Forty years ago a Labour government in Britain set about constructing an alliance which would bind North America and Western Europe together so as to form a lasting foundation for security and stability in the Atlantic area. The arguments which were compelling then are no less compelling now. But the military, political and economic factors which should determine the strategy of the alliance and Britain’s contribution to that strategy have changed dramatically.


When the alliance was first set up in 1949 the United States practically had a monopoly of nuclear weapons. In 1955, ten years after Hiroshima, Russia still had only 20 nuclear bombs. By 1960 the Soviet Union had intercontinental missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and 300 nuclear bombs. Although at that time the United States still had 20 times more nuclear weapons than the Soviet Union, Secretary of State Christian Herter said in public he could not conceive of the United States using its nuclear forces against the Soviet Union unless its own survival were directly at stake.

Today the combined nuclear arsenal of the two superpowers is over 50,000 weapons—the equivalent of well over one million Hiroshimas, and enough, according to some scientists, to make human life impossible in the northern hemisphere. Moreover, the Soviet Union now has rough equivalence with the United States at every level of nuclear warfare from the battlefield to the strategic.

In 1949 Western Europe was still dependent on economic aid from the United States for its recovery. Today Western Europe as a whole is the economic equal of the United States, while the United States, as the world’s largest debtor, depends on inflows of capital from Western Europe and Japan to finance its internal and external deficits. Yet the United States continues to spend about twice as much of its national output on defense as do its European allies.

Important political changes have taken place both in the United States and the Soviet Union. As the southern and western states in the United States have grown in economic strength and political influence, the problems of Latin America and the Pacific Basin have come to compete with those of Europe for Washington’s attention.

In Central America local opposition to the policies of the Reagan Administration, together with economic and political instability, may soon face Washington with difficult decisions. The vulnerability to world recession of the sovereign debtors further south risks an extension of that instability. The economic competition between the United States and Japan may have alarming political and even military consequences unless it is better handled on both sides than seems likely at present. Meanwhile America’s principal remaining bases in the area are at risk from possible developments in the Philippines.

Under the leadership of General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev the Soviet Union has embarked on the most far-reaching changes since the revolution of 1917. The new leadership’s primary concern is dealing with the formidable economic, social and national problems created by the corrupt and incompetent bureaucracies left by Brezhnev. But it recognizes that it is unlikely to solve those problems unless it can make radical changes in Soviet relations with the outside world.

Defense preempts too large a share of Soviet resources, particularly in high technology, machine tools and skilled manpower, at a time when Gorbachev is determined to bring Soviet industry closer to Western levels of performance. The revolution of rising expectations is already creating a demand among skilled Soviet workers for Western types of consumer durables.

The cost of empire has proved very high for the Russians, who will soon form a minority in the Soviet Union. Not only the peoples of Eastern Europe, but also those of the Baltic, Ukrainian, Armenian and Georgian Republics, have higher living standards than those of the Russian Republic, except perhaps in Moscow and Leningrad. Yet while the United States pays 60 percent of the cost of NATO and provides 42 percent of its forces, the Soviet Union pays 80 percent of the cost of the Warsaw Pact and provides 75 percent of its manpower.

Most important of all, Gorbachev has formally renounced the doctrine of permanent struggle between the two camps, communist and capitalist, which has guided Soviet foreign policy since Lenin. He used the jargon of dialectical materialism to tell the Soviet Communist Party Congress last spring that there is "a growing tendency towards interdependence of the countries of the world community. This is precisely the way, through the struggle of opposites, through arduous effort and groping in the dark to some extent, that the controversial but interdependent and in many ways integral world is taking shape."

The Labour Party believes that such statements, added to the steps already taken by the Gorbachev leadership to introduce more market forces into the Soviet economy and to encourage greater openness in the media and the arts, constitute a fundamental change in Soviet policy to which the West must respond sympathetically. West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, fresh from his recent election triumph, made the same point with great eloquence at the World Economic Forum in Davos on February 1 this year. The Soviet leader’s initiatives "could not be brushed off as propaganda," he said. "If there is a chance of reaching a turning point in East-West relations after 40 years of confrontation, it would be a mistake of historic proportions to let the chance slip."

Negotiations between the superpowers on nuclear disarmament are already under way, with a new agenda set in Reykjavik. But unless that agenda is enlarged to include a freeze on new systems, fortified by a comprehensive test ban treaty, even success at Geneva will not stop the arms race or save either side much money. The main area where savings could be achieved, and which will be much more important if some progress is made on nuclear disarmament, is the conventional forces currently maintained by the two alliances against the possibility of war in Europe.

