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5. Post-Treaty Issues

Conclusion of the ANZUS Treaty was a watershed moment in Australian and New Zealand history. After the 1944 Australia-New Zealand Agreement, ANZUS was the first major international treaty that Australia and New Zealand signed that did not include Britain as a member. While policymakers in Canberra and Wellington stressed that its conclusion would not weaken their country’s ties to the British Commonwealth, ANZUS testified to Australia’s and New Zealand’s newfound security reliance on the United States during the early Cold War. Although it was a far less historic event in Washington, ANZUS enabled the United States to finalise the Japanese Peace Treaty and provide further support to its defence structure along the Pacific Rim. Even allowing for this difference in significance, ANZUS was important for all three countries.

Once ANZUS came into effect, however, there were still four key post-treaty issues that the signatories needed to address. Firstly, opinions were divided over the proposed machinery of the treaty. While New Zealand had no issues with the ANZUS consultation and discussion process, Australia wanted greater access to strategic and military planning undertaken by NATO and the Pentagon. The Americans, however, were unwilling to provide such access. Secondly, opinions were also divided over the question of British membership. New Zealand wanted Britain to be included as a member of ANZUS, the United States opposed British inclusion, and Australia remained ambivalent. Thirdly, once it was clear that Britain would not become a treaty member, planning began for a separate defence arrangement for Southeast Asia through the Five Power Staff Agency. Again, hoping to include Britain, New Zealand thought that this new mechanism might be a means to merge ANZUS with Commonwealth defence planning in Southeast Asia. Australia, on the other hand, remained aloof until its diplomats received confirmation from Washington that ANZUS would not be superseded by these new defence arrangements. Washington did not intend to replace ANZUS with a broader defence mechanism in Southeast Asia, but major US commitments were put on hold until after the 1952 elections. Finally, uncertainty over the future of ANZUS ensued after Dwight Eisenhower replaced Truman as US President in January 1953. In Australia and New Zealand, policymakers were concerned by new US national security strategies and whether the Eisenhower Administration viewed ANZUS as a serious commitment.

ANZUS Machinery and Membership

After the ANZUS Treaty was finalised and presented to the public, Spender was replaced as Australian External Affairs Minister and reassigned as Australian Ambassador to the United States in April 1951. As he played an instrumental role in concluding the treaty, Spender thought he was best placed to influence decision making in Washington and look after Australian interests. “I believe the next two or three years will be critical years in the history of civilisation”, Spender wrote to former US Ambassador in Canberra Myron Cowen on 5 April, “and it is in Washington that the decisions affecting the free world will be made.” Spender added that “I believe I can serve my country and the cause of peace in the world better in the USA than I can in any capacity at the moment in Australia.”1 His replacement as External Affairs Minister, Richard Casey, was tasked with ensuring Spender’s efforts to secure the ANZUS Treaty were not in vain and worked to serve Australian interests; namely, greater Australian-American strategic cooperation and military information exchange with the Pentagon. He was a more than capable successor to Spender. Serving previously as Australia’s first Minister to Washington and a Cabinet Minister during the ANZUS negotiations, Casey’s thirty years of experience in international affairs made his appointment as External Affairs Minister a role “for which his whole life seemed to have prepared him.”2

Figure 11. Australian External Affairs Minister Richard Casey (1951-1960), 1951. Photo by Australian News and Information Bureau (1951), Wikimedia,, Crown Copyright.

Even for Casey, it was not an easy assignment. ANZUS did not require American policymakers to share their strategies with Australia and New Zealand, nor did it specify that Canberra or Wellington must be informed of US intentions before any decisions were made. Annual ANZUS Council meetings between External Affairs and State Department officers, as well as a small representation from the US military, became the basic mechanism for trilateral discussions, yet these meetings were designed mostly for the Americans to outline the plans they had already made, rather than to consult with Australia and New Zealand over their perspectives, objections and interests. US Secretary of State Dean Acheson later recalled:

Instead of starving the Australians and New Zealanders, we would give them indigestion. For two days we went over the situation in the world, political and military, with the utmost frankness and fullness. At the end they were very happy with political liaison through the Council and military planning through the Commander in Chief Pacific.3

United States military officials insisted that discussions should be mostly political and should not offer Australia and New Zealand any concrete information on military planning other than through the US Commander-in-Chief Pacific (CINCPAC).

Members of the New Zealand External Affairs Department generally accepted this structure. As one adviser told Secretary McIntosh less than two weeks before the first ANZUS meeting in Honolulu during early August 1952, New Zealand “did not share the long-standing Australian objective of infiltration into the world’s policy-making hierarchy.”4 Instead, Frank Corner suggested that all that New Zealand was seeking from the United States was basic consultation in Far Eastern matters rather than the high-level military and political discussions for which Spender had hoped. “What in fact we are all seeking to establish”, Corner told McIntosh, was ANZUS as a kind of “Dominion status with the United States, [and] a right to be consulted in Pacific and Far Eastern Affairs.”5

