1 NOVEMBER 1963, Page 3


-Um Foreign Ministerg of Britain and .THE are now on speaking terms again. This result of the Hague meeting of Western European Union is certainly all to the good, but perhaps too much should not be made of it. Combined with M. Couve de Murville's declaration that France intends to take a 'positive' attitude in the Kennedy round, what this restoration of international courtesies implies is that French diplomacy has at last begun to see the risks France is running by its evident isolation on the in- ternational scene. With a serious clash with Germany impending over the latter's de- mand for a revision of the agricultural agreements within the European Economic Community, it is not surprising that the French Government should be looking round for another basis for French foreign policy than the disappointing one of the Franco-German treaty.

A new orientation of French policy is bound to be received with a certain amount of scepticism in London. After all, it is not the fault of the British Government if in the past the most straightforward thing about French diplomacy has appeared to be M. Couve de Murville's golf drive. Deeds rather than words will be required before approaches from Paris can be taken very seriously by British Ministers. If France de- sires a renewal of Anglo-French friendship —in itself a very desirable aim—then Presi- dent de Gaulle will have to decide what acts of friendship he is willing to perform to bring it about. Nothing else will do. More important than Anglo-French din- ners was Mr. Butler's convincing reaffirma- tion of Britain's interest in, and desire for close association with, Europe. This needed to be said and the new Foreign Secretary said it in as downright a manner as pos- sible. The Franco-German differences over agriculture—ultimately differences between a protectionist and a free-trading concep- tion of the Community—may mean that, in the not-so-long run, new solutions and groupings may have to be tried to transcend problems which seem increasingly in- soluble in terms of the Community alone. Recently it has seemed that any viable agricultural community will have to include Britain, the Commonwealth, Denmark and the US as well as the EEC countries, and it will obviously be of great importance for Great Britain to be in close touch with any developments of this kind. Entry into Europe is still the best policy for us, but it may come about in ways which could have hardly been anticipated a few months ago.

Developments in the relationship be- tween Britain and the Six will clearly de- pend upon a wider context of world affairs. What has blocked. Gaullist policies so far has been the remarkable steadiness with which Chancellor Erhard and Dr. Schroeder have refused to separate them- selves from their American allies as well as the general welcome which Western public opinion has given to the prudently gradual lessening of tension between the US and the Soviet Union. That Operation Big Lift did not cause more fluttering of the dovecotes in Bonn than it did is a sign of an improve- ment of confidence as well as of a realisa- tion that public attempts to put pressure on President Kennedy are not particularly use- ful.

Operation Big Lift does, of course, have its importance in relation to the Ger- man problem, which Mr. Khrushchev has recently described as the 'key' to East-West relations. It is almost inconceivable that the Russians should ever be prepared to aban- don East Germany and consent to German reunification (which is what such a step would amount to). But the only possible arrangement under which they might do so would be a plan for disengagement, imply- ing the withdrawal of non-German troops on both sides. In this context Operation Big Lift can be seen as an exercise in- tended to discover just how far it is safe for an American Government to go in a policy of disengagement. As Mr. Dean Rusk said at Frankfurt, there is no immediate inten- tion of reducing troops in Europe, but it is also true that the calculation of how quickly units can be transported from America is bound to play a part in determining future American policy. Europeans would be wise to trust US intentions in this matter. The whole business of reaching a modus vivendi with the Soviet Union is a negotia- tion of such complexity, but also attended by such advantages for the whole world, that a large number of different permuta- tions of policy must be explored. There are bound to be continued alarms and excur- sions on the European front, but it would be the adoption of President de Gaulle's stonewalling tactics which would be fatal to the best possible terms for Germany and Europe emerging from the smother.