Post Imperial “Churchillian” Defence, and Economic British Foreign Policy

Post Imperial “Churchillian” Defence, and Economic British Foreign Policy

Post Imperial “Churchillian”
Defence, and Economic British Foreign Policy


Defence Policy for the Modern Commonwealth:
The Anglo-American “Special Nuclear Relationship”

Many ex-colonies joined the old Dominions, and the Modern Commonwealth was formed. Leopold Amery, the Colonial and Dominion Secretary of State between the two World Wars, wrote in 1953, “… other nations now outside [the Commonwealth] may well decide to join it in course of time.”1

However, as F.S. Northedge has put it, “In the affluent society, nearly all but millionaires regard themselves as middle-class. Similarly, in international relations, the millionaire states, or super-powers, are easily distinguished – especially two of them, the United States and the Soviet Union – while most other states, except the obvious dwarfs like Gambia and Fiji, tend to place themselves about in the middle rank. A super power simply disposes of more power than the average state. The U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. are about the only states since the post-war period capable of fighting a full-scale war, involving the most up to date of modern weapons.”2 As estimations have shown, six hydrogen bombs with the maximum capacity of destruction now available can extinguish all life in the British Isles, if dropped in the seas encircling the United Kingdom. A similar drop, commanded by either of the two super powers, would have the same effect in an attack on almost any other country.

Therefore, Britain’s fear of the Communist threat to her (and her interests, the Commonwealth and its defence, which will be discussed), and lack of revenue for an effective defence, as a result of her economic crisis after the war persuaded Britain that an alliance with the United States was a necessity to challenge the Soviet Union’s expansionist policy. Both the Labour Administration of 1945-51 and the Conservative Governments between 1951 and 1963 shared this view, as they did on most of the other issues that we have discussed so far. Attlee, Bevin and Churchill worked together in the War Cabinet. When Attlee held the Labour Premiership after the war, his Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin was determined to get the Americans involved in the defence of Western Europe and Britain in particular. Similarly to Bevin, when heading the War Cabinet in 1940, Churchill made efforts to bring in the Americans to defend Britain as well as the Commonwealth against the enemy. Therefore, the three men were in complete agreement as to where Britain’s interest with regard to defence lay.

The threat of Communist expansion became more and more obvious as time progressed. In the mid-fifties co-operation between the third world and the Communist world began to develop on a completely new scale. For example, India made an agreement with the Soviet Union for the construction of the Bhilai steel works. Following the Soviet-Indian agreement there came the Soviet-Egyptian Agreement. The U.S.S.R. provided financial aid and technical co-operation to Egypt for the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Moreover, there was the sale of Czechoslovak arms to Egypt in 1955, which led to breaking the Western monopoly in arms supply to the Middle East. As a result, in particular, Churchill and MacMillan, among the Conservative political elite, worked hard to strengthen Britain’s relationship with the United States.

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