383. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of State0

229. From Bruce. Re Embtel 218,1 fol are additional observations:

Obviously, after only few months, residence, my personal estimate of British political scene is impressionistic and perhaps overly subjective. Would seem to me UK now faces three major problems, 1. economic and financial, 2. common market, 3. Berlin.

As State and Treasury aware, economic and financial situation UK deeply disturbing. Chancellor of Exchequer’s proposals on July 25 will undoubtedly be unpopular, even if sound. Austerity imposed upon seeming prosperity, particularly under conditions full-employment, is politically unattractive. Gaitskell, in speech at Durham miners’ gala last Saturday threw down gauntlet, and will capitalize on theme of “we never had it so good”.

Majority of cabinet has favored UK joining Common Market. Of three objections against such course: a. obligations to EFTA; b. harm to domestic agricultural and horticultural interests; c. reaction in Commonwealth nations, only c. had possible validity, since others could be compromised.

If PriMin had acted nore speedily and ruthlessly perhaps Commonwealth objectives would not have been so serious. Now, his emissaries have been confronted with a shopping list of exceptions and derogations, a press campaign, led by Beaverbrook, traditional champion of imperial preferences, has made some headway. Trade and balance of payments deterioration may provide specious arguments in favor continuing insularity. Outcome will depend on determination by one individual, Macmillan.

Berlin constitutes most critical govt concert. In past, it was shoved under rug, or postponed by peripatetic wanderings of Allied statesmen, conferences, and other dilatory maneuvers, but presently there is belief that Khrushchev intends, in absence of settlement favorable to him, to sign separate peace treaty this year with so-called sovereign East German Republic. Consequences of such act literally appal govt and people because of fear of nuclear war ensuing.

Left to own devices, UK Govt, with overwhelming support voters, would, I believe, acknowledge GDR at least de facto, and legalize semi- permanent [Page 1043] or permanent division Germany. However, in view contrary American policy, they will align their policies to conform with our own after exhausting arguments against it. They regard our military contingency planning as super hypothetical, and unrealistic, since they consider pol aspects have overriding importance.

The prospect of Berlin crisis provoking, or leading, through inadvertence or accident, to nuclear war, is regarded here with horror. Nor are they unaware that if the West Berliners are forsaken, the monkey will be on the American back and not on their own. Stout as they invariably are in a showdown, their national pol temperament inclines them to compromise, even at expense of principle.

So far I have been speaking of the govt. It is dominated by PriMin Macmillan. He picked up after Suez, and, in Churchillian tradition, made touchstone his own decisions in field foreign policy accommodation with ultimate US positions.

To date, he has, in this respect, carried his cabinet with him. Unlike our cabinet procedure, this is sometimes a delicate task, for if there is much dissatisfaction the govt may fall. The cabinet members are, in distinction to our own, parliamentarians, not simply agents of the PriMin.

The cabinet figure who has latterly most gained in stature is Lord Home, ForMin. This independent Scot, pawky in humor, uninvolved in strict party doctrine, in some degree free of private ambition, has taken a tough line over Berlin. It would be inconceivable for as loyal a man to have done so without the approval of his chief.

I would guess that if the US Govt decides to risk nuclear war over Berlin we would obtain the support of the British Govt at the last moment. I do not think we would get such approval unless we had first negotiated with the Soviets in one or more conferences or confrontations between President and Khrushchev. I say “last moment”, I mean after our President had irrevocably decided upon such a course, regardless of foreign expostulations.

The speculations set forth above would appear to any reader of the Brit press to contradict public opinion. This is true. Germany and the Germans are notably unpopular in this country. Selling the whole kit and caboodle of them down any river would not arouse indignation, until later events revealed this had been harmful to the national security.

German bombing of Great Britain, Jewish persecution, and other cruelties, made an indelible impression on the islander. They considered such conduct signally unprincipled and, as applied to themselves, impudent. Unconsciously, they regard themselves as the true Herrenvolk, and the Germans as untrustworthy, unattractive, dangerous and somewhat ridiculous, barbarians beneath a civilized veneer. It should [Page 1044] not be overlooked that the word “Hun” still has common currency in England, Scotland, and Wales.

Nor do German prosperity, rates of taxation, comparative superiority in many competing particulars, and tranquil subordination to leadership, endear their citizens and institutions to the British. Joy through work is not a British ideal, as it is in West Germany. Envy of crescent German power is galling to those who for more than a century, considered the exercise of power in Europe their peculiar prerogative. The same reflection applies, in diminished force, to their suspicion and envy of ourselves. Decline of influence is either unnoticed and unacknowledged, or, if publicly manifest, can embitter a proud people against those to whom the torch has passed.

How much attention should we pay to demonstrations against the Polaris base at Holy Loch, unilateralism, banning the bomb marchers, Bertrand Russell defeatism, glorification of Soviet culture as expressed by the admirable Leningrad Kirov Ballet Company, and, in the last few days, by the enthusiastic hysteria over Major Gagarin?

I should like nothing better than to attempt analysis of these and like questions if they had not been, or shortly will be, covered by Embassy reports from which conclusions can be drawn according to one’s own interpretation and bias.

Personally, I believe that, realistically, we must deal in terms of power. Power, in this country, resides in its government. That government must conform its policies re Berlin, in the last analysis, to our own (as must Adenauer). Unless our decisions are so adverse to the national security interests as to be unbearable. Probably, conclusions about Berlin will be reached while actual government is still operative; otherwise, similar attitudes will prevail, though accent will be different. It will, I trust and hope, take more than a Berlin crisis to shatter the essential solidarity of informed self-interest between the English-speaking peoples.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 741.00/7–1761. Secret. Repeated to Paris and Bonn.
  2. Telegram 218, July 15, reported that the Conservative Party had hit a relatively bad “patch.” (Ibid., 741.00/7–1561)