242. Memorandum of Conversation1
- British Defense Review
- The Secretary
- Ambassador Bruce
- The Prime Minister
- Oliver Wright, Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
The Prime Minister said the best part of the summer would be consumed by a review of British defense commitments. The UK cannot count, for example, on an indefinite retention of the Aden base though it is a vital staging point for Singapore. Much consideration must also be given by the British to the purchasing of weapons abroad, including the U.S. aircraft option.
The British were also concerned over the BAOR support cost; the Germans had behaved badly and there was pressure in the UK to pull out entirely. The foreign exchange problem figured importantly. The British would have meetings with the Germans again in June; they had not wanted to bring up the subject during the Queen’s visit to Germany. The Prime Minister speculated that they might have an explosion over this issue. The Prime Minister said that BAOR cost the UK about 90 million pounds per year. The Germans had offered to take a share in the UK computer business but their proposals had been rejected.
The Prime Minister said that Russia seemed interested in thinning out forces on both sides in Germany. Secretary Rusk remarked that he had told Dobrynin that we might be interested in a significant reduction in combat troops. The Prime Minister said he would rather take half of the British troops out of Germany than withdraw them from the Far East; most of his colleagues support him in this course.
The Prime Minister said he would like to see some four-power arrangement for East of Suez affairs outside of SEATO, etc. Such an arrangement could coordinate, for example, air striking power.
The Secretary made three points:
- The U.S. and UK should work together to encourage countries to handle their own affairs to a greater degree. In Africa, the OAU might be encouraged in this direction. The Commonwealth countries could also help in encouraging greater self-reliance.
- The U.S. did not want to be the only country ready to intervene in any trouble spot in the world. We hoped the British would continue to uphold their world-wide responsibilities.
- NATO countries, Australia, and Japan should have common concern over “wars of liberation.” We should develop a doctrine or strategy that “prevention is better than curing.”
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 1 UK. Confidential. Drafted by Bruce and approved in S on June 25. The memorandum is Part I of III. Documentation covering other portions of the Rusk-Wilson conversation is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 66 D 347, CF 2512.↩