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322 Gordon Walker to Garnett

Cablegram 258, [LONDON], 24 April 1948


Your tel 16th April No. 228. Following from Machtig.[1]

We suggest that you should take an early opportunity of speaking to Dr. Evatt on following lines which have been approved by Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. For your own information Dening[2] will also be similarly guided in his talks at Canberra and this tel should be shown to him on his arrival.

2. While admittedly U.S. Govt's policy sometimes manifests itself in a form with which we do not altogether agree, we do not regard them as actuated by mercenary motives. At the same time of course we are just as firmly resolved as Dr Evatt and Mr Chifley to maintain our independence of action. We have certainly no intention whatever of either submitting to dictation by U.S. financial interests or of letting anybody in U.S. think that this situation obtains. This having been said we will endeavour to set out again the foreign situation as we see it particularly in Europe. Specifically Far Eastern questions will be dealt with by Dening.

3. Situation as we see it is that communist infiltration is threatening existence of our Western civilisation. The Western European Govts rightly or wrongly feel directly threatened by presence of large Russian armies which can at any moment overrun them. French in particular are obsessed by fear that they may be subjected at any moment to another invasion and foreign occupation. Italians have expressed alarm at their defenceless condition and Norwegians have asked for some assurance of U.K. support since they fear that they may be put under pressure by Soviet Govt to compromise their independence. In addition to this apprehension of a threat from outside which is shared to a greater or less degree by all European Govts there is the fear of Russian indirect aggression by means of local communist party. Events in Czecho-Slovakia[3] have brought this into the foreground.

4. Whilst we shall always welcome closest collaboration with Aust and N.Z. in foreign affairs whatever political party may be in power in any of the three countries we do not think that a joint policy evolved by these three Govts without the cooperation of the U.S. would give the countries of Western Europe the necessary confidence to resist Russian infiltration. All of them are convinced rightly or wrongly that their only assurance of salvation lies in securing a guarantee of U.S. military aid. If such support can be secured many European countries such as the Scandinavian countries who are now afraid to commit themselves may be induced to join a Western system and we shall have some prospect of building up in Western Europe an independent association of free states which seems so essential. But without U.S support at this stage there seems little prospect of inducing many European countries to depart from a policy of timorous neutrality which frustrates our aim. Nor can we in present conditions ensure essential strategic interests in the Middle East without the cooperation of the U.S.A.

5. We are ready to cooperate with Soviet Govt to fullest extent that their policy shows to be practicable but three years of constant endeavours on our part have shown that Soviet Govt in their present mood are not prepared to cooperate at all. We are similarly prepared to cooperate with U.S. Govt without any intention of compromising our independence. Experience in past three years has shown that U.S. Govt have become increasingly ready to meet us on this basis and are now disposed to play a part in world affairs which in our view can only be to advantage of British Commonwealth. We think that to hold along our present course offers best prospect of maintaining peace.

[1] Sir Eric Machtig, Under-Secretary of State, UK Commonwealth Relations Office.

[2] Esler Dening, Assistant Under-Secretary of State, UK Foreign Office.

[3] Communists had recently seized control in Czechoslovakia.

[AA : A1838, TS78/7]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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