The forthcoming negotiations between NATO and the Warsaw Pact on cutting conventional forces in the area between the Atlantic and the Urals provide a new forum. America’s European allies have here a direct role to play. Mr. Genscher in his Davos speech set the objective: "conventional stability in Europe . . . a situation in which both sides are capable only of defensive operations and cannot take up the offensive." Secretary Gorbachev endorsed this objective in Moscow on February 16, 1987: "To exclude the possibility of a surprise attack . . . . military doctrines must be of a purely defensive nature." In this context NATO will have to look again at the strategic concept through which it aims to maintain the security of Western Europe.


Unfortunately, despite all the enormous changes in the military, economic and political environment, the Atlantic alliance has made no serious attempt to reconsider its strategy for 20 years. Its last attempt, which ended with the adoption of the strategy of flexible response in 1967, failed genuinely to reconcile the differing views of Washington, Bonn and London, though it led to France leaving NATO and expelling all NATO forces from its territory. As a result of the divergent interpretations given to flexible response by the governments concerned, very little progress has been made over two decades in making military sense of it.

The negotiations over flexible response in the 1960s have much to teach us today, when the unreconciled contradictions in NATO strategy are likely to cause strains which could fatally rupture the alliance unless they are handled more successfully this time. As Britain’s defence secretary from 1964 to 1970, I was deeply involved in the decisive stages of the argument.

The story began when the second Berlin crisis convinced the newly installed President Kennedy, who had always opposed the doctrine of massive retaliation, that he must find some alternative between "humiliation and holocaust." The report of the Acheson Committee, in which Paul Nitze and Albert Wohlstetter took part, recommended in March 1961 a substantial improvement in NATO’s conventional capability, sufficient to stop anything but an all-out invasion, and central control by the United States of all allied nuclear forces, including those of Britain and France. Indeed, it claimed, "over the long run, it would be desirable if the British decided to phase out of the nuclear deterrent business. If the development of Skybolt [missiles] is not warranted for U.S. purposes alone, the United States should not prolong the life of the [British] V-bomber force by this or other means."

When the Berlin Wall went up in August 1961 none of the allies wanted even to threaten the use of nuclear weapons. But Kennedy sent 1,500 American troops up the corridor to West Berlin, and Khrushchev backed away. From this moment Kennedy’s major purpose inside the alliance was to shift NATO strategy away from early use of nuclear weapons toward a non-nuclear defense, although Robert McNamara as his secretary of defense never disclosed to the allies that his ultimate objective was to avoid first use of nuclear weapons in any circumstances.

The Kennedy Administration’s confidence in a non-nuclear strategy for NATO was fortified by the conclusion of its civilian advisers that the conventional disparity between NATO and the Warsaw Pact was far less than the alliance assumed, because neither the Soviet Union’s defense spending nor its military manpower could support anything like the 175 divisions then attributed to it. As Paul Nitze stated in March 1963:

We are much more powerful and they much less overwhelming than generally realized. . . . If NATO can meet its presently prescribed NATO goals in both quantity and quality—including well-trained, ready reserve—the Atlantic forces should be able to put up a stout, extended non-nuclear fight along the frontier.

Unfortunately the force of such arguments was weakened not only by contradictory advice from some in the American military, but also by inconsistent policies pursued simultaneously by the Administration itself—the near tripling of American tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, the Nassau agreement to provide Britain with the Polaris submarine, the abortive attempt at artificial nuclear dissemination through the Multilateral Force, and later the withdrawal of American conventional forces from Germany to fight in Vietnam.

In any case, the West Germans thought a conventional war on their territory would be as unacceptable as a nuclear war, while nuclear weapons provided a better deterrent. De Gaulle rejected the concept of extended deterrence since he thought nuclear weapons had made all alliances impossible. He lost patience, left the NATO military organizations altogether and expelled all NATO forces from France, with very damaging operational, logistic and economic consequences for the alliance. Britain finally helped to produce a compromise between Washington and Bonn which, far from relieving America of its commitment to nuclear retaliation on behalf of its allies as Washington originally hoped, sought to make such retaliation more credible by envisaging a series of discrete steps on a ladder of nuclear escalation starting with the demonstrative explosion of a single weapon in Europe and finishing with an all-out strategic nuclear exchange.

