Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 422

President Eisenhower to Prime Minister Churchill 1

top secret

Dear Winston: You have given a flawless exposition of Red China’s relative weakness if we have under consideration only the possibility that she might launch aggressive war against either of our two countries.2 However, it is clear that our vital interests can be seriously damaged by operations that she is capable of carrying out against weaker areas lying along the boundaries of her territory. We saw what she tried to do in Korea and was foiled only by the intervention of strong Allied Forces, and we likewise saw what gains she made in the [Page 1499] Indo-China region due to the political and military weakness of one of our allies. She can pay any price in manpower, with complete indifference to the amount. Consequently, she is a distinct threat to the peace of the world as long as she may be sufficiently irresponsible to launch an attack against peoples and areas of tremendous importance to us. This imposes on us the burden of supporting native forces in the region and of supplementing these with some of our own units.

Here I shall not outline the importance to the western world of Japan and the island chain extending on to the southward, as well as the bits of mainland on the Pacific that still remain in the possession of the free world. The moral, political and military consequences that could follow upon the loss of important parts of this great chain are obvious to both of us and to the staffs that work for us in the military, economic and diplomatic fields.

So I think it dangerous to dismiss too complacently the risks that the bad faith, bad deportment and greed of Red China pose to our world. Some of our citizens are particularly sensitive to this threat and openly argue that it would be a mistake to allow this threat to endure and extend until the day comes when Red China may actually achieve the capacity to endanger us directly. I know that neither of us is blind to this possibility, even though we consider that such a development is somewhat doubtful and in any event its attainment would involve such a long time that world conditions and balances of power could well have been radically changed in the meantime. But, of course, I agree with you that our attention and watchfulness should be directed mainly to Moscow.

Incidentally, I was interested in your renewed suggestion of a top-level meeting with the regime in Russia. I have always felt, as you know, that it would be a mistake for you and me to participate in a meeting which was either essentially social or exploratory. A social meeting would merely give a false impresssion of accord which, in our free countries, would probably make it more difficult to get parliamentary support for needed defense appropriations. Within the captive world it would give the impression that we condone the present state of affairs. And if these are to be exploratory talks, should they not be carried out by our Foreign Ministers, so that heads of government would come in only if some really worthwhile agreement is in likely prospect?

The latter, I fear, is not an early possibility. There are still several months to go before we shall know where we are on the London and Paris Accords and all the indications are that if they go through, the Russians will probably “play tough”, at least for some little time. Therefore, I do not see the likelihood of our Foreign Ministers usefully meeting for some considerable period. So, I am bound to say that, while I would like to be more optimistic, I cannot see that a toplevel [Page 1500] meeting is anything which I can inscribe on my schedule for any predictable date. I regret this the more because if a top-level meeting were to take place, and if it led to a personal visit to London, I would indeed be very happy.

I hope you will find some way of letting the Queen know how deeply I appreciate her gracious reference to the possibility of such a visit.

Foster and I have just had luncheon together3 and now he starts immediately for the NATO meeting. We discussed a number of matters, including a series of urgent requests that in our view practically amount to demands received from Mendes-France. He wants us to make public pronouncements supporting his statements affecting the Saar, Morocco and commitments of American troops to Europe. Important as French cooperation is to the great NATO plan, Mendes-France seems to forget that the safety, security and welfare of France are far more directly and intimately involved in the projects now under discussion than is the future of this country or of yours. One of the virtues of EDC was that it contained an acceptable solution of the Saar problem and it was French desertion of that plan that insured its defeat.

I see no good reason for this government to re-state its intentions about the stationing of American troops in Europe or take a position as to the Saar arrangement at least until the French Parliament has by some positive action shown itself capable of making decisions in keeping with the responsibilities of a great European power. I have asked Foster to confer with Anthony on these matters. Likewise, I have asked him to avoid any rigid position of refusal in considering the seemingly unreasonable requests of Mendes-France, but I am determined that we shall begin to realize some dividends on the constant pledges and pronouncements that seem to be expected of us.

I like your phrase “tyrannical weakness”. It sharply defines the situation.

As you know, I occasionally flatter myself by attempting to paint likenesses of friends. I would be tremendously intrigued by the effort to paint one of you. Would it be an intolerable burden on you to allow an artist friend of mine to visit you long enough to take a few photographs and draw a few hasty color sketches that I could use in such an attempt? The final result would, of course, not be good, but also it might not be so bad as to be unendurable. If you feel this would not make an unjustified demand upon your time, I could send my artist friend over soon after the first of the year. I should think that something about thirty minutes to an hour would be sufficient for what I would need from him.

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This is just an idea and I shall not be at all offended by your inability to entertain it.

With warm personal regard,

As ever,

  1. This message was transmitted to the Embassy in London in telegram 3225, Dec. 14, with instructions that the Ambassador deliver it to Churchill.
  2. The editors were unable to further identify the “flawless exposition” to which President Eisenhower refers in this sentence.
  3. For a summary of the discussion which occurred at the EisenhowerDulles luncheon meeting on Dec. 14, see telegram 2194 to Paris, Dec. 14, supra.