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100 Memorandum for Meeting of Prime Ministers

PMM (48) 1 LONDON, 23 September 1948



Memorandum by the United Kingdom Government
THE Charter of the United Nations, signed at San Francisco in
1945, announced as the first of the purposes of the United Nations
the maintenance of international peace and security. To that end,
the Charter prescribes a detailed procedure, under the primary
responsibility of the Security Council, for the pacific settlement
of disputes and, in the event of pacific settlement failing, for
collective action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches
of the peace and acts of aggression. For the fulfilment of its
task of maintaining international peace and security, the Security
Council is empowered to have at its disposal armed forces and
other facilities to be made available by members of the United
Nations under special agreements to be made between Member States
and the Security Council itself
2. His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have, from the
outset, devoted their best efforts to ensuring that the United
Nations should be successful in its task of maintaining
international peace and security. The establishment of collective
security under the United Nations has, however, not been achieved.

In the Security Council the abuse by the Soviet Government of
their right of veto has in many cases prevented the Council even
from reaching a decision as to the facts of the case presented to
it, let alone the taking of action in connection therewith. It has
proved impossible for the Security Council to reach agreement upon
some of the most important principles on which, in the view of the
Military Staff Committee, agreement must be reached before steps
can be taken to establish the forces on which the Security Council
must rely in order to carry out its decisions. Further, the
inability of the Soviet Government to agree to negotiate in the
Atomic Energy Commission and in the Commission for Conventional
Armaments on the basis of the majority views has contributed
powerfully towards the disruption of international confidence, and
it is an axiom that only in an atmosphere of international
confidence can international collective security, in the full
sense of the term, be built up.

3. Faced with this situation, the Western Powers feel that it is
of paramount importance that all like-minded Governments should
co-operate in building up collective security from another angle,
that of regional security, which is also contemplated by the
Charter, and should seek their justification in the right of
collective self-defence which is expressly recognised in Article
51 of the Charter.

4. The only two Powers who are singly capable at the present time
of menacing world security are the United States and the Soviet
Union. There is no threat to world peace from the United States
and, in view of the close political and other ties and the
considerable community of interests between members of the
Commonwealth and the United States, it is unthinkable that any
member of the Commonwealth should ever engage in hostilities
against the United States or against a combination of Powers which
includes the United States. On the other hand, the Soviet policy
and aims are a threat to all free nations, who are in danger of
being subjugated one by one.

5. It is important to realise clearly the nature of the Soviet
threat to peace. Communist parties now exist in some form in every
country in the world without exception. In every country they have
the same aim, the establishment of a regime which, whatever its
merits, is fundamentally opposed to the conception of human rights
and civil liberties which lie at the basis of the civilisation
common to all Commonwealth countries and indeed to the whole free

6. In other circumstances, this might have been an internal affair
for each country. But the whole problem is transformed by the fact
that these Communist parties derive their strength from the
support they receive from a formidable national State. The Soviet
Union and its satellites now form a solid political and economic
bloc extending from the Mediterranean to the Pacific. From behind
these secure entrenchments the Soviet Government are exerting
constantly increasing pressure which threatens the whole fabric of
civilisation, religious, political, cultural and material, as we
know it. In some countries the danger is still latent, but in
Germany, France, Trieste, Italy, Greece, Burma, Malaya and China
the conflicting forces are already at grips with one another. This
policy is sustained in every country, to a greater or lesser
degree, by the Communist parties. The aim of this pressure is to
accelerate what Communists believe to be an inevitable process,
the downfall of the free democracies and their replacement by the
Marxist State. They believe that time is on their side, and would
prefer to achieve their ends by political means rather than by
war. They regard constant friction and struggle as only natural in
the relations between Communist and non-Communist States, and have
no interest whatever in the establishment of orderly and
prosperous conditions for the common man in the non-Communist
world. While their strategy is fixed, their tactics are
opportunist and flexible.

7. In pursuit of these aims, the policy of the Soviet Government
has five main facets:-

(a) first, the consolidation of Soviet strategic security by the
establishment of a belt of subservient States around the frontiers
of the Soviet Union.