George Laking, another New Zealand External Affairs Officer, was not even convinced that ANZUS was in any way useful for New Zealand. “The plain fact is we are getting nothing at all from the Americans, who have a childish faith in their ability to fox one and all”, Laking complained to Secretary McIntosh on 25 June 1951. “The chances of our knowing the right answers before the press are five to four against”, he added, and “the secret of it all [was] that the Americans don’t know the answers themselves until it happens.”6 McIntosh certainly sympathised with Laking’s reservations. Along with Foss Shanahan and Joseph Wilson, two of New Zealand’s External Affairs Officers, McIntosh conceded that New Zealand “never wanted the damn Pacific Pact in the first place.”7

Before the first ANZUS meetings even began in August 1952, Casey recognised the difficulties that ANZUS posed for Australia and New Zealand. “ANZUS represents [two] difficulties: the fact that there is one very strong partner and two others very much less strong, and that any threat to which [Australia] may be exposed must come from the southward expansionist ambitions of Communist China which must come by land”, Casey penned in his diary on 1 August. He added that “the fact that the US will not even consider any further land obligations on the Asian mainland makes for an obviously anomalous position.” Unfortunately for Casey, he knew that there was little Australia could offer the United States in return for a greater commitment in Southeast Asia. “There are a great many great things that we could ask the Americans for”, Casey conceded, but “few things that we could offer them in exchange.”8

Spender, the architect of ANZUS, was having similar problems in Washington. “We need to put flesh on the bones of the Pacific Pact”, Spender argued to Casey, suggesting that the powers needed to agree on a “wide flung strategy” and not ignore the needs of home defence.9 Much to Spender’s frustration, as Australia was not a NATO member, ANZUS was not allowing Australia to get its voice heard in any of NATO discussions. For Spender, this was important for Australia’s general strategic planning. “NATO decisions affect everyone and Australia should have the right to be heard, not only with respect to general strategic considerations but especially on matters directly affecting Australia”, Spender said in a State Department meeting on 20 May 1952. Spender, in other words, was “not content to be the hair on the tail of the dog.” He felt that Australia should at least be “part of the hide of the dog itself.”10

Acheson was unprepared to meet Spender’s demands. Brushing off these concerns, Acheson proposed that “if the Australians wanted real contact with the American Government and its thinking on world problems, it was highly desirable that they keep in touch with the Department of State and not continue to attempt to establish themselves in liaison with the Pentagon.” He added that “with particular regard to Pacific defence and its problems, the real planning was being done by Admiral Arthur Radford (US Chief Commander in the Pacific) and his staff in Hawaii. If the Australians and New Zealanders really wanted contact with US military planning operations, this was the place for it.”11 In short, Acheson advised that the Australians and New Zealanders should stick with their present contacts in the Department to obtain information relating to global strategic plans. The ANZUS Council meetings were Australia and New Zealand’s supposed “door of entry” to information on US global planning, but not to NATO.12

It was simply not possible for Australia and New Zealand to expect any greater access to the Pentagon through ANZUS. If the ANZUS meetings got through the organisational steps in good order, however, Acheson offered that he would present a total picture that would give them “plenty to think about and work on.” It was certainly not the consultation for which Australia had hoped. New Zealand diplomats, on the other hand, believed this method of consultation was appropriate. New Zealand delegates at the first ANZUS Council meeting in Hawaii described the trilateral discussion as “a most successful one.”13

The US military did have one clear idea how Australia and New Zealand could meaningfully contribute to the relationship. While ANZUS was originally designed to protect against mutual security threats solely in the Pacific theatre, US military planners began to suggest that Australia and New Zealand should also be prepared to commit their forces to defending the Middle East. During another joint State Department-Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) meeting in late November, JCS Chairman Omar Bradley concluded that it would be “good performance” for Australia and New Zealand to commit infantry divisions to any future hostilities in the Middle East.14 By JCS estimates, this trans-Tasman contribution would assist in meeting the “ground force deficiencies” under current American contingency plans for war with the Soviet Union in the region. For Bradley, Australian and New Zealand military contributions to the Middle East (as well as contributions from other countries) should still come under the guise of a joint defence Command. There was a “need for the early establishment” of the Middle East Defence Command, Bradly concluded, as this organisation would undertake the joint military planning required to defend the region from Soviet control.

By this stage, however, the Australians had cooled even further towards the idea of the formation of a Command. Australian External Affairs Secretary Alan Watt expressed serious reservations about the Command because it offered Australia absolutely no method of influencing the decision-making process. According to Watt, the proposed Command structure did not give Australia “an adequate political voice in [the] political direction of the Middle East Command.”15 There was also little Australian support for a commitment to the Middle East because policymakers in Canberra believed that the security of the Pacific region was far more important. As New Zealand External Affairs Secretary Alister McIntosh reported from his trip to Canberra on 6 May 1952, “the Australians felt that there was a large element of unreality about the Middle East Command.” He suggested that the Australians “preferred a Pacific approach, and the construction of a relationship with the Americans, through a Pacific Defence Council.”16

For different reasons, New Zealand began to reconsider the usefulness of a Command. McIntosh and Shanahan conceded on 13 June 1952 that “there will probably be some military secrets from which we will be excluded”, but did not think this prevented New Zealand from actively supporting the Command. According to McIntosh and Shanahan, there were other more pressing issues about the arrangement that brought its usefulness into question. For one, they both thought that “serious differences in views between the United States and Britain” in the Middle East—such as the make-up of the Command personnel, US policies toward Egypt and the Suez Canal, and British intentions for nearby Sudan—made the proposed Command a potential disaster for Western interests in the region.17 They also concluded that tense relations with Egypt over British bases near Suez presented a complicated situation to address for the Command powers, especially in the wake of Cairo’s refusal to participate.