Flexible response as thus finally adopted in 1967 made more sense than the tripwire strategy of massive retaliation with which the alliance entered the 1960s. But in the subsequent 20 years NATO has not succeeded in agreeing what should be the second step in nuclear escalation after initial use. Germany is unwilling to maximize the conventional capability of existing forces by allowing NATO to exploit its defensive assets in the forward areas through man-made barriers or to modify in any way the so-called forward strategy, which rejects defense in depth. Yet few of those concerned still believe that in practice it would be possible to control a nuclear war once it had started at any level, particularly since the electromagnetic pulses emitted by the first explosions might black out the battlefield, making command and control impossible. So, since any nuclear fighting might rapidly escalate to a general strategic nuclear exchange, Washington’s readiness to authorize first use in time remains as uncertain as ever.

Meanwhile Europe has been told by the two most respected Americans to have served as secretary of state and secretary of defense, Henry Kissinger and McNamara, that it cannot rely on America’s nuclear guarantee. Moreover, the Reagan Administration’s proposals at Reykjavik and its Strategic Defense Initiative suggest to many Europeans that America is now primarily concerned with establishing a continental sanctuary across the Atlantic, whatever the implications for the security of Europe. The nightmares which NATO sought to exorcise in the 1960s are back again, more frightening than ever.


The time has come to seek again a consensus on strategy in NATO that will meet three conditions. First, it must not impose unacceptable nuclear responsibilities on the United States. Second, it must be compatible with the success of current nuclear disarmament talks between the United States and the U.S.S.R., and with the forthcoming talks between the two alliances on conventional disarmament in Europe. Third, it must give Western Europe a security which does not depend on assumptions which command no confidence among the experts and which people will not support. In 1981 an opinion poll in West Germany, Britain, France and Italy showed overwhelming majorities either opposing the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances or approving their use only against a nuclear attack. The small minorities supporting the use of nuclear weapons against a conventional Soviet attack that threatened to overwhelm NATO ranged from only 12 to 19 percent. Now that Chernobyl has brought home to ordinary men and women what a single nuclear explosion might mean, I suspect that the minorities in favor of current NATO strategy would be smaller still, as indicated by a recent poll in the same countries.

The trend toward the non-nuclear defense of Western Europe is now well established. In his wide-ranging survey of the Reagan Administration’s strategic thinking on October 9, 1985, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said: "The world has changed so profoundly since the 1950s and 1960s when most of our strategic ideas were formulated that many of these concepts are now obsolete." He appeared specifically to reject the current NATO strategy of flexible response with the words: "Our position on the uses of military power represents rejection of received wisdom about limited war and gradual escalation."

President Reagan himself set the theme in his seminal speech proposing the Strategic Defense Initiative in March 1983 when he said that peace could not rest much longer on the threat of mutual suicide.

Secretary of State George Shultz, in his exposition on November 17, 1986, of America’s objectives in the disarmament talks after Reykjavik, pointed out that "the establishment of a stable conventional balance" would be "a necessary corollary for any less-nuclear world" and that the allies must now join in "a more systematic consideration" of how to establish stronger conventional defenses.

The British Labour Party agrees with all these statements, which have added urgency now that Mr. Gorbachev is prepared to agree on the withdrawal of all intermediate-range nuclear missiles from Europe and to discuss the removal of all theater nuclear missiles. We do not complain that the statements were all uttered in the context of major shifts in American policy on issues of vital concern to the alliance as a whole, which were made unilaterally by Washington, without even consulting the NATO allies. But we are mildly perplexed to find ourselves accused of seeking to destroy the alliance by unilateral action, when we simply repeat those statements and seek to contribute to that more systematic consideration of the problem to which Mr. Shultz invited us.

In fact NATO itself has already taken some steps in the right direction by removing from Europe the Atomic Demolition Munitions for which no use has ever been agreed upon by the NATO Nuclear Planning Group, and by reducing the number of tactical nuclear weapons in Germany. There is now a growing consensus against the early use of nuclear weapons, and widespread support for unilaterally removing all battlefield nuclear weapons from the forward areas, where they pose a "use them or lose them" dilemma. I find it odd, however, that many of those who support the unilateral removal of such weapons by NATO oppose the concept of a nuclear-free corridor on both sides of the frontier, which would mean much greater losses of nuclear capability by the Soviet Union than by NATO.

