313. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Exchange between President and new British Ambassador Freeman on Occasion of Presentation of Credentials

PARTICIPANTS

  • U.S. Side:
  • The President
  • Mr. Henry A. Kissinger, Asst. to the President for Natl. Security Aff.,
  • Ambassador Mosbacher, Chief of Protocol,
  • Mr. Martin J. Hillenbrand, Asst. Sec. for EUR
  • U.K. Side:
  • Ambassador John Freeman

After the presentation of credentials ceremony, the President and Ambassador Freeman went to the Red Room, where they exchanged [Page 956]remarks for some ten minutes. The President noted that Ambassador Freeman’s last foreign post had been in India. Ambassador Freeman confirmed that he had been there from 1962 to 1965. He had found it a fascinating country, but full of seemingly insoluble problems. In response to the President’s query, he noted that a possible emerging strong man might be Chavan, from the Bombay area. The big problem in India was that all politicians tended to be regional in their sources of strength and it was difficult, even in this instance, to imagine that a Maratha from a traditional West Indian warrior tribe could ever obtain the support of Calcutta politicians.

The President referred to the “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain. This was an obvious fact, but it was also necessary to recognize that other countries and their leaders would be sensitive about it. Hence, while it would continue to exist, as it had historically, between the two countries, it was desirable to play it down publicly and to let the facts take care of themselves. Ambassador Freeman said he fully concurred and he could assure the President that he would do nothing which could be interpreted as taking advantage of this special relationship.

Referring to the forthcoming NATO Ministerial meeting in Washington,2 the President said that this would be an important occasion, which he trusted would go beyond the ceremonial, and also result in important substantive discussions. He mentioned the possibility of finding new areas of consultation in NATO.

The President noted that, during his visit to London, Prime Minister Wilson had indicated that he would probably wish to come to the United States at some point in the not too distant future. He wondered what the Prime Minister’s thinking was as to timing. Ambassador Freeman said the Prime Minister was thinking about sometime early in June, and would probably try to arrange the visit on a semi-private capacity in order to eliminate some of the trappings that go with a more official visit.3 The President observed that this seemed like a good time and we would try to keep clear the schedule so that there would be an occasion for good talks with the Prime Minister. Ambassador Freeman indicated that the Prime Minister would probably be coming here in connection with his receiving an honorary degree from an American university.

[Page 957]

The President noted that there had been some misleading commentary about the French portion of his recent trip to Europe.4 He wanted the Ambassador to know that he had not in any respect deviated from the American positions on such matters as UK entry into the Common Market, the role of NATO and European unity. However, he had felt it desirable that the unfavorable atmosphere between France and the United States be improved. There seemed little point in treating President de Gaulle as an outcast. Improved personal relations should be possible without any concessions on essentials.

Ambassador Freeman said that the President had made such a favorable impression on the British Ministers during his visit to London that there was no question of their ever doubting the position he would take or had taken in France. The visit to London had, in fact, been an unmitigated success.

The President added that he very much meant it when he had stressed our intention to consult with our Allies. He wanted the Ambassador to know that we intended to consult fully with the British, and this did not mean merely telling them what we were going to do after we had made up our minds to do it. We would find British views valuable in making up our own minds about possible approaches to problems.

After an exchange on the strains of social life in Washington for a British Ambassador, the conversation ended. On the way out, the President mentioned that he would like to meet with Foreign Minister Stewart and Defense Minister Healey when they came to Washington to attend the NATO Ministerial meeting.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 726, Country Files—Europe, United Kingdom, Vol. I. Confidential; Exdis. Drafted by Hillenbrand. The meeting took place in the Red Room of the White House. Freeman, a former Labour Party member of Parliament and Minister, had been a critic of Nixon. Both Nixon, RN , p. 371, and Kissinger, White House Years, pp. 95–96, touch upon the smoothing of relations between the President and new Ambassador during Nixon’s visit to Europe.
  2. April 10–11.
  3. In an April 28 memorandum to the President, Kissinger reported that Freeman had informed him that due to difficulties in Ireland and within Parliament, Wilson had decided to postpone a visit to the United States. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 726, Country Files—Europe, United Kingdom, Vol. I)
  4. See Document 118.
  5. The President met with a group of NATO Foreign and Defense Ministers on April 11 (see Document 12), but there is no record that he met alone with Healey. Kissinger met with Healey on April 9. A record of their discussion is in a April 11 memorandum from Sonnenfeldt to Kissinger. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 726, Country Files—Europe, United Kingdom, Vol. I)