NATO's New Directions
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 30 Jan 1967, p. 187-202
Norstad, General Lauris, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
NATO and its inception as a result of a tardily recognised sense of common interest and common involvement which grew, starting in 1949, and which soon extended from Canada and the United States across the eastern ocean and into Europe and beyond to Turkey. The Alliance today as it still embodies in the sum of its combined resources, whether economic, military or intellectual, a potential for peace, for order, for growth and for well-being nowhere matched in the present nor recorded from the past. NATO 18 years later. "Disarray" as the fashionable word for NATO now. One or two courses of action which might be considered. Bringing to mind the original aims of the Alliance as first proclaimed at the outset in 1949. Some contrasting quotes about NATO. The matter of force levels within the NATO structure. The problem of reducing the risk of disastrous war while maintaining the strength that has preserved the peace and maintained our freedom. Canada's contribution. A discussion of disarmament. A discussion of a proposal for a system of control and inspection. How effective it might be and what it would provide. Asking ourselves why the NATO forces are where they are and why they are important. Re-orienting the direction of the Alliance and organising to carry out defence along a new direction other than military.
Date of Original
30 Jan 1967
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Full Text
JANUARY 7, 1967
NATO'S New Directions


This Joint Meeting of the Canadian Club and the Empire Club welcomes today as our guest speaker a very distinguished world citizen--the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, General Lauris Norstad.

When a man has completed a Military Career that spans 37 years which culminates in his commanding more men than Napoleon, Wellington and Genghis Khan combined, during which time he has received decorations form ten foreign countries in addition to those most important ones awarded him by his own country, you would think he would be prepared to settle back and rest on his laurels, perhaps write a book, or play golf. If he doesn't want to do that, it could be a bit of a problem to decide what responsibilities to undertake in the business world. I knew an Admiral who retired under somewhat similar circumstances and he told me that he had to face the same problem and he said the solution was very simple, for the only civilian occupation for which he was suited was to be president of a company. "So," he said, "I looked around until I found a company that I could be president of!"

What I have said so far is a flagrant abbreviation of the career of our distinguished speaker. General Lauris Norstad graduated from U.S. Military College in 1930 with a com mission in the Cavalry, and in 1931, after suitable training, he exchanged his saddle (metaphorically speaking) for wings in the Air Corps. Then, postings around the world until his assignment to Washington in 1940, Africa in 1942, and in various other important capacities for the balance of the war.

In 1951 he became Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Air Force Europe, and later that year Commander-in-Chief of all Allied Air Forces in Central Europe. Finally, in 1956, having served as Air Deputy to the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, from 1953 to 1956, the General became the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and Commanderin-Chief of the U.S. European Command, which position he held until his retirement in 1963.

I don't think the General had the same problem in finding a suitable civilian occupation as my friend the Admiral. In fact, I understand industry from many parts of the world had been beating a path to his door for years in an endeavour to persuade him to spend his civilian years as their chief executive officer. The successful candidate was obviously Owens-Corning Fiberglas, the giant and successful U.S. company so well known to businessmen in Canada and the United States.

Today, the General, drawing on his experience as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, is going to address us on the timely and important topic of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's New Directions.


Gentlemen, I am here this time under the joint sponsorship of both the Canadian Club and the Empire Club and consequently I feel the double honour and since this is a return engagement after appearing here several years ago, and I am reminded that it was in 1959, I must say that my cup of pride and ego is very dangerously close to running over. In any event, I am very pleased and grateful that you have asked me to come here again this morning.

I must say that I am delighted and almost surprised that I am here because on Thursday I found myself in a small hotel on a road about three miles away from Chicago's Airport. By Friday morning I was completely isolated from the world, couldn't make a telephone call out, we could receive incoming calls and we literally couldn't walk ten feet from the door of that hotel because of the drifted snow.

