227. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • SecDef Meeting with Lord Cromer (U)


  • UK
  • Lord Cromer, British Ambassador
  • Richard C. Samuel, Counselor for Middle East Affairs
  • Charles Powell, Private Secretary to Lord Cromer
  • US
  • Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger
  • Ambassador Robert C. Hill, ASD/ISA
  • MG John A. Wickham, Jr., Military Assistant to SecDef
  • Mr. Harry E. Bergold, Jr., DASD/ISA/European and NATO Affairs

(S) Lord Cromer said he understood the NPG meeting in The Hague had been a good one. He observed this was important for the Alliance after what it had been through in the Middle East crisis. He thought there were important lessons to be learned from the Middle Eastern situation but also other matters which remained unexplained. He said British policy throughout the crisis was consistent with what it had been before the crisis, namely that instability in the Middle East would lead to conflict and a settlement guaranteeing the inviolability of Israel’s frontiers had to be reached among the parties. In this spirit the British discussed with Secretary Kissinger the possibility of sponsoring a cease fire resolution in the Security Council. The British explored the possibility with Sadat in Cairo. Sadat said under no circumstances would he support such a resolution and if it were introduced he would have the Chinese veto it. Lord Cromer said one must assume that when a head of state speaks as Sadat had he means it. The British decided the resolution was a non-starter and so reported to Dr. Kissinger. It was Cromer’s understanding that Ambassador Dobrynin later said he agreed that the British had been right in their assessment. Lord Cromer said it was difficult for the British to understand newspaper stories apparently coming from the State Department which suggested surprise [Page 730] that the British did not go ahead in the Security Council anyway after their full discussion, and apparent agreement, with Dr. Kissinger.

(S) Secretary Schlesinger said the newspaper stories reflected not surprise but pique and that it is not necessarily true that, faced with the reality of the resolution, Sadat would in fact have behaved in the way he said he would.

(S) On the alert of U.S. forces, Lord Cromer said he had no complaints in a bilateral sense but that he thought NATO had been insufficiently informed by the United States. He observed we had told the military and not the diplomatic side and Ambassador Rumsfeld had apparently received insufficiently precise instructions. Secretary Schlesinger said he understood Lord Cromer’s point but that it seemed to differ from the one made to him by Lord Carrington in The Hague on 7 November. Carrington seemed to be concerned with the lack of bilateral consultation as well as the NATO problem. Secretary Schlesinger reminded Lord Cromer that Cromer had been telephoned from the White House before the alert was put into effect and that Carrington had been notified by DOD message. Despite that, the Foreign Secretary in his first statement on the subject suggested that he wasn’t sure the alert was the appropriate response. Lord Cromer said that Sir Alec later said that the alert was a proper response and got the job done. On the consultation with NATO, Secretary Schlesinger said it had not been handled as well as it should have been and we were taking steps to improve our procedures. He underlined that the question of consultation was not an issue with us, we agreed it needs doing and we will see that it is done better.

(C) Lord Cromer raised the arms embargo policy of the UK and said it was necessary to cut off both the Arabs and Israelis. He believed that the Arabs lost more than Israel with the embargo.

(C) The Secretary said that was basically a British problem. He would not have recommended an embargo policy, but if one was adopted obviously it had to treat both sides the same.

(S/Sensitive) On the SR71 flights, Lord Cromer said that the UK had approved a flight and the US had elected not to make it. The Secretary said that two conditions were imposed by the UK: The product must go to the UK, and that it not be shared with Israel. The Secretary stated that the latter condition was non-standard and one we need not necessarily accept. He said he understood that the requirement to share with the UK was a standard one and fully acceptable. Lord Cromer countered with his view that the condition of non-sharing with the Israelis was relevant to the Middle East situation and based on the different approaches being taken by the US and UK. Nevertheless, he paid tribute to the intelligence exchange which had taken place during the crisis.

[Page 731]