(b) second, the restoration of Soviet economy and its development
to a point where it will rival and eventually outstrip that of the
United States.

(c) third, the avoidance of a major war unless a Soviet vital
interest is menaced or conditions are judged to be sufficiently
favourable to the Soviet Union.

(d) fourth, the continued aggressive promotion of Communism by all
means short of a major war throughout the non-Communist world.

(e) fifth, an endeavour to weaken and disintegrate the non-
Communist world, by political infiltration, leading to unrest and
economic distress, by the promotion of civil war in independent
countries, and by the fostering of revolutionary movements and
unrest in non-self-governing territories or those under

This policy, if pursued, will inevitably lead to a clash.

8. The United Kingdom Government have taken into account what
military strength the Soviet Union possesses as a backing for her

9. It is unlikely that before the end of the second post-war Five-
Year Plan the Soviet Union will be capable of supporting her armed
forces in a major war entirely from the natural resources and
industrial potential now under her control. Nevertheless, if the
Soviet Union wished to go to war and felt confident of attaining
her primary objectives rapidly, economic considerations would not
in themselves be enough to prevent her from doing so.

10. The Soviet armed forces, despite certain deficiencies, could
embark on a land war at any time and would, at least in the early
stages, have the advantage of numbers against any likely
combination of opposing forces. But in any major war that started
before 1956-60, the fact that Russia's industrial plan was not
complete would, as hostilities continued, tend increasingly to
counterbalance her advantage in terms of numbers. Moreover, the
strategic air situation is, at least at present, unfavourable to
the Soviet Union; her air striking force, although making great
efforts towards technical parity with the Royal Air Force, is
still comparatively backward. She could thus not yet count upon a
reasonable degree of immunity for her centres of population and
industry from serious air attack. Her future readiness to embark
upon a major war is likely therefore to be conditioned by
consideration of her own air power in relation to that of probable

11. Failing the early development of new weapons to a point which
she believed would ensure her rapid victory, the Soviet Union's
economic situation is likely to weigh heavily against her
provoking a major war at any rate until the satisfactory
completion of the second Five-Year Plan.

12. In the present world situation the United Kingdom Government
have thought it necessary to pursue the following policy:-

(a) To devote all possible material resources to economic
reconstruction in order to strengthen the position of the United

(b) To stimulate political resistance to the spread of Communism
and to promote economic recovery in those countries threatened by

(c) Recognising that no one country can safely stand alone, to
join with the United States and the countries of Westem Europe and
the Commonwealth in organising all possible deterrent forces, in
building up effective defences, and in working out appropriate
collective security arrangements in accordance with Article 51 of
the United Nations Charter.

13. The United States through her geographic position is affected
by the Soviet threat both in the West and in the East, and,
because her political ideals are similar to those of the
Commonwealth and Western European countries, close co-operation
with her is obvious and natural. Western Europe is in a special
position of danger, her nations are impoverished and, unless built
up quickly, are in danger of being overcome by Communist
infiltration. For her recovery and future security, a regional
plan was both necessary and urgent, and the foundation for such a
plan was laid by the Brussels Treaty. The United Kingdom
Government have in this way reached the prerequisite political
agreement with Governments of the United States and of the
countries of Western Europe to enable long-term and emergency
military planning with these Governments to take place. It is very
desirable, in the view of the United Kingdom Government, that, as
this planning with the United States and the Western European
countries proceeds, corresponding planning should take place
within the Commonwealth.

14. The United Kingdom Government believe that no system of
defence cooperation can work effectively unless there is
continuous and close political co-operation between the
Governments concerned, and unless there is agreement between those
Governments as to the objects of the defence policy which is to be
pursued. In their view it is only when the necessary agreement in
the political field has been reached that planning can
satisfactorily proceed and a coherent plan be devised. If,
therefore, an adequate defence system is to be built up, which
will enable the countries of the Commonwealth to live in security
and exercise their rightful influence in world affairs and will
lessen their dependence on any outside source, an essential
preliminary will be the requisite degree of political agreement
between the respective Commonwealth Governments on basic
objectives of policy.

