170 Shedden to Chifley

[MELBOURNE], 5 April 1946

TOP SECRET AND PERSONAL

APPRECIATION OF THE STRATEGICAL POSITION OF AUSTRALIA, FBBRUARY 1946

Attached is the appreciation submitted by the Chiefs of Staff in reply to your minute of 22nd February 1946.

2. You will recall that the United Kingdom Government decided to abolish their Post Hostilities Planning Committee, because it was found that Service planning could only proceed on the assumption of a war with the U.S.S.R. The Government felt that the Foreign Office, which was represented on the Committee, could not continue to be associated with this work, and planning reverted to the Joint Planning Committee comprised of representatives of the Services only.

3. The only United Kingdom documents that I have seen naming the U.S.S.R. as the potential enemy, have been on the planning level, but that does not mean that they may not have proceeded to the Governmental level, or that there are not other documents on that level in the United Kingdom.

4. The Appreciation as a military planning document appears both sound and realistic. It refers to the breakdown of the United Nations Organisation if one of the Great Powers should become an aggressor. It designates the U.S.S.R. as the potential enemy. It emphasises the primary importance of Co-operation in Empire Defence. It says that implicit reliance should not be placed on the automatic assistance of the United States, a fact which makes Empire Co-operation a matter of added importance. From the Government's point, there are doubts as to wisdom of the acceptance of the Appreciation, and much less its endorsement, because of the following considerations:-

(i) From a realistic military viewpoint, it may be reasonable for the Government's Service Advisers to express the following views, but, while the Government's Security Policy must aim at making the United Nations Organisation work, and at the same time reinsure itself against any possibility of failure, it is another matter to subscribe to it in a Departmental document:-

The Fragile Structure of the United Nations:

A breakdown of the United Nations, as contemplated in paragraph 8, would almost certainly result from an irreconcilable difference among the Big Three, and, in such an event, the resultant war might commence immediately. Under such circumstances, it would be too late to commence planning Imperial security on a new basis.

There is thus a pressing need to ensure Empire security by planning an alternative system to the United Nations, and this is considered in the ensuing paragraphs. (Paragraphs 19 and 20 of Appreciation.) (ii) In the passages quoted below, the appreciation and the covering minute designate the U.S.S.R. as the potential enemy.

While the Services can only prepare plans and organise Forces on the basis of a specific war, it is another question for the Government to endorse the basic appreciation as a matter of Government Policy at this delicate stage of assisting to set the United Nations Organisation on its feet.

Views of the Chiefs of Staff:

It is stated in the Appreciation that, in a war with the U.S.S.R., a major threat to Empire interests in Europe, the Middle East, and India, will always be present, and that such a threat will extend to the South Pacific, if Russia develops sea power. (Paragraph 4 of Chiefs of Staff Minute No. 11/1946. [1]) The Chief of the Naval Staff and the Chief of the General Staff are of the opinion that this view is covered by paragraph 44 of the Appreciation which states, 'Russia cannot exert a direct threat on Australia on a scale larger than a raid, unless she succeeds in her apparent determination to build up her naval strength. If, as appears possible, Russia is to become the dominant factor in the rejuvenation and rebuilding of Japan, especially in relation to the shipbuilding industry, the imminence of her becoming a potential aggressor in the Pacific would be advanced. Further, if she were to dominate China (and the trend is in that direction), the situation as regards the interests of the British Commonwealth would be grave.' They recall that the second paragraph of the Appreciation refers to the need to review the paper periodically, and whenever any change in the international situation, or in scientific development, renders this necessary.

(Paragraph 6 of Chiefs of Staff Minute No. 11/1946.) The Potential Enemy and the Time Factor The U.S.S.R. is a potential enemy of the future, and it is at least prudent to plan our National Insurance Policy accordingly.

The provision of adequate forces might postpone resort to combat indefinitely. On the other hand, weak forces will result in war being a very high probability. (Paragraphs 16 and 17 of Summary of Conclusions.) U.S.S.R.:

With the U.S.S.R., we lack the bonds of friendship, and to a large extent, the common ideals, which make war with the U.S.A.

unthinkable. Her recent attitude in South-East Europe and the Middle East has not been reassuring.

The U.S.S.R. is a land power of great significance, with an air force capable of rapid expansion.

Should she exercise an undue influence in Europe, especially in Germany, the threat to the Empire's main base in the United Kingdom would be considerable, whereas the threat to our interests in the Middle East and India can always be exercised, irrespective of Russia's influence in Europe.