(C) Lord Cromer said he thought we must put the pieces together so we can work better for the future. The Secretary agreed and said the important point was that there are serious substantive problems within the Alliance which had been laid bare by the Middle Eastern crisis. Lord Cromer said that he thought it very harmful to make the Alliance split public in the newspapers. Secretary Schlesinger said he was not referring to some of the differences being made public but rather that the problems themselves exist and have to be faced. He said he was particularly perplexed by the British policy. Britain has taken the position, understandably and with a long history of being encouraged by the United States, that it must be in Europe. That position dates at least from 1962–63 with the unfortunate SKYBOLT incident and the de Gaulle veto. Part of the problem is proving to Europe (which means the French) that Britain is truly European. French policy (lately becoming somewhat ambivalent) is that the US should be cleared out of Europe so that French power will fill the leadership vacuum. The Secretary called attention to the Jobert speech before the National Assembly which he said was not very far from the old Gaullist rhetoric. On US presence in Europe, Jobert seemed to be saying we must stop sinning, but not just yet. It was clear that the belief persists that the United States should not be in Europe and this French attitude is not helpful from the aspect of US public opinion. The Secretary said that given French policy and the British intention to prove it is worthy of being in Europe we perceive a French/British relationship reminiscent of the “entente cordiale” of 1904. Secretary Schlesinger said he did not see how this squared with real British interests, a key aspect of which is to maintain a relationship with the United States that insures the US will continue to provide military support and the nuclear umbrella. From this point of view Secretary Schlesinger said he did not understand what Europe in general or Britain in particular accomplished by separating themselves from the United States during the Middle Eastern conflict.

(C) Lord Cromer said, “Who separated from whom? Our policy remained the same.” He said that the posture of the French in the Alliance is ambivalent and we must think if this can continue. He said that Britain must convince its EC partners that what might be appropriate for the ’60s is not appropriate for the ’70s. He said he believes the prospective summit meetings suggested by Pompidou may produce the political cohesion which will allow Europe to act more responsibly, but this will not happen overnight. He said that certainly France’s eight other partners in the EC believe that defense rests with the Alliance but they believe the defense relationship needs to be “full blown” with complete French participation.

(S) Secretary Schlesinger said that European actions during the Middle Eastern crisis only served to underscore the weakness of Eu[Page 732]rope and that the posture of European unity achieved in such instances as the 6 November Middle Eastern declaration by the EC–9 was achieved at the expense of European strength as perceived by other nations. Lord Cromer said it is well known that Europe has its fuel base in the Middle East. Europe’s weakness, he said, was there all the time for anybody to see and was only shown up more clearly by the events of the Middle Eastern crisis. Lord Cromer said Britain had always recognized this weakness. Secretary Schlesinger said the Europeans in giving overt acquiescence to Arab demands have given the Arabs a whip hand in dealing with the Europeans. Lord Cromer said the 6 November declaration was a sign of European unity. Secretary Schlesinger said the Dutch and to some extent the Germans did not feel very happy about it.

(S/Sensitive) Secretary Schlesinger said the Arabs were probing and the results of their probing achieved results that must have been very high in their spectrum of hopes. They must feel that they can now humiliate Europe. Secretary Schlesinger said he was puzzled that Europe could put itself in a position of not being willing to look to its key security interests in Middle Eastern oil. Lord Cromer said Europeans lack a sufficient military presence in the area. Secretary Schlesinger said this was not a law of nature and that so far as he could see Europeans should be concerned with the security interests related to their oil supply. Lord Cromer said that if the Europeans had gotten difficult the Arabs would have turned even more toward the Soviets. Secretary Schlesinger said US policy in the Middle East has changed and that our relationships with the Arabs are a factor to be taken into account. Lord Cromer recognized that a change of thinking is going on in Washington and with another year of peace it might have been possible to work out a settlement without the bloodshed we have gone through. Secretary Schlesinger said that if the US could exercise its power over both sides in the Middle East then both sides must realize that the road to a settlement is through Washington. This he said cannot be adverse to the interests of Western Europe.

(S/Sensitive) Lord Cromer said he had no quarrel with that point. He believes a settlement can be reached and that it will require that guarantee troops be placed on the ground with contingents from the major powers. He said that peacekeeping cannot be left to the Irish and the Swedes. He said that if we had given more thought to the Middle East over the last few years we would not be so unprepared. Secretary Schlesinger reiterated that Britain cannot be in a position of such weakness that it can be blackmailed. Lord Cromer said this is not the 19th Century and not an era of gunboat diplomacy. He said we are not free to use our conventional forces and part of this is the result of US anti-colonial policy. Secretary Schlesinger said it was more the result of [Page 733] adverse public opinion in Western countries. He said the present situation may bring a change in public attitudes. He said it is absolutely unacceptable that Western states should be subject to the whims of under-populated states for key resources such as oil. Lord Cromer replied that he personally agreed with this point, but part of the problem is who gets rough first.

  1. Summary: Schlesinger and Cromer discussed U.S.–UK and U.S.-West European relations in the aftermath of the October 1973 Middle East war.

    Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330–76–117, 333 UK 26 Nov 1973. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, European and NATO Affairs, Harry Bergold; coordinated by Wickham; and approved by Hill. The meeting took place in Schlesinger’s office. A memorandum of conversation on Schlesinger’s November 7 talk with Carrington in The Hague is ibid., 333 UK Approved 26 Nov 1973.