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«THE RHODESIAN CRISIS IN BRITISH AND INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, 1964-1965 by CARL PETER WATTS A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham For the ...»

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ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/4/1, Weir to Secretary of External Affairs, Wellington, 23 April 1964.


Ibid. This reflected the sharp drop in funds allocated to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

In 1962 these stood at $312, but declined to $261 million in 1963 and $202 million in 1964. Figures cited in DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome, p. 97.

The radicalisation of Rhodesian politics, and the apparent nonchalance of the British Government, prompted the State Department to maintain a careful watch on developments throughout 1964. For several months U.S. officials were convinced that the best hope for a solution to the problem lay with Welensky, who was known to have discussed the possibility of an electoral coalition with Whitehead, and a prospective timetable for African majority rule with the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole. Even so, the State Department felt that the immediate outlook in Rhodesia was bleak, as several members of the Rhodesian Front were pressing for an early UDI and the Government was intensifying its repression against African nationalists and European critics alike. 13 The Rhodesian Government’s announcement that it would hold an indaba of African chiefs and a referendum among white voters to determine the acceptability of independence under the 1961 Constitution heightened tensions even further. In discussions with African nationalists the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Lusaka, Robert Foulon, was told that the Africans wanted a non-violent settlement but if a UDI occurred they would have no alternative but to escalate their program of sabotage and violence. Foulon was warned that African bitterness ran so deep that in any confrontation the safety of even the most progressive European Rhodesians could not be guaranteed. 14 This was obviously at variance with the assessments that British officials had provided to the U.S. Government earlier in the year. The State Department therefore directed enquiries to British officials in Lusaka, Salisbury, Washington and London in an anxious attempt to ascertain what the

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ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 9, Weir to Secretary of External Affairs, Wellington, 20 May 1964.

ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 9, Weir to Secretary of External Affairs, Wellington, 30 September 1964. Weir reported that Foulon had met with James Chikerema, acting leader of ZAPU.

Washington confessed that they were ‘quite relieved at not being informed of whatever contingency plans may exist, since they would probably be such that we could not pass them on to the Americans anyhow, and we can also plead ignorance in reply to the questions of our Southern Rhodesian colleagues.’ 15 American officials could glean no

significant information outside Washington either, as the New Zealand Embassy reported:

Though they had found odd evidence of contingency planning, American representatives in London had been able to discover little that would suggest the matter was being considered seriously; certainly, but not unexpectedly, Ministers were not at this time interested in the subject. 16 British ministers gave little attention to the Rhodesian problem at this time because of an impending general election. American officials realised that they could expect to make little headway on the Rhodesian issue during the election campaign, but stepped up their efforts to determine the British position once the new Labour Government had been elected. 17 The Labour Government put a high premium on its relations with Washington The National Archives [hereafter TNA]: Public Records Office, Kew [hereafter PRO], DO 183/314, John Killick, British Embassy, Washington, to Guy Millard, West and Central Africa Department [hereafter WCAD], Foreign Office, 28 August 1964.

ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 9, Weir to Secretary of External Affairs, Wellington, 30 September 1964.

The U.S. Consul General in Salisbury, Roswell McClelland, reported that he had spoken with the British High Commissioner, J. B. Johnston, about the Rhodesian policy of the new Government. McClelland informed Washington that Johnston had no precise instructions from London regarding the position that the new Government would take in the event of a UDI. Johnston did not know, for example, whether he would be instructed to remain in Salisbury. Clearly concerned by the vagueness of the British position, McClelland urged the U.S. Government to give urgent consideration to the nature of the American response and acted quickly to seize the initiative on tricky issues, especially the Multilateral Force, which ‘became the barometer for Anglo-American relations.’ 18 Wilson was also keen to ascertain American thoughts on the Rhodesian problem and African policy more generally, and instructed his Foreign Secretary, Patrick Gordon Walker, to explore these issues during his visit to Washington in October 1964. The British Government feared that the recent indaba of African chiefs and impending referendum of Europeans in Rhodesia could be a preliminary move towards a UDI. The British Government had therefore prepared a warning statement that it intended to issue if the Rhodesian Government failed to give a categorical assurance that it was not contemplating such a measure. 19 Walker discussed the warning statement with Rusk, who assured the Foreign Secretary that the U.S. Government supported Britain’s policy and would follow its lead. 20 There was also some discussion of the action that the British Government would be likely to take against Rhodesia in the event of a UDI. Ball enquired whether economic sanctions could create a problem in terms of setting a precedent that the British to a UDI if it occurred concomitant with Zambian independence on 24 October. LBJL: NSF, Rhodesia Country File, Box 97, ‘Cables, 12/63–1/66’, McClelland to State Department, 23 October 1964.