ANZUS itself was complicated further by the question of British membership. For the first time in Australian and New Zealand history, the two former British colonies signed a major international defence treaty that did not include Britain as a member. London argued that its exclusion was a blow to its international prestige, signalled a clear military weakness in the Commonwealth, and might cause a serious rift in Anglo-American relations. On these grounds, British policymakers ignored Australian and New Zealand representations and strongly objected to ANZUS. After the Foreign Office was initially unable to prevent the treaty’s conclusion in early to mid-1951, British policy changed to press upon the ANZUS powers the need for British membership either directly as a signatory to, or indirectly as an observer of, Council meetings. British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden argued on 19 April 1951 that Britain should be included in the alliance because “any threat to either Australia or New Zealand must always be calculated as a threat to [Britain].” He went on to suggest that British interests in Malaya “make it essentially a Pacific Power.”18

Winston Churchill, who had returned to office in late 1951 for his final stint as prime minister, also staunchly objected to British exclusion from ANZUS. Believing that links between Britain and the Dominions were still strong, Churchill saw the need for his government to play a larger role in Pacific defence planning to “guide” US strategy against the Communist bloc. In short, without closer Anglo-American strategic cooperation, British interests in the Pacific were likely to become increasingly marginalised by US strategists when they considered issues of concern in this region. Churchill pushed for British inclusion on two fronts: lobbying in Washington on many occasions during 1951-1953, and appealing to Australia and New Zealand to convince the Americans to include Britain in ANZUS.19 Finding support in Canberra and Wellington would not have appeared too difficult to Churchill, especially since pro-British sentiment in these countries was particularly strong. However, the extent to which the Pacific Dominions would be able to convince the Americans to include Britain in ANZUS was certainly overstated.

The Australians were divided over British membership. Given his well-established predisposition to support Britain and its policies abroad, Menzies was receptive to Churchill’s reasoning and agreed that London should be included in ANZUS in some capacity. He told British officials on 5 June that he was “very much in favour” of closer association with the United Kingdom through ANZUS.20 He then told Casey and Spender that “[Australia] should not place any obstacle in United Kingdom efforts” to join ANZUS Council meetings as an observer […] provided the Americans are willing to play and provided the United Kingdom request does not involve our acceptance of a string of other countries in the same capacity.”21 These last two points were crucial for Menzies. Firstly, Menzies recognised that American agreement to British observer status was a key condition. This suggests that Menzies had in fact moved away from the idea of British leadership and recognised the need to prioritise the US position. Secondly, if the United States agreed, Menzies was willing to consider British consultation but feared that this might herald the expansion of ANZUS to include other Commonwealth countries. He did not want Australia becoming responsible for defending areas outside of its strategic interests.

Spender was unconvinced. He feared British inclusion might strain Anglo-American relations and Britain’s relations with other Commonwealth countries. Most importantly for Australia, British inclusion might dilute the usefulness of ANZUS meetings as a forum to consult with the United States on matters of regional and global strategy. If the United States and Britain were both present at ANZUS meetings and squabbled over their own disagreements, Australia’s voice might become increasingly marginalised. Before Britain could be seriously considered as an observer, he told Eden that it was “absolutely essential that the United States and United Kingdom get their lines straightened out and agree upon a common approach” towards pressing disagreements between Washington and London.22 Spender also told Menzies on 6 June 1952 that “while I appreciate the strength of [your observations] […] before any questions of ‘observers’ or any extension of the Pact to include other nations should arise, the Council should be first established.”23

Casey was more sympathetic to British concerns over exclusion from ANZUS. He recognised that the British were “very concerned about their being excluded from any official contact with the ANZUS Council.” He was also determined not to pursue closer US consultation at the expense of Australia’s relationship with Britain. Casey wrote at the outset of the first ANZUS Council meeting that “Australian relations with the US are close and confident, but I always have in mind the effect of any accord on the British. It would be counter-productive if our good relations with [the] US were at the expense of bad UK-US relations.” Along the lines of Menzies’s suggestion, he thought he might be able to include “UK people into the ANZUS Council as British Liaison Officers”, even though he recognised that Australia must execute “caution in extending ‘observer’ rights to the United Kingdom or other countries.”24 Even if Britain did not become associated with ANZUS, Casey went as far as suggesting that Australia and New Zealand were already acting as British representatives for Commonwealth interests in the Asia-Pacific region through ANZUS. “ANZUS [was] only a local manifestation of closer British-American relations”, Casey told the Australian Parliament in September 1952.”25 In other words, Australia and New Zealand would retain their roles as British outposts in the Pacific.