15. Once agreement has been reached in the political field it will
then be possible, with the agreement of the Commonwealth
Governments concerned, to allow the study of defence problems by
the military staffs to proceed on a joint basis, whether globally
or regionally as circumstances might necessitate, on the
understanding that no country would be committed to accepting any
particular solution that might emerge from the study until it had
been accepted by the Government concerned.

16. The forthcoming Meeting [1] would afford a suitable
opportunity for a discussion of the problems dealt with in this
memorandum and the United Kingdom Government would welcome an
expression of the views of Commonwealth Ministers on these matters
at the Meeting.

17. The foregoing paragraphs are an expression of the views of
United Kingdom Ministers which it is desired to bring to the
notice of other Commonwealth Ministers before the Commonwealth
Meeting in October. A statement of the views of the United Kingdom
Chiefs of Staff on the need for closer co-operation among
Commonwealth countries in the field of defence is appended in
order that Commonwealth Ministers may also be aware of their



Memorandum by the Chiefs of Staff
1. At the request of His Majesty's Government, the United Kingdom
Chiefs of Staff have studied the fundamental principles which
should guide defence policy in the situation described in the
review contained in the covering memorandum. The Chiefs of Staff
emphasise that the advent of weapons of mass destruction means
that air attack has become much more devastating and might bring
about a decisive issue in a short time. Nations with highly
centraliscd industrial and man-power resources are now more
vulnerable than ever. Methods of lessening this threat must
therefore form a cardinal point of policy.

[matter omitted]

5. The work done by the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the Western
Union Chiefs of Staff shows that there are two main aspects of
defence co-operation, namely:-

(a) The co-ordination of general issues affecting all Allies, eg.,
the fundamental objectives of defence policy and strategy, the
utilisation of resources, dispersal, &C.

(b) The planning of action in the various regions.

6. Before regional planning can take place or be put effectively
into practice, it is necessary to reach agreement amongst all
members of the Allies on the fundamental principles of a policy
and strategy. The allocation of resources, standardisation of
equipment, war production, dispersal, and defence science and
research must also be kept under constant review.

7. If agreement can be reached on a closer measure of defence co-
operation within the Commonwealth, initial joint studies on the
following general subjects might be carried out for submission to
individual Commonwealth Governments:-

(a) The basic objectives of defence policy and general strategy.

(b) A distribution of effort by devising regions of strategic

(c) General outline plans to meet immediate and long-term dangers.

8. The general studies suggested in paragraph 7 would concern all
members of the Commonwealth, but, where it is necessary to prepare
plans involving the provision of forces or the undertaking of
commitments, co-operation can only be on a regional basis. Thus,
Canada is primarily interested in the defence of the American
continent and in the northern Atlantic and Pacific approaches;

Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific and in the Mediterranean
and Indian Ocean sea communications; South Africa in the
Mediterranean, South Atlantic and Indian Ocean sea communications;

and India, Pakistan and Ceylon in the Middle East and the sea and
land approaches to the Indian continent. Accordingly, where
defence cooperation is required to cover the preparations for
defence and action by force in any particular region, it is
natural that the countries who consult together win only be those
who have a special interest in that region.

9. The United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff therefore conclude that to
provide closer defence co-operation within the Commonwealth it
will be necessary-
(i) To maintain the closest political co-operation to provide the
policy foundation on which defence co-operation can become

(ii) To obtain political authority for the preparation of plans to
cover the subjects in paragraphs 7 and 8, and to allow freedom of
consultation on the official level in the preparation of these
plans on the clear understanding that no country can be committed
to any course of action until that country has endorsed it by
governmental approval.

If political authority is forthcoming-
(iii) Discussion of the general issues mentioned in paragraph 7
could probably be undertaken by a slight adjustment to the present
Service Liaison Staffs.

(iv) The preparation of regional plans could be undertaken without
any alteration to the present methods of consultation. It would,
however, be necessary for such planning to be carried out by
planning staffs in the closest touch with the views of their own
Defence Organisations, and exchanges of visits between planning
staffs would probably be necessary.

1 That is, the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, 11-22
October 1948.

[AA: 6712, 4 COPY 2]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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