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 world.

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 trusteeship.

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 policy.

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 opponents.

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 Kingdom.

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

(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 views.



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 responsibility.

(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.

Conclusions 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 effective.

(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]