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

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

Therefore, Britain could not afford any further financial burden, on top of the existing ones, in order to devise a method for reliable delivery of these weapons to their targets, i.e. other than dropping them from vulnerable bombers. Eisenhower, on the other hand, had always been in favour of U.K./U.S. nuclear co-operation and had tried to use his influence to prevent McMahon Act. In his meeting with MacMillan, in March 1957, Eisenhower suggested co-operation between Britain and the United States in the nuclear deterrence strategy evolving within N.A.T.O.. Eisenhower had even discussed such a collaboration with Churchill in 1953. In 1954, Eisenhower had even managed to achieve some amendments to McMahon Act, despite a hostile Congress, in order to find ways of bringing the British back to a situation of co-operation. Eisenhower’s interest in involving Britain in the United States deterrence strategy at Bermuda was due to the fact that the United States’ Government wanted to deploy intermediate-range missiles, fitted with nuclear warheads, within range of the U.S.S.R., and Britain was the obvious site, given the long-standing arrangements for American bases.

As Britain and the United States coincided in their interests, a further agreement in the Bermuda meeting of March 1957 was reached. Sixty intermediate-range Thor missiles were to be based in Britain. This led to the Churchill and Truman agreement of 1952 (that “the use of these bases in an emergency would be a matter for joint decision”23) being replaced by the joint control or ‘dual key’ system. This meant that the rockets could not be fired by any except British personnel, but the warheads would be in the control of the United States.

The ‘dual-key’ system meant that each side held a veto over the use of the weapon, and each benefited from the deal. America had missiles within reach of Russia, and Britain shared a missile deterrent. The Bermuda treaty was only the beginning of the U.S./U.K. nuclear relationship. However, by the time Eisenhower’s term of Presidency finished, there was full nuclear co-operation between Britain and the United States. The relationship between Britain and America became even more co-operative when Kennedy came to office in 1960. Despite the great difference in age, MacMillan and Kennedy became close friends. In 1961, Kennedy visited MacMillan in London for informal talks, which marked the beginning of what became Kennedy’s closest link with any foreign leader.

Despite his close relationship with President Eisenhower, and an even closer one with President Kennedy, and a strong belief in the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’, MacMillan, no less than Eden, refused to be a lackey of Washington, and was still ready to take an independent line when British interests dictated. For example, during the Suez Canal crisis, he supported Eden in not consulting America; he believed that consulting America might result in U.S. domination of the Canal zone. However, during his premiership, the lessons of Suez were always a reminder to MacMillan. Moreover, the ‘special relationship’ between the U.K. and the U.S. became the focus of much criticism, both in Britain and in the United States, and put both leaders, MacMillan and Kennedy, under considerable pressures in their own countries. In Britain many criticisms were advanced on the subject of Britain becoming a U.S. base and, as a result, becoming both subordinate to Washington and more vulnerable to an attack from the U.S.S.R..

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