Updated: 12-Dec-2001 NATO Speeches

18 October 1952

Press Statement

by Lord Ismay, Vice-Chairman of the North Atlantic Council and Secretary-General of NATO

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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