Volume #21 - 168.|
NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION
TRIPARTITE ALERTS AGREEMENT
Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to High Commissioner in United Kingdom
January 25th, 1955|
Reference: Your telegram No. 14 of January 6, 1955.?
Mr. Dulles and Sir Anthony Eden both spoke to the Minister in Paris before his return to Canada on December 19 about their concern over the problem of "alert" procedures by which action could be coordinated in an emergency, reserving all the rights of governments but permitting the military to make quick decisions. As Eden may wish Sir Norman Brook to discuss with you the next steps which might be taken, I am writing to give you the substance of Mr. Pearson's conversations and a brief account of the background.
2. Mr. Dulles, who saw the Minister first, thought that the formula which had been worked out at the Ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council in regard to military planning for the use of atomic weapons was a good one, and that the unanimity revealed on this matter was encouraging, especially in view of the unfortunate and tendentious press speculations which had preceded the meeting.32 He was worried, however, about the possibility of subsequent discussion in the Council as to how the governments would exercise their right of decision in regard to the use of atomic weapons if an emergency developed. He felt that such a discussion would likely not be helpful and might be dangerous. It simply was not possible to work out in advance an agreement between fifteen nations on a subject of this kind which would cover every situation. The constitutional difficulties, for instance, which would prevent governments delegating powers in such a vital matter, could not be discussed publicly without giving aid and comfort to a potential aggressor.
3. Mr. Dulles admitted that there might have to be some understanding reached with the powers principally concerned, notably the United Kingdom, France and Canada, as to the procedure which should be followed for making quick and necessary decisions if an emergency developed. He thought, however, that any such arrangements should be kept very secret, and that NATO Council discussion of these matters, let alone public discussion, should be discouraged.
4. Mr. Pearson told Mr. Dulles that he was inclined to agree because it was practically impossible to reconcile constitutional positions with practical necessities in a case of this kind; that in any event developments would determine decisions and probably in a way which could not now be foreseen. Mr. Pearson went on to say that there were two things which we should do: first, by continuous consultation keep our policies in alignment, especially if the political situation should deteriorate, and, secondly, agree if possible on "alert" procedures so that the military would know what had to be done in an emergency.
5. Sir Anthony Eden, when he called on the Minister, also expressed anxiety about the effects of any public discussion of this matter. Unlike Mr. Dulles, however, he thought that studies should begin at once to see if satisfactory arrangements could not be agreed on. He was emphatic that the first examination of the problem should be by the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada alone. He was going to ask Sir Norman Brook to apply his mind to a solution. They would then take the matter up with Washington and Ottawa in the hope that the three governments could agree on plans. Only then would they discuss it with the French, and later with the other NATO members. He felt that the procedure adopted in regard to the formula for reconciling the necessities of military atomic planning with the ultimate responsibilities of governments for decision could usefully be applied to this other problem.
6. Mr. Pearson told Sir Anthony that we had already worked out some technical arrangements with the United States in regard to emergency action in North America and that this might be looked at in regard to a more general application. Eden said that they would be very grateful if you could tell them something about this. In view of your familiarity with this aspect of the problem I shall do no more here than touch on the main points.
Bilateral Arrangements between the United States and Canada
7. The United Kingdom authorities are of course aware that the arrangements for "meetings of consultation" in Washington to exchange views on developments in the world situation which might necessitate the use of atomic weapons, made with them following Mr. Attlee's visit in December 1950, were made also with us. We would have preferred trilateral meetings, and we understand that the United Kingdom Ambassador was also instructed in 1951 to do his best to place these consultations on a tripartite basis. The United States Government, however, preferred to have two sets of bilateral consultations on the ground that trilateral meetings might be misunderstood by other governments, particularly the French.33
8. We told the United States at the time that if separate bilateral discussions were continued we would wish to complete the triangle by consultation with the United Kingdom, and no objection was raised. The United Kingdom Government authorized its Ambassador in Washington to discuss fully with our Ambassador his consultations with the United States Government on the subject of atomic warfare. The United States Government has been aware that except on matters of North American defence the United Kingdom and Canadian Ambassadors have followed the practice of comparing notes after each consultation, and the State Department has accepted this without question. It has always been understood, of course, that no information about these discussions should be given to any government other than the three governments concerned.
