460.509/3–2754: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom 1

top secret

5011. Eyes only Ambassador and Stassen. There follows (1) text of letter from Prime Minister to President received today and (2) text of President’s reply which you should deliver to Churchill:

(1) “My dear Friend,

“Thank you very much for your letter about East/West Trade.2 As consultation and discussion between our two countries were urgent, I sent you my telegram of today’s date.3 I now venture to put before you some of the wider considerations that have influenced my thought.

“While doing all that is possible to increase our joint strength and unity, I am anxious to promote an easement of relations with Soviet Russia and to encourage and aid any development of Russian life which leads to a wider enjoyment by the Russian masses of the consumer goods of which you speak and modern popular amenities and diversions which play so large a part in British and American life. I hope that this process will lead to some relaxation of the grim discipline of the peoples of this vast land ocean of Russia and its satellites. Moreover, trade means contacts and probably involves a good deal of friendly infiltration which I think would be to our advantage from every point of view, including the military.

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“I am, of course, opposed to exportation to Russia of weapons or military equipment in a direct form, but I do not think this principle should be used to ban so many items because they might be used for military purposes in a secondary or subsequent stage. Any advantage given by this would only be on a small and almost trivial proportion of Russian armaments, for the whole scale of East/West Trade is small and we should be dealing only with a percentage of a percentage. I do not think this ought to stand in the way of the widening of commercial intercourse so long as only conventional forms of equipment are concerned. On the contrary I believe that even in this limited military sphere we should, I think, gain as much or almost as much as we should lose.

“Over and beyond that there are those hopes of a broadening of Russian life and relaxation of international tension which may lead to the reestablishment of a peaceful foundation for the tormented and burdened world.

“How minute do all these military considerations, arising out of trade as limited, appear compared to the Hydrogen bomb and the rapid progress the Soviets are said to be making with it. There is the peril which marches toward us and is nearer and more deadly to us than to you. We may be sure that whatever raw materials or equipment is available to the Russians, whether from their own resources or from imports, the first priority will be given to nuclear expansion, just as at a former stage in Germany guns counted before butter. I fear, therefore, that even a total prohibition of all East/West Trade would not impede the physical progress of these fearful forces. On the other hand there is the hope that the sense of easement may render more fruitful those tentative yet inspiring conceptions of which you told me at Bermuda and with which your letter of March 19, which I received yesterday and to which I will reply later, also so pregnantly deals.4

“I have not hampered this expression of my most anxious thought by expatiating on the well known arguments about British trade in the present economic phase. I will merely mention the headings. If the United States will not let us pay for her goods by rendering reciprocal services and make a reasonable proportion of things your people want or might be attracted by, as is our deep desire, the present deadlock must continue. As the old tag says, those who do not import cannot export. I have learned all about these difficulties from my political youth up and am making no complaint. ‘Off shore’ purchase is a Godsend, but you are still in the position of having to give away on a vast scale with generosity and human patriotism what we should like to earn by hard work and mental exertion. The arrival of Germany and Japan in the world market make it necessary that we should open out our trade in every possible direction for we have to keep 50 million people alive in this small island as well as maintaining the greatest armaments next to your own in the free world.

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“As the proportions of our trade with Russia must in any case be on a minor scale for many years, I cannot rate the commercial aspect so highly as I do those I have mentioned above.

“I enclose a copy of the telegram which I have agreed with my colleagues and which will by now have reached you.

“(Longhand) With all good wishes, Yours ever, Winston S. Churchill.”

(2) “Dear Winston:

“Your letter of March 24th only reached me Saturday afternoon, the plane which brought it having been delayed. Consequently I did not have an opportunity to go over it with Harold Stassen before he left for London.5 However, Harold is fully informed of my views on this difficult and important matter. As I indicated in my earlier letter your proposals in this field seem to go a bit further than seems wise or necessary. However, it remains my hope that after Harold has explained the lines along which our thoughts are running, and when we pass from general to the concrete we shall be able to reach agreement.

“With warm regards

“(Signed) Ike.”

  1. Drafted by Bonbright and cleared by Walter Trulock of S/S. Prime Minister Churchill’s letter, which is quoted in the telegram, was dated Mar. 24 but did not reach President Eisenhower until Mar. 27.
  2. This is presumably a reference to the letter from President Eisenhower to Prime Minister Churchill, Mar. 19, 1954, p. 1119.
  3. This is presumably a reference to the message of Mar. 24, quoted in footnote 3, p. 1120.
  4. The reference by Prime Minister Churchill to the “tentative yet inspiring conceptions” is not clear. For documentation on the Bermuda Conference between the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, Dec. 4–8, 1953, see vol. v, Part 2, pp. 1710 ff.
  5. Regarding Governor Stassen’s trip to the United Kingdom, see telegram 4201 from London, infra .