The ultimate question is whether it would make sense for NATO to move from planning on "no early use" of nuclear weapons to "no first use"—as recommended by my erstwhile colleagues in the Kennedy Administration, notably Robert McNamara. Since there is little prospect of NATO as a whole making significant increases in its military spending, the answer must depend on an assessment of the conventional balance in Europe at present, and on whether better use can be made of existing defense budgets to improve NATO’s conventional strength.

It is possible to make a better estimate of the conventional balance now than in the early 1960s. In 1971 the Pentagon introduced the concept of Armored Division Equivalents (ADEs), which weighs the mobility, survivability and firepower of every weapon in every division on NATO’s central front. According to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office the ratio of ADEs is only 1.2 to 1 in favor of the Warsaw Pact. The ratio for soldiers is the same. In aircraft, although the Warsaw Pact has a 2-to-l superiority in numbers, the advantage is reversed in terms of payload. In 1981 a Carnegie Endowment panel in Washington estimated the NATO advantage as 3 to 1 at a range of 100 miles and 7 to 1 at 200 miles; later studies have endorsed or strengthened these estimates.

In 1983 the Brookings Institution published a study of the speeds and rates of mobilization of the opposing forces. It suggested that the advantage of the Warsaw Pact would not rise above 1.2 to 1 for a two- or three-front attack, and would be under 2 to 1 even for an augmented six-front attack drawing on divisions from as far away as the Central Asian military districts. Ambassador Jonathan Dean, with eight years’ experience in the NATO-Warsaw Pact talks on mutual force reductions in Vienna, espouses similar views in his new book on dismantling the East-West military confrontation, Watershed in Europe.

With all due allowances made for the uncertainties inherent in such estimates, it is difficult to believe that the Soviet superiority is sufficient to tempt the Kremlin into a deliberate attack on Western Europe, when the normal estimate for the superiority required by the aggressor is at least 3 to 1. Moreover NATO troops have better training and backup, and their loyalty under attack is likely to be much more reliable than that of at least the Polish contingents in the Warsaw Pact armies. Indeed General Bernard Rogers himself, as supreme allied commander, has dismissed the idea of an attack out of the blue; and Sir Michael Howard goes as far as to tell us that "few historians now believe that Stalin ever intended to advance his frontier beyond the territories occupied by his forces in 1945."

The self-confidence of the allied forces in Germany confirms the theoretical calculations, as many correspondents who have observed recent exercises will testify, notably James Meacham in a major report for the London Economist in August 1986. He concluded:

NATO’s armies and air forces would have some chance of defeating a sudden surprise attack completely and could almost certainly last for more than a few days against an attack by partially mobilised forces (which would give NATO more warning time). The chances of holding indefinitely without using nuclear weapons are impossible to calculate, but it is a fair guess that if NATO’s conventional forces could hold out for two weeks they could hold out for ever.

NATO could substantially improve its conventional defense still further at low cost by preparing artificial barriers in appropriate terrain, by improving the training and equipment of its reserves, by ensuring the interoperability of equipment between national forces and by correcting maldeployments which arose from postwar historical accident.

The cheapest improvement in NATO’s conventional defense, however, could be achieved by renouncing the nuclear capability of aircraft, missiles and guns which are currently denied a conventional role only because they are reserved for that nuclear war which, as President Reagan said, "cannot be won and must never be fought." Indeed, the soldiers who have had to face the prospect would go further than the President, adding the words of Britain’s greatest postwar defense chief, Earl Mountbatten of Burma: "Wars cannot be fought with nuclear weapons. Their existence only adds to our perils because of the illusions which they have generated."

Three years ago one senior NATO general estimated that the equivalent of an entire division of troops was tied down guarding, maintaining and transporting nuclear weapons in Western Europe. They would be far more useful reinforcing NATO’s conventional combat forces. During the 1960s, Secretary McNamara and I tried in vain to convince our NATO colleagues to minimize the number of dual-capable forces that are reserved for nuclear tasks. Today, all the air forces on the central front except those of Canada and Luxembourg have nuclear bombs which are targeted by a NATO master plan. So have the American F-111 aircraft in Britain. They would be far more useful if their role were unambiguously conventional. The same is true for NATO’s dual-capable missiles, including cruise missiles. And it is difficult to conceive of firing 12-kiloton nuclear charges from the 203-millimeter guns, which have a range of only 15 miles, without putting NATO’s own forces at risk. That is one of the reasons why Field Marshal Lord Carver concluded:

At the theatre or tactical level any nuclear exchange, however limited it might be, is bound to leave NATO worse off in comparison with the Warsaw Pact, in terms of military and civilian casualties and destruction. . . . To initiate use of nuclear weapons . . . seems to me to be criminally irresponsible.

