309. Memorandum From the Ambassador to Canada (Merchant) to the Secretary of State1

It seems to me that the forthcoming talks between the President and Mr. Macmillan are crucial to our position of world leadership, and among other things to the future of NATO.

Without desiring to appear unduly cynical I think that the request by Mr. Macmillan for the meeting constitutes a supreme effort by the British to regain their war-time position of exclusive and equal partnership with the U.S. To their attainment of this objective they have tossed to the wolves their partner in their Suez adventure a year ago, France, with a cynicism which I doubt the French will easily or quickly forget.

From the point of view of the stakes and British purposes Mr. Macmillan has found himself, possibly unexpectedly, dealt a remarkably good hand. France without a government has superficially lost her claim to a seat at the table; Soviet threats against Turkey have created an atmosphere of crisis; Sputnik has called into question all through the world the accepted leadership of the U.S. in technology and, by extension, a superior capacity for fighting and winning modern war; [Page 795] lastly, the Queen’s visit to the U.S. is proving a romantic success and can be expected to leave in its wake a sentimental softness for all proposals British.

All cynicism aside, I believe and feel strongly that it is in our interest to readmit the British to a far closer and more responsible partnership with us. They have more to contribute to our own survival than any other nation, with the possible exception of Canada. And on the latter point, the closer we tie the British to us, the tighter will be our bond with Canada.

I think we should embark on this closer (and more equal) partnership with the British with our eyes open. We should appreciate that if we assert, in partnership with the British, world leadership, we will send shivers down the backs of most of our allies in NATO and among all our allies in the rest of the world. If having asserted this claim to joint global leadership we fail adequately to exercise it, then I think we will alienate so many friends as to destroy the effectiveness of NATO and bring into question the reliability of many other allies. This is not so much a case of “nothing succeeds like success”, as a case of “failure will bring total failure”. For example, in NATO terms we are setting up, in effect, a NATO Political Standing Group of just the British and ourselves. This will not only slay the French, but disappoint the hopes of the Germans and others who have had pretensions to a position of being co-partners in leadership to at least the degree which the French have maintained.

In substance, the British are asking a great deal of us. I believe we should seek from them what is of value to us and in their power to give. The following elements immediately come to mind:

An acceptance by the British that they will have to pay in coin, even at great risk to the Exchequer, a substantial share of the costs of the partnership. They can’t ask for a 50% interest in the political profits and then draw down their share in the firm’s assets from 30% to 10%. This means, for example, that they cannot on grounds of poverty take the flat position that if Germany refuses to pay all of the support costs for their troops they will withdraw all of their forces from Europe nor that they should shove off on us the responsibility for subsidy payments such as they had made to Jordan and I believe are still making to Libya. They will have to increase their financial risks, albeit in the knowledge that if in the long run sterling is really heading to disaster, we will have to bail them out in our own interests.
In the Far East where our policies have been more divergent, with particular reference to attitudes regarding Communist China, it is only reasonable that the British should move toward our position even if they do not come all the way at once, and certainly at a minimum we can ask for a firmer commitment on Chinese representation in the UN than the haggling year to year arrangement we have so far been compelled painfully to extract from them.
I think we have the right to ask them to overhaul their relations with Saudi Arabia, presumably at the cost of the Burami oasis. In return I would think we should assure them a stouter and more forthright public position for their position and actions in the Trucial states and Yemen.
I imagine there is a good deal they can provide us in scientific advances and developments, particularly in the field of missiles and weaponry. I think they should be generous in this respect particularly in light of the presumption that we will liberalize our own attitude on certain scientific exchanges.
Finally, for what it is worth, I think we should ask the British to adopt publicly at least a less disillusioned attitude toward the U.N. It is only asking them to keep their payments up on a long range policy of questionable but possible future value.

In conclusion and in summary, the British are making a bold bid under circumstances which are fortuitously favorable to them. I think we should respond affirmatively in our own interests. We should do so, however, with our eyes open to the risks we are taking and we should certainly ask in return from the British such quids as they have at their command.

Livingston T. Merchant
  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 927. Secret. Drafted by Merchant. A handwritten note by Merchant, the coordinator of the Washington conference, appears at the top of the source text: “The Secretary— Sir: Here is my ‘cynical’ paper I mentioned to you this afternoon—no distribution except you though I showed it to Jock Whitney who did not react violently! Livie.”