NATO strategy, détente and European integration

Speaking at West Point in 1962, Dean Acheson observed that Britain had lost an empire and had still to find a new role. This book explains why, as Britain's Labour government contemplated withdrawal from east of Suez, ministers came to see that Britain's future role would be as a force within Europe and that, to this end, and to gain entry into the European Economic Community, a close relationship with the Federal Republic of Germany would be essential. This account of Anglo-German relations during the 1960s reveals insights into how both governments reacted to a series of complex issues and why, despite differences that might have led to strains, a good understanding was maintained. Its approach brings together material covering NATO strategy, détente and European integration. The main argument of the book is reinforced by material drawn from British and German primary sources covering the period as a whole, from interviews with some of Harold Wilson's key advisers and from newspaper reports, as well as from a wide range of secondary publications. The introduction of material from German sources adds to its authenticity. The book contributes to what we know about Cold War history, and should help to redefine some of the views about the relationship between Britain and Germany during the 1960s.

Abstract only

This chapter argues that central to Britain's strategy towards Europe developed by the Labour governments between 1964 and 1970 was a close relationship with Germany. The discussion in this book attempts to break new ground. It focuses on the whole of the period of the Labour governments between 1964 and 1970, and analyses in greater detail than has been done hitherto the bilateral relationship between the British and German governments, as it was affected by the main foreign policy issues and multilateral pressures at the time. Whilst Britain's relationship with the United States would continue to be important and the United States' involvement in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) would remain central to Britain's security strategy, Europe would ultimately provide the means whereby Britain would exercise influence on the world stage.

in Anglo-German relations during the Labour governments 1964–70

This chapter sets the scene for the book. It establishes the state of relations between Britain and Germany as the Labour government took office, as a yardstick against which to determine whether continuity or change marked the following six years. It also explores the domestic pressures — economic, party political and public opinion — that motivated actions by Harold Wilson and his ministers, especially in the period immediately after October 1964. In this period, there were incidents that might have had a damaging and lasting effect upon the understanding between Britain and Germany, but both governments recognised that ultimately their interests were better served by a good relationship, and agreed to increase their bilateral contacts to ensure that the improvement in relations that had been fostered by the previous Conservative government was maintained.

in Anglo-German relations during the Labour governments 1964–70
Hardware or software?

This chapter covers the exchanges between London, Bonn, and Washington over the MLF proposal and the British alternative, of an Atlantic Nuclear Force (ANF). Wilson claimed that the ANF proposals were designed to ‘kill off’ the MLF concept, although it is clear that US President Lyndon B. Johnson's role was pivotal in the eventual outcome. In this context, whilst Britain and the United States were anxious to accommodate German demands for a greater say in the use by NATO of nuclear weapons, both governments agreed that this could not be at the expense of a non-proliferation agreement with the Soviet Union. Britain's underlying concern was to prevent any suggestion of German control of nuclear weapons; this objective was achieved by the creation of the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG), with German representation, as the solution to NATO's nuclear sharing problem.

in Anglo-German relations during the Labour governments 1964–70

This chapter examines the negotiations between Britain and Germany leading to the series of offset agreements, under which Germany agreed to buy British exports, in the form of armaments and civilian purchases. Under pressure from a serious balance of payments problem, Britain demanded more support than Germany was prepared to give, and resorted to threats of troop withdrawals if its demands were not met. The dispute reached its peak in 1966, when the United States, under similar economic pressure, and concerned about the knock-on effect that British troop withdrawals might have, was drawn into the dispute. The trilateral deal that was struck in 1967 marked the decline of the dispute in importance, when Britain and Germany agreed subsequently that collaborative projects, such as the joint development of a multi-role combat aircraft, might shape future negotiations, and when Britain pledged its future to Europe.

in Anglo-German relations during the Labour governments 1964–70

This chapter deals with the Harmel report and the involvement during 1967 of Britain and Germany in the reappraisal of NATO and its future tasks, proposed by Pierre Harmel, the Belgian Foreign Minister. That such a reappraisal was both necessary and urgent was evident after the French withdrawal from the military organization of NATO and in the light of questioning by public opinion in NATO countries of the utility of the organisation. For Germany, the exercise was regarded as an important opportunity to reinforce its own Ostpolitik and to ensure that the German problem was deemed by members of the Alliance as an essential ingredient of a settlement in Europe. An important consideration, in terms of Anglo-German relations, was that Britain and Germany co-operated closely as co-rapporteurs for one of the Harmel study working groups.

in Anglo-German relations during the Labour governments 1964–70

This chapter examines the background to the formal adoption by NATO in 1967 of the revised nuclear strategy of ‘flexible response’. By the early 1960s, the security guarantee provided to NATO members by the United States had been undermined as the Soviet Union achieved nuclear parity and by the demand that its European allies strengthen their conventional forces assigned to NATO. For the Germans in particular, either the consequences of a failure of deterrence or the prospect of a conventional battle fought on their territory was too serious to contemplate. Britain clearly understood German concerns and to some extent shared them. The agreement on the revised NATO strategy represented a compromise between these respective positions. Britain was a key player in the development of NATO strategy and, with Germany, was influential in developing guidance on the use of tactical nuclear weapons by the Alliance as part of flexible response.

in Anglo-German relations during the Labour governments 1964–70

This chapter discusses Anglo-German relations in the context of the negotiations leading to the agreement reached between the United States, the Soviet Union and Britain, and ultimately by Germany, on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The negotiations were complex, in that they spilled over into other issues of concern to members of the Atlantic Alliance. Principally, these included the MLF/ANF project and whether moves within the Alliance to create opportunities for greater nuclear weapons sharing would prove acceptable to the Soviet Union. Multilateral negotiations were influenced by the changes of government in Bonn in 1966 and 1969, and the Soviet-inspired invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. They also occurred at a time when the British government was anxious to strengthen relations with Germany in support for Britain's commitment to Europe.

in Anglo-German relations during the Labour governments 1964–70

This chapter centres on German Ostpolitik in its three phases and the reaction to it by the British government. Britain was a firm advocate of moves designed to improve East-West relations, and encouraged Germany away from the Hallstein doctrine, towards a position that was based on an improved détente with the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries as the best means of achieving a settlement in Europe. The discussion includes detail of a seemingly little-known British Ostpolitik initiative launched in 1966, which proposed a ‘Declaration on Europe’. Like the British reaction to the Peace Note, the Germans were lukewarm about the Declaration, but it was an indication of the state of relations at the time that neither country was prepared to express outright opposition.

in Anglo-German relations during the Labour governments 1964–70

This chapter discusses the events leading up to Britain's decision in 1967 to reapply for membership of the European Community and bilateral contacts with Germany after the application was rejected. Harold Wilson proved to be the key figure in establishing British policy towards membership of the EEC, as he coaxed a divided Labour government into supporting a second application. The chapter argues that although this strategy did not succeed, it did serve to demonstrate a more convincing commitment to Europe and placed Britain in a position from which membership of the EEC could be negotiated once de Gaulle had left the scene. Again, Britain's approach to Europe and the strategy of a close relationship with Germany were key foreign policy issues of the period.

in Anglo-German relations during the Labour governments 1964–70