The main objective of a Labour government in NATO would be to persuade its allies to cooperate in building an effective conventional deterrent in Europe, as American leaders of both parties, from Secretaries Shultz and Weinberger to Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Mr. McNamara, have asked. Yet we recognize that we cannot change NATO strategy unilaterally and that NATO strategy must be indivisible. So we shall continue to cooperate in the existing strategy until we succeed in changing it, as the Kennedy Administration did in the 1960s.


There are steps, however, which Britain can take itself to make a conventional deterrent more feasible. Indeed we believe some steps must be taken soon if Britain is to continue making even its existing contribution to NATO’s conventional strength and without which we may find it difficult to persuade our allies that we have the courage of our convictions.

The most important of these steps are to cancel the Trident program and to decommission the Polaris fleet. The present Conservative government has unilaterally decided to cut defense spending by seven percent in real terms over the next three years. The Labour Party does not oppose this decision, which is imposed by economic pressures, like the unilateral cuts in U.S. defense spending which have been made by the Congress. The British government’s plans require a total cut of 12.7 percent in spending on new equipment over the six years ending in 1989-90. But since spending on the Trident program will more than double between now and 1989-90, spending on other new equipment will have to fall by 25 percent unless Trident is canceled this year.

The government refuses to give details of where it plans to cut spending on new equipment, but press leaks suggest that all three services will suffer severe damage to their conventional capability. The Labour Party has committed itself to spending the money saved by dropping Trident on Britain’s conventional forces; the decommissioning of Polaris would add further savings of two to three percent a year. After the inevitable cancellation costs we estimate the savings from Trident alone at up to $5 billion—sufficient to buy and to run for 20 years 1,400 new Challenger tanks, increasing NATO’s total tank strength in Central Europe by 15 percent, or 30 new Type-23 frigates, increasing NATO’s maritime strength in the Atlantic and the English Channel by about 20 percent, or ten new squadrons of Tornado aircraft, making the RAF by far the biggest air force in NATO Europe. These of course are illustrative figures. A Labour government would decide how best to increase Britain’s conventional forces with the money saved in the light of the situation it inherited and the views of our allies.

There is already a powerful body of opinion in all three services which would also favor Britain relinquishing its nuclear role in order to increase its conventional defenses. Moreover, the Reykjavik summit has raised fears even inside the government that the United States might in the end not provide the D-5 missiles needed for Trident—fears which Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s meeting with President Reagan failed to dispel. Indeed if the United States achieved Mr. Reagan’s declared aim of banning all ballistic missiles within ten years it would be physically unable to fulfill its original undertaking. The shades of Skybolt loom again.

The British government continues to claim, in my view rightly, that if Britain wants to remain a nuclear power it is Trident or nothing. The British Liberals and Social Democrats have talked vaguely of an Anglo-French deterrent. But President François Mitterrand insists that the French deterrent is "impartageable." Even if he would sell Britain submarine missiles, they would cost more than the D-5 and take much longer to bring into service. Moreover any nuclear partnership between Britain and France would tend to destabilize the alliance by tempting some in Washington to decouple the American deterrent and by raising insoluble problems about the role of West Germany. The other alternative is the cruise missile. But since each missile carries only one warhead, such a force would require a much larger fleet of submarines, which the Royal Navy would have difficulty manning. It would cost at least as much as the Trident and would be vulnerable in flight to the Soviet look-down shoot-down radar.

Although the Labour Party believes that it is no longer wise or credible to rely on the threat of nuclear retaliation against a conventional attack, it recognizes that the United States will maintain a powerful strategic nuclear force to deter nuclear attack by the Soviet Union, and that the overwhelming majority of Europeans regards the so-called American nuclear umbrella as essential for deterring a Soviet nuclear attack on Western Europe—or at least for removing the threat of nuclear blackmail. Some may argue that after Chernobyl the risk of nuclear fallout would deter the Soviet Union from a nuclear attack on territory so close to western Russia, and, as Professor Eugene V. Rostow has pointed out: "After all, the Soviet leadership does not want to inherit the great Western centers of economic power as smoking ruins, contaminated by radiation and poison gases." Others may argue that since Hiroshima the nuclear powers have never attempted nuclear blackmail except against each other—as Khrushchev did in 1956 against Britain and France, when they had a nuclear capability comparable to the Soviet Union’s. Belief in the need for the American nuclear umbrella remains as strong in Britain as on the Continent.