While the Australians were divided over the question of British membership, the New Zealanders agreed almost unanimously that Britain must be included in some capacity. New Zealand External Affairs Minister Thomas Clifton Webb thought that while “the Australians saw great difficulty for the United Kingdom to be associated with the Council”, New Zealand was “anxious to have the closest consultation with the United Kingdom on operation of [ANZUS].”26 Wellington had always been reluctant to adjust to American leadership in the Pacific because of its sentimental ties to Britain. Britain’s inclusion, even as an observer, was therefore greatly appealing.

Including Britain also countered concerns in New Zealand that Australia and the US would dominate ANZUS discussions. “From New Zealand’s point of view”, a brief for the New Zealand delegation to the ANZUS Council meeting stated on 25 July 1952,

British participation would be a most useful counter-weight which would help to guard against [ANZUS] being influenced too much by Australia or the United States or both. United Kingdom would undoubtedly give a stability to the Council which might otherwise be lacking.27

In short, while the Australians were primarily concerned that British inclusion might prevent closer consultation with the United States through ANZUS, the New Zealanders wanted British inclusion precisely because it would prevent Australia and the United States from dominating ANZUS discussions.

After the first ANZUS meeting in August, McIntosh and Corner both expressed their concerns about British exclusion. On 3 October, McIntosh told Corner that he had “always wanted to have the United Kingdom in.” He even complained that during ANZUS meetings External Affairs Minister Webb “did not put up any fight whatsoever to have the United Kingdom in as observers.” In response, Corner replied that US objections to British inclusion were the real problem. “It seems to me”, Corner wrote to McIntosh in December 1952, that

The American unwillingness to include Britain in ANZUS springs from a refusal to share real power in the Pacific with any other country. They will talk to Australia and New Zealand, and will be most forthcoming with us, because we are so unequal and represent no real challenge to their right of decision. But the British are a different proposition and if they were admitted they would bring much greater weight and prestige and would require that America shared its power of decision.28

Corner’s concerns about US opposition to admitting Britain into ANZUS proved to be correct. Casey told Acheson in the first ANZUS meeting in early August that he was under considerable pressure from the British to have them brought into ANZUS planning. He said that British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden “feels very deeply” on this question and had pressed Casey to push the British case. Acheson, in response, said he felt that this was “completely impossible.”29

The United States, preferring to “go it alone” in the Pacific rather than including Britain, had no interest whatsoever in including it in ANZUS in any capacity. While Acheson told Menzies that he thought the ANZUS powers should “keep no secrets” from the United Kingdom, he was not prepared to offer them “any special consideration” through ANZUS.30 After informing Eden of his decision in August 1952, Acheson’s stern comments ended any further serious discussion about British membership. Acheson was determined to assert that the United States was indeed the dominant power in the relationship and would not accept changes to the treaty that did not suit US interests. Unable to sway American opinion, British policymakers eventually conceded that “Australia and New Zealand had grown up” and London would not be directly associated with ANZUS in any capacity.31

Another interesting element that has recently received greater attention regarding the US response to British inclusion in ANZUS is the issue of race. While Acheson privately stated that there was no capacity for Britain to be involved in ANZUS, US public explanations suggested that including Britain would increase anxieties in the Asia of an “Anglo-Saxon” or “White Man’s Club” in the region.32 This reasoning was hardly convincing, especially since all three ANZUS signatories were already predominantly Anglo-Saxon. It does, however, echo some of the concerns Dulles originally had when conducting treaty discussions in Canberra and explains why he was particularly interested in including the Philippines in the pact. It was certainly not a primary consideration, but perceptions over race did inform Dulles’s thinking and influenced broader US concerns about its image in Asia. The US was mindful of domestic race relations with African Americans and certainly wanted to win the propaganda war against the Soviet Union in the developing world. In this case, though, it seems that concerns over an exclusionary defence treaty based on race were something of a convenient excuse for not including Britain in ANZUS.

A Five-Power Staff Agency

After being rejected from ANZUS as an observer, Britain instead pushed for the conclusion of a Five-Power Staff Agency between the United States, Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand for the collective defence of Southeast Asia. In December 1952, British, American and French representatives met in Paris and agreed in principle to a coalition for liaison on intelligence and other defence matters in the region. In a follow-up meeting in London, Churchill stressed that “it was unreasonable for ANZUS staff planners to deal with the Pacific and Southeast Asia without direct assistance from the British.”33 Then, in a separate meeting with Dominion representatives, Churchill told Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers Robert Menzies and Sidney Holland that the Agency would essentially be a revitalised and widened version of previous ANZAM defence arrangements between their three countries. He handed both Menzies and Holland a newly revised British defence policy document called “The Future of ANZAM”, which outlined Britain’s plans for the Agency as well as a new focus on defending Malaya from Communist aggression.34 This plan, in short, aimed to expand previous cooperation between Australia, New Zealand and the British into a defence arrangement for Southeast Asia that also included the United States and France. This arrangement would effectively supersede ANZUS and enable Britain to be as closely involved as possible in the defence planning for the region.

New Zealand Prime Minister Sidney Holland was particularly excited at the prospect of creating a Staff Agency. If the United States agreed to take part, Holland thought it was a fantastic opportunity to incorporate Britain in Pacific defence planning after their attempts to join ANZUS were blocked by the State Department. It would be a “marriage of ANZUS and ANZAM”, Holland said, adding that the Agency could become a prelude to a joint machinery in the whole Pacific.35 In other words, Holland hoped to reignite discussions over including Britain as an ANZUS partner.