Saki Dockrill, ‘Forging the Anglo-American Global Defence Partnership: Harold Wilson, Lyndon Johnson and the Washington Summit, December 1964’, The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 23, No. 4 (December 2000), p. 114.

For details of the statement, see above, Ch. 1, pp. 37-39.

LBJL: NSF, UK Country File, Box 212, ‘Walker Visit Briefing Book’, Memorandum of Conversation, 26 October 1964; and Foreign Relations of the United States 1964-68, Vol. XXIV, Africa [hereafter FRUS], (Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing Office for the Department of State, 1999), pp. 788On 28 October the U.S. Government released a statement declaring: ‘We have been encouraged by the forthright position taken by the British Government in insisting that it would not sanction independence for Rhodesia until satisfied that the people have been allowed the full exercise of self-determination.’ Quoted in G. Mennen Williams, Africa for the Africans (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1969), p. 112.

Government would then have to follow against South Africa. 21 This was a significant indication of one of the major concerns of the U.S. Government about the Rhodesian issue: that it should not be treated in isolation lest it prejudice American regional policy as a whole. 22 No doubt with this mind the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Averell Harriman, had further talks with Walker ‘primarily to cover the African situation … to indicate that we were prepared to work closely with the British on all matters of mutual interest from South Africa, Portuguese territory and the Congo, etc.’ 23 These talks demonstrate the continuing importance that London and Washington attached to AngloAmerican consultation and cooperation, which contradicts the view that there was nothing left of the special relationship by the time that Wilson came into office. 24 Walker’s visit enabled the State Department to develop some preliminary ideas about

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Rhodesian regime but it would continue to maintain its Consulate in Salisbury. Although the U.S. Government would not recognise a government-in-exile, it was anxious that only one such government should be formed – by ZAPU – and was prepared to put pressure on Memorandum of Conversation, 26 October 1964, FRUS, pp. 788-89.

For a discussion of how U.S. economic and strategic interests conditioned attitudes within the bureaucracy see Anthony Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option: American Policy Toward Southern Rhodesia (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), Ch. 3; and Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, Ch. 8. Andrew DeRoche takes issue with some of Lake’s interpretations of attitudes within the State Department, Black, White, and Chrome, Chs. 3 and 4. The concept of bureaucratic politics is applied explicitly in the final chapter of this thesis.

LBJL: NSF, UK Country File, Box 212, ‘Walker Visit Briefing Book’, Memorandum, Harriman to Bundy, 27 October 1964.

See above, Introduction, p. 20, n. 52.

Hastings Banda if it became clear that he was willing to allow ZANU to set up a rival government in Malawi. As far as economic sanctions were concerned, the State Department acknowledged that as American investment in Rhodesia was so insignificant there was little that the U.S. Government could do, and in any event it would take no action except in concert with the British Government. 25 American contingency planning at this stage was somewhat patchy and Washington was therefore slow to communicate its ideas to its diplomatic posts overseas. 26 Yet this is hardly surprising given that the U.S. Government intended to follow the British lead in the event of a UDI and the British Government had thus far demonstrated very little idea of what it intended to do should it occur. Anglo-American relations became subject to greater strain as the two governments moved to discuss the implications of the Rhodesian problem in more detail, especially contingency plans relating to the protection of the Zambian economy.

