphere of
economic and political collaboration.
- One last point. No one can put his heart and soul into an enterprise
unless he has faith in his purpose and good hopes of its ultimate achievement.
I should be rendering a great disservice if I were to paint too rosy
a picture of our achievements in the three and a half years that we
have been working together. Complacency in the present situation would
be criminal folly, but the same is clearly true of defeatism, I would
like to proclaim my faith here and now. First I am convinced that the
North Atlantic Treaty provides the best, if not the only hope for peace,
secondly, I believe that all though there is a long long way to go,
we are on the right road, and thirdly I am absolutely sure that if we
are patient, resolute and above all united, our exertions and sacrifices
will not have been in vain.