385. Objectives and Scope Paper Prepared in the Department of State0
BERMUDA MEETING WITH P.M. MACMILLAN
December 21–22, 1961
In the talks, whose scope is sketched below, our objectives are to achieve:
- Maintenance of the intimacy and dynamism of the US-UK relationship.
- Sustained British firmness against the Soviet Union. This
- A greater UK contribution to the military buildup required by the Berlin crisis.
- Full agreement on counter-measures, not just acquiescence.
- Bring home to the UK our support of its decision to enter the EEC, and stress the desirability of the UK also joining EURATOM and the Coal and Steel Community.
- Reassure the British on the importance we attach to our existing relationship and indicate that European integration will offer new scope for this relationship.
- Obtain their agreement and general support for any decision we may make on the resumption of atmospheric nuclear testing, including the details of where this testing will take place.
Prime Minister Macmillan has indicated in a variety of ways how anxious he is to have the talks with President Kennedy which will take place December 21–22 in Bermuda.
Macmillan desires these discussions not only to exchange and attune views on a common international outlook, but also for British domestic political consumption. Macmillan’s Conservative Government won the last general election on October 8, 1959 with an impressive overall majority of 100 seats. Macmillan’s leadership progressed impressively upwards from the Suez debacle and his political astuteness gained him the nickname “Macwonder.” In recent months, however, this nickname has gone out of vogue, and while Macmillan and his party are not in serious political trouble, they could benefit from the favorable publicity that would follow a friendly meeting with the American President.
Since Macmillan indicated his Government’s intention to join the Common Market there have been demands that a general election be held before the final decision. Thus far the Prime Minister has resisted these demands and his resistance has been plausible because the Labor Opposition has not officially opposed entry into the Common Market. The mounting public debate in Britain over Britain’s unenthusiastic decision to apply for membership in the Common Market may yet be an influencing factor in a Conservative decision to obtain a new sounding of the electorate.
The Labor Opposition has been so divided in its councils that only recently has Gaitskell commanded full party support. Labor has not been able to persuade British public opinion, according to recent polls, that it offers an effective alternative to the Conservative regime. Labor clearly needs an issue with which to defeat the Conservatives. It is more likely to find its version of such an issue in the foreign rather than the domestic field.
In public comments and asides since Macmillan made some Cabinet shifts last October, he has noted that he was getting along in years (born in 1894) and intimated that the Conservative Party might need younger leadership. These comments suggested to some that he might step down after the next election. No election is required until 1964, but it is obviously advantageous to the party in power to pick the time. In recent months Prime Minister Macmillan has struck observers as appearing more tired than usual, although in the past this weary appearance has been recognized as a pose. Macmillan’s personal position of leadership remains unassailed so long as he wants to continue.[Page 1049]
There is a strong popular British desire for international action to lessen international tensions, particularly over the Berlin crisis. The British public want to avoid a head-on clash with the Soviet Union which would result in war, if this can be honorably avoided. In the British views the most effective way to avoid such a clash is through East-West negotiations in which Britain would play an important role.
A further important current concern to the British body politic is the developments in the Congo. The British officially see eye to eye with us on the overall Congo picture, and generally look upon the U.S. as the architect of the UN’s Congo policy. A sizeable Conservative segment is particularly sympathetic toward Tshombe. British opinion has followed the UN’s actions closely and the Government backing for the UN limited military offensive has been upheld in Parliament. Basically, British opinion still prefers a negotiated to a military settlement in the Congo.
Britain’s press has recently given greater attention to American criticism of the United Kingdom’s failure to meet its share of the Berlin military build-up, particularly with regard to the British Army on the Rhine. This has led to press discussion of the divergence between American opinion that in a dispute with the Soviet Union in Western Europe a “pause” could occur which would see the need for conventional weapons, and the British view that a resort to nuclear weapons in any major dispute with the Soviet Union is inevitable. In the British reading of this divergence, a build-up of the British Army on the Rhine (BAOR), even if desirable, is something the British, plagued by balance of payments difficulties, cannot afford unless they receive assistance from the Germans in off-sets to this balance of payments drain on the continent.
Against this background of domestic political concern and an impressive list of unresolved international problems, the British Prime Minister is most anxious to meet with the President of the United States. Our thought has been that the main discussions at Bermuda should take place under three main headings: first, the Berlin complex; second, European integration and US-UK relations; and, third, nuclear problems.