9. These "meetings of consultation" have provided a good informal channel through which we gain access to the thinking of United States political and military authorities at a high level, and we believe that we should continue to make use of them whenever the occasion demands. We have always assumed that they take place within the framework of the responsibilities assumed by the United States for the principal strategic air offensive of Allied powers and the arrangements for tripartite collaboration in the field of atomic energy.
10. The other arrangements which we have with the United States concern the handling of requests for permission to make use of facilities in Canadian territory or to fly over Canadian territory in connection with the employment of atomic weapons. No public announcement has been made about these arrangements comparable to the statement which has been made several times that the use of the United States Air Force bases in the United Kingdom in an emergency "would be a matter for joint decision by Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government in the light of the circumstances prevailing at the time." They have, however, been worked out in considerable detail.
11. An Order-in-Council (P.C. 2307 of April 17, 1952) sets out in general terms the regulations governing flights of United States service aircraft over Canadian territory. Related to the Order-in-Council, but not forming a part of it and therefore not subject to the requirement that Orders-in-Council be tabled and published, are two schedules. These contain the procedures to be followed for clearing normal service flights (Secret) and flights of Strategic Air Command aircraft involving the movement of atomic weapons (Top Secret). Technical arrangements designed to ensure that an urgent request by the United States Government could be considered with a minimum of delay by the Canadian Ministers concerned have been worked out and tested. In making these arrangements our object has been to maintain the responsibility of the Government of Canada in connection with any operations which may be launched from or through Canadian territory, while avoiding administrative procedures which might impede the United States Air Force in the discharge of its responsibilities under collective defense plans. The procedures are known only to a restricted number of ministers and officials of the two governments directly concerned. You should of course make this clear in any discussion of them with Sir Norman Brook or other United Kingdom officials.
The Problem of Alerts in NATO
12. In 1951 the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, produced an outline of alert measures as an annex to his emergency defence plan and sent it to the Standing Group with a request that it be presented to governments for early approval. Pending approval, SACEUR stated that he would consider its provisions valid within his command. The annex was included in his emergency defence plan for 1952 and again for 1953 without having been formally approved. A similar annex was included in the emergency defence plans of the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic.
13. In May 1953 the Standing Group produced a document [S.G. 129/4 (Final)] which purported to approve SACEUR's annex, with certain amendments, and set forth general principles regarding alerts and the measures to be taken to implement them. At the same time the Standing Group directed SACEUR, SACLANT, Channel Command and the Canada-United States Regional Planning Group to approach national authorities with a view to:
(a) obtaining their agreement to delegate authority in advance to approved commanders to implement appropriate measures of the Simple Alert in the event of such an alert being declared in an emergency, without prior political authority;
(b) coordinating arrangements for the immediate implementation of appropriate alert measures in the event of an alert being declared in accordance with approved NATO procedures.
SACLANT, Channel Command and the Canada-United States Regional Planning Group were also directed to revise their alert measures to conform to the principles set forth in S.G. 129/4 (Final), and submit them to the Standing Group for consideration.
14. The Standing Group sent their document to the Secretary-General "for the Council's consideration", with a request that procedures be established which would ensure prompt action by the permanent representatives should a recommendation be submitted by the Standing Group or a supreme commander that an alert be declared. The Council, however, proceeded to assume that its approval was being sought, and the Standing Group did not demur. After making certain amendments to the document, the Council, on July 1, 1953:
(a) approved S.G. 129/4 (Revised Final) as a basis for negotiations between supreme commanders and national authorities;
(b) noted that during the bilateral negotiations the supreme commanders would have to act in accordance with S.G. 129/4 (Revised Final) in the absence of any other instructions, but that certain members of the Council were not yet in a position officially to endorse this procedure;
(c) reserved the right to examine this document again should they consider this to be necessary after receiving a report by the Standing Group on the negotiations between supreme commanders and national authorities.;
S.G. 129/4 (Revised Final) prescribes three stages of alert:
(a) SIMPLE-preparatory military measures which will ensure the prompt implementation of the Reinforced Alert, without seriously compromising or disclosing the overall operational plan;
(b) REINFORCED-measures necessary to place NATO commands in the best possible position to meet an attack, to be initiated only if there are conclusive indications that the outbreak of hostilities is imminent;
(c) GENERAL-measures which will be necessary when actual hostilities have commenced.
