254. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • British Defense Review


  • The Secretary
  • The Under Secretary
  • Assistant Secretary Leddy
  • Thomas M. Judd, EUR/BNA
  • Sir Patrick Dean, British Ambassador
  • Michael N. F. Stewart, British Minister

The British Ambassador said he was returning to London for a brief consultation on the defense review. He hoped to give us a piece of paper setting forth the British position on January 25. The Secretary then handed him the attached paper giving U.S. reactions to what we understood to be the British position.

There was some discussion of the contents of the U.S. paper, particularly our view on the four-power arrangements in the Far East being proposed by the British. The Secretary asked if the UK had in mind a formal arrangement requiring ratification or more informal arrangements. He stated that a formal alliance would cause problems for us. We would not like to get into the business of amending any of our existing treaties.

[Page 515]

Mr. Stewart said he thought the Prime Minister had in mind some kind of agreement. Whether it would need formal ratification he didn’t know.

The Secretary said that we were anxious that the UK keep its commitment to Malaysia and Singapore. If the British presence in the Far East was connected only with the defense of Australia, it didn’t have much point to it.



On the basis of such indications as the U.S. has received concerning the direction of British thinking, and in the absence of more specific indications of British views, U.S. reactions are likely to be along the following lines on certain important points:
General. As a general principle, the U.S. would be unable to assume political or defense responsibilities in any area to make up for the reduction in, or withdrawal of, the UK presence. This would of course apply to Libya.
Aden. We are likely to accept, with regret, the probable necessity for their phasing out within the next few years; we attach great importance to their maintaining an adequate military capability in the general area of the Arabian Sea-Persian Gulf.
Singapore. This will need to be discussed at length; the British presence there is regarded as of very great importance.
Four-Power Arrangements in the Far East. Formal alliance arrangements in this area would raise many problems; a range of other possibilities for collaboration might be explored.
The U.S. attaches importance to the maintenance by the UK of a balanced capability depending on a suitable mix of forces to carry out UK responsibilities in the area East of Suez.
The whole range of British overseas commitments and capabilities should be discussed before the UK makes a final decision.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Conference Files: Lot 67 D 305, CF 8. Secret. Drafted by Judd and cleared by U on February 3 and by S on February 4. The memorandum is Part 1 of 3. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office.