Support for the proposal was less forthcoming in Wellington. Frank Corner considered that, given the proposition of French membership coupled with the deteriorating situation in Indochina, the Agency appeared to be intended primarily for multilateral defence discussions about that region. As a result, he questioned whether a focus on Indochina was in New Zealand’s best interests. The Agency aimed to deal primarily with the “vital problems in Indochina” and “raise French morale”, Corner told McIntosh, and he also thought the Pentagon was only interested in the Agency for “considering practical problems relating to Indochina.”36

In the Australian External Affairs Department, however, Casey and Spender were greatly concerned that the creation of a joint Staff Agency for the defence of Southeast Asia would undermine the importance of ANZUS. Similarly, they were also concerned that an Agency would prevent Canberra from consulting directly with Washington on security issues in the region. As Truman’s second term as US President was soon scheduled to end, Casey and Spender thought that Australia should push for an ANZUS Council meeting with the Americans shortly after new President-elect Dwight Eisenhower took office to gauge his Administration’s views on the subject. To “offset any danger” that the Agency might undermine ANZUS military planning, Spender urged Casey to call an ANZUS meeting shortly after Eisenhower took office.37

Fearing the political effect it would have in London, New Zealand responded unfavourably to an ANZUS meeting. Webb told the Australians shortly after the meeting was proposed that it was untimely “to press for an early ANZUS meeting at least at this juncture” because it might aggravate the British.38 Secretary in the Australian Commissioner’s Office in Wellington J.S. Cumpston then tried to urge New Zealand to reconsider. When meeting with Shanahan and McIntosh in late February, Cumpston attempted to persuade both men of the need for an early ANZUS meeting with the Americans. Their response, however, was again quite negative due to concerns about the effect an early ANZUS meeting would have in London. Wellington dismissed subsequent Australian efforts to urge New Zealand to support an earlier ANZUS meeting in March.

Meanwhile, after initial consultation with London, the United States agreed in principle to the establishment of a Five-Power Staff Agency for the defence of Southeast Asia. While the arrangement did not specifically commit any country to military action, it did provide a basic framework for joint-defence planning in the region. Delegates agreed that each country would appoint a military representative to coordinate defence plans with one another, as well as exchange all available intelligence information useful to the defence of Southeast Asia. As Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs John Allison advised Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in late January, “I cannot conceive how we can engage in efficient planning for the military defence of the Pacific without engaging in some form of joint planning with our allies.”39

Allison argued that the Agency must take a different form to ANZUS for two reasons. Firstly, he thought that an enlargement of ANZUS would entail an unwanted US commitment to Hong Kong, Malaya and Indochina. Secondly, he urged Dulles that the Agency would be useful primarily because it would help prevent Chinese aggression in the region. US policymakers such as Allison, in other words, had no intention of expanding ANZUS or merely mollifying British concerns about defence planning for the region. Instead, the Agency “offered the best prospect of causing Communist China to cease an aggression”, the State Department concluded on 17 February.40

In Australia, policymakers continued to be concerned that the military function of ANZUS would be substantially absorbed by the Staff Agency. Australian Defence Minister Philip McBride told Menzies one week after the Conference that “the accent on planning for South East Asia has been transferred from an ANZUS to a Five Power basis.” He added that he was concerned that the Staff Agency might subsume ANZUS and ANZAM in the long-term future.41 Members of the Australian External Affairs Department were also anxious as to what the Agency would mean for the future of ANZUS military discussions. Assistant External Affairs Secretary Ralph Harry argued that the development of the Agency would lead to “the suspension by ANZUS of its military planning and concentration on political consultation”, mainly because the Agency’s proposed plan of studies would “seem to render redundant at least some of the current ANZUS military planning.”42

Given New Zealand’s great reluctance to hold an ANZUS Council meeting on the subject, Australia stepped up its own diplomatic efforts to obtain US views. In late May, Minister of the Australian Embassy in Washington Arthur Tange conferred with US Director of the Office of the British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs Andrew Foster. Foster made it clear that given the Pentagon’s reluctance to underwrite the security of mainland Asia, the US did not think the Staff Agency should be “a formal and elaborate organisation.” The Agency should “rest on an ad hoc, on-call-need-to-know basis.” He assured the Australians that there was no prospect that the Agency would supplant ANZUS and ANZAM machineries. Regarding the concept of an ANZUS-ANZAM linkage, Foster claimed the US could not establish a firm position until it “learn[s] of any ideas that may come out of conversations” among the Commonwealth states on the reformation of ANZAM.”43 At least for now, Australian concerns about the future of ANZUS had been allayed.

Eisenhower in the Oval Office

As discussions surrounding ANZUS and the Five-Power Staff Agency took place in late 1952 and early 1953, major political changes in the United States complicated the future of defence arrangements in the Asia-Pacific region. President Truman’s second term as US President was scheduled to end in January 1953 and an election was planned for November 1952 to decide his replacement. After almost twenty years of Democrat control of the White House, the Republican Party’s Presidential candidate, Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, won the election by campaigning on major changes to US foreign policy. While Ike strongly criticised Truman for plunging the United States into a costly and protracted war, Eisenhower promised he would end the war in Korea and reduce the financial deficit from overspending on the military.

