Cold War in the Desert: Britain, the United States and the by Saul Kelly (auth.)

By Saul Kelly (auth.)

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Additional info for Cold War in the Desert: Britain, the United States and the Italian Colonies, 1945–52

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Molotov indicated that he was prepared to trade Soviet agreement to support the cession of the Dodecanese to Greece and British trusteeship for Cyrenaica in return for British agreement to support Soviet bases in the Straits and the Soviet trusteeship of Tripolitania. But such a deal would have entailed major concessions to the Soviet Union in the Mediterranean, which Bevin was anxious to resist. Therefore, he rather unconvincingly denied that Britain wanted a monopoly in the Mediterranean, but bluntly informed Molotov that ‘it would cause a great upset in this country if any new military power were to get across the lifeline of the British Empire’.

In a conversation with Byrnes on 17 December, Bevin expressed his concern that: ‘It looked as if the Russians were attempting to undermine the British position in the Middle East’, where to some in the Foreign Office, 34 Cold War in the Desert Britain was trying to build up ‘a kind of Monroe system’. As Kent has pointed out, the question of the future of Libya lay at the heart of the British Monroe system and was a vitally important strategic area for the British. Bevin revealed that the British had hoped at London to be given the trusteeship for Cyrenaica, which would facilitate the withdrawal of British troops from Egypt, and that Tripolitania should be allotted to Italy, to which he believed Molotov had been agreeable.

He thought there were no indications that the Soviets would agree to it or that the British would give up the idea of a Greater Somalia. The Soviet expert Charles Bohlen argued that it would immeasurably strengthen the Soviet case for an individual trusteeship, and the Americans would be accused of using it as a ruse to prevent the Soviets from obtaining an individual trusteeship. Byrnes’s close adviser 38 Cold War in the Desert and liberal legal counsel, Ben Cohen, who was anxiously seeking a settlement of this question, concluded that, on balance, the United States should stand by its proposal of collective trusteeship and only consider Italian trusteeship, after a thorough discussion in the State Department, if the British, French and the Soviets agreed to it.

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