309. Message From President Nixon to British Prime Minister Wilson 1

WH 1019. I was most grateful for your message of January 24,2 and for Michael Palliser’s follow-up to Henry Kissinger.3 The London meeting of Commonwealth heads of government seems to have gone very well indeed.4 It is particularly heartening to see the sense of reality and responsibility demonstrated by your newer Commonwealth colleagues.

I share your high opinion of Prime Minister Lee, and appreciate your remarks about Gorton. I realize that he is worried about the future of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, and will try to reassure him. Perhaps you and I can talk over these problems when we meet.

Which brings me to the principal reason for this message.

By now David Bruce will have talked to you about my tentative plans for a West European visit late this month or early in March.5 I have long felt that the first order of business for this administration must be an early meeting with you and other Western European heads of government. We have much to talk about if we are to establish the confidence so essential to the maintenance of a strong and healthy alliance.

As I told you in my January 11 letter,6 I am intent upon upholding the close relationship that has so long existed between British Prime Ministers and American Presidents. I would, therefore, like to suggest that—if it is convenient for you—I begin the crucial part of my European trip with a stop in London for a day of talks with you and your [Page 947]advisors.7 (My first stop will be Brussels, but it will be primarily for a visit to NATO.) I am most anxious to get your views and advice on a wide range of problems before going on to other European capitals.

If such a meeting fits in with your plans, perhaps we can get our people working together on a tentative date for the visit and an agenda of possible subjects for discussion.

One final note. This channel is only useful if you and I can say exactly what is on our minds without pulling any punches. Your “indiscretions” as you call them are extremely useful in helping me to get to know the people with whom I shall be dealing. You can rest assured that anything you send me via this channel will be treated in the utmost confidence.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 763, Presidential Correspondence, United Kingdom Prime Minister Wilson Corres. Secret; Nodis.
  2. A copy is ibid.
  3. Dated January 27, it provided an amplified report on the Commonwealth meeting. (Ibid.)
  4. The meeting was held in London January 7–15. For text of the communiqué, see Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1969–1970, pp. 23183–23186.
  5. The President announced on February 6 his plan to visit Western Europe February 23–March 2. See Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 76–77.
  6. A copy of the letter, dated January 13, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 763, Presidential Correspondence, United Kingdom Prime Minister Wilson Corres.
  7. A copy of Wilson’s February 19 reply welcoming a visit is ibid.