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The British Nuclear ExperienceThe Roles of Beliefs, Culture and Identity$

John Baylis and Kristan Stoddart

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198702023

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198702023.001.0001

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(p.228) Appendix 7 Top SecretAnnex CAnglo-American Understandings on Nuclear Release Procedures: President–Prime Minister Correspondence

(p.228) Appendix 7 Top SecretAnnex CAnglo-American Understandings on Nuclear Release Procedures: President–Prime Minister Correspondence

The British Nuclear Experience
Oxford University Press

1. The most recent reaffirmation of the personal understandings between President and Prime Minister about consultation on the use of nuclear weapons was given in the exchange of letters on 27 February 1981 between President Reagan and Mrs Thatcher. The full texts of their letters, together with the Memorandum of Understanding to which they refer, are attached as appendices.

2. The original version of the Memorandum of Understanding was enclosed with a letter of 6 February 1961 from President Kennedy to Mr Macmillan summarising the various understandings in existence at that time. Since then it has been the practise for the Prime Minister of the day to seek reaffirmation of the Memorandum whenever the office of President or Prime Minister has changed hands. Thus, its reaffirmation was sought by Sir Alec Douglas-Home from President Johnson on 20 December 1963, and given by the President on 28 February 1964. It was sought again by Mr Wilson on 8 December 1964 and was given the same day by President Johnson, and again in 1969 after President Nixon assumed office. It was sought by Mr Heath from President Nixon on 7 April 1971, and was given by the President on 4 May 1971. It was sought again by Mr Wilson on 16 December 1974 and given by President Ford on 9 January 1975. On 30 July 1976 Mr Callaghan sought a reaffirmation from President Ford which was given on 1 September 1976. Mr Callaghan exchanged letters of reaffirmation with President Carter on 4 March 1977. Mrs Thatcher did so on 25 June 1979.

3. The Memorandum was amended in 1965 by an exchange of letters between the Prime Minister and President Johnson to provide for joint decision prior to the release of United States nuclear depth bombs stored in the United Kingdom for use in emergency by United States and British maritime aircraft assigned to SACLANT.

4. Redacted under Section 3(4) of the Public Records Act. (p.229)

5. Further amendments to the Memorandum were made necessary following Mr Heath’s agreement, in a letter of 7 April 1971 to President Nixon, to the use of Holy Loch by United States Poseidon submarines on the same basis as their Polaris sister ships. In his letter of 4 May 1971 to Mr Heath, President Nixon confirmed that the Understandings in the Memorandum would apply with respect to Poseidon submarines ‘In the same manner and to the same extent as with respect to Polaris submarines’.

6. A further amendment to the memorandum was made in the 1975 exchange of letters between President Ford and Mr Wilson. This amendment removed a possible ambiguity in earlier versions of the memorandum by specifying that all United States forces operating from land bases in the United Kingdom or in United Kingdom territorial waters are covered by the requirement for a joint decision by the Prime Minister and the President.

7. A further amendment to the memorandum was made in the 1977 exchange of letters between President Carter and Mr Callaghan. This amendment reflected more accurately the present position regarding nuclear weapons for Royal Air Force aircraft. Finally at the time of the 1981 reaffirmation between Mr Reagan and Mrs Thatcher, it was agreed by means of side letters from Sir Robert Armstrong to Mr MacFarlane that the arrangements for joint decision would apply to the cruise missiles to be based in this country. This was subsequently reflected in the Wright-Eagleburger agreement, signed on 17 May 1983.

Source: TNA, CAB 196/124-1, Robert Armstrong to Prime Minister Nuclear Release Procedures and Related Matters, Strictly for the Personal Information and Use of the Prime Minister Warning: This paper is to be seen only by CLARET indoctrinated personnel, Annex C. Anglo-American Understandings on Nuclear Release Procedures: President-Prime Minister Correspondence, June 1983.