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

The argument of the Governor, who is not named in MacMillan’s autobiography, in MacMillan’s words, “seemed to me, as to him, unanswerable.”19 According to the Prime Minister’s own writings, “nor was this judgment unique. It was shared by all his most experienced and reflective colleagues.”20 Needless to say, such judgment reflected on MacMillan’s policy. His South African speech, afterwards widely known by its theme of the ‘Wind of Change’, demonstrated the direction of his colonial policy. MacMillan said in his speech, “what the Government and Parliaments in the United Kingdom have done since the war in according independence to India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Malaya and Ghana, and what they will do for Nigeria and other countries nearing independence, all this, though we take full and sole responsibility for it, we do in the belief that it is the only way to establish the future of the Commonwealth and of the Free World on sound foundations.”21 The justification for MacMillan’s, and, in general, the Labour and Conservative Governments’ forward moves was merely determined on a practical political basis, in view of the international situation in and after the Second World War, in particular the predicaments that have been discussed in this article. In other words, in view of Communist expansion and British economic crisis, the process of decolonization and creation of the Modem Commonwealth was the only practical course of action that Britain could take, in order to maintain her economic and political interests in the ex-colonies.

Having given additional attention to MacMillan’s policy of preserving British interests, I now continue my article by looking at his policy of defending both Britain and her Commonwealth. Due to the circumstances that Britain found herself in, during the war and after, the evolution of the Modem Commonwealth had been taking place, and would have continued under MacMillan’s premiership, in any case. However, MacMillan’s fear of Communism being spread into the colonies, persuaded him to accelerate the decolonization process. The Soviet Union’s expansionist policy had made MacMillan look for an immediate and effective defence that could protect Britain and her interests. The obvious solution was to follow the policy that the previous Conservative and Labour Governments had adopted, in other words, to pursue Churchill’s ‘special relation’ concept, by seeking to re-establish and maintain partnership with the United States in defence and foreign policy.

In March 1957 MacMillan met Eisenhower in Bermuda. After frank exchanges on the Suez crisis the atmosphere between the two leaders improved. The two leaders re-established top-level contacts between each others’ governments and agreed to exchange communications regularly. In fact, during that meeting, MacMillan and Eisenhower laid the basis of an Anglo-American nuclear relationship that has continued to the present day. As a result of agreements in 1943-45, the United Kingdom and the United States became partner to develop nuclear weapons. However, the United States abandoned the agreements, although Churchill and Roosevelt had decided to share knowledge in the development of nuclear weapons. Opposition had grown in the United States to sharing the monopoly of such weapons, and an Act was forced through to suspend such co-operation. The Act was known as the McMahon Act. Nevertheless, Britain went ahead with her own atomic programme. In 1952, the British successfully tested their atomic bomb and, in 1957, they had exploded a hydrogen bomb. However, according to the Foreign Office’s memo:

“Britain had tried to keep up with them [the U.S.A and U.S.S.R], but now, in the age of the hydrogen bomb, if we try to do so we shall bankrupt ourselves.”22

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