234. Message From British Prime Minister Wilson to President Ford 1

Dear Mr. President,

Thank you for your message about our defence review. The talks in Washington were very useful to us, and I am glad to hear that they were helpful to you. I was particularly grateful to Dr. Kissinger and Dr. Schlesinger for giving of their time to Sir John Hunt and his team. We are still at work on the problem and, of course, our final decisions will not be announced until NATO consultation is complete. As I am sure you will recognise we shall do the best we can in the light of our common objectives to meet the considerations you have put forward.

I do not think that any of our Allies could justifiably use our proposed reductions as an excuse for cutting their contributions. For a long time we have carried a disproportionately heavy load, and there will be people who will argue, not without reason I think, that even when we have made the reductions we shall be carrying more than our share in view of our present economic problems. But we are determined, as you recognise, to pull our full weight in the common defence in Europe. We judge this to be the absolute priority, and that is why we have so little room to manoeuvre between our NATO and non-NATO commitments. In order to restore any of the non-NATO cuts which we are proposing we would be forced to cut further into our NATO contribution. There is simply no way out of this dilemma.

We have to be true to our priorities and cannot therefore keep forces stationed round the world and formally committed to non-NATO tasks. It is a hard decision to take, and I am sure we shall come in for some criticism here. But the fact is that we can no longer spread our forces round the world on the scale we have hitherto done, and we shall do better the things we must do if our own public opinion can be brought to recognise this.

Nevertheless we shall of course still have ships, troops and aircraft with the capability of going to other parts of the world, and in extreme [Page 750] circumstances we might have to send them, even though they were committed to NATO.

There are three specific points.

First, I have noted very carefully what you say about Cyprus, and the statement on 3rd December will cause you no problems in this respect. Mr. Callaghan has received Dr. Kissinger’s letter and will of course be sending a message to him in reply.

Second, we are ready to agree to your proposal about Diego Garcia although I should be grateful if you would keep this secret until 3rd December.

Third, we have received and are giving careful study to the detailed comments which you mentioned in your message.

I will ensure that your people are informed in advance of the full statement which we will be making on 3rd December, and we shall clear with them the text of the passage on Diego Garcia.

Yours sincerely,

Harold Wilson
  1. Summary: Wilson replied to Ford’s message on the UK defense review.

    Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 24, UK (18). Secret. A notation at the top of the message indicates that Kennedy forwarded the message to Scowcroft for Kissinger. In telegram 15372 to London, January 22, 1975, the Department forwarded the British response to U.S. comments on the UK defense review. (Ibid., Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Box 15, UK—State Department Telegrams NODIS—From SECSTATE (2)) In telegram 4000 from London, March 14, 1975, the Embassy assessed the UK defense review. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1975, [no film number])