By Kristan Stoddart
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Extra resources for The Sword and the Shield: Britain, America, NATO and Nuclear Weapons, 1970-1976
144 However, there appeared to be a ten-year gap between the British need for a replacement system (assuming that Polaris would be updated) and that of France. 146 Anglo-French nuclear discussions during 1970 and 1971 had been confined to the political level, with ministers, the Cabinet Office and FCO officials chiefly involved. MoD officials were aware of their existence from the autumn of 1971 onwards, and in February 1972 used Dr Robert Press, the Assistant Chief Scientific Advisor to the Cabinet (ACSA), who was a key link man between nuclear scientists and the policy-making community in Whitehall, to offer Trend some new and potentially significant technical information.
26 Heath Government and the Not So Special Relationship 15 Soon after Heath came into office in June 1970, discussions began at ministerial level regarding possible collaboration with the French on various aspects of nuclear weapons. Even at this early stage, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was concerned that any policy statements by the Prime Minister similar to those delivered at Harvard should not offend the Americans. The FCO was eager to indicate to the Americans that there would be consultation before any discussions would begin, in order to safeguard the information and assistance the British were continuing to receive from the US.
More specifically, Labour’s indecision over how to improve Polaris to combat Soviet ABMs and its termination of new nuclear weapon development had led to a drying up of the bipartisan sharing of nuclear information established through the 1958 Anglo-American Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA). In parallel, France’s withdrawal from NATO’s integrated military structure in 1966 had made it more difficult to find solutions to some key military and political dilemmas confronting the UK and the alliance.
The Sword and the Shield: Britain, America, NATO and Nuclear Weapons, 1970-1976 by Kristan Stoddart