840.20/12–1949: Telegram

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


5039. Embtel 5012.1 Conversations over weekend and this morning result in following conclusions:

We have determined that there has been no change in basic British policy; that the most important consideration for UK is close, friendly and productive cooperation with US, this relationship being given first priority, even ahead of relations with Commonwealth.
Unfavorable reactions to bilateral draft result of combination of factors and circumstances. The proposal came just as the Cabinet was with great difficulty reducing budgetary expenses and had been obliged to make cuts in defense budget in order to get agreement on other reductions, notably health services. The apparent open-end commitments [Page 365] for additional expenditure under draft bilateral agreement without specific understanding as to amounts was political dynamite. There was also, I believe, a feeling by some in Cabinet that UK under continuing pressure from US on various matters, particularly European integration, was being pushed too hard and too fast. Some individuals apparently took exception to the tone of first draft as being peremptory and rigid. Another factor was the absence of Bevin, who although often capable of sharp irritation, usually exhibits final good judgment, which comes to his rescue. As we have reported previously, the impending elections hang like a London fog over every action of this government.
Since the receipt this morning of Franks’ reports of his conversations with Secretary,2 atmosphere has substantially changed. Bevin was pleased with Secretary’s statements to Franks. The feeling is that most of the UK’s objections have been answered; and I think we can confidently expect instructions to go forward to Franks to begin negotiations on remaining details before Christmas. Jebb is having a meeting of a special committee comprising representatives of Foreign Office, Chiefs of Staff, Defense Ministry and Treasury this afternoon and expects to lay recommendations before Bevin by tomorrow.
During conversation this morning with Jebb I emphasized bad effects on public opinion both in US and abroad caused by UK attitude and resulting delay saying that publicity and press speculation were especially harmful. I said that we were concerned that US opinion, both Congressional and public, would interpret as apathy on this side with resulting ill effects in future US contribution to joint effort under NAT and even ERP. Jebb said he would convey foregoing to Bevin.3

  1. Telegram No. 5012, December 16, not printed.
  2. In addition to the conversation of December 14 described in telegram 4490 to London, December 15, p. 360, a second conversation took place on December 17 (memorandum by Acheson, drafted by Surrey, not printed, 840.20/12–1749).
  3. In a memorandum of a conversation with the President, dated December 20, 1949, not printed, Acheson referred to British-United States relationships as follows: “I reviewed this somewhat uneasy situation and the President agreed that for some time it would continue in this state. I told him about the difficulty on the bilateral agreement and our hope that this would shortly be cleared up. He approved the idea that the Department should try to supervise all requests made by this Government to the British with a view to getting some idea of priority and proportion into our relationships.” (840.20/12–2049)