It is unbelievable to me, and I hope you will judge it the same, when I tell you that the way we got out was by virtue of a telephone call from one of my lost companions to his secretary in Seattle who got a helicopter from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 200 miles from Chicago, who came in the dusk on the Friday night, landed in an area not any bigger than this table is long and it was roughly a square area, and picked us out literally from a snowdrift on Friday night. So, I am pleased not only because of your invitation but I am delighted to have escaped what seemed to be a rather boring experience, it would have been a boring experience had I been there a few more days.

I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your very kind introduction and I also want to thank you for the presence of so many of my military associates from years past, which reminds me of a story, but it seems to be appropriate. It is a scene in a London railroad station, a train about to take off from London for Glasgow and a gentleman comes in to a compartment. He is obviously an Englishman according to these American standards. He has a bowler hat, umbrella and a copy of the London Times under his arm. He puts away his umbrella, hangs up his bowler, sits down, takes out his paper and starts to read it. Another gentleman similarly attired goes through precisely the same procedure and another man follows and finally a fourth comes in. They are all sitting there facing each other, each with his magazine, each with his paper and this goes on for about two hours and finally the first gentleman, who can't stand it any longer, folds his newspaper, puts it neatly on his knee and stares into space for a while. So he clears his throat and says, "Gentlemen, my name is Throgmorton, I am a clergyman, I am a Brigadier, retired, married, two sons both barristers." The next man says, "My name is Smythe-Jones, Brigadier, retired, married, two sons both clergymen. The third one says, "My name is Thistlewaite, Brigadier, retired, married, two sons both doctors." And finally the fourth man who is a little bit more rugged and rawboned than the others says, "My name is McGregor, Regimental Sergeant Major, retired, never married, two sons both Brigadiers."

When I made my official farewell to this very great country of yours in January of 1963, I was required to participate in a press conference. This conference was con ducted under the watchful but very friendly eyes of several of your Government officials, but as reported, the significance of my words was magnified somewhat, magnified not by the manner of my presentation but by the circumstances of your political life at that time. The result of this was that a year or two later I was honoured at McGill University. I was charged, or perhaps remembering the tone of voice and the general atmosphere, I was credited with a calculated indiscretion. The words that I speak today will be of little public attention. I have prepared some notes so that at least you and I will know what I have said and if there is any indiscretion that it will be a calculated one.

To talk to you about one subject which would be uppermost in the minds of all of us, Vietnam, even to support the actions and policies of my own country, might risk imprudence, so I will not speak on that subject, but as a soldier and I am sure the soldiers here present join me, I am compelled to make one observation. I am sure that we all agree that it is terrible that men must die before their life's fulfillment, but, and I hope you understand this, what a wonderful thing it is that the overwhelming majority of our young people manifest almost daily that they, as their fathers and grandfathers before them, are willing to live or die for something, for some principle, for some idea, for some person, for a country or for some cause.

And I am sure that you and I who are rather far removed from this are better because of this courage and this devotion and these are the very same qualities that gave birth to our great countries, that hacked and hewed the new world out of the wilderness that was Detroit and Boston and New York and Toronto and regardless of policies, regardless of politics, whether we agree or disagree I think we have reason to be grateful to General Westmoreland and to his very gallant soldiers.

It will come as no surprise to you that I wanted to speak, and I hope at not too great length, about NATO and I am returning to an old field. I remember when John Plant introduced me in 1952 or 1953 where John was on my staff. He was conducting a meeting attended by all of the NATO ambassadors and at that time I was Commander in Chief of the Allied Air Forces in Central Europe and John gave me, I thought, a very generous introduction, considering the circumstances of our relationship, and he concluded by saying, "Gentlemen, the Commander in Chief will speak to you from three minutes to three hours." But it seems particularly fitting and timely to talk about NATO at this time, particularly because of the ministerial meeting which took place in December in Paris.

Shortly after the end of World War II your country and mine were again forced to turn our attention to Europe and finally we were compelled to return there in very considerable strife because the defence and the welfare of the people of Europe was so clearly essential to our own security and welfare in the presence of what was, at that time, a clear Soviet threat.

