The Marshall Plan, Britain, and European Security: Defense Integration or Coat-tail Diplomacy?

  • Jolyon Howorth
Part of the Europe in Transition: The NYU European Studies Series book series (EIT)


The Marshall Plan aimed to persuade the Europeans to take responsibility for the organization of their own affairs. This was as true in the security field as in that of economic recovery. There was a widespread assumption in the immediate post-War years, both in the United States and in Europe, that European integration must involve (and ideally be led by) Britain. Moreover, integration was perceived in the first instance as being a security project. Bevin’s initial long-term aim in August 1945 was an Anglo-French alliance as the cornerstone of European security. Such a European security entity—firmly allied to the United States—appeared to have the blessing of the major political leaders in both Britain and France, as well as the overt approval and encouragement of establishment opinion in the United States. Several factors combined to kill the scheme off. First, officials in Whitehall insisted that European security integration would undermine the United Kingdom’s special relationship with Washington, despite the fact that many U.S. analysts argued that a European security entity was not only possible but essential. Such views were voiced by liberal internationalists as well as by republican conservatives and even isolationists. But Britain was also increasingly reluctant to abandon the Commonwealth in favor of an inchoate European project. Thus was NATO born.


Foreign Affair Establishment Opinion European Security Military Alliance Security Project 
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© Martin Schain 2001

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  • Jolyon Howorth

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