10. Editorial Note

On January 27, 1966, a U.K. delegation headed by Foreign Secretary Stewart and Defence Secretary Healey, in Washington to discuss problems relating to the current U.K. Defense Review, met with a U.S. delegation headed by Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara. Stewart stated that his government was extremely anxious that the United Kingdom not run away from its proper responsibilities, but pointed out that it had been overstretched in trying to maintain a wide range of commitments and was facing a serious foreign exchange drain. In discussing Middle East defense problems, Stewart argued that arrangements for defense of Libya could be more efficient and economical if the United States undertook a bigger share of its defense.

Regarding the Arabian Sea-Persian Gulf area, he said it had been proposed that Aden become independent by 1968 and that the United Kingdom then withdraw from the base there. This would be compensated for by an increase in British forces in the Persian Gulf area, which they hoped would reassure the Shah. The U.K. Government hoped that Nasser would not represent the withdrawal as a triumph for himself, and that the U.S. Government would use its influence with Nasser to encourage him to refrain from making difficulties for them in connection with the withdrawal. The United Kingdom also planned to modify its commitment to Kuwait somewhat by not providing land forces hereafter except in case of a coup.

Rusk said that the United States understood the British problem of being overstretched; it had a comparable problem with its Great Society programs being set back by the costs of Vietnam. He emphasized that the United States attached the greatest importance to Britain’s retaining a world power role, and noted that it would be disastrous if the American people were to get the impression that the United States was entirely alone. On Aden and the Persian Gulf, he thought they could reach a common understanding, and he said that the United States would see what it could do to influence Nasser. (Memorandum of Conversation, January 27, Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 77-0075, Memo of Conversation Between Secretary McNamara and the United Kingdom)

For documentation on the U.K.-U.S. discussions relating to the U.K. Defense Review, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XII, Documents 252257. On February 22 the U.K. Government issued a Defence White Paper announcing that British forces overseas would be reduced by one-third over the next 4 years, and that the British base at Aden would be evacuated in 1968.