There was an urgent sense of inter-dependence which came to perpetuate the nations on both sides of the Atlantic and out of this tardily recognised sense of common interest and common involvement there grew, starting in 1949, the NATO Alliance which soon extended from Canada and the United States across the eastern ocean and into Europe and beyond to Turkey.

It is interesting and I think correct to observe that this Alliance, even today, still embodies in the sum of its combined resources, whether economic, military or intellectual,

a potential for peace, for order, for growth and for well-being nowhere matched in the present nor recorded from the, past. Now, some 18 years from the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty our sense of this inter-dependence and what was really a striking effort to concert our purposes and our aims in the common interest, have lost some of their force. The fashionable word for NATO in these days, in these last few years is, has been "disarray" and before I comment further on the state of the Alliance I suggest, I hope, one or two courses of action which might be considered.

It might be useful, I believe, to bring again to our minds the aims of the Alliance as they were first proclaimed at the outset in 1949. Our countries jointly resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security and they were so moved, and I am quoting now from the Charter,

"out of a sheer desire to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law and finally, having in mind that crises are sometimes in surge and sometimes at rest, the founding nations bound themselves to work together in promoting stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area." To many of you and I am sure this includes a good part of this audience who have travelled in Europe during the last dozen years or so, or for that matter to anyone who has even followed at a distance the development in that area, it is unnecessary to describe the almost miraculous change that has taken place. Confidence has replaced fear; hope has overcome despair. Buoyancy and strength characterised the NATO area of experience, the Alliance has indeed promoted stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area. It has preserved peace and security, it has been successful far beyond the fondest hopes of its earliest and most ardent advocates. It has, in the very recent words of a distinguished correspondent of the New York Times, and this is the quotation:

"It has fulfilled its purpose by discouraging a post-Stalin policy from any appetite in Europe. Although changed by France's military defection it remains an effective coalition of members, including the United States, now soon to extend the brush fire of the peace pervading with Moscow. NATO exists as a deterrent to adventurers in Europe should the Soviet regime ever modify its present policies. It exists as an island that any western military thrust would be sufficiently opposed to make an aggressor realise in advance the risk of holocaust. It also serves as a possible channel for diplomatic easement of the pressures still existing along the rusty Iron Curtain."

That is the end of Mr. Sesolberger's statement. But on the other side and even more recent, a very distinguished London periodical states:

"That the recent NATO meetings in Paris must have left many delegates with a ghostly feeling, strategy force levels stockpiling, even nuclear committees. All these issues seemed pale and muted in comparison with previous years. In the most lively of the discussions, that on east-west relations,. it was agreed that in this respect individual states should act as such rather than as members of the Alliance. It is clear that in the future there will be little co-ordination within the Alliance if the policies of those represented abandoned all political confidence which would seem to symbolise the enfeeblement of purpose in what still remains a powerful military pact."

That is the end of the quotation. One of these balances to some extent the other, but basically I think the general tone, the general thrust is the same with this last quotation was from The Economist, but what impressed me, reading more than the words I have just given you in The Economist article is the heading of that particular story and that heading was "Back to the Big Bang". In this article a case is made for the conclusion that we have really completed the circle, going back to the years 1953, 1954, 1955 and back to massive retaliation.

Because of our lack of strength in those years massive retaliation then seemed to some the only alternative to default and defeat. A return to weakness now again limits the options available to us.

There has been considerable discussion, certainly in the United States but also in most countries of the Alliance on the matter of force levels within the NATO structure. I would like to say that I am firmly convinced that you must maintain strength in western Europe commensurate with the threat, although I share the hope that this threat will diminish and there have been some signs of progress. I must say that my years of experience with crises in Europe make me unwilling to accept, indeed quite incapable of accepting any actions or attitudes that have been evidenced to date as guarantees against the dangers that preoccupied us, and properly so, just a few short years ago.

So, in my judgment we must be strong but security is not only a matter of men and arms. It involves, in my view, consideration of whatever may contribute to the advance of what certainly is one of man's noblest aspirations, the establishment of the foundation on which an able and lasting peace, a basis on which freedom can be assured and security guaranteed.

