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

Nevertheless, with their leaders getting on well, co-operation between Britain and the U.S.A. in regard to defence, continued. After the war, as a matter of helping to defend the Free World against Communism, Britain also (with the view to her own interests) played an active role in negotiating  post- war regional pacts, all under the N.A.T.O. pact, such as S.E.A.T.O. (in south- east Asia) and C.E.N.T.O. (the Baghdad Pact). Moreover, during the decolonisation process, bases in places such as Cyprus, Singapore, Gibraltar and Aden were retained and were shared with the Americans, under these pacts.

However, although there was a close relationship between the two countries’ leaders, MacMillan still distrusted the Americans and wanted an insurance against the United States failing to honour its nuclear guarantee of N.A.T.O. (and pacts under N.A.T.O.). He wanted an independent nuclear capacity, i.e. controlled by Britain and belonging to her. Therefore, MacMillan embarked on a negotiating process that received opposition both at home and in America.  Kennedy’s Defence Secretary, Robert McNamara, publicly criticised such policy. MacMillan brought considerable influence to bear on Kennedy. Eventually, in December 1962, at the Nassau Conference, the United States   agreed to sell Britain Polaris missiles to be fired from nuclear submarines to be built by Britain. In a major emergency affecting the United Kingdom alone, the British submarines could act under orders from London. The Polaris submarines were less vulnerable than other types of nuclear delivery system; and they would not necessarily attract a nuclear retaliatory strike, since they need not be based in the United Kingdom. In addition, MacMillan had also acquired Polaris on favourable terms, with Britain obliged to make only a small contribution to research and development in addition to the price of each missile. The price that Britain had to pay was de Gaulle’s blocking of Britain’s entry into the E.E.C., the third pillar of MacMillan’s policy in view of protecting Britain’s power and interests in the aftermath of Empire.

1. D.JUDD and P. SLINN, op. cit., p. 107
2. M.LEIFER, Constraints, and Adjustments in British Foreign Policy. (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1972), p. 192.
3. D.DIMBLEBY, BBC1 interview with Jock Colville 11.5.1988.
4. R.RHODES-JAMES (ed.), op. cit., p.880.
5. ibid.
6. ibid.
7. ibid.
8. CHURCHILL to Eisenhower, 5 April 1953, PREM 11/1074 (PRO), in D.DIMBLEY and D.REYNOLDS, op. cit., p. 205.
9. ibid., p. 204.
10. ibid., pp. 213-214.
11. ibid., p. 180.
12. ibid., p. 204.
13. D.DIMBLEBY, BBC1 interview with General Andrew Goodpaster [Eisenhower’s Staff Secretory and closest foreign policy aide], 25.5.1988.
14. D.MCLEAN, op. cit., pp. 138-139.
15. H.MACMILLAN, OP. CIT., P. 118.
16. ibid.
17. ibid., pp 118-119.
18. ibid., p. 119.
19. ibid.
20. ibid.
21. ibid.
22. ibid., p. 477.
23. ibid.

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