The Anglo-American”Special Nuclear Relationship”: The Origin of Contemporary British Bi-Partisan Defence Strategy

The Anglo-American”Special Nuclear Relationship”: The Origin of Contemporary British Bi-Partisan Defence Strategy

When the Conservative Government took office in 1951, defence spending was still rising and over-heating the economy. Therefore, Churchill gave much of his attention to the defence issue. The hydrogen bomb was tested by America in 1952 and Russia in 1953. Churchill told his personal secretary Jock Colville, “We’re now as far from the atomic bomb as the atomic bomb was from the bow and arrow.’? Churchill was convinced that the hydrogen bomb which Russia now possessed, had changed everything even further. However, while out of Office, Churchill had already begun working for a fresh alliance between Britain and the U.S.A. On a private visit to the United States in March 1946, in a speech which he made in Fulton, Missouri, he remarked, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”4 Churchill implied in his speech that the extent of Soviet expansion would depend on the West’s response. He suggested in his speech the idea of “a ‘special relationship’ between the British Commonwealth and the Empire and the United States. Fraternal association requires not only the growing friendship and mutual understanding between our two vast kindred system of society, but the continuance of intimate relationship between our military advisers, leading to common study of potential dangers, the similarity of weapons and manuals of instructions, and to the interchange of officers and cadets at technical colleges.”5 Churchill proposed to share bases, weapons and resources. He continued by saying that the “special  relationship”, “should carry with it the continuance of the present facilities for mutual security by the joint use of all Naval and Air Force bases in the possession of either country all over the  world. This would perhaps double the mobility of the American Navy and Air Force. It would greatly expand that of the British Empire Forces and it might well lead, if and as the world calms down, to important financial savings.”6 The American’s reaction to Churchill’s speech was not as enthusiastic as Churchill was expecting. However, a poll in March, 1946 showed that 70% of the people in the U.S.A. did not approve of Russian foreign policy.

However, the growth of Communist parties in France and Italy, and the Soviet failure to withdraw from northern Iran persuaded the Americans to take a stronger line against the Soviet Union. Now in office, in 1953, with his enthusiasm for the “special relationship” as strong as ever, Churchill in a communication to the U.S. President, Eisenhower, said: “My hope for the future is founded on the increasing unity of the English-speaking world. If that holds all holds. If that fails no-one can be sure of what will happen.”7

In the meanwhile, Churchill suffered a stroke and as a result Anthony Eden took over the front line of diplomacy. Eden, although believing Anglo- American co-operation was essential, did not believe that Britain should subordinate her foreign policy to Washington. This is how he viewed the situation while he was Churchill’s Foreign Secretary after the war. Eden had already had diplomatic experience before he became Foreign Secretary in the post-war period. He had been Foreign Secretary in 1935-38 and 1940-45. Nevertheless, he was viewed by his colleague as “in some ways an undiplomatic personality: capable of great charm but volatile in mood and often petulantly angry with events and people.”7 Moreover, in the 1930s, he had made his name as a determined opponent of appeasement. Finally, Eden, unlike Churchill, was not convinced that co-operation with America should be the over-riding priority for British policy. In his speeches he always put the Empire and Commonwealth first and the Atlantic Alliance second. Eden stressed the importance of Britain’s position as the heart and centre of a great Empire and Commonwealth.

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