Today we certainly find the challenge even more demanding than ever before and it is no less complex. We really are faced with a problem of reducing the risk of disastrous war, eliminating it hopefully. At the same time we cannot weaken, we cannot destroy the strength that has, under the most dangerous and threatening circumstances, preserved the peace and maintained our freedom.

Your country in its efforts towards this end has made a very considerable contribution and the record of my own country in the same cause has been noted.

The position, I believe, of the western allies on disarmament, on the control of nuclear weapons, on the status of Germany and on related security questions has been perhaps unsuccessful, but has from the very first been morally right and practically sound and reasonable and even though, as I have indicated, no real decisive action has resulted; Certainly our countries and allies should continue their efforts in this co-ordination and in this field of disarmament and these efforts deserve the support of all of us, again whether we particularly agree with a policy or particular politics of an issue. I think the general thrust and direction of this activity is worthy of our support.

Speaking as a soldier one thing that has impressed me, not only in our time, but also looking back over the past of man's experience, I am impressed with the fact that the problem of disarmament really is disarmament. It is a fear at a time when you must have increased confidence, fear springs from the fact that as a result of a disarmament agreement, something upon which we depend for our safety, for our welfare is either given away or taken away.

Each proposal has met with opposition, reflecting the worry and the well-founded worry that a reduction or a limitation would disturb an existing balance, would result in unilateral and therefore dangerous weakness and I must say that I have shared this concern over proposals-and God knows there have been many of them-which suggested reducing or restricting our defensive capability without providing the equivalent security by other enforceable means.

So, fear has been a large part of the problem of getting on with even the most elementary first step and this foundation for peace that we all seek can be born only in an atmosphere of hope and confidence.

For many years people have been and organisations and governments have been considering what they can do as a contribution to this great effort. I, myself, was required to get into this back in 1957 at a time when the United Nations Disarmament Group was meeting in London and the NATO Council asked me if I had any views on this question of disarmament.

I felt at that time and I feel even more strongly today that there is something fundamentally wrong with the fact that we and the governments seem to be preoccupied only with matching force against force across the line. It wasn't apparent that any other positive thing was being considered which might lead to providing security by other means. I and my staff decided that we would risk-it did involve risk-we would risk proposing something that I had been considering for some time and that was a system of control and inspection in that very sensitive NATO area.

I would like to discuss this very briefly and very generally with you today because if it was appropriate you considered it in 1957, as indeed I thought it was and indeed the Ameri can Government, British Government, Canadian Government, Belgium Government, Norwegian Government, Danish Government, Italian Government, Greek Government, Turkish Government all felt at that time it was timely, it was timely then, it is even more timely at the moment and it may contribute something that is very fundamental and very real as a step towards this bridge to the east in a sound solid basis. For this reason I want to discuss this very briefly and broadly with you. Let me say at the outset that I have indicated the problem of disarmament has always been the fact that you took away strength, your people had a feeling they were naked, they lost confidence and they began to cheat, look back at all of the records of the disarmament meetings, So, my proposal is, to start with there would be no reduction, no limitation and no restrictions on forces, to start with. There would be simply an exchange of blueprints, we would give to, say the Soviets, a blueprint of what we had and where we had it and they would give us precisely the same thing.

This inspection would consist of basically ground inspection, so if you were informed that a division or some components of a division was in this particular area, you had the right to go and see that in fact it was there. If a depot of supplies was in this area you have a right to go and see that it was there, and since the area that I am talking about is rather large you would have air surveillance whose function would be to provide the eyes for the ground inspector and in addition to that you could have overlapping radar surveillance so you could see hundreds of miles, at least with any reasonable latitude, you could see in to the Soviet Union and indeed, they could see into our area.

