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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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TNA: PRO, FO 371/181877 and DO 183/691, A. H. Walker, British Embassy, Washington, to Mrs. M.

B. Chitty, CRO, 28 April 1965. Walker pointed out that: ‘unless we have full background we are always in some danger of crossing wires or putting a foot wrong.’ The Cabinet Office are somewhat concerned about the state of our consultation with the Americans... Following the Anglo-American talks last month there has been consultation between the CRO and Mr. Coote, but it is clear already that this is nothing like enough, and that these complicated questions cannot be handled through this channel. 32 The Foreign Office therefore encouraged the Government to expedite the arrangements for joint contingency planning: ‘We hope that Ministers will agree that we should discuss these problems at a high level with the Americans. In our view it is important that we should do so soon – the CRO are taking rather too leisurely an attitude to this and it can only be done effectively in Washington.’ 33 Ministers agreed that the Foreign Office should arrange for further talks to take place between officials and then at a more senior level. 34 Talks duly took place in Washington during May, which proved helpful in clarifying the degree of assistance that could be offered to Zambia in the event that the copper industry was compromised following a UDI. British and American officials concluded that by using surface transportation only it would be possible to enable Zambia to continue exporting 200,000 tons of copper per year and, if an airlift were to be implemented, around 350,000 tons (Zambia’s usual annual production was 700,000 tons).

Nevertheless, it was recognised that the fall in production would have serious TNA: PRO, FO 371/181877, Minute by John Wilson, WCAD, Foreign Office, 29 April 1965.

TNA: PRO, FO 371/181877, Martin Le Quesne, WCAD, Foreign Office, to George Thomson, Minister of State, 4 May 1965. Le Quesne’s comments reiterated the recommendation of the Defence and Oversea Policy (Official) Committee. See TNA: PRO, CAB 148/21, OPD (65) 81, ‘Preparation for action in the event of a UDI: Note by the Chairman of the DOPC (Official) Committee’, 30 April 1965, para. 16.

TNA: PRO, CAB 148/18, Minutes of OPD (65) 24th Meeting, 5 May 1965; and TNA: PRO, FO 371/181893.

repercussions for Britain, since its industry would be affected and sterling would be under pressure. It was also acknowledged that a decline in Zambian output would impact upon the world market and to prevent prices from rising other measures would have to be considered, including the release of copper from the U.S. strategic stockpile. 35 At this point, therefore, British and American officials were tackling the salient issues with some effect, though matters became more difficult as UDI loomed larger.

In September a higher level British delegation visited Washington for talks with Rusk.

The Secretary of State was told that the British Government believed only an airlift would be sufficient to keep the Zambian economy afloat, and he was given notice that an approach would shortly be made to set up an Anglo-American group of experts to visit Tanzania and Zambia to assess the requirements for an airlift. 36 Rusk was concerned to ensure that British and American approaches to the Zambian problem were properly coordinated and he wanted to know if the British Government felt that the U.S. Government was ‘in line’ with regard to the Rhodesian problem. The British delegation was confident that this was the case but suggested that they would have to give increasing thought to keeping ‘in line’ if a UDI did occur, particularly in handling the issue at the United Nations. 37 Yet shortly after this meeting Britain and the United States began to fall seriously out of line with one another in relation to the Zambian contingency. Using British, American and New Zealand sources it is possible to examine in detail how ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 12, M. J. C. Templeton, Counsellor, New Zealand High Commission, London, to Secretary of External Affairs, Wellington, 2 June 1965.

LBJL: NSF, UK Country File, Box 209, ‘Memos Vol. VII 10/65–1/66’, Memorandum of Conversation, 20 September 1965, ‘Current Scene in Eastern and Southern Africa: Talks with CRO Officials’; and FRUS,

–  –  –

regular channels of communication between London and Washington became confused, leading to misunderstandings and suspicion on both sides.

At the end of September George Ball instructed the U.S. Embassy in London to make it clear to the British Government that American support for the British position on UDI was ‘not without qualification.’ The U.S. Government could not undertake, for instance, to make up any balance of payments losses that Britain suffered as a result of sanctions imposed in the event of a UDI. Ball warned that that the question of U.S. sanctions against Rhodesia required further study and was contingent upon a clear statement from the British Government of what it intended to do. Ball instructed the U.S. Embassy to

avoid making it possible for the British Government:

to seize upon our yet-to-be-determined ability or inability to follow the UK fully or partially on sanctions or our unwillingness to offset balance of payments losses as excusing them from taking action or permitting them to place blame for lack of action at our door particularly in justifying themselves

–  –  –

The American Embassy executed its instructions, making it clear that whilst the U.S.

Government supported the British position there was a question regarding how far the United States could go in terms of economic sanctions. 39 This might have been accepted at face value but for a telegram from Sir Patrick Dean, the British Ambassador in Ball to Kaiser, Cable No. 1669, 29 September 1965, FRUS, pp. 809-10.

LBJL: NSF, UK Country File, Box 209, ‘Cables Vol. VII 10/65–1/66’, Kaiser to State Department, Cable No. 1418, 1 October 1965.

Washington, who reported that an informant in the New Zealand Embassy had advised him: ‘there is a growing suspicion of United Kingdom motives at a very high level in the State Department.’ Dean reported that according to his source, the State Department had formed an impression from Wendell Coote in the U.S. Embassy in London that the U.S.

