The British Ambassador (Inverchapel) to the Secretary of State

top secret

Dear Mr. Secretary: I am writing this letter to you since I understand that it will not be possible for me to see you personally in the next day or two.

[Page 4]

You will recall that, after the breakdown of the Council of Foreign Ministers in London, Mr. Bevin gave you an outline of his proposals for a Western Union.1 He has since given further thought to this important problem and has embodied his ideas in a paper,1 of which he has asked me to give you very secretly the attached summary.

As the first step towards the realisation of this wide project, Mr. Bevin is suggesting to M. Bidault forthwith that the British and French Governments should make a joint offer of a treaty to Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. If M. Bidault agrees, Mr. Bevin proposes that they should at once concert a draft treaty which should, in Mr. Bevin’s view, follow the lines of the Treaty of Dunkirk.2 (I attach for easy reference a copy of this Treaty).

Having thus created a solid core in Western Europe, consideration should then be given to the best means of developing the system which Mr. Bevin has in mind and to associating with it other states including Italy, other Mediterranean countries, and Scandinavia. In this way Mr. Bevin plans to link together the non-communist countries of Western Europe with the Middle East.

On the economic side Mr. Bevin hopes that the European Recovery Programme3 will be brought to fruition and will lead to the economic integration of the resources of Western Europe. Everything possible should be done to achieve this. The economic recovery and integration of Western Europe should be supplemented by a plan of development of Africa. With this end in view and as a preliminary step, Colonial talks between the British and French Governments are taking place this month.

Mr. Bevin trusts that the policy outlined above and the initial steps which he proposes to take will commend themselves to you.

I should be glad of an opportunity to discuss this plan with you at a very early date.

Yours sincerely,


Summary of a Memorandum Representing Mr. Bevin’s Views on the Formation of a Western Union

The Soviet Government has formed a solid political and economic block. There is no prospect in the immediate future that we shall be [Page 5] able to re-establish and maintain normal relations with European countries behind their line. These countries are dominated by the communists, although they are only a minority in each country. Indeed we shall be hard put to it to stem the further encroachment of the Soviet tide. It is not enough to reinforce the physical barriers which still guard our Western civilisation. We must also organise and consolidate the ethical and spiritual forces inherent in this Western civilisation of which we are the chief protagonists. This in my view can only be done by creating some form of union in Western Europe, whether of a formal or informal character, backed by the Americas and the Dominions.

It is clear that from secure entrenchments behind their line the Russians are exerting a constantly increasing pressure which threatens the whole fabric of the West. In some Western countries the danger is still latent, but in others the conflicting forces are already at grips with one another. The Soviet Government has based its policy on the expectation that Western Europe will sink into economic chaos and they may be relied upon to place every possible obstacle in the path of American aid and of Western European recovery. Our course is equally clear. I have done and will continue to do all I can to bring the Marshall Plan to fruition. But essential though it is, progress in the economic field will not in itself suffice to call a halt to the Russian threat. Political and indeed spiritual forces must be mobilised in our defence.

I believe therefore that we should seek to form with the backing of the Americas and the Dominions a Western democratic system comprising, Scandinavia, the Low Countries, France, Italy, Greece and possibly Portugal. As soon as circumstances permit we should, of course, wish also to include Spain and Germany without whom no Western system can be complete. Almost all the countries I have listed have been nurtured on civil liberties and on the fundamental human rights. Moreover, most Western European countries have such recent experience of Nazi rule that they can apprehend directly what is involved in their loss. All in a greater or lesser degree sense the imminence of the communist peril and are seeking some assurance of salvation. I believe, therefore, that the moment is ripe for a consolidation of Western Europe. This need not take the shape of a formal alliance, though we have an alliance with France and may conclude one with other countries. It does, however, mean close consultation with each of the Western European countries, beginning with economic questions. We in Britain can no longer stand outside Europe and insist that our problems and position are quite separate from those of our European neighbours. Our treaty relations with the various countries might [Page 6] differ, but between all there would be an understanding backed by power, money and resolution and bound together by the common ideals for which the Western Powers have twice in one generation shed their blood.

I am aware that the Soviet Government would react against this policy as savagely as they have done against the Marshall Plan. It would be described as an offensive alliance directed against the Soviet Union. On this point I can only say that in the situation in which Ave have been placed by Russian policy half measures are useless. If Ave are to preserve peace and our own safety at the same time, Ave can only do so by the mobilisation of such a moral and material force as will create confidence and energy on the one side and inspire respect and caution on the other. The alternative is to acquiesce in continued Russian infiltration and helplessly to witness the piecemeal collapse of one Western bastion after another.

The policy I have outlined will require a lead from us. The countries of Western Europe will look to us for political and moral guidance and for assistance in building up a counter attraction to the baleful tenets of communism within their borders and in recreating a healthy society, wherever it has been shaken or shattered by the war.

I have already broached the conception of what I called a spiritual union of the West tentatively to Mr. Marshall and M. Bidault, both of whom seemed to react favourably without, of course, committing themselves. I now propose to ventilate the idea in public in my speech in the forthcoming Foreign Affairs Debate and thereafter to pursue it, as occasion demands, with the governments concerned.

  1. Not found in Department of State files.
  2. Not found in Department of State files.
  3. Treaty of Alliance and Mutual Assistance between His Majesty in Respect of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the President of the French Republic, Dunkirk, March 4, 1947. British Cmd. 7217, Treaty Series No. 73 (1947).
  4. For documentation on this program, referred to also as the Marshall Plan, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iii, pp. 197 ff. and post, pp. 352 ff.