Background to the Crisis

Background to the Crisis

Week 7: The 1960s and 1970s

Harold Wilson’s relationship with Lyndon Johnson

  • HW keen to maintain the Atlantic link
  • Gives unprecedented access to No. 10 to David Bruce, US ambassador
  • Inclined to boast about his relationship with LBJ

LBJ attitude to HW

  • LBJ not at ease with foreigners
  • Assesses foreign relationships on the degree of support given to the USA
  • Resentful of HW’s refusal to commit British troops and role as self-appointed peace-maker over Vietnam

Wilson’s visits to Johnson

December 1964: Britain with a begging bowl, but Wilson refuses troops for Vietnam

  • East of Suez commitment promised
  • Vietnam: Wilson refuses British troops
  • Multilateral Force (MLF) discussed (subsequently shelved)

April 1965: cordial but non-committal

Dec 1965: cordial

Wilson re-affirms East of Suez commitment and political support for US in Vietnam

July 1966: cordial

  • HW reaffirms GB will retain East of Suez role but cut back in Gulf and at Aden
  • HW strongly backs US role in Vietnam
  • July 1966 deflationary economic package to avoid devaluation
  • LBJ compares HW to Churchill

June 1967: uneasy

  • LBJ anxious about GB accelerated timetable for East of Suez withdrawal
  • LBJ fails to persuade Wilson to reconsider

February 1968: low key

  • HW wants to boost his domestic popularity

Britain and America in the Wilson-Johnson years

US priorities

  • Prevent British devaluation: pound regarded as a defence against run on the dollar
  • Nov 1964 US helps organise relief fund for Britain
  • April 1965 influences Callaghan’s deflationary budget
  • July 1966 US again supports deflation and back the pound
  • Nov 1967 British devaluation accepted as inevitable
  • Maintain British presence East of Suez: defence of Persian Gulf and SE Asia: Hong Kong and Singapore
  • Reluctant acceptance that domestic pressure makes HW unable to send troops to Vietnam; appreciative of expressions of British diplomatic support
  • Washington makes no attempt to use British request for support of the pound, and over Rhodesian sanctions, as bargaining chips for British troops in Vietnam

Britain and the Far East

Oct 1964-Aug 1966: ‘Confrontation’ between Federation of Malaysia and Indonesia

  • Sept 1963 Federation of Malaysia created: Malaya, Singapore, N. Borneo, Sarawak
  • Sukarno of Indonesia challenges border in Borneo
  • Cross-border raids by both sides
  • Ties down c17,000 British troops, 80 ships, RAF fighters
  • British use it as an excuse and/or reason for not committing troops to Vietnam

Factors ending the Confrontation

August 1965 Singapore (mainly Chinese) separates from Malaya (mainly Malay)

Sept 1965 General Suharto purges communists; c500,000 killed

Suharto becomes the effective ruler of Indonesia

Aug 1966 Confrontation ends: Suharto anxious for

  • Accommodation with Malaysia
  • Western financial aid

Wilson’s Vietnam mediation efforts

Feb 1965: suggests flying over to Washington in response to US bombing

Mar 1965: tries to use co-chairmanship of Geneva Conference with USSR to lever North Vietnam to the table

June 1965: tries to organise a Commonwealth peace mission

Feb 1967: tries to use Kosygin’s visit to London to broker a peace deal

  • Phase A: US bombing of North to cease
  • Phase B: North to cease infiltration into South
  • Each side wants the other to move first

Why Wilson’s peace efforts failed

  • Wilson ‘interference’ not popular in Washington
  • Perceived as efforts to placate his left-wing domestic critics of his public backing of the USA
  • June 1966 HW angers LBJ by criticising US bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong
  • North Vietnamese regard Wilson as a stooge of LBJ
  • Peace deal unlikely
  • North Vietnamese not interested in anything less than US withdrawal
  • US wants North Vietnamese recognition of the South

Anglo-American relations in the Heath-Nixon era

Heath makes British entry to EEC a priority

  • Aware of French objection that Britain a ‘Trojan Horse’ for the USA
  • Makes no use of Nixon’s offer of privileged access to the White House
  • Heath wants collective European dealings with the USA

US-GB relations cooler

  • Nixon worried that closer European integration will create a trading bloc to rival USA
  • USA looks to Shah of Iran, rather than Britain, to protect its interests in the Gulf
  • Congress anxious to reduce US troops in Europe
  • Europe wealthier and should do more
  • US spending money and men in Vietnam
  • Britain reluctant to spend more on the defence of Europe
  • 5.7% of GDP on defence: higher than other European
  • Continued balance of payments problems
  • Northern Ireland troubles

1971 MBFR talks begin: GB worried that its nuclear weapons will be sacrificed

Nixon’s detente policy worries Europeans that USA backing away from defence of Europe

GB-US areas of co-operation and agreement

  • Nuclear relationship
  • Intelligence
  • Sept 1971 Nixon approves of GB expulsion of 105 Soviet trade mission spies
  • Dec 1972 Heath the only European leader to support US bombing campaign in Vietnam
  • Heath approves of Nixon’s overtures to China

Areas of US-GB disagreement

  • 1972 Indian-Pakistan war: Britain pro India; US pro-Pakistan
  • 1973 Yom Kippur War
  • GB thinks Israel intransigent over UNSC Res 242 because of US backing
  • Britain traditionally pro-Arab
  • Europeans need Middle Eastern oil
  • Heath refuses US permission to use UK air bases to supply Israel
  • Regard US nuclear alert as an over-reaction

Wilson/Callaghan, 1976-79

Wilson anxious to restore UK’s relationship with USA

US accepts further British defence cuts without significant protest

1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus causes disagreement

July 1974 Greek military junta overthrows Makarios in Cyprus

  • establishes a puppet regime
  • Aiming to incorporate Cyprus into Greece

US anxious to keep Turkey in NATO: supportive of its position

UK believes that US support encouraged Turkish belligerence

  • Collapse of Greek junta defuses crisis
  • Cyprus partitioned

1975 Final Act of Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE)

  • USA, Canada and 33 European States, including the Soviet bloc
  • Britain plays a mediating role

Helsinki Accords

  • European frontiers were accepted by all;
  • East and West agreed to give each other notice of military exercises;
  • all signatories accepted ‘the universal significance of human rights and fundamental freedoms’

1976 Britain requests long-term financial rescue plan

  • US arranges stand-by credit
  • Imposes a six month limit on the loan
  • US Treasury not keen on Labour economic policies

Britain forced to apply to IMF

  • Strict deflationary public-sector borrowing cuts required

Callaghan establishes warm relationship with Carter

US-UK co-operation over nuclear weapons continued

Late 1970s: the Soviet intermediate-range SS-20 missile deployed in Europe

  • had a range of 5,000 km
  • could be fired from mobile launchers
  • each missile carried three warheads

NATO’s response to the SS-20s

In 1979 NATO decided to deploy American intermediate range missiles in Europe

  • The medium-range Pershing missile
  • had a range of 1,500 km
  • could destroy underground command bunkers

Long-range Cruise missiles

  • had a range of 2,500 km
  • were fired from mobile launchers

Carter offers Britain Trident to replace Polaris