British attitudes towards the Soviet Union, 1951-1956
The thesis is concerned with the British perception of Soviet foreign policy between 1951 and 1956. In particular it examines the understanding that British diplomats, politicians and civil servants had of the process of change which the death of Stalin stimulated in the Kremlin's relations with the outside world. The core of the study centres around 1955, as this was the pivotal point for the British. With the ascendancy of Khruschev there was perceived not only a new emphasis in Moscow on the necessity of avoiding global war between East and West, but also a new interest in economic competition. By 1956 Whitehall had concluded that there were a number of factors informing the Soviet re-evaluation of foreign policy. Among which were: the stabilisation of the Western alliance culminating with West German rearmament in 1955; the cost of defence expenditure both in armaments and in supporting the satellite regimes and China; the development of American and Soviet thermonuclear potentials. The latter was thought by the British to be the most profound in its implications on the Soviet approach to the future of international relations. The Soviet leadership certainly appeared eager to be friendly and particularly to communicate an awareness of the grotesque futility of a war employing the latest weaponry. To this end they agreed to the Geneva Summit of 1955. Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan were convinced by this meeting that, in Macmillan's words, "there ain't gonna be no war". For a few brief, golden months, it seemed in London as if the Cold War might even be negotiated into history. However, by the end of 1955 it was apparent to the British that Geneva did not mean the Kremlin had given up aspirations to global supremacy, rather that the means to this end were now to be different.