Anglo-American Strategic Relations and the French Problem, 1960-1963: A Troubled Partnership

By Grable, Sam | Aerospace Power Journal, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

Anglo-American Strategic Relations and the French Problem, 1960-1963: A Troubled Partnership


Grable, Sam, Aerospace Power Journal


Anglo-American Strategic Relations and the French Problem, 1960-1963: A Troubled Partnership by Constantine A. Pagedas. Frank Cass Publishers (http://www.frankcass.com), 5824 N.E. Hassalo Street, Portland, Oregon 972133644, 2000, 308 pages, $59.50.

A great deal has been written about the so-called special relationship that characterized twentiethcentury relations between Great Britain and the United States. The dynamic of this relationshipindeed, the very concept of power itself-changed considerably with the advent of nuclear weapons in 1945. In the post-World War II era, Britain's influence waned, and her leaders struggled to retain Great Power status. US politicians, on the other hand, grappled with their newfound strength and endeavored to define the role of the United States in world affairs. Through much of the 1950s, both countries clung to the familiar Atlantic partnership.

Author Constantine Pagedas suggests that the complex history of Anglo-American strategic relations, particularly from 1960 to 1963, must be considered within the context of France's emergence as a nuclear power and the challenge this posed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In contrast to most contemporary accounts, he opines that the Anglo-American relationship in many ways became a troubled partnership. Pagedas develops his assertion by following Gen Charles de Gaulle's rise to power in France and the problems this created for the policies of Britain and the United States.

Emboldened by economic and military ascendancy, the United States played a substantial role in post-World War II European affairs. Britain and France, in an effort to buoy their absolute and comparative power, set their sights on an independent nuclear capability. Britain sought to leverage the Anglo-American relationship into a free exchange of militarily useful US nuclear information. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's efforts resulted in the selective repeal in 1958 of the McMahon Act, by which the US legislature limited release of such information to foreign powers. Signaling US intent to perpetuate the special relationship, this legislation was repealed for Britain alone. Understandably, other NATO allies, including France, expected similar treatment and became frustrated when such impartiality did not materialize. Combined with the fall of the Fourth Republic and General de Gaulle's rise to the French presidency, this situation created great diplomatic challenges for the erstwhile allies.

Despite the selective repeal, the early 1960s were characterized by some diplomatic friction between the United States and Britain. The simple explanation is that they occupied significantly different strategic positions and sought varied national objectives. US policy makers, clearly in the most economically and militarily powerful position, were divided broadly between a desire for a multilateral agenda in Europe and continuing cozy ties to Britain. …

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