Russia cannot exert a direct threat on Australia on a scale larger than a raid, unless she succeeds in her apparent determination to build up her naval strength. If, as appears possible, Russia is to become the dominant factor in the rejuvenation and rebuilding of Japan, especially in relation to the shipbuilding industry, the imminence of her becoming a potential aggressor in the Pacific would be advanced. Further, if she were to dominate China (and the trend is in that direction), the situation as regards the interests of the British Commonwealth, would be grave. (Paragraphs 4, to 44 of Appreciation.) Conclusions:

The U.S.S.R. is a potential enemy of the future, and it is at least prudent to plan our national insurance policy accordingly.

To ensure the protection of our vital interests against an aggressive U.S.S.R., not only will the united efforts of the nations of the British Commonwealth in a coordinated plan be required, but the assistance of the U.S.A. will be essential.

(Paragraphs 45 and 46 of Appreciation.) Australia's Main Strategic Interests:

A war against the U.S.S.R., confined to any one particular area, cannot be visualised. Moreover, whatever course such a war may take, a major threat to Empire interests in Europe, the Middle East, India, and, if Russia develops sea power, in the South Pacific, will always be present. (Paragraph 53 of Appreciation.) South East Asia and the Pacific:

Although the threat in the Pacific is less at this stage than in other theatres, failure of the Empire to provide adequate forces now, may encourage Russia to extend her influence in the Far East to an extent that our subsequent efforts will, of necessity, have to be greater. (Paragraph 63 of Appreciation.) The basic strategy to meet a threat from the U.S.S.R., whether Japan or China were participating or not, should be as follows:-

(a) To control the sea and air communications leading southward from Japan and North China by means of naval and air forces operating from advanced bases.

(b) To take such offensive action as is possible against the enemy's communications, industrial areas, ports and bases.

(c) Ultimate offensive action, which would probably require considerable military forces, would be mounted from the system of bases referred to in (a). (Paragraph 66 of Appreciation.) Conclusions:

It was concluded that:-

(a) A war against the U.S.S.R. will not be confined to any one area, but that whatever course it may take, there will always be a major threat to Empire interests in Europe, the Middle East, India, and, if Russia develops sea power, in the Pacific.

Australia is directly concerned with the main strategic interests of the Empire in each of the areas mentioned.

(b) India is of great strategic importance, particularly as a base. Any strengthening of the military position there would be a direct contribution to Australian defence.

(c) The threat in South East Asia and the Pacific is less at present, than in any other area, but the Empire's failure to provide adequate forces now, may encourage Russia to extend her influence in the Far East.

(d) It is essential that Australia, in common with other Nations of the Commonwealth, should, when necessary, throw her maximum effort into the area in which her forces are most required. It is to her interest that agreement be reached with other nations of the Empire on a reciprocal basis, that her forces will be employed in accordance with an agreed over-all plan in an emergency, or when the international situation requires such action as a precautionary measure.

(e) In South East Asia and the Pacific, the Empire's basic strategy should be to control the sea and air communications leading southward from Japan and North China, and to take such offensive action as is practicable against the enemy's communications, industrial areas, ports and bases, until such time as ultimate offensive action can be launched. (Paragraph 67 of Appreciation.) Co-operation with Foreign Powers-General Considerations:

The question of co-operating with foreign powers is considered in relation to war with the U.S.S.R.-the only power which, it has been concluded, could threaten the security of the British Commonwealth, and, therefore, of Australia. Such a war would extend through Europe and Asia and, if the U.S.S.R. had developed sea power, into the adjoining seas. (Paragraph 90 of Appreciation.) Australia's Forces to be Maintained in Peace:

In previous parts of this paper, a review of Australia's position in the future has been made. Her potential enemy has been assessed, and the strategical considerations examined. Reference has been made to the necessity for bases to enable the strategical concept to be applied, and it has been made clear that Australia alone can neither provide the bases nor the forces required to ensure her security. (Paragraph 123 of Appreciation.) (iii) The Appreciation and its covering minute accordingly proceed to place great emphasis from the military point of view on the development of Empire Co-operation, vide the following references:-

The Relation of the Appreciation to Planning:

The Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion that this strategical paper (including relevant political aspects) should form a basic document for Australia's part in Empire planning, and for the determination of her post war forces and other related matters.

(Paragraph 3 of Chiefs of Staff Minute No. 11/1946.) The Fragile Structure of the United Nations:

There is thus a pressing need to ensure Empire security by planning an alternative system to the United Nations, and this is considered in the ensuing paragraphs. (Paragraph 20 of Appreciation.) Empire Unity:

It is of paramount importance that the nations of the British Commonwealth should appreciate fully that, in the first instance, their individual security depends upon the combined action of the whole, and therefore that the closest co-ordination must be achieved both in foreign affairs and Empire defence. To be effective, this must be a continuing process and not a mere ad hoc arrangement in the face of a desperate situation. (Paragraph 21 of Appreciation.) The Empire's Basic Strategy:

It is to Australia's interest, that agreement be reached with other Nations of the Empire on a reciprocal basis, that her forces will be employed in accordance with an agreed over-all plan in an emergency, or when the international situation requires such action as a precautionary measure. (Paragraph 64 of Appreciation.) Australia's Forces to be Maintained in Peace:

It has been stressed that it is necessary to depend upon a coordinated Empire plan employing Empire Forces as a whole, and in certain circumstances, also those of the U.S.A. (Paragraph 124 of Appreciation.) (iv) in view of their doubts about the prospective effectiveness of the United Nations Organisation as mentioned in (i) above, the Chiefs of Staff emphasise the next logical step to Empire Co- operation by the development of co-operation with the United States. It is not made clear, however, that the British-American co-operation is developed within the framework of the United Nations Organisation. This aspect is important from the Government's point of view.

Empire Unity:

If, however, the co-operation of the United States of America can be assured, the Empire's position is immeasurably strengthened.

(Paragraph 23 of Appreciation.) (v) Again, for reasons of realism in military planning, the Chiefs of Staff discount the certainty of American support, and re- emphasise the importance of Empire Co-operation:-

Empire Unity:

History dictates that we should not place implicit reliance on the automatic assistance of the United States of America. (Paragraph 24 of Appreciation.) Conclusions:

America's lag in entering two world wars appears to be a constant factor which should be taken into account. (Paragraph 89 (i) of Appreciation.) 5. The following are references of a political nature on other aspects appearing in the Appreciation, which may be alright in a military planning document, but are of doubtful wisdom in a submission to the Government for endorsement:-

(i) The reference to foreign affairs in the following passage:-

Empire Unity:

It is of paramount importance that the nations of the British Commonwealth should appreciate fully that, in the first instance, their individual security depends upon the combined action of the whole, and therefore that the closest co-ordination must be achieved both in foreign affairs and Empire Defence. To be effective, this must be a continuing process and not a mere ad hoc arrangement in the face of a desperate situation. (Paragraph 21 of Appreciation.) (ii) The references to India in the following passage:-

Middle East and Indian Ocean:

India is of great strategic importance owing to the following considerations:-

(a) Its value as abase. British Commonwealth Forces located there would be suitably placed for deployment, either for the protection of India or the Middle or Far East.

(b) its position in relation to Empire sea and air communications.

(c) Its manpower.

It is important that every endeavour be made to retain the right to station British Commonwealth Forces in India after she is granted Dominion status.

The possibility of widespread civil unrest in India is always present. If the situation should so develop as to prevent the basing of British Commonwealth Forces in India, our strategical position, in respect of the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and the Far East, would be immeasurably weakened. Any strengthening of the British military position in India would, therefore, be a direct contribution to the defence of Australia. (Paragraphs 58 to 60 of Appreciation.) 6. Finally, the Government will not be unmindful of the present legislative limitations on the implementing of a Defence Policy which provides for the following. The implications in regard to the sovereign control of Australian Policy will also be apparent:-

The Fallacy of Isolation:

Sound strategy frequently requires that risks be taken, at times with respect even to the security of the homeland, in order to secure strategical necessities elsewhere. (Paragraph 4 of Appreciation.) The Empire's Basic Strategy:

It is to Australia's interest that agreement be reached with other Nations of the Empire on a reciprocal basis, that her forces will be employed in accordance with an agreed over-all plan in an emergency, or when the international situation requires such action as a precautionary measure. (Paragraph 64 of Appreciation.) Local Defence:

It has been stated that a firm plan of Empire Defence and arrangements for co-operation with the United States should be made in time of peace. if these can be achieved, the possibility of invasion in the foreseeable future can be excluded.

Under this concept, the role of the armed forces in the next war will be the fulfilment of Australia's obligations in a wide strategical plan, and, therefore, they should be organised and trained with that end in view. Any organisation on the basis of home defence would necessitate reorganisation and inevitable dislocation in the face of an emergency requiring overseas operations. (Paragraphs 107 and 108 of Appreciation.) 7. The following are courses of action open to the Government:-

(i) To endorse the document.

(ii) To refer it back for further consideration.

(iii) (a) To treat it as a purely Defence Department document which has not proceeded beyond the official level to the Government.

(b) To give the Chiefs of Staff a directive for their guidance which would be couched in broader and more discreet terms.

(iv) To take the document to London for discussion with Mr. Attlee and ascertain the terms of any parallel document on the Governmental level there.

It is suggested that course (iv) be adopted, and, should the Chiefs of Staff ask any questions, that they might be informed that the matter will be discussed by you personally with Mr.

Attlee. [2] A directive in accordance with (iii)(b) has been prepared for your information on this angle of approach, and is in a separate cover herewith.

1 Document 134.

2 The full appreciation was attached as an appendix to briefing notes on defence and security prepared for Chifley's use at the Prime Ministers' meeting in London.

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