On taking office, Eisenhower’s first major foreign policy initiative was appointing John Foster Dulles as his Secretary of State. Given his experience in international affairs, Eisenhower believed that Dulles was an “obvious” choice for the position.44 In Australia and New Zealand, Dulles’s appointment was especially important because both countries had experience in dealing with him during the ANZUS negotiations in early 1951.

Figure 12. Eisenhower during the US Election Campaign in Baltimore, MD, September 1952. Credit: Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Wikimedia,, Public domain.

Eisenhower’s most immediate foreign policy problem was ending a protracted and costly war in Korea. “Of the manifold problems confronting me early in 1953”, Eisenhower penned in his memoirs, “none required more urgent attention than the war in Korea.”45 He had famously visited Korea in late 1952, but had no precise idea about how to end the war. Fortunately for Eisenhower, in March US negotiators achieved a breakthrough with their North Korean and Chinese counterparts over an exchange of prisoners of war. After restraining South Korean President Syngman Rhee from continuing the war and accepting a compromise demarcation at the 38th parallel, an armistice was signed on 27 July 1953 that brought the Korean War to an end.

While an end to the fighting in Korea was a welcome development, Eisenhower continued to follow the previous Administration’s example and refused to recognise the PRC. In Australia, however, Casey thought that the end of the war made the prospect of recognising Beijing more palatable. Within weeks of the signing of the Armistice, Casey discussed with the Australian Cabinet how to approach China. He felt that it

Figure 13. US President Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961), 1952. Photo by Fabian Bachrach (1952), US Library of Congress,, public domain.

was becoming increasingly important to open a dialogue with the Communist regime to prevent Mao from moving “closer into the arms of Moscow.”46

Across the Tasman, Webb also thought that the end of the Korean War signalled a chance to reconsider the recognition of the PRC and thereby reduce tensions in East Asia. On 6 July, Webb went one step further and made his thoughts on recognising China public. Three days after Webb’s address, New Zealand Ambassador in Washington Leslie Munro reported that the speech had gravely concerned policymakers in Washington. The remarks “caused distress” in the United States, Munro told Webb on 9 July, and comments such as Webb’s “gravely disturbed the Americans.”47 Munro was especially concerned that the speech might affect New Zealand’s relationship with the United States and suggested that, in the future, New Zealand should publicly support the US position on China.

Webb had anticipated that Australia was “inclined to take the American view” on China, and indeed McIntosh told Corner that his comments caused a “dislocation of the eyebrows in American and Australian circles.” According to McIntosh, Australia’s major concern was that Webb might push New Zealand towards recognising China without prior consultation.48 This concern suggests that there was little trans-Tasman communication or cooperation regarding the issue of Chinese diplomatic recognition.

Outside of East Asia, another concern for the ANZUS countries was reconsidering policy toward the Middle East. By the time of Eisenhower’s inauguration in January 1953, Egyptian General Gamal Abdel Nasser had already overthrown the Egyptian government led by King Farouk and he declared Egypt a republic in June. These dramatic events convinced the Eisenhower Administration that a Command structure was no longer an appropriate means for the defence of the Middle East. “We had decided to put the [Command] concept on the shelf”, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs John Jernegan told Counselor of the British Embassy in Washington Harold Beeley on 17 June, citing political instability in the region as the major reason for US reluctance to participate.49 Beeley replied that the British Foreign Office had a similar view and instead supported the idea of working closely with individual countries that appeared willing to defend Western interests in the region. At Beeley’s insistence, this included Australia and New Zealand.

In an NSC meeting, American policymakers confirmed that in their view a formal multilateral defence arrangement was no longer the best way to protect US interests in the Middle East. The Command was “no longer played up as a likely defense arrangement in the future”, US National Security Advisor Robert Cutler told the NSC on 9 July, and “Egypt was no longer considered to be the nucleus of an area defence organisation.” Secretary of State John Foster Dulles agreed. “The [Command] was too complicated, too much like NATO, and it obviously would not work”, Dulles said to Cutler, adding that “something less formal and grandiose was needed as a substitute.” The meeting concluded by agreeing that the United States should support Britain “to the greatest extent practical, but reserving the right to act with others or alone.”50 In other words, the United States remained committed to the defence of the Middle East, but it wanted greater flexibility in a future response if a crisis developed.

For their part, Australia and New Zealand certainly agreed with abandoning the idea of a Middle East Command. In no uncertain terms, New Zealand Deputy High Commissioner in London Frank Corner argued that “the Middle East is of no direct importance to New Zealand.” He concluded that it was completely unsatisfactory “to be committed to fight in an area where we have no representation, no way of making an independent appraisal of conditions in the country where our troops will be placed [and] no way of influencing the governments.” Australian military officials reached similar conclusions. In one report, the Australian Defence Committee argued that “the threat to Southeast Asia is greater than that to the Middle East […] Southeast Asia should be given priority.”51

Looking more broadly, the Eisenhower Administration also needed new national security strategies. After much deliberation, the National Security Council produced the NSC 162/2 report in late 1953, a formal statement that outlined Eisenhower’s “New Look” approach to foreign policy.52 NSC 162/2 aimed to achieve the same goals as Truman’s national defence policies, but would do so through more cost effective means; namely, through a reliance on nuclear weapons, an apparent willingness to use them and the subsequent deterrent effect on the belligerent Soviet bloc. It also relied on forming a number of defence pacts with Allied powers that aimed to ensure the United States would not again have to shoulder the burden of an entire military effort as it did in Korea.