The Berlin Complex
In the Berlin complex of problems the most pressing aspect centers around the question of negotiation of the current crisis, but any such negotiation must be seen clearly in the total German problem. Both the UK and ourselves will be influenced by the recent NATO ministerial discussion at Paris which has shown the differences on the desirability of negotiations. Berlin has become something of a measuring stick of the unity of the Western alliance. From Macmillan’s standpoint one of the [Page 1050] reasons why he has stressed the necessity of negotiations may be to condition his countrymen to accept sterner methods if it fails.
European Integration and U.S.-U.K. Relations
The British decision to apply for membership in the Common Market is one of the most significant decisions that any British Prime Minister has made in recent times. Britain is turning toward Europe. Britain has made clear through the public statements of its leaders that it intends to participate wholeheartedly in the full concept of EEC. In such an integrated Europe, fully capable of playing a major role, it is our hope that Britain would exercise decisive leadership. European integration and the problems that it poses for US-UK relations encompass such dynamic concepts as a realizably strong European unit and the potential of an expanded Atlantic Community. For many British intellectuals the road to Brussels leads to Washington. Between the time of the Bermuda talks and the years before the realization of the goal of a politically integrated Western Europe, many practical things will have to be worked out. We believe it may be premature to embark at this time on too full a discussion of future steps which might dilute the present unique American-British “partnership” as a result of what we contemplate as the political culmination of EEC. Once the political entity that emerges in Western Europe is assessable, we can discuss the desirability and details of transforming American-British special arrangements into an American-EEC cooperation.
It is psychologically important that we emphasize to the British Prime Minister the great value to the United States that comes from existing military and intelligence cooperation with the United Kingdom. We certainly want to see this kind of cooperation continue. This means reassuring the British of our desire for a continuing close association, but at the same time making the point without overtones that neither side can expect the contemporary American-British relationship to be a preclusive one. In terms of the entire Western defense policy in Europe, it is essential that we have full US-UK accord on strategy, as we believe we have. It flows from this that in its European defense posture the UK must demonstrate to the NATO alliance that it not only adheres to overall strategic agreement but is willing to implement it by the necessary build-up in the field wherever that build-up has been agreed upon.
The third major heading will concern British support for the U.S. position regarding future atmospheric nuclear testing. There is an idealistic segment in Britain which finds nuclear atmospheric testing repugnant. Although this segment is exploited by Communists it is not predominantly Communist, and it cannot be dismissed out of hand by any responsible politician, because there is strong majority opposition [Page 1051] to atmospheric testing for the mere sake of testing. In these nuclear discussions it will be essential that we convince the Prime Minister that if we decide to embark on nuclear atmospheric testing we do so only because it is militarily necessary. This must be made so clear that he will be confident that he can in turn convince the British public that this is the over-riding reason. At the same time we will want British support for a moratorium on the Geneva Conference.
It is to be hoped that the main lines of the Bermuda talks may follow the foregoing three headings. There is, of course, the likelihood that current developments may make it desirable to discuss the Congo or South East Asia, although these have relatively recently been canvassed by the Secretary and the Foreign Secretary.
It is easier for us to be frank and full with the British than with any of our other allies. On so many international problems we find ourselves starting from a point basically similar to the starting point of the British leadership. This similarity of outlook is an important part of the uniqueness of US-UK relations. Furthermore, the British are sincerely desirous of maintaining not only the public image of US-UK accord but want to make the exchange on which this overall accord is based as meaningful as possible.
This similarity of view understandably tends to magnify differences. On the divergences that do exist on aspects of important problems it is in our interests to achieve as close harmony as possible. On the question of the Berlin build-up, for example, the British must be made to see, not only the necessity for their maintaining the BAOR at an effective strength of 55,000, but the importance of showing our other NATO allies that they adhere without reservation to agreed NATO planning. Similarly, it is important that no shading of difference on what is to be done about Katanga should hinder our overall accord on the future of the Congo.
And yet we cannot expect to emerge from the Bermuda talks with all differences solved. The motif should not be obscured, this is a friendly exchange between old friends. Because of the unique closeness of our relations with the British, it will be possible to cover a wide canvas in a comparatively short time. This will be a point of concern to our allies, for the time has passed when Anglo-American decisions can be taken without careful consideration of the views of the other members of the Western Alliance. From the broad discussions that will occur in Bermuda, we will wish to consult with our other allies to maintain the unity and effectiveness of Western policy. Always ready to have a friendly exchange with any ally, but particularly with our oldest and strongest, we realize that it is the unity of the entire Western Alliance that is our shield against the designs of the Soviet Bloc.
- Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 2025. Secret. Drafted by Sweeney and cleared by Tyler, Bundy, and Nitze.↩