You have surrounded us with bases, but our rockets can destroy them. If you start a war, we may die but the rockets will fly automatically!
-- Nikita S. Khrushchev, June 23, 19591
In just six months, Khrushchev's ultimatum on Berlin had driven deep fissures into the ranks of the major NATO powers. Although the deadline had been cancelled, implicit in the minds of Western leaders was that it could be reimposed at any time. Shrewdly the Soviets continued to promote division between the allies by raising fears of German revanchism. At Geneva on May 21 and 22, 1959, Gromyko charged to French Foreign Minister Maurice Couve de Murville that even if NATO nuclear weapons were supposed to remain in American custody, the Germans could seize and keep them in a crisis.2
For the moment, however, the French were more concerned about American power in Europe than German. De Gaulle wrote Eisenhower on May 25 that since the U.S. reserved to itself the decision on use of nuclear weapons, and because this exposed France to immediate and total destruction upon the whim of the American president, the U.S. would not be permitted to stockpile those weapons on French soil until Paris was permitted to participate fully in the decision-making process. Furious, Eisenhower called Norstad home for consultations. While conceding that de Gaulle's long-range plan was to secure veto power over American nuclear decision making, including SAC, Norstad advised the President to downplay the controversy. Over the next six months he planned to move the nine squadrons of F-100s from French air bases to West Germany and Britain. Since the French had no support among NATO powers for their disruptiveness, the entire dispute was best handled quietly. Eisenhower complained that in negotiations the U.S. had been willing to give up everything but control of warheads. As evidence of de Gaulle's crazy unreasonableness, he recalled the French leader's threat to withdraw French forces from SHAPE during the German Ardennes offensive in World War II when tens of thousands
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Publication information: Book title: Ace in the Hole:Why the United States Did Not Use Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War, 1945 to 1965. Contributors: Timothy J. Botti - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 121.
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