Part Three: Second Premiership
The Bermuda Conference, December 1953
...Speaking of those countries over which either Britain or the United States could assert their influence, Eisenhower wanted each case to be ‘considered on its merits as to who should take the lead and as to who might play the role of “moderator”’, and said ‘that it was not necessary always openly to appear to present a consolidated front’. Churchill, in reply, ‘argued for the united front approach’.
There were several ‘memories of former conferences’, Jock Colville noted in his diary. ‘The Big Three’, Churchill, Eisenhower and Laniel, ‘first sat on the porch in wicker chairs and were photographed in a manner reminiscent of Teheran. Then, when the conference started, all the lights fused and we deliberated by the light of candles and hurricane lamps as in Athens at Christmas 1944.
...Churchill then asked, ‘not as a sign of personal indulgence but rather as an indication of the informal nature of the talks, if he might have permission to smoke’. The President replied that, ‘in his first ruling as chairman, he granted this permission’.
...Eisenhower then proposed a pool of atomic energy materials, through a United Nations authority. The United States might ‘put in’ 1,000 kilogrammes, the Soviet Union 200 and Britain 40. ‘Thereafter details could be worked out between the interested parties as to how much could be made available to the scientists of the world for practical purposes.’ In reply, Churchill said he would like his answer to be ‘as helpful and suggestive as possible’, but that he felt there would be ‘a great difficulty in drawing a line between atomic energy commercial information and atomic energy military information’.
...He (Churchill) would not be in too much of a hurry to believe that nothing but evil emanates from this mighty branch of the human family or that nothing but danger and peril could come out of this vast ocean of land in a single circle so little known and understood.
...To the amazement of the British participants, Eisenhower then replied ‘with a short, very violent statement, in the coarsest terms’, depicting the Soviet Union as ‘a woman of the streets’. He believed, he said, ‘that Sir Winston meant that we should examine to see if the dress were a new one or merely an old patched one’, and he added:
If we understood that under this dress was the same old girl, if we understood that despite bath, perfume or lace, it was still the same old girl, on that basis then we might explore all that Sir Winston had said if we might apply the positive methods of which M. Bidault had spoken. Perhaps we could pull the old girl off the main street and put her on a back alley. He did not want to approach this problem on the basis that there had been any change in the Soviet policy of destroying the Capitalist free world by all means, by force, by deceit or by lies. This was their long-term purpose. From their writings it was clear there had been no change since Lenin.
‘If he had misinterpreted the Prime Minister,’ Eisenhower added, ‘he would be happy if Sir Winston would correct him,’ whereupon he adjourned the Conference.
Commenting on Eisenhower’s remarks, Jock Colville noted in his diary:
I doubt if such language has ever before been heard at an international conference. Pained looks all round.
Of course, the French gave it all away to the press. Indeed some of their leakages were verbatim.
To end on a note of dignity, when Eden asked when the next meeting should be, the President replied, ‘I don’t know. Mine is with a whisky and soda’—and got up to leave the room.
...The meeting opened with a reference by Churchill ‘to his concern at the cessation of full scale co-operation between the US and UK which had prevailed during the war. He made a plea for its resumption.’ Churchill also pointed out that British planes were being ‘designed and built’ with no proper knowledge of the characteristics of American atomic weapons ‘if they might ever be called upon to deliver them’; he hoped ‘as a minimum’ that the weight, dimensions and ballistics of the American weapons could be supplied to Britain.
Eisenhower’s reply remains a secret.*
* Admiral Strauss’s note was only declassified on 15 April 1986; several portions of it, however, were exempted from declassification by a National Security Council letter of 15 April 1986.
...The meeting on the afternoon of December 5 was dominated by a discussion of the European Defence Community. If the French refused to ratify the Community, the American administration was prepared to turn its back on Europe. But Bidault, with all the goodwill at his command, could not bring his own people into line.