840.00/9–2849: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Holmes) to the Secretary of State

top secret

3879. Recent conversations with Strang and Shuckburgh1 indicate that Foreign Office is now reviewing and will probably shortly take important policy decisions concerning British attitude toward unification of Europe. British Foreign Minister must be prepared at November meeting of Committee of Ministers of Council of Europe to indicate British position on assembly recommendations which in turn entails more clear-cut delineation than heretofore of extent to which Britain willing to commit itself irrevocably on Continent in process of furthering unification.

Fundamental question of how far Britain willing to impair its own freedom of action and relationship with Commonwealth are factors which will have essential bearing on British position. In addition Shuckburgh indicated US policy would exercise important influence on British thinking, especially on two points: (1) strength of US [Page 340] desire for unification of Europe and how far US really wished it to go; and (2) to what extent US was interested in seeing UK irrevocably involved on Continent, particularly in view of special relationship between Canada, US and UK contemplated by provision in recent Washington talks2 for continuing consultation. He likewise indicated that absence of more convincing information on these two subjects was a handicap.

In addition to main question of UK commitment Shuckburgh also stated attention would have to be given to question of relative merits of overlapping groups. For example, should OEEC or Council of Europe be primary instrument for furthering economic cooperation.

Shuckburgh stated that there was not so much difficulty on military side as Brussels Treaty and Atlantic Pact machinery would mesh easily (sic). He also stated categorically there was no thought of altering British obligation under Brussels Treaty. He added, however, British had no intention of stating in advance how many troops would be sent where, as for example, guaranteeing to send given number to Rhine might mean denuding Near East.

Massigli3 has probably been told substantially same thing and it is possible he interpreted it as intention on part of British to seek revision Article IV Brussels Treaty (Paris 664).4 If so, I do not believe Massigli’s interpretation is correct.

British determination not to give advance commitment on troops for Continent has undoubtedly been strengthened by our non-participation as full members in European regional planning boards under AP.5 British are not happy about what they call our chief s-of-staff plan of peripheral defense.

Shuckburgh concluded his remarks by saying that conclusions reached in forthcoming study would probably be typically British and that it was too much to hope for clear-cut answers to questions under review.

Strang, in usual cautious mood, seemed perplexed by UK position resulting from three-way pull North Atlantic, Commonwealth and Europe.

Sent Department 3879; repeated Paris 734, Frankfort 103.

  1. Sir William Strang, Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and Charles A. E. Shuckburgh, Head of the Western Department, British Foreign Office.
  2. For documentation on these talks, September 7–12, concerning financial matters, see pp. 832 ff.
  3. Rene Massigli, French Ambassador to Great Britain.
  4. Telegram No. 664 from Paris to London, repeated to the Department of State as telegram No. 4014, September 27, not printed.
  5. Atlantic Pact.