Winston Churchill's Last Campaign: Britain and the Cold War, 1951-5

By John W. Young | Go to book overview

8
ILLNESS AND REVIVAL, JULY-OCTOBER 1953

ONLY a week after his stroke Churchill sent a remarkably cogent letter to President Eisenhower justifying the campaign for détente. The basic line of argument had been present in the Prime Minister's thinking for years. Insisting 'I have no more intention than I had at Fulton . . . of being fooled by the Russians', he pointed to the scale of Soviet power both in Europe, where the Red Army might march to the Atlantic coast in a few days, and in the Far East, where they could rely on Mao's China to stir up trouble. This explained Churchill's anxiety to talk to the Kremlin, or at least to show the nervous Western public that an opportunity to talk had been taken. Yet, he also believed that the determined nature of US leadership and the scale of NATO's rearmament effort gave the West the ability to negotiate from strength and he still possessed a deep faith that time would bring 'the ebb of Communist philosophy . . .'. The rewards of success were tempting, because 'ten years of easement plus productive science might make a different world'. 'Easement', rather than détente (or still less, appeasement) was now his favoured term for the relaxation he hoped to see in the Cold War. He was also quite open now about the nature of his illness and mournfully informed the President about the postponement of Bermuda, 'I could not have walked with you along the Guard of honour of the Welch Regiment . . . with their beautiful white goat . . .' The Prime Minister was eager however to ensure the success of the Western foreign ministers' meeting, due in Washington on 10 July, and was full of praise for the new Acting Foreign Secretary, Salisbury. It was clear from this letter that the Prime Minister's mind was full of the possibilities of 'easement' as he began to recover from his stroke, shielded from the outside world by Cabinet Office officials and his family. Harold Macmillan found the Prime Minister on 2 July to be talking still of a conference with the Russians, though it could not be held until after the West German elections in September. Churchill was still physically weak, but mentally in remarkable shape given the nature of his illness. He need

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