Government would be expected to shoulder £50 million of the cost of economic sanctions against Rhodesia, and £200 million as a result of the cessation of copper supplies from Zambia. According to Dean’s informant, the State Department also believed that ‘a refusal by the United States to lighten this load for the United Kingdom would be used publicly by Her Majesty’s Government as grounds for taking no action against the Rhodesians.’ Dean observed that according to his source, the U.S. Government had no intention of offering the United Kingdom any financial assistance in the event of a UDI and resented this attempt to blackmail them. Dean suggested that if there were suspicions in the State Department as a result of Coote’s ‘tendentious reporting,’ the CRO should consider taking ‘appropriate corrective action’. 40 Not surprisingly, the Foreign Office viewed this report with such alarm that it went straight before the Defence and Oversea Policy Committee (DOPC). From the minutes of the DOPC meeting it appears that Ministers took the view that American assistance ought to be forthcoming: ‘It should be made clear to them that we regarded their help in the present situation as an essential part of our co-operation in world affairs, in which we maintained certain world responsibilities not directly related to our immediate economic interests.’ 41 This indicates the level of expectation that the Labour Government attached to the special relationship, but rather than press this point British officials wisely sought TNA: PRO, FO 371/181893, Dean to Foreign Office, Cable No. 2496, 2 October 1965.

TNA: PRO, CAB 148/18, Minutes of OPD (65) 42nd Meeting, 2 October 1965.

to disabuse the State Department and U.S. Embassy in London of any suspicion that the British Government was scheming to entrap the U.S. Government into extensive financial commitments. 42 The U.S. chargé d’affaires in London, Philip Kaiser, was at loss to understand Dean’s report except, perhaps, as a ‘badly garbled leak’ of Ball’s instructions. Kaiser found it difficult to see how there could be any British misunderstanding of the American position in view of his recent meeting with Sir Saville Garner. 43 However, Kaiser’s vision obviously did not extend to diplomatic circles in Washington, and he was therefore unaware of the information that Dean had received from the New Zealand Embassy, which had more than a fair idea of the reasons for the misunderstanding between Britain

and the United States:

We have the impression that American mistrust of British motives and intentions results from some breakdown in communications between the two

–  –  –

TNA: PRO, FO 371/181893, Le Quesne to Dean, Cable No. 7662, 2 October 1965; and minute of conversation between Le Quesne and Brubeck, U.S. Embassy, 2 October 1965. From Washington Dean reported that Wayne Fredericks had expressed surprise about the whole affair and undertook to speak with Rusk and any other senior officials who had been misinformed. Dean advised that regardless of what Coote

or junior officials may have said the senior figures in the State Department were ‘perfectly sound’. TNA:

PRO, FO 371/181893, Dean to Foreign Office, Cable No. 2507, 3 October 1965.

LBJL: NSF, UK Country File, Box 209, ‘Cables Vol. VII 10/65–1/66’, Kaiser to State Department, Cable No. 1450, 2 October 1965.

differences (which may well be more apparent than real) in thinking on [the]

–  –  –

According to the New Zealand Embassy, the U.S. Government believed that Rhodesia would have to be greatly provoked before it cut off electricity and coal supplies to Zambia. The Americans therefore felt that it was important that Britain should put greater pressure on Zambia not to cut its ties with Rhodesia. The Americans argued that emphasis in planning for a response to any interruption of Zambian copper production should not be on a short-term expensive airlift but on developing surface routes through Congo and Angola. Accordingly, the Americans informed the British that their commitments in Vietnam and elsewhere meant that there were no military aircraft or pilots available for an airlift, and canvassing of American commercial airlines had suggested that as a result of an increase in airfreight operations it would be unlikely that suitable aircraft could be chartered. Even if aircraft were available, the Americans doubted whether East African airfields could handle the volume of freight necessary for a successful rescue operation. 45 The U.S. Government was also doubtful that it would be in a position to assist by releasing copper from its own stockpile because withdrawals for new coinage meant that its stockpile had been depleted to the legal minimum and it was therefore unlikely that Congress would approve an emergency release. According to the New Zealand Embassy, the Americans had ‘not spoken in anything like this detail’ to the British Embassy in Washington, whose position was further undermined as a result of ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 13, Totara, Washington, to Secretary of External Affairs, Wellington, Saving 9, 1 October 1965.


lack of information from the CRO and unreliable reporting of British views from the U.S.

Embassy in London. 46 The British Government attempted to establish some clarity about the Zambian situation

–  –  –

Michael Stewart, observed that the economic measures the British Government intended to take in the event of a UDI could have serious repercussions on the economies of Zambia and Britain. This would undo some of the efforts that had been made to support sterling, and he hoped that the U.S. Government would be able to offer further help in these circumstances. George Ball said that he assumed most damage to the British balance of payments would occur as a result of economic warfare between Rhodesia and Zambia, as the curtailment of copper supplies to Britain could involve the loss of £200 million in the first year. However, he could give no assurance concerning the ability of the United States to give additional support for sterling in these circumstances, and Dean Rusk confirmed that he did not have the authority to give any commitment in this regard.

Ball also suggested that the U.S. Government could take only limited practical economic measures without Congressional authorisation. The U.S. Government could apply export controls against Rhodesia but was doubtful that this would be very effective because there were alternative sources of supply for the commodities that were involved. Imports, however, could not be restricted because the Trading with the Enemy Act was inoperable in the absence of war or the declaration of a state of emergency. Ball said that the only Ibid.

What follows is based on TNA: PRO, FO 371/181893, ‘Record of discussion between the Secretary of State and Mr. Rusk at the State Department on the morning of Monday 11 October 1965’; and Memorandum of Conversation, FRUS, pp. 822-24.

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