267. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • British Plans for Military Cutbacks in Europe


  • The Acting Secretary
  • Deputy Under Secretary Johnson
  • Jacob Myerson, Special Assistant, U
  • Thomas M. Judd, EUR/BMI
  • Sir Patrick Dean, British Ambassador
  • David V. Bendall, Counselor, British Embassy

Following an exchange of greetings, the Acting Secretary told the British Ambassador we were now prepared to provide our comments on the British plans for cutbacks in their military spending in Europe as requested the previous day by the Ambassador.2

As regards the proposal to save from 5 to 8 million pounds by a reduction in troop expenditures in Germany, this was obviously something solely within the province of the British Government. We did not feel that we should comment.

In regard to the proposal to save 15 million pounds in the logistics area, our main concern was with the British plan to get down to a ten-day supply situation. This would put the UK out of phase with our own arrangements. Even if HMG was thinking of resupply from the UK, in a time of emergency the system was likely to break down.

Our main concern was with the British plans for saving an additional 10 million pounds. We were particularly concerned with the discussion in the British statement of the probable necessity to withdraw some combat forces and with the implication in the statement that some action might be taken by the UK in this regard before the UK/FRG mixed commission had a chance to report in the latter part of September.

The injection of the possibility of a withdrawal of combat troops into the WEU and the NAC at this time would cause us great difficulties. [Page 562] This news was bound to leak. The resulting reaction in the U.S. would put pressure on us to unravel. We also feared, particularly in view of the problems that NATO is now having, that a whole series of adverse reactions would be triggered.

The Acting Secretary and Mr. Johnson asked if the British in drawing up their plans had taken into account the additional $20 million in foreign exchange which would accrue to them as a result of our moving of three reconnaissance and two troop transport squadrons from France to the UK. They also urged the British to give us some time to see what might be done.

Ambassador Dean replied that he did not know if the extra foreign exchange to be gained from the stationing of the U.S. squadrons in the UK had been taken into consideration or not. His instructions were that HMG was unable to postpone beyond Friday its statement to the NAC. The Ministers who had approved the statement had now left London on their holidays. It would be difficult to make any changes. In effect, the U.S. was asking that HMG eliminate entirely that part of its statement dealing with the 10 million pounds.

Mr. Johnson replied that this was not really what we had in mind. We merely wanted the British to indicate that they would not do anything until after the mixed commission had reported. We also were urging that there be no mention of withdrawals.

Ambassador Dean said he thought amendments of this nature might not be so difficult. He would report to London. He went on to say that if the U.S. wished to go over the situation with the UK, he thought it would be best to hold talks in London where the necessary facts were available.

The Acting Secretary agreed with this suggestion and Mr. Johnson added that it would probably not be possible for us to have the talks until the following week.

Mr. Johnson raised another matter of concern to us. He said that it was the understanding of General Wheeler, who had been briefed on British plans by Admiral Henderson, that the UK was unable to give any assurances that any troops returned from Germany would be put into the Strategic Reserve. Ambassador Dean agreed that such assurances could not be given.3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 1 UK. Secret. Drafted by Judd and cleared in G and U on August 23. The meeting was held in Ball’s office.
  2. At a meeting with Ball at 11 a.m. on August 16, Dean had informed the Acting Secretary of the British decision to effect economies in BAOR and presented a copy of his talking points together with a statement the British representative would make at the August 19 meeting of the North Atlantic Council. A memorandum of their conversation with attachments is ibid., DEF 6-1 UK.
  3. At a 4:15 p.m. meeting that day, Dean reported that West German response to contemplated British troop withdrawals was “surprisingly mild” and handed the Acting Secretary a redrafted version of page 4 of the British statement to the NAC. A memorandum of their conversation, together with the amended British draft, is ibid., DEF 6 UK.