15. The document recognizes that each government reserves to itself the authority to commit its nation to war. It also recognizes that if any appreciable period of time were to mark the transition from peace to war there would normally be sufficient time to get agreement from political authorities to authorize major commanders to implement the required preliminary measures. The Standing Group or the appropriate supreme commanders concerned would seek this political guidance from the permanent representatives to the Council through the Secretary-General. In a sudden and extreme emergency, however, where there was insufficient time to obtain political guidance through the Council, it was envisaged that:
(a) supreme commanders and their immediate subordinate commanders should be authorized to declare the SIMPLE Alert, without waiting for political authority, and to direct the implementation of the measures necessitated by this alert within the framework of agreements previously reached between the governments concerned and commanders;
(b) supreme commanders should be authorized, in consultation with the Standing Group and with the approval of the individual governments concerned, to declare the REINFORCED Alert;
(c) in the event of an overt act of armed aggression taking place anywhere in the NATO area, supreme commanders should be authorized to call upon commanders of national forces and upon national authorities to implement such of the GENERAL Alert measures as they deem necessary in the appropriate areas of their commands.
16. The Council expressed the hope in July 1953 that the bilateral negotiations would be concluded and the results reported within three months. In fact they have not yet been concluded. The Council was informed in March 1954 that SACEUR estimated that they would not be completed so far as his command was concerned before early 1955; SACLANT and the Channel Command could make little further progress until SACEUR's discussions reached a more advanced stage. The Canada-United States Regional Planning Group informed the Standing Group in September 1953 that an alert plan for the Canada-United States Region was unnecessary, in the absence of a supreme commander, since the necessary instructions would be issued on a national basis.
17. At present, therefore, the formal position is that political authority will be obtained through the Council if time permits; that in a sudden and extreme emergency the supreme commanders and their immediate subordinate commanders have authority to declare the Simple Alert on their own responsibility; that supreme commanders alone have the authority in such an emergency, in consultation with the Standing Group and with the approval of governments concerned, to declare the Reinforced Alert; and that supreme commanders also have the authority, in the event of an overt act of armed aggression, to call upon national forces and national authorities to implement such General Alert measures as they deem necessary in the appropriate areas of their commands. All these delegated powers, however, are limited by the agreements previously negotiated or to be negotiated between the governments concerned and the NATO commanders.
18. The Canadian representative concurred in the Council's decision of July 1, 1955. He made it clear to the Council, however, that while he could accept S.G. 129/4 (Revised Final) as a basis for negotiations between the supreme commanders and national authorities, the Canadian view was that final approval of the document should only be given after the bilateral negotiations had been brought to a successful conclusion.
19. SACEUR's and SACLANT's detailed proposals regarding alert measures have been under study in Ottawa for some time, but they have not yet been considered by Ministers and we are consequently not in a position to say when or to what extent they will be accepted. One difficulty, which you will readily appreciate, is that some of the alert measures proposed by the supreme commanders could be implemented only if the War Measures Act were invoked. While there is unlikely to be any serious dissent from the principle that procedures for moving to a state of war should be standardized, both nationally and within NATO, this and other difficulties of a practical nature remain to be solved.34
The Problem of "Indicator Intelligence"
20. There is a further and related question concerning "alerts" which has not yet been dealt with satisfactorily either in NATO, or between ourselves, the United States and United Kingdom authorities. It seems clear that however satisfactory a procedure may be worked out for dealing with "alerts" that procedure depends fundamentally on an assessment of the information which leads to any given "alert". We suspect that it is the problems surrounding this question which have led Sir Anthony Eden to be so emphatic about urging a tripartite agreement between London, Washington and Ottawa before going further.
21. The Chairman of the Ottawa Joint Intelligence Committee has been in communication with the Chairman of the London Joint Intelligence Committee in an effort to obtain United Kingdom views. We have not yet approached Washington on the problem. At least in part as a result of this preliminary correspondence, the London Joint Intelligence Committee discussed the question of "alerts" and its relation to intelligence at a meeting on December 23, 1954. Although we have not seen the papers on which the discussion was based, the following quotation from the Minutes may be of assistance to you in any discussions you have with Sir Norman Brook and other United Kingdom officials.