The Zambian contingency From late 1964 the U.S. Government began to give detailed consideration to the potential impact that a UDI could have upon Zambia. There can be no doubt that Zambian copper production was a key issue for the Johnson administration, which acknowledged explicitly that it was a matter of particular economic and strategic importance for the

United States:

ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 10, Totara, Washington, to Secretary of External Affairs, Wellington, 2 November 1964. In 1964 Rhodesian exports to the U.S. were worth $10 million, and imports from the U.S. totalled $20 million. Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, p. 202.

According to British officials, the U.S. Consulate in Salisbury was unaware of State Department thinking.

TNA: PRO, DO 184/614, Neville French, British High Commission, Salisbury, to Mrs M. B. Chitty, Commonwealth Relations Office [hereafter CRO], 20 November 1964.

Zambia is one of the few black African countries where there is a significant U.S. economic interest. Zambia produces about 15% of free world copper ($360 million last year compared to $700 million U.S.

domestic production). Over $100 million of Zambian production is U.S.

owned … Zambia and Congo copper together (they are all one field) produce over 20% of free world copper; Zambia has the world’s largest known reserves. With copper production reasonably tight, and Communist supplies very limited, the Zambia-Congo copper would be a rich prize for

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There were concerns in Lusaka, London, and Washington that if Zambia applied sanctions against Rhodesia in the event of a UDI, the Rhodesian Government would retaliate by cutting off coal and electricity supplies to the Zambian copper mines, and depriving Zambia of railroad facilities for the shipment of copper. This would ruin the Zambian copper industry and drive up the price of copper on the world market.

Accordingly, this problem was discussed at both the official and political levels in London and Washington from late 1964 throughout 1965. State Department officials initially came up with the idea of inserting a small number of troops on the Zambian border (though it was not specified if these were to be British or American) to protect the Kariba Dam and Wankie colliery. 28 This proposal quickly faded from view, no doubt to LBJL: NSF, Zambia Country File, Box 102, ‘Memos and Misc. 8/64–9/68’, ‘A note on copper, Zambia and the U.S.’, undated but prepared by Bill Brubeck as an addendum to the ‘talking points’ paper of 1 December 1964 written for the visit of Kenneth Kaunda. For the uses of copper in U.S. industries see DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome, p. 117.

TNA: PRO, DO 183/619, N. C. C. Trench, British Embassy, Washington, to Martin Le Quesne, WCAD, Foreign Office, 5 February 1965. Trench reported a conversation with Edward Mulcahy, Deputy Director the relief of the British Government, which had taken a decision not to use force in Rhodesia. If troops had been deployed as suggested by the State Department it could have produced even greater pressure from African nationalists and African members of the Commonwealth to send troops into Rhodesia itself in order to impose a new constitution and facilitate the transition to African majority rule. 29 The first serious focus of Anglo-American discussions was the proposal to construct a railroad that would bypass Rhodesia and re-route Zambian trade through Tanzania. 30 However, following talks between officials in March 1965 some problems in policy co-ordination emerged as a

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Washington complained that the Commonwealth Relations Office had failed to keep it informed about developments, particularly concerning Zambian contingency planning, which militated against effective co-ordination with the U.S. Government. 31 Meanwhile, in Whitehall there was also growing concern that the existing arrangements for

consultation in London were inadequate. One Foreign Office official observed:

for Eastern and Central African Affairs, who suggested that Wayne Fredericks had requested the State Department and Department of Defense to draw up suitable military plans.

For a discussion of the problems associated with the use of force see above, Ch. 2.

LBJL: NSF, UK Country File, Box 207, ‘Memos Vol. III 2/65–4/65’, Memorandum of Conversation, 23 March 1965, Part V, ‘Southern Rhodesia and Zambia’; and TNA: PRO, DO 183/691, ‘Record of AngloAmerican talks held on Tuesday 23 March’. The efficacy of the proposal generated considerable bureaucratic conflict in the Johnson administration. See below, Ch. 7, pp. 365 ff.

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