19. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • MLF


  • U.S.
    • The Secretary
    • Ambassador Thompson
    • Mr. Tyler
    • Mr. Ausland
  • U.K.
    • Foreign Secretary Butler2
    • Lord Harlech, British Ambassador
    • Sir Harold Caccia, Permanent Undersecretary
    • Mr. Greenhill, British Minister
    • Mr. J.N. Henderson, Private Secretary to Mr. Butler
    • Mr. R.M. Hadow, Head of News Department, Foreign Office

During the course of a talk with Foreign Secretary Butler at the British Embassy at 6 PM on Sunday, April 26, the Secretary said he would like to raise the subject of the multilateral force. He said we would like to do something on this before the end of 1964. He noted this would fit the Italian book. He realized that the fact that the UK was having elections in October made it awkward for Mr. Butler. He added that we consider the MLF important and that it will come into being. However, we didn’t want to create difficulties for the British Government.

[Page 42]

Mr. Butler replied that the Prime Minister had asked him to put to the Secretary the British position very bluntly. This was that the U.K. Government could not take a position on the MLF before elections. If necessary, the Prime Minister would have to take this subject up with the President. Mr. Butler added that the U.K. had raised the idea of a mixed-manned bomber force. This, however, was not an alternative to the sea force. Mr. Butler also noted that the project for an experimental ship was under way with British support, and the U.K. had thought this was their bit prior to the October elections.

The Secretary noted that even if we did agree to the UK proposal on bombers at the present time, the UK still couldn’t move. Mr. Butler replied that this was correct. He added that he didn’t want to see a rift with the US because of political difficulties. He realized that it was better to have the MLF than for the Germans to have their own nuclear force, but he still couldn’t move before elections.

The Secretary replied that he understood this. He would like to know, however, what the limits were on the British to consult prior to the final decision. Could they participate in the preparation of a draft agreement? Mr. Butler replied he would have to consult on this but in any event the British would have to reserve their position.

Lord Harlech said perhaps it would be possible to prepare the agreement in some form other than as a draft treaty. The Secretary said that this might be a working group report on what should be in the articles of agreement, but in such form as to be readily transformable into a treaty. Mr. Butler said he would like to emphasize that it was essential that he be in a position to say to Parliament until it rises that the government had made no commitment. It would, therefore, be awkward if any document prepared were called a draft treaty.

Lord Harlech said it was also important that the government be able to indicate that the new UK proposals were not being brushed aside.

The Secretary said if the UK proposals became a substitute for ships or a device to postpone agreement it would not be good.

Mr. Tyler said that it should be possible to avoid a milestone in June which had inevitably to be followed by negotiations. After relating the German situation on timing, Mr. Tyler came to the conclusion that anything produced after January would cause trouble. The Secretary said he thought the best thing to do would be to prepare a report which could be turned into an agreement promptly after the UK elections. Mr. Tyler also emphasized that he would not want to see the new UK proposals delay progress on the seaborne force. Lord Harlech replied that it was important in the UK that the UK proposals be considered. The Secretary replied that he understood this, but that it would not be desirable for the UK proposals to be discussed as alternatives to a seaborne force. Mr. Butler said this had never been suggested. The Secretary concluded the discussion [Page 43] by saying that he would pull this together for further discussion Monday and asked Mr. Tyler to get in touch with Mr. Gerard Smith.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF(MLF). Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Ausland on April 27 and approved in S on May 2. The conversation was held at the British Embassy.
  2. Butler was in Washington for the CENTO Ministerial Council Meeting.
  3. At a second meeting on April 27, the two sides reached the following “Conclusions of Anglo/American Discussions about the MLF”:“1. The UK will not be expected to take any steps on the MLF prior to October which could be construed as a commitment by HMG.”2. It is assumed that in the interim the Working Group in Paris will continue to work on plans and language which could be converted into charter form for decision in November or December 1964.“3. The UK stated its intention to submit detailed technical support data for the proposals presented to the Working Group by Sir Evelyn Shuckburgh. It was understood that these proposals are not submitted as an alternative to a seaborne MLF, but should be considered in parallel with the seaborne MLF project.” (Topol 1660 to Paris, April 28; Department of State, Central Files, DEF(MLF)3)