316. Memorandum of a Conversation, British Embassy, Washington, October 23, 1957, 3 p.m.1



  • Closer US–UK Relations and Free World Cooperation


  • American
    • The Secretary
    • The Under Secretary
    • Ambassador Whitney
    • Ambassador Merchant
    • Assistant Secretary SMITH
  • British
    • Prime Minister Macmillan
    • Foreign Secretary Lloyd
    • Ambassador Caccia
    • Sir Norman Brook
    • Sir William Hayter
    • Mr. Frederick Bishop

The Prime Minister opened the meeting by expressing pleasure that there had been so little difficulty in arranging his visit and that on the whole the press reaction had been reasonable. He hoped that such visits could be repeated in the future and regarded as not unusual.

The Secretary indicated agreement. He thought the arrangements and public atmosphere had worked out well. He mentioned that it was too early of course to measure the public reaction everywhere. France, he noted, is in a difficult period and he hoped that there would be an opportunity to discuss the grave situation in that country. The French Ambassador had called on him a few days ago urging that the matter of arms to Tunisia be delayed until a French Government was formed which could consider the matter. It was most difficult finding France so often without a government. Some actions could not be delayed until consultation was possible or we would find that the need for action had already passed.

[Page 808]

The Prime Minister then said that as he viewed it we were taking counsel together and not embarking on a negotiation. His one conviction was that recent Soviet successes, including those in the technical field, revealed how formidable was our adversary. He felt that we were at a turning point in history and that decisions and attitudes in the next two days of meetings would affect the course of history. He accepted the fact that neither the free world nor the Soviets wanted war but felt that the Soviets hoped and expected to achieve their purpose of dominating the world without war. On the other hand, the U.S. and U.K. and their allies have large assets. He felt that we were engaged in a long, secular struggle and the question was could we “last the course”. The real problem in his view was how to mobilize the assets we have. Among them are many stout-hearted people on our side. One question is how can we do what is necessary to keep our most reliable allies in good heart without losing those who are tempted to a neutral course. How are fifty or sixty free and independent allies to be held as firm allies? The Prime Minister said that in his view we must coordinate the free peoples on a scale not yet seen. Looking fifty or sixty years in the future he doubted that we would be still existing in our separate and independently sovereign relationship. We must unite and use our assets effectively or we will lose them all.

[1 paragraph (4½ lines of source text) not declassifed]

The Prime Minister then made clear that he was apparently not thinking of a public and exclusive partnership between the U.S. and the U.K. [2 lines of source text not declassified], “Union Now” was a dream and in practical politics unthinkable but it might be by other processes possible to attain the advantages which it might have. He spoke of the recent quiet combined work on the Middle East as being an inspiring example of the ability of our two countries to work effectively together. [3 lines of source text not declassified] He was satisfied, however, that in the absence of such close working together the Soviets ultimately would gain their needs. The Prime Minister said that he believed the U.N. must be maintained and that certainly all our actions would be compatible with its expressed purposes. He was hoping for a “marriage of heart as well as worldly goods”. He expressed the hope that agreement could be reached on this broad concept of working together since he was satisfied that in the world today no nation can now live alone.

The Secretary responded that he shared the Prime Minister’s general views completely and thought that the President did likewise. These days may well be decisive for the next few centuries. For several hundred years the Christian West had dominated the world. Now it faced the question of whether that kind of society would be submerged for several centuries by “Communist Socialism” with Communist [Page 809] Parties working underground as super-governments. It may well happen that what takes place in the next two days can reverse the whole trend.

The Secretary said that in the past a great strength of the West had been this dynamic quality illustrated by the history of both countries. Leaders of the West had felt that they had a mission and destiny. The problem today is to find the ways to rid much of the free world of its state of semi-paralysis. The Secretary quoted the first paragraph of the Federalist Papers and said that it might now be given to our two countries to set the example for the world and to mobilize their assets to meet the great challenge. What was needed was a bold and resourceful spirit. After agreement on the objectives it might be necessary to adjust downward a bit in the interests of practical possibilities of achievement but our aim should be high.

[4 lines of source text not declassified] The Secretary then said that marginal differences existed between the U.S. and U.K. which we should make a determined effort to do away with. He cited specifically our differing attitudes toward Communist China. It didn’t make sense for us to be negotiating each year for a temporary agreement on the question of Chinese representation in the U.N. We must work out a better and closer understanding than this. He mentioned that the U.S. had swallowed with as good grace as it could muster the abandonment of the differential controls on trade by the U.K. with China. He was not asking that this be reversed at this time but he did feel that our two policies on the entire problem should be aligned and as evidence that our position was not extreme or unreasonable he cited the fact that he believed it to be shared by such outstanding British Far Eastern experts as Grantham, Scott, and MacDonald.2

The Secretary then referred to the great energy required to preserve satisfactory working relations with so many and so diverse allies. [1 line of source text not declassified] Ways must be found to simplify the maintenance of cooperative action in our relationships. Like Alice in Wonderland he often felt as though we were running as fast as possible to stay in one place.

The Secretary then said that he was convinced that we must make the effort necessary to unite the free world. The difficulty was, however, how to translate a general concept or purpose into a successful working program. He felt this could be done but from his lifetime experience in negotiation he knew that the advantage was on the side of the man who had an alternative, and in the last analysis if we could not unite the free world we might have to fall back on those few allies with whom we knew we could work closely and successfully. However, [Page 810] in addition to his belief that we should hold the free world together as now constituted, he thought we should not give up hope of attracting others to our side. There should be future room in our plans for India and countries like Burma which seemed to be becoming somewhat less neutral.