The inspection would be joint, it wouldn't be east and west of a line, because if it were east and west of a line it would tend to make the Iron Curtain even wider and higher than it is at the present time. You wouldn't have that line of demarcation between east and west, you would describe the area by its borders and you would have joint inspection, even with guaranteed radio communications from the forward areas back to the appropriate governments, political headquarters or military headquarters and the fact it would be guaranteed, because in the absence of communications then you are alerted to the fact that something was wrong. The area for consideration would have to be far greater in depth than any that has been considered in the past. My own view would be that ideally it would extend, for instance, from the Urals to the Bay of Biscay. If France on the one side might object to that and the Soviet Union on the other, it might be cut down to include say the Federal Republic, Denmark, perhaps Holland, Belgium, I would hope part of France that way as well, and if we just take a limited area, confine it as a start to Central Europe, it would also, I think have to include some part of the United States as well as some part of Russia. For instance, you might trade Alaska on our side of the Bering Straits for an equivalent area on the other side.

If this works and I believe that it could work, then the question is, how effective would it be and what would it provide? As we talked about, and we have talked about, I think I talked about the last time I was here, the requirement, why Forces in the NATO area, we should ask ourselves why are those Forces there, why are they important -and believe me they are important-but why are they important? They are really important as a defence, to give you some security against a surprise surface attack.

Now, we can say that a surface attack is obsolete, this is something of the last century, but for anyone who was in Europe in a position of responsibility during those several Berlin crises or German crises or even the Cuba crisis from the year 1956 to 1963, realising that your main preoccupation in that area is where a surprise attack? That is why the very large Forces are and must be maintained in that area. now, if you have knowledge of precisely what was where and what it was doing for a depth of hundreds of miles on the other side, you would have gone a long way towards guaranteeing yourself security from a surprise surface attack.

You would also, I believe, have gone a long way towards giving to the peoples of all of our countries, perhaps also to the Russian people, some new knowledge they can believe, something that will be recognised by them as a useful step, even if it is a first and faltering step, a useful step towards the preservation of peace.

I mentioned earlier that several countries had agreed to this, I had felt that there was merit in this proposal which is quite correct. My own country took something of a lead up to the point where this appeared to interfere with some local elections in two of the European countries which, of course, meant it was dropped. I would think, well, I would hope that my country and yours would take action along these lines or equivalent lines or take some action towards this particular end. It is not apparent that they are doing this and I would hope that they will, but if obsolete reasons, and there may be very good reason this cannot be done, I would hope that the Europeans with their new feeling of strength, new feeling of confidence and their new feeling of self-interest might feel that this is something that does not require the power that you find on this side of the Atlantic, does not require the money and the great wealth, the great resources you find on this side of the Atlantic, does not require this tremendous stockpile of nuclear weapons that you find on this side of the Atlantic. Here is something that actually Europeans could take which would be approved, I am sure, and applauded by everyone throughout the world and the contribution of something of this kind, towards for instance, the ultimate solution of this tragic war in Southeast Asia might be very considerable.

Again, I would like to say this involves no reduction, unless over a period of time we can have real guaranteed security by these means, no limitations, no restrictions on armaments in this area unless it is established that we have this guaranteed security.

I would like to summarise to you the points that I have made, three points. I think NATO as an organisation, the NATO Council, SHAPE should and it is showing signs of doing just this. It should establish itself in such a way that it can operate effectively, move forward, take positive action on the basis that the 14 should not be hamstrung, should not be held up by the position of France. On the other hand I think it would be completely wrong and contrary to our common interest to take any action which would exclude France. If France chooses to be excluded in a particular area of activity then we have to accept that. We should not argue or quarrel with France on that, accept that, but let the 14 move forward positively because there remains as much to be done in the next decade as there was to do in the last.

So the first thing is to organise themselves and to establish the relationship which would permit them to move forward and I believe that some progress is being made in this field. I think that what surprises some of us is that it appeared six months ago to be such a difficult undertaking, when in fact it was relatively simple and all we had to do was decide we were going to do this and indeed, we have no other course. So this line must be aggressively pursued and we must broaden out beyond what has been considered a purely military interest of the Alliance. There are other things the Alliance can do. There is the broad field of political consultation, which you can't quite define, but certainly more can be done in that area. So that there are other things to be done.

