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By Lawrence Freedman

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As important a consideration was that if Britain fell behind in nuclear research then its ability to enter into or sustain reciprocal, cooperative relationships with other nations would be impaired. This was relevant both to the continuation of the existing close ties with the United States, and possible links in the future with France. One of the claims made by Harold Wilson in the attempt to gain admission to the European Community was that Britain could offer Europe advanced technological capabilities.

The government renounced all 'suggestion of a "go-it-alone" British nuclear war against the Soviet Union', mocking the idea of a 'nuclear Suez' or acting as a 'trigger for the US deterrent'. The ANF was presented as fulfilment of the pledge to 'renegotiate' the Nassau agreement, though it was mainly designed with reference to the unacceptable MLF. 3 This was not dissimilar from Macmillan's 'supreme national interests' clause in the Nassau Agreement. 2 The collapse of the ANF and MLF schemes saved Britain concern over the burden of implementing them, and left it as the main European nuclear power (though France was now coming up behind) rather than only a component part of a more broadly based European effort.

Whatever the virtues of this idea in principle it could not get very far in practice simply because nuclear weapons could not compensate for weaknesses in Britain's position, including the limited conventional assistance it could bring to a beleaguered friend and the small size of the nuclear force which meant that there was insufficient 'deterrence' available both for Europe and all Commonwealth countries in Asia. Moreover, the idea was not taken very seriously by the Indians themselves. As it became accepted that it would be folly to emply nuclear weapons until all other alternatives had been exhausted in any given conflict, it was unlikely that nuclear threats were going to be invoked outside of Europe unless disputes were incapable of solution by conventional means.

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