Journal of Cold War Studies 4.2 (2002) 118-120
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Anglo-American Strategic Relations and the French Problem, 1960-1963:
A Troubled Partnership
Constantine A. Pagedas, Anglo-American Strategic Relations and the French Problem, 1960-1963: A Troubled Partnership. (London: Frank Cass, 2000). 308 pp. $59.50.
In recent years the literature on Anglo-American relations in the 1960s has grown considerably, aided by the declassification of large numbers of documents in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Constantine A. Pagedas's extremely readable monograph reconstructs the events of 1960 to 1963, when France emerged as a nuclear power and displayed growing intransigence. Pagedas assesses how British and American leaders responded to the changes in French policy. The book provides new insights into French nuclear policy, General Charles de Gaulle's bid for political leadership of Europe, Britain's first application to join the European Economic Community (EEC), the highly controversial U.S. multilateral force (MLF) proposal for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the controversial Skybolt crisis, and the Nassau Agreement of December 1962.
In the late 1950s the governments of Britain and the United States began to reexamine their ties with France. The emergence of de Gaulle's France as a nuclear power in February 1960 ushered in what Pagedas calls "a rapidly changing, though critical (if [End Page 118] not decisive), period in the debasement of Anglo-American relations with France" (p.5). When analyzing the highly complex and often contradictory agendas emerging from Washington and London, Pagedas captures with considerable success the sense of impending crisis surrounding the advancement of seemingly irreconcilable policy goals.
Pagedas begins his story with an examination of diplomatic ties among Britain, France, and the United States in the mid- to late 1950s. He identifies the reestablishment of the "Special Relationship" (most explicitly seen in the renewal of nuclear-arms collaboration between Britain and the United States) and the emergence of a dual strategy pursued by Harold Macmillan that involved Anglo-American interdependence and a European role for Britain as crucial developments in this period. However, it is France, and the return to power of de Gaulle, to which the author attaches most significance. Inheriting a country that was "politically weak and psychologically alone," the General "immediately set out on his task to renew French grandeur through the acquisition of nuclear weapons and independence from NATO" (p.21). The "French problem" became increasingly intractable as the British and American allies slowly came to realize that de Gaulle's public commitment to building a national force nucleaire strategique or force de frappe was not negotiable. Repeated U.S. efforts to deflect the General from this objective and to shift NATO toward a multilateral nuclear force, as well as British desires to enter the Common Market and pursue the option of a Franco-British nuclear force, produced only exasperation and frustration.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of U.S.-British relations during this period was the often glaring discrepancy between official U.S. policy on relations with the NATO allies and unofficial policy. Toward the end of his term, President Dwight Eisenhower proposed the establishment of a tripartite directorate in NATO, and his successor, John F. Kennedy, often reversed policy toward the allies, most dramatically in the agreement he reached with Macmillan at Nassau in December 1962. This event is cogently analyzed by Pagedas, who quite correctly highlights the role of personal diplomacy, especially Kennedy's and Macmillan's penchant for pragmatic and flexible decision making.
Analysis of the frustrating and frequently contradictory efforts initiated by both London and Washington to find a modus vivendi with de Gaulle is certainly one of the strengths of the book. Pagedas's narrative is both detailed and engaging, and he persuasively explores these issues as viewed by both Washington and London. The evolution of the "Special Relationship" and Macmillan's pursuit of a highly personal and often secret "Grand Design" are fine examples of this. Therein, however, also lies one of the disappointing aspects...