I would think it would be a mistake for NATO to try to take on areas and responsibilities far removed from the NATO area because then you begin to dilute the common interest to the point where the 15 or 14 countries cannot possibly take any useful action. So that is the first thing, to re-orient the direction of the Alliance and to organise, to carry out the defence along the new direction.

The second point goes back to this headline in The Economist articles, 'The Big Bang." I think it is time, it is overdue as a matter of fact, that we take a look at the forces and the action they have, what their actual strength is, not numbers of these divisions because some of them are divisions and some are 110% of a division by a normal definition and some are only about 55% or 60% or 65% of a division. Take a good long look at what they are, how they are deployed, whether they are going to be rushed there and then on that basis decide what can be done.

Perhaps we went to a forward strategy in the fall of 1962, perhaps that has to be modified. I don't say it does have to be modified, it should be looked at and we should clearly establish with ourselves and furthermore, I would think it is extremely important to establish with the Soviet Union that we know precisely what we can do, that we have the means of doing that and then we establish the threshold in which nuclear weapons might be involved.

We were compelled, as I indicated back in 1953 to 1954, to adopt this policy of massive retaliation because we couldn't do anything else. Now, the threshold is somewhat higher than it was at that time but it is still down considerably than what it was say six months or a year ago. I am not suggesting we go back to a policy of massive retaliation but we should establish a policy which will convince us that we know what we are going to do. We have the means of doing it and more important, we convince others and this is a great contribution, in my judgment, to the cause of peace and security in that vital area and finally, I repeat, I think it is high time, in fact I think it is long overdue for us to give the most serious thought and really concentrate our efforts on finding some means of providing security which does not depend entirely, depend solely on military forces and thermo-nuclear weapons and we need the forces and we need the weapons, but we should explore any other possibility to any other field activity which would create and develop confidence and security and make a contribution to this cause.

I have spoken of military forces and I have spoken very generally about taking the initiative in achieving new direction and providing security by other means than purely military, some system of control and inspection. It seemed to me through the years that I may be arguing with myself somewhat and I am very anxious that we should do somethingwith means and weapons and tools beyond the military.

Some words of a very great American who was Secretary of War during the war, Henry Stimson, to put my mind at rest in this conflict within myself, because apparently he experienced -the same thing and he, with his great wisdom, he resolved the conflict in his own mind because he said some words in 1946, shortly after he gave up his position. He said:

"I have lived with the reality of war and I praised the soldiers, but the hope of an honourable faithful peace is a greater thing and I have lived with that too, that a man must live with both together is inherent in the nature of our present stage of human progress but it is also many times upon the nature of progress in the past and it is not reason for despair."

And it is not reason for despair.

Thanks of this meeting were expressed by Mr. R. Bredin Stapells, Q.c.

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NATO's New Directions

NATO and its inception as a result of a tardily recognised sense of common interest and common involvement which grew, starting in 1949, and which soon extended from Canada and the United States across the eastern ocean and into Europe and beyond to Turkey. The Alliance today as it still embodies in the sum of its combined resources, whether economic, military or intellectual, a potential for peace, for order, for growth and for well-being nowhere matched in the present nor recorded from the past. NATO 18 years later. "Disarray" as the fashionable word for NATO now. One or two courses of action which might be considered. Bringing to mind the original aims of the Alliance as first proclaimed at the outset in 1949. Some contrasting quotes about NATO. The matter of force levels within the NATO structure. The problem of reducing the risk of disastrous war while maintaining the strength that has preserved the peace and maintained our freedom. Canada's contribution. A discussion of disarmament. A discussion of a proposal for a system of control and inspection. How effective it might be and what it would provide. Asking ourselves why the NATO forces are where they are and why they are important. Re-orienting the direction of the Alliance and organising to carry out defence along a new direction other than military.