The Labour Party does not believe, however, that the United States needs to keep nuclear weapons in known and vulnerable British bases for this purpose. The U.S. Navy has already stated that once the Poseidon submarines are withdrawn from service their successors, whose missiles have more than twice the range, will be based in the United States where they are much less vulnerable and easier to maintain. Poseidon would have to be withdrawn by 1990 if the United States decided to abide by SALT II. The American F-111 aircraft in Britain would make a most powerful addition to NATO’s conventional airpower if, as I have already argued, they were withdrawn from their nuclear role. The nuclear cruise missiles in Britain, as Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle has stated, are of negligible military value. The only other American nuclear weapons in Britain are a number of nuclear depth charges, whose value in war is rejected by senior American experts, including former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown.

A Labour government would open discussion with the United States on the withdrawal of all American nuclear weapons from Britain. These discussions would have no time limit, though we would expect to conclude them well within our first term. Theatrical warnings have been given that even to raise the matter would mean the end of NATO and the withdrawal of American troops from Europe. No Labour government would allow itself to risk the disintegration of the alliance. We recognize that all our allies have a legitimate interest in the problem; we would not follow the precedent of some of our allies, including the United States, of embarking on a major change of defense policy without consulting or even informing them.

Moreover, we have made it clear that we would continue to allow the United States to operate all its existing intelligence and communications facilities, including Fylingdales, which is vital for America’s early warning system, both in Britain and in British-controlled territories overseas. We shall continue to welcome nuclear-armed U.S. naval vessels in our ports.

We are, of course, aware of arguments in the United States to reduce American forces in Europe. I well recall the resolutions sponsored by former Senator Mike Mansfield 20 years ago. We would not wish to strengthen such arguments, particularly since American forces make an essential contribution to NATO’s conventional defense. Indeed, we believe that insofar as the arguments draw strength from the failure of Western Europe to take conventional defense more seriously, our policies will weaken rather than strengthen them.

In any case, we believe that the United States will wish to maintain its forces in Europe for all the reasons set out so compellingly by Secretary Weinberger in his speech on January 22, 1987. He pointed out that those troops are in Europe because their presence is necessary for America’s own security, and that the other members of the alliance maintain 3.5 million personnel on active duty compared with a little over two million for the United States. Moreover he showed that every financial argument favors American forces staying in Europe—not pulling out. It would take eight to nine years before the withdrawal of 100,000 personnel generated any net savings; the cost of relocating them and then sending them back in a crisis would be $20 to $25 billion if the bulk of the equipment were prepositioned, and about $100 billion if not.

I do not deny that some of the exaggerated reactions to what is believed to be Labour’s defense policy have been provoked by some rhetorical moralizing on the issue by individuals in Britain who carry no responsibility for what it is in fact. But I believe that we have the right to ask our friends in the United States and Western Europe to look at our proposals on their pragmatic merits as a contribution toward meeting dilemmas which the alliance knows to exist. In seeking the withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from Britain we shall not act unilaterally, as de Gaulle did when he expelled the NATO forces from France in 1966, or as Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau did when he expelled America’s nuclear weapons from Canada in the 1970s. In our discussions with our allies we shall weigh all the considerations they put to us with a full sense of the responsibility we know we carry for the unity and strength of the organization which is the foundation of our security. But we shall not enter those discussions as the only member of the alliance unilaterally to renounce its right, after fully considering everything that is said, to take its own decision in light of all the facts and arguments put to us. Nor would anyone who knows our nation’s history expect us to do so.

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  • The Right Honorable Denis Healey is the Labour Party’s spokesman on foreign affairs. He was Britain’s Defense Secretary 1964-1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer 1974-1979. Among his recent writings are the Fabian Society pamphlets “Labour and a World Society” (1985) and “Beyond Nuclear Deterrence” (1986), and the Council on Foreign Relations’ Russell C. Leffingwell lectures on “Managing the Economy” (1980). Copyright © 1987 by Denis Healey.
  • More By Denis Healey