May 17, 1962 - JFK Speaks at National Trade Conference
May 17, 1962 - JFK Speaks at National Trade Conference

May 17, 1962 - President Kennedy gave the United States’ European allies a reassurance and a warning today.

The reassurance was that the U.S. would continue to bear its responsibility for the defense of Europe.

The warning was that every European ally must do its share, that the American contribution to Western defense must not be taken for granted, and that the U.S., as the biggest contributor, intended to be in on decisions.

The President spoke out on the troubled alliance in two public appearances — an afternoon news conference and a speech tonight before the Conference on Trade Policy.

He was presumably directing his remarks to President de Gaulle of France and, to a lesser degree, to Chancellor Adenauer of West Germany.

President de Gaulle’s vision of a separatist Western Europe, as expounded in a news conference Tuesday in Paris, has caused consternation and some anger in the Administration — the more so because there has been some fear that Chancellor Adenauer was being won over.

The French President set as an “essential objective” of his policy the eventual formation of a Western European alliance within a looser Atlantic alliance.

The inner alliance, President de Gaulle made clear, would be based on the joint leadership of France and West Germany and would be relatively independent of the U.S., Britain, and Canada.

With its own nuclear force, it would provide a strictly European balance of power against the Soviet bloc.