Briefing Book Paper
British Plan for a Western European Bloc
As a “hedge” against the possible failure of Big Three collaboration in the post-war world, the British are following the policy recommended by General Smuts of strengthening their position by drawing the nations of Western Europe into closer association with the Commonwealth. They have taken pains to affirm that such an arrangement would be within the framework of the World Security Organization, and to assure the Russians that the policy is not directed against them. They have also called attention to the fact that the Russians are following a similar line in Eastern Europe.
The Smuts idea was to offer France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, and Denmark something in the nature of dominion status in the Commonwealth. It would involve such steps as the creation of a common foreign policy; coordination of military strategy; combined boards for finance, transport, production, supplies, resources, and raw materials; a customs union; currency agreements; and a joint approach to civil aviation and colonial problems.
The Russians are opposed to the plan, seeing in it primarily an attempt by Britain to strengthen her sphere of influence as against Russia. It is the British claim, and they have so informed the Russians, that it is directed against Germany. Russian opposition has led the British to “pull in their horns”, but they will undoubtedly try to achieve as many as possible of the objectives of the plan by one means or another as additional security insurance.
The United States Joint Chiefs of Staff in a letter to the Secretary of State written March [May] 16, 1944 (excerpt attached) stated:
“The greatest likelihood of eventual conflict between Britain and Russia would seem to grow out of either nation initiating attempts to build up its strength, by seeking to attach to herself parts of Europe to the disadvantage and possible danger of her potential adversary. Having regard to the inherent suspicions of the Russians, to present Russia with any agreement on such matters as between the British and ourselves, prior to consultation with Russia, might well result in starting a train of events that would lead eventually to the situation we most wish to avoid.”
However, it must be recognized that the Russians have already gone far to establish an effective sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. [Page 257] Our definitive position with respect to a British sphere in Western Europe must await further clarification of the Soviet Union’s intentions. In the meantime our policy should be to discourage the development of rival spheres of influence, both Russian and British. Our attitude toward any regional political arrangements should be determined by our estimate of: (1) whether they will contribute toward the maintenance of peace; (2) whether they will be subordinate to and in accordance with the purposes of the United Nations Organization; and (3) whether there is danger that they will stimulate the development of competitive regional arrangements. In the economic field we should at all times oppose any features which would place additional restrictions on trade, run counter to the principles of free access to foreign markets and raw materials, or tend to divide Europe into rival economic spheres.
We should direct our best efforts toward smoothing out points of friction between Great Britain and Russia and fostering the tripartite collaboration upon which lasting peace depends.
- For the full text of Eden’s statement, see Parliamentary Debates: House of Commons Official Report, 5th series, vol. 403, cols. 704–706.↩
- See footnote 11, post. ↩
- The three treaties referred to were signed at Moscow on April 21, 1945, April 11, 1945, and December 12, 1943, respectively. For the texts, see Department of State, Documents and State Papers, vol. i, pp. 228, 231.↩
- See document No. 268.↩
- See post, pp. 357–419.↩
- Signed at Moscow, May 8, 1945. Text in British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxlix, p. 876.↩
- See documents Nos. 286 and 288.↩
- See vol. ii, document No. 1417, section v.↩
- To the Toronto Board of Trade, January 24, 1944. Text in The American Speeches of the Earl of Halifax (New York, 1947), p. 275.↩
- Held at London, May 1–15, 1944.↩
- Text published by the Empire Parliamentary Association, 1943, under the title, Thoughts on the New World. Extracts in Mansergh, ed., Documents and Speeches on British Commonwealth Affairs, 1981–1952, vol. i, pp. 568–575.↩
- Incorporated in the Final Act of the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace signed at Mexico City, March 8, 1945 (Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 1543; 60 Stat. (2) 1831).↩
- Relevant communications of Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin concerning this question are printed in Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy, pp. 73–81. See also Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, pp. 103–106.↩
- See document No. 228.↩
- This excerpt comprises the attachment in toto. For the introductory and concluding paragraphs of this letter, which was signed for the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Leahy, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 106, footnote 4.↩