[9½ lines of source text not declassified] the Secretary said that our task is to diagnose the ills of the free world. We must give to freedom an appeal which would attract. We must go on the offensive, not by copying the force, terror and fraud of the Soviets but by showing the fruits which freedom can produce. The argument over sums to be spent for defense was to him more than a budgetary problem. It really involved the question of insuring the maintenance of an economy in which labor enjoyed a large share of what it produced and by this fact offered hope not only to the free but to the enslaved. All these thoughts the Secretary said were not new ones with him but in a sense they had come to climax with Sputnik.

The Prime Minister replied that what the Secretary had said fitted very well with his own thoughts. He asked then what were our assets. First of all they consisted of our two countries. The problem was, however, to put them to the best use. He had not been thinking of the creation of boards or committees. He was thinking more he said of rationally pooling, for common use, our brains, experience, and resources. We have many other assets. NATO is one which has accomplished extraordinary and valuable things in the past eight or ten years and it must not be allowed to wither.

The Secretary interjected that he had been disappointed in the report of the Three Wise Men. It had not been as imaginative and constructive as he had hoped it would be.

The Prime Minister said the fact is that for the past ten years we have been on the defensive. We—and by that he mostly meant the U.S.—have done an enormous lot, but it did not seem to have produced the full results it should have. We seemed to be struggling to keep up with a horde of current problems. Today they center in the Middle East; tomorrow we can foresee that they will be in Africa. Somehow we must convey our own sense of urgency to the rest of the community. The U.K. wants to put everything it has into a pool for the common good. We have between us residual problems but we must find ways to solve them. There is Cyprus which is not really a British problem, but arises out of the inability of the Greeks and Turks to agree. We have future problems visibly in front of us. [1 line of source text not declassified]

The Secretary interjected that it is essential that we bring the Germans increasingly into our councils and bind them to us. [1½ lines of source text not declassified]

The Prime Minister agreed entirely.

[Page 811]

Mr. Lloyd remarked that one current asset is our success in working together recently on the Middle East situation. In the Middle East as elsewhere this was a great comfort to other countries.

The Secretary agreed and said that no one was happy but the Soviets when the U.S. and U.K. were in disagreement. He then asked where we start on achieving what we agree we want. Generalities were valueless. Somehow we must find practical measures to communicate our concept throughout all our collective security arrangements.

The Prime Minister said that it was not possible to solve all this in two days. First he thought we should seek to establish agreement on certain principles [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Then we should consider what machinery was desirable and necessary to translate these principles into action. At the end we should see to what extent agreements might be declared publicly in a communiqué. [5½ lines of source text not declassified]

[1 paragraph (4 lines of source text) not declassified]

He went on to say that we must work together as we are now on the Middle East, in NATO, in SEATO, in the Baghdad Pact, in research, in the economic development of Africa, in the future problem of Germany, and in all areas. He was proposing not a declaration of independence, but on the contrary a declaration of unity. [6½ lines of source text not declassified]

[1 paragraph (10 lines of source text) not declassified]

The Prime Ministeer asked what thoughts the Secretary had on organization. Did he visualize, for example, a governing body of the Secretaries General of the various pacts? The Secretary said that something like that might be desirable but that he could not express any ideas as he had not thought the matter through. He had, however, reached the conclusion that it would not be wise to try to create a council of the leaders of all the countries with whom we were linked by the United Nations and antagonize many neutrals. He thought on balance it was best to operate regionally [1½ lines of source text not declassified]. It seemed desirable for regional reasons, for example, to leave the seat of NATO on the Continent. He felt we should make an analysis of the regional areas and their different military, economic, and propaganda problems. He suggested that one or two people on both sides be set to work to analyze the problem and see how the components could be put together. For this purpose he suggested for the U.S. Mr. Smith and Mr. Merchant.

Caccia suggested Lord Hood as one who might be named for the U.K.

The Prime Minister said he agreed with the Secretary on the need for “institutionalization” [1½ lines of source text not declassified].

[Page 812]

It was finally agreed that at Lord Hood’s dinner this evening to which both Mr. Smith and Mr. Merchant have been invited, there would be a continuation of discussion of the problem of institutions and structure. The Secretary indicated that in talks on the economic side he would like Mr. Dillon to represent him.3 It was further agreed that on specific problems in specific areas the officials directly concerned might be set at work by the President and Prime Minister tomorrow.4 As an example, a meeting of Sir Edwin Plowden and Admiral Strauss on atomic matters was mentioned.

The Prime Minister then said that we must agree at this conference on principles and directives. He cited nuclear weapons and referred to the history of “tube alloys”. He said the U.K. had done a good deal but wastefully. He said that the U.K., Germany, and France as well could help and hoped that Strauss and Plowden might work out some sensible division of tasks.

The Prime Minister then mentioned aid to other countries as something to be looked at in common. Was proper value being obtained?

The Secretary mentioned the Indian request for a large loan and then noted in the case of Yugoslavia all that we had hoped for had not been realized.

It was agreed that the small group indicated should work this evening on institutions and structure and, at the Prime Minister’s suggestion, drafts of directives and plans for joint US–UK groups to be set working later on different problems and areas. Specific problems such as atomic matters would be assigned to joint teams tomorrow.

At five O’clock the meeting ended.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 926. Secret. Drafted by Merchant, approved by Dulles, and circulated to appropriate U.S. officials on October 23.
  2. Sir Alexander Grantham, Governor and Commander in Chief, Hong Kong; Sir Robert Scott; and Malcolm J. MacDonald, British High Commissioner in India.
  3. See Documents 330 and 331.
  4. See Documents 324 and 325.