"Mr. Dean said that it was clear from the discussions which had taken place in Paris that it would be necessary at the earliest possible stage to examine the machinery whereby an agreed U.S./U.K./Canadian evaluation of urgent indicator intelligence could be reached and passed to the highest political levels in all three countries. The first step, however, was carefully to study the present system of handling alerts in the U.K. which was not by any means clear. This study was a necessary preliminary to any discussions with the Americans and Canadians. The urgent need for closer coordination was accentuated by the changes the Americans proposed to make in their Watch Committee system, which had been covered in a recent Secretary's minute.
"In discussion it was agreed that an examination of the U.K. system was required which would high-light any weaknesses or deficiencies and recommend measures to correct them."
22. The following quotations from the minutes of the first meeting in January are also relevant:
"The Committee had before them a minute by the Secretary referring for their consideration the decision of Director of Intelligence that the U.K. system of evaluating urgent indicator intelligence should be examined and that recommendations should be made for correcting any weaknesses or deficiencies in the system. The minute also suggested that they should defer consideration of the question of instructing Ambassadors and Commanders in Chief overseas regarding the transmission of warning of attack to NATO until after the above examination had been completed.
"After further discussion the following points were agreed:
(a) The principle of an agreed JIC view was confirmed. The present procedure was adequate to cope with an attack which broke out after a protracted period of mounting political tension. It was doubtful if the evaluation machinery would work rapidly enough if it was a question of obtaining a Ministerial decision within a matter of hours from receipt of the intelligence in London.
(b) `Evaluation machinery' as at present understood would be quite unable to cope with a warning of attack of less than one hour. The question of obtaining a Ministerial decision as a result of such a warning was, anyway, entirely academic ....
(e) If we wished the Americans to allow us to maintain a working liaison with their Indications Centre, in order that we might inject words of caution into its counsels, we must be able to show we had a similar or at least equally efficient method of dealing with indicator intelligence. For this reason alone some formalized emergency arrangements were required.
(f) One of the most important decisions to be taken was at what steps a warning of attack should be expressed laterally to authorities outside the intelligence machine. The level at which this was done would depend on whether it could be emphatically ensured that no precipitate operational action would follow i.e. before authorization had been received from Ministers.
23. From a preliminary examination here of the problems involved, it seems clear that the United States Air Defence Command has been bringing aircraft (including those of the Canadian Air Defence Command) to various degrees of readiness without telling us precisely the information which has led them to take such action. It is, therefore, important that the Joint Intelligence Committee in Ottawa should have available to it both from London and Washington by the most rapid means possible all information of a kind which might lead to an "alert" so that an intelligence assessment of the information may be made here. If arrangements of this kind cannot be made we shall, of course, be at the mercy of the operational commands both in the United Kingdom and the United States.
24. By the same token one wonders on what basis NATO commands will call "alerts" under the current agreed procedures. Most of the intelligence which they receive now is in the form of contributions made by national intelligence organizations. So far as we know, such intelligence is evaluated before it goes to NATO commands but even so it seems clear that NATO commands will be inevitably at the mercy of the principal intelligence organizations of NATO, namely, the United States and the United Kingdom. There is additionally some danger that they may receive intelligence from the United Kingdom or the United States authorities in the field in Europe which will be passed to them laterally before the information has been properly evaluated in London and Washington.
25. In this connection we have been interested to learn from Mr. Wilgress that, according to Sir Christopher Steel, one of the suggestions under consideration in London was that the responsibility for coming to a decision as to the reality of an all-out attack should rest with the two Senior Intelligence Officers in Germany of the United Kingdom and the United States. When these two officers were satisfied of the reality of the threat, they would send a pre-arranged signal to their respective capitals whereupon the two Heads of State would come to the crucial decision. This suggestion is clearly at variance with the procedure discussed in the United Kingdom Joint Intelligence Committee and with our own thinking on the problem.
26. It is, of course, possible that the NATO commands themselves may receive some indication from their own sources of a situation which would lead to an "alert" but on the whole this seems unlikely.
27. This question is not one which can readily be discussed in NATO, but if agreement could be reached tripartitely between the intelligence organizations in Washington, London and Ottawa, this should go a long way to ensure that NATO commands receive properly evaluated intelligence at least from the national staffs of the two countries with the best developed intelligence services.
28. The Minister has seen and approved this letter.