404. Telegram From the Delegation to the Heads of Government Meeting to the Department of State0

1. Eyes only for the Secretary from Ball. No other distrubution. The following two documents are being presented to the British this evening after a day of intense discussion of Skybolt. First document is a draft public statement which might be released, if agreed, tomorrow night or Friday morning. Second is a private understanding of dealing with degree of independence British element of proposed force. Discussion of these documents will resume about ten Thursday morning and we would like your comment and Bohlen’s if possible before then:

  • “1. The President and the Prime Minister reviewed the development program for the Skybolt missile. The President explained that it was no longer expected that this very complex weapons system would be completed within the cost estimate or the time scale which were projected when the program was begun.
  • “2. The President informed the Prime Minister that for this reason and because of the availability to the United States of alternative weapons systems, he had decided to cancel plans for the production of Skybolt for use by the United States. Nevertheless, recognizing the importance of the Skybolt program for the United Kingdom and recalling that the purpose of the offer of Skybolt to the United Kingdom in 1960 had been to assist in improving and extending the effective life of the British V bombers, the President expressed his readiness to continue that development of the missile as a joint enterprise between the United States and the United Kingdom, with each country bearing equal shares of the future cost of completing developments, after which the United Kingdom would be able to place a production order to meet its requirements.
  • “3. While recognizing the generosity of this offer, the Prime Minister decided after full consideration not to avail himself of it because of uncertainty regarding the date of completion and the final cost of the program.
  • “4. As a possible alternative the President suggested that the Royal Air Force might use the Hound Dog missile. The Prime Minister responded that in the light of difficulties in adapting this missile for the British V bombers. He was unable to accept this suggestion.
  • “5. The President then proposed a plan for joint action by the two governments in the field of sea-based missile forces in cooperation with other members of NATO. The Prime Minister accepted this plan, and the President and the Prime Minister agreed that it should be further developed on an urgent basis, in the closest consultation with all interested parties.
  • “6. The role which the President and Prime Minister envisage for their two governments in this undertaking is as follows:
    Forces developed by the UK under this plan would be assigned to NATO deterrent forces and targeted under agreements approved by NATO.
    The US would undertake to make a similar assignment of forces of at least equal size.
    The US and the UK would support the creation of a NATO multilateral force.
    The US and UK forces referred to in paragraphs (A) and (B) above would be included in such a NATO multilateral force.
    The US under these conditions would make available Polaris missiles (less warheads) together with associated equipment for fire control, launching, guidance and navigation for the British vessels included in the forces referred to in sub-paragraph (A) above. The US would also study the feasibility of making available certain support facilities for such vessels. The UK Government would construct the submarines in which these weapons would be placed and they would also construct the nuclear warheads for the Polaris missiles.
  • “7. The President and the Prime Minister have as their objective in this new plan strengthening the nuclear defense of the Western Alliance. In strategic terms this defense is indivisible, and it is their conviction that in all ordinary circumstances of crisis or danger, it is this very unity which is the best protection of the West.
  • “8. The US and the UK agree that in addition to having a nuclear shield it is important for NATO to strengthen its non-nuclear sword. They agree to meet their NATO non-nuclear force goals at agreed NATO standards.”

Document two follows:

“Understanding between the President and Prime Minister regarding the answer to inquiries as to the degree of independence of the British element of the proposed force.

Begin text: “Only in the event of a dire national emergency—an emergency which we might have to face alone, which we happily, cannot envisage, and which we must all trust will never occur—would Her Majesty’s Government be faced with a decision of utilizing such forces on their own—always, of course, after adequate notice to all their Allies.”End text.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 533, CF 2213. Secret; Niact; No Other Distribution. No time of transmission is indicated on the source text, but it was received in Washington at 11 p.m., December 19.