Part of this plan encompassed a continued commitment to the ANZUS treaty. In September, the second round of ANZUS Council meetings were held in Washington. During these meetings JCS Chairman Arthur Radford confirmed this sustained commitment to the ANZUS partners, emphasising both his “continued interest in ANZUS” and the treaty’s overall “importance and value” to US defence planning in the Pacific. Commander of the US Pacific Fleet Admiral Felix Stump expressed similar sentiments. He stated that ANZUS military discussions would be used as “background material to national plans” in the Pacific theatre, particularly in relation to Five-Power Agency defence discussions in Southeast Asia.53 ANZUS, in other words, would provide one basis for US defence planning in the region. The Australians and New Zealanders welcomed this arrangement, yet similar issues re-emerged to those presented during the first Council meetings one year earlier. Casey again raised the possibility of British membership of ANZUS, asking whether “any link could be created” to satisfy British membership demands. Spender also continued to express his discontent at the “insufficient planning and coordination” between the ANZUS partners in the event of a worldwide war and suggested the smaller ANZUS partners should be privy to US global war plans. Both suggestions, however, were dismissed by US representatives. In short, the United States remained committed to ANZUS under Eisenhower, but it was not prepared to change the membership or consultative arrangements of the alliance.

Outside of these ANZUS discussions, Australian and New Zealand policymakers were seriously concerned by the Eisenhower Administration’s new national security policies. On the one hand, an increased US commitment to its formal allies suggests Eisenhower and Dulles were prepared to take ANZUS and the Five-Power Staff Agency seriously and consult more closely with Canberra and Wellington. On the other hand, a reliance on nuclear weapons opened further the serious possibility of another world war in which Australia and New Zealand would undoubtedly have been involved.

New Zealand Ambassador in Washington Leslie Munro suggested that the new Administration would follow a “conservative line”, meaning that Eisenhower was looking to cut military spending and reduce direct US military involvement overseas during the 1950s. Such a policy, according to Munro, was not ideal for New Zealand, particularly for Western defence positions in the Pacific.54 In terms of broader US strategy, there were similar concerns in New Zealand that Eisenhower’s proposed foreign-policy brinkmanship could be disastrous for the West. Many New Zealand diplomats regarded these policies as “misguided”, “misconceived” or “extreme.”55

While still concerned about the potential for global nuclear war, policymakers in Canberra were more optimistic about Eisenhower’s new national security strategies. Many officers within the Australian External Affairs Department hoped that increased US reliance on its defence pacts would heighten American involvement in Asia and the Pacific. If used cautiously, they were also optimistic that US nuclear diplomacy could prevent further Communist advances. Casey, for one, was hopeful that the “major re-appraisal of US foreign policy” would benefit Australia because it would create greater US interest in defending a region close to Australian borders. He thought, in turn, that Australia must capitalise on this unprecedented US interest in Southeast Asia and demonstrate that Canberra was a reliable US ally. “It would be bad value”, Casey later wrote in his diary, “to give Washington the impression that it was “contemplating retreat from [its] obligations.”56 Testing the ANZUS powers’ commitment to defending Southeast Asia soon proved crucial, as Communist forces in Indochina sparked a major international crisis that tested the ANZUS commitment to Southeast Asia.

1 Spender to Cowen, 5 April 1951, Spender Papers, Box 1, NLA.

2 Christopher Waters, “Cold War Liberals: Richard Casey and the Department of External Affairs, 1951-1960”, in Ministers, Mandarins and Diplomats: Australian Foreign Policy Making, 1941-1969, Jean Beaumont, Christopher Waters, David Lowe and Gary Woodard eds. (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2003), 89.

3 Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (New York: W.W. Norton, 1987), 876-878.

4 Memorandum for McIntosh, 25 July 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/3/3/1 Part 8.

5 Corner to McIntosh, 20 February 1953, Archives NZ, EA, 316/4/1.

6 Laking to McIntosh, 25 June 1951, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 76.

7 McIntosh to Corner, 3 October 1952, in Unofficial Channels, 106.

8 Casey Diary Entry, 1 August 1952, in Australian Foreign Minister: The Diaries of R. G. Casey, 1951-1960, T. B. Millar ed. (London: Collins, 1972), 84-85 (hereafter Casey Diaries).

9 Spender to Casey, 25 June 1952, Spender Papers, Box 1, NLA.

10 Department of State Memorandum of Conversation, 20 May 1952, Secretary of State File, Acheson Papers, TL.

11 Memorandum of Conversation, 4 August 1952, Secretary of State File, Acheson Papers, TL.

12 Watt to McIntosh, 12 July 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/3/3/1 part 8.

13 Memorandum for Holland, 15 August 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/3/3/1 part 8; Webb Statement, 12 August 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/3/3/15 part 1.

