2 JUNE 1961, Page 9


I N November, 1944, Winston Churchill visited By LORD ALTRINCHAM France and had long private discussions with Charles de Gaulle, whose lonely moral leader- ship of 1940 had been transformed—with Churchill's vital, if rather intermittent, help_ into the effective political leadership of his Country.

Dc Gaulle has described (and his version has not been contradicted) how he put to Churchill the case for Anglo-French unity in the post-war World. France, he said, was back on her feet again but could never hope to regain her former Power. The same, however unjustly and ironi- cally, was true of Britain, which would end the War covered with glory but in a position rela- tively weaker than before. Her material re- sources had been depleted and, whereas the Commonwealth was subject to centrifugal forces, the United States and Russia—to say nothing of China—had acquired a new and in- creasing dominance, Together, Britain and France could look the giants in the face and deal With them on equal terms. Apart, they would be little more than impotent satellites.

Churchill's reply was evasive. He favoured, as always, an alliance between France and Britain ell matters of principle, but clearly not a more Intimate and concrete partnership. He mentioned his close relations with President Roosevelt, Which he hoped would enable him to influence American policy in accordance with his own ideas. As for Russia, he was doing his best to restrain and moderate Stalin, who, though greedy, was not lacking in common sense. In due course I•rance would jeturn to the Great Powers' club: rneanwhile it was up to him (Churchill) to act there on behalf of his own country and to repre- sent the interests of absent friends.

In that exchange between the most important Englishman and Frenchman of our times we may see the embryo of Britain's European problem today. Churchill was out of office between 1945 and 1951, and has been in retirement since 1955; but his views on Britain and Europe, and on Britain's role in world affairs, have never been seriously challenged and are still the central assumptions of our diplomacy.