337. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Presentation of Credentials by Lord Cromer


  • The President
  • The Earl of Cromer
  • Emil Mosbacher, Chief of Protocol
  • George S. Springsteen, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs

After the presentation of credentials, the President took the British Ambassador into the Red Room and said that since his was the last of the presentation of credentials for the day, they could have a little longer to chat.

The President welcomed the Earl of Cromer. He said that he did not do this just out of protocol, but also because of the great background in economics and finance that Lord Cromer brought to the job, noting that these were matters which would be very much to the fore in the days to come. The President indicated that of course he and the British Ambassador would be talking about political matters from time to time, citing NATO, the future of Europe and other events arising out of the winding down of the World War.

In terms of the future of the United Kingdom, however, the President said the United States and the United Kingdom are embarked on paths which led him to have great hopes for a burst of energy from the economic side. The President stressed that he hoped that Prime Minister Heath’s economic policy will work and asked Lord Cromer to talk about these efforts.

Lord Cromer said that the current wild cat strikes are a phase that must be gone through to get on with the necessary changes in legislation. He noted that existing legislation, much of which was quite antiquated, had built up great vested interests which were now opposed to change.

Continuing, Lord Cromer said that Heath however is in the fortunate position of not being burdened with the past. He said that Heath and his contemporaries—unlike Macmillan and his predecessors—did [Page 1007] not carry with them the concerns of the inter-war period and the depression era. For Heath and his contemporaries, adult life started with the outbreak of World War II.

The President said that this was an interesting point. He said that he has a feeling—perhaps it is an intuition—that the British people feel deep down that they now have a chance—perhaps a last chance, to become a great economic power. The President said that we often read of British history in terms of battles where the key thing was the character of the British people. Today we need that same kind of character in the people to face economic problems.

Lord Cromer agreed, and noted in this context the Government’s handling of the Rolls Royce problem.2 In response to a question by the President, he said that most of the editorials in the British papers generally supported the government on its proposed actions.

The President asked what would happen to the automotive aspects of Rolls Royce. Lord Cromer said that it would be sold off to a private enterprise since it was a profitable endeavor anyway. The President said this was the right way to handle this aspect. Lord Cromer said that the Government, however, would concern itself with the future of the aircraft and marine engine aspects of Rolls Royce operations. He indicated that involved here were such matters as the production of the engine for the Concorde and the production of engines for tanks. With regard to the Lockheed engine, he felt that the government was keeping its options open.

The President said that the outcome there depends in part upon what Lockheed can do with its customers and arrangements for the financing of the contract.

Lord Cromer questioned whether the airlines were in a really great hurry to get the Lockheed plane.

The President said that the problems of the air carriers are temporary because more and more people will be flying airplanes. The current situation, however, goes beyond mere day-to-day economic problems. He noted that he had been raising a storm with the US regulatory agencies because they interfered with the airlines ability to handle their difficulties. He noted several of the minor things that airlines cannot do without regulatory agency approval, such as the firing of stewardesses and the cutting back on routes. The activities of the regulatory agencies don’t allow competitive forces to be brought into play.

Continuing, the President said that if regulatory agencies can let up then the airlines might be in a better position to agree to delayed deliveries of the new Lockheed planes. The President said that the man [Page 1008] who is handling this in the US Government is the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Mr. Packard, who is very knowledgeable in these matters.

Lord Cromer said that a nine-months delay in delivery would be helpful in this situation.

The President then turned to the recently concluded Commonwealth Conference in Singapore3 and commended the Prime Minister for his handling of the situation. He said that he had told the Prime Minister that what the British were proposing to do (arms for South Africa) created problems for us but we would not give Heath any trouble.4 Stressing that he was speaking frankly, the President said that we have gone overboard on our handling of the less-developed countries at the expense of our “blue chip” interests, such as NATO and Europe. He traced the history of this policy back to the closing years of the Eisenhower Administration, running on through the decade of the Sixties. If an issue arose, we generally tended to opt for the newer countries. Now we have revised that policy. The emphasis is now on NATO. It was for this reason that early in his Administration he journeyed to Europe.

Continuing, the President said that all countries are important but that the US and Europe must realize that without a strong relationship between the two there is no possibility of a viable foreign policy for either. Concluding, he said that when the chips are down we must ask whether what we propose to do in a given situation would help or hurt where it matters most.

Lord Cromer said that at Singapore the African countries had taken a tack that had racist overtones but that the Prime Minister had reacted by treating all the participants as adults and presenting reasoned arguments.

The President responded by noting that if colonialism is dead, then all former colonial dependencies must act like adults. In this context he said that the Nixon doctrine in the Asian area5 was based on this approach.

Lord Cromer said that he wished the President well in the latest operation in Southeast Asia.6

The President said that what is being done had to be done this year rather than next year when our personnel will be down to less than [Page 1009] 100,000. He said that this is really a big show. The operation in Cambodia in May had helped reduce casualities in the lower sixty percent of South Vietnam. He said that the casualty figures coming out on Thursday would be 16, the lowest he can remember in six or seven years. The current operation will do for the rest of South Vietnam what Cambodia had done for the lower half. He noted that it would also help Cambodia. He said that things were going better in Cambodia than we had expected, and the longer they survive the better it will be for all. But the current operation is central to future withdrawal preparations.

Lord Cromer said that success by the South Vietnamese in this operation will also improve the credibility of the South Vietnamese, showing that they had the capability to take care of themselves.

The President agreed and said that this will be a real test. When the South Vietnamese were involved in the Cambodian operation they were fighting against irregular troops. Now they are smack up against main forces of North Vietnamese. If they can “hack it” here it will mean a tremendous boost for their self-confidence.

In concluding the conversation, the President said he looked forward to seeing the Ambassador at the reception that evening and hoped he did not mind appearing so soon in White Tie for a diplomatic reception. He spoke flatteringly of the reception facilities available at the British Embassy and the good use to which they were often put.

As he escorted the Ambassador to the hall, he urged him to get in touch with Arthur Burns, George Shultz, and others involved in the economic field, and perhaps have them over for some candid discussions at the Embassy. In those discussions the President hoped Lord Cromer would feel free to comment on our economic problems and programs.7

The President then asked the Ambassador if he had seen the Kennedy portraits in the East Room. When the Ambassador responded in the negative the President asked Ambassador Mosbacher to take Lord Cromer into the East Room and show him the paintings. The President then departed.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 728, Country Files—Europe, United Kingdom, Vol. V. Confidential; Exdis. Drafted by Springsteen and approved with one editorial correction by the White House on February 12. The meeting took place in the Red Room of the White House.
  2. See Document 336.
  3. January 13–22.
  4. See Document 334.
  5. Reference to the statement made by the President on July 25, 1969. For text, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 544–556.
  6. Reference to a South Vietnamese operation launched February 7 into Laos with the objective of cutting off supply trails for Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. The offensive had U.S. air, artillery, and logistic support.
  7. Subsequently the President hosted a March 8 meeting of Cromer and senior Cabinet level officials including Shultz, Burns, and Stein. A memorandum of conversation, prepared by Shultz, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Memos for the President. A briefing paper prepared by Bergsten for Kissinger in connection with the meeting is ibid., NSC Files, Box 728, Country Files—Europe, United Kingdom, Vol. V.