Office of the Historian Press Release

April 12, 2001

The documentary record of America’s relations with its Western European allies as presented in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Volume XII, Western Europe, was released today by the Department of State.

During this period, French President Charles De Gaulle’s policies led to serious differences between France and the United States, particularly over French withdrawal from the military side of NATO and French determination to build a separate nuclear force (force de frappe). Nevertheless France continued its strong support of firm tripartite policy on Berlin, and the French were equally shaken by the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. Aside from the latter, much of France’s preoccupation in 1968 was with the student and worker riots. The United States and France had sharply differing perspectives on Vietnam throughout the period.

With regard to Scandinavia, the volume includes documentation on a problem that arose with Denmark in January 1968, when a nuclear-armed U.S. B-52 bomber crashed in Thule, Greenland, and raised the thorny issue of nuclear overflights and the storage of nuclear weapons. The documentation on Italy reflects U.S. interest in the internal political scene in Italy as the center-left coalition took power, as well as developments within the Italian Communist Party.

Spain unsuccessfully demanded support of Spanish foreign policy initiatives—especially the return of Gibraltar from the British—and more concessions for a renewal of U.S. base rights in Spain. Portugal had to cope with low-level insurgencies in its African colonies of Angola and Mozambique and was not prepared to criticize America in Vietnam. The Salazar regime grew suspicious that the United States was aiding the rebels in Portuguese Africa and tired of U.S. efforts to prevent Portugal from obtaining military supplies. Portugal also used its defense and base agreements with the United States to try to wrest concessions from Washington. During the Johnson administration the Vatican had misgivings about U.S. policy in Vietnam, and Pope Paul VI made a concerted effort to mediate a Vietnam settlement. In 1967 both Vice President Hubert Humphrey and President Johnson met with the Pope to try to win the Vatican’s understanding.

The United States traditionally has had a “special relationship” with Britain and similarly close relationship with Canada based on such factors as language, proximity, and long-standing alliances. The documentation on the United Kingdom shows a more tense relationship after Labor Prime Minister Harold Wilson took office. Severely hurt by a balance-of-payments problem, the Labor Government had to make drastic budgetary cuts, including a virtual abandonment of British military commitments East of Suez. This was not welcome news to the Johnson administration, which was escalating its military presence in Southeast Asia. Although the United States sought to support the pound, Britain suffered through a series of sterling crises. Wilson became critical of U.S. policy in Vietnam, and personal relations between Johnson and Wilson sharpened.

U.S.-Canadian relations had seen the same kinds of personality clash when Progressive Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and President John Kennedy met. Johnson and Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson at least agreed to disagree politely over outstanding issues, although in February 1967 Johnson expressed his displeasure about Canadian criticism of his Vietnam policy. Johnson later repaired the damage with Pearson, but it was clear to officials in the Johnson administration that Canada would not necessarily follow the U.S. lead in foreign policy matters, especially in issues such as territorial waters and fisheries.

The Office of the Historian has prepared a summary of this volume. For further information contact David. S. Patterson, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series at (202) 663-1127; fax: (202) 663-1289; e-mail: The text of the volume, the summary, and this press release will soon be available on the Office’s Web site: Printed copies of this volume can be purchased from the Government Printing Office.