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

By John W. Young | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

THE GENEVA SUMMIT

EVEN before Churchill's retirement the FO was planning for a possible foreign ministers' conference with the USSR. The belief that the West would be tactically well advised to exploit public expectations and propose such a meeting was widely shared.1 In a remarkable document completed in late March, the FO's long-term planning body, the Permanent Under-Secretary's Committee, argued that a major conference with the Soviets was in line with policies pursued since the start of the Churchill administration. It recalled PUSC (51) 16, the memorandum which had argued that Western policy should aim to create a situation of equilibrium with the Soviets before genuine negotiations were possible. Now, with the ratification of the Paris Accords that situation had, arguably, been reached. Western unity and strength had reached a high point vis-à-vis the Communists and might well have created the optimum moment to launch some new initiative, such as a realistic offer of German reunification. The agenda for a four-power conference could be the same as at Berlin in January 1954. An agreement on an Austrian Treaty, neutralizing that country, seemed possible in view of recent Soviet moves, and in the area of European security the Western powers might offer a declaration that borders would not be altered in future by force. Most intriguingly, the new PUSC paper suggested that, to induce the Kremlin to accept the 'Eden Plan' on German reunification in freedom, NATO could now offer to suspend the actual creation of a German Army. Eden circulated a variant of this paper to ministers and reported, during Churchill's penultimate Cabinet on 30 March, that, with the Paris Accords safely through the French Senate, the time was imminent when a four-power foreign ministers' conference could be planned. The Prime Minister evidently did not see this as significant and, in any case, that very day confirmed his decision to retire.2 Writing to the Americans, Eden argued on lines which

____________________
1
See esp. Public Record Office (PRO), FO 371/118203/293, 296, and 298; 118205/307 and 116674/19 and 20.
2
FO 371/118203/291 (24 March); PRO, CAB. 128/28, CC (55) 27th (30 March), discussing CAB. 129/74, CP (55) 83 (26 March).

-315-

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