14 Department of State Minutes of State-Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, 28 November 1952, RG 59, NARA, Lot 61, D 417.

15 Middle East Command – Australian Views, 22 May 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/39/2 Part 3; Meeting between Watt and McIntosh, 6 May 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/39/2 Part 3.

16 Note for File, 6 May 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/39/2 Part 3.

17 Meeting between McIntosh and Shanahan, 13 June 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/39/2 Part 3.

18 Eden Statement, 19 April 1951, UK Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 484, 2007-2008.

19 Robb and Gill, “The ANZUS Treaty during the Cold War”, 147.

20 Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to UK High Commission in New Zealand, 5 June 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/3/3/6 part 1.

21 Menzies to Casey and Spender, 5 June 1952, NAA, 5954/1, 1418/3.

22 Spender to Eden, 15 March 1952, Spender Papers, NLA.

23 Spender to Menzies, 6 June 1952, NAA, A1838/276, 686/6, part 1A.

24 Richard Casey, 3 August 1952, Casey Diaries, 85; Casey to Spender, 11 June 1952, NAA, A1838/289, 250/7/10, part 1.

25 Casey Statement, 24 September 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/3/3/6 part 1.

26 Webb to Holland, 8 June 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/3/3/6 part 1.

27 Brief for the Council Meeting: Relationship with the United Kingdom, 25 July 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/3/3/24.

28 McIntosh to Corner, 3 October 1952, in Unofficial Channels, 106; Corner to McIntosh, 17 December 1952, in Unofficial Channels, 112.

29 Memorandum of Conversation, 4 August 1952, Secretary of State File, Acheson Papers, TL.

30 NZ Embassy in Canberra to Webb, 24 July 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/3/3/1 part 8; Memorandum for Webb, 14 August 1952, Archives NZ, EA, 111/3/3/1 part 8.

31 Corner to McIntosh, 11 December 1952, in Unofficial Channels, 109.

32 Robb and Gill, “The ANZUS Treaty During the Cold War”, 145. For a broader examination of the element of race in the Australian-American relationship, see Travis Hardy, The Consanguinity of Ideas: Race and Anti-Communism in the US-Australian Relationship, 1933-1953. PhD Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2010.

33 External Affairs Memorandum, 16 January 1953, Archives NZ, EA, 434/8/1 Part 2.

34 Meeting between Churchill, Menzies and Holland, 12 December 1952, NAA, A5954/1, 1424/1.

35 Hiroyuki Umetsu, “The Origins of the British Commonwealth Strategic Reserve: The UK Proposal to Revitalise ANZAM and the Increased Defence Commitment to Malaya”, Australian Journal of Politics and History 50, no. 4 (2004), 517,

36 Corner to McIntosh, 20 February 1953, in Unofficial Channels, 125.

37 Spender to Casey, 2 January 1953, NAA, A5954/1, 1424/1.

38 Webb to Casey, 21 January 1953, NAA, A5461/1, 1/4/2A Part 3.

39 Allison to Dulles, 29 January 1953, FRUS 1952-1954 Vol. XII Part I, 265.

40 Memorandum for Allison, 17 February 1953, FRUS 1952-1954 Vol. XII Part I, 232.

41 McBride to Menzies, 17 April 1953, NAA, A816/30, 11/301/855.

42 Harry to Hay, 21 April 1953, NAA, A1838/269, TS654/8/3/2 Part 2.

43 Foster to Matthews, 29 May 1953, NARA, RG 59, 790.5/5-2953.

44 Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change: 1953-1956 (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1963), 86.

45 Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, 171.

46 Cabinet Submission, 14 August 1953. NAA, A1838, 3107/33/1, Part 1.

47 Munro to Webb, 9 July 1953, Archives NZ, EA, 264/3/14/1 Part 10; Munro to Webb 31 July 1953, Archives NZ, EA, 264/3/14/1 Part 8.

48 Webb to Scotten, 7 July 1953, Archives NZ, EA, 264/3/14/1 Part 8; McIntosh to Corner, 7 August 1953, in Unofficial Channels, 147-148.

49 Memorandum by Jernegan, 17 June 1953, NARA, RG 59, 780.3/6-1753.

50 National Security Council Meeting Minutes, 9 July 1953, Ann Whitman File, Eisenhower Papers, NSC Series, Box 3, EL.

51 A Strategic Basis of Australian Defence Policy, 8 January 1953, NAA, A5954, 1353/2.

52 NSC Report, 30 October 1953, Ann Whitman File, NSC Series, Box 2, EL. See also Valerie Adams, Eisenhower’s Fine Group of Fellows: Crafting a National Security Strategy to Uphold the Great Equation (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2006), 63-69.

53 Minutes of the ANZUS Council Meeting, 9-10 September 1953, NARA, RG 59, Lot 60, D 627, CF 163.

54 Laking to McIntosh, 25 February 1953, in Unofficial Channels, 127-128.

55 James Waite, “Contesting ‘the Right of Decision’”, 897-898.

56 Casey Diary Entry, 16 September 1954, Casey’s Diaries, 186.

© 2018 Andrew Kelly, CC BY 4.0