The term ‘Special Relationship’ can give the false impression that Britain and the US have related to each other in an unchanging way since the forging of close bonds during World War II. If, like the present author, one chooses to use this terminology it is important to identify how the relationship has changed over the years.
This article focuses on the period 1961–67, which was an important period of transition. In 1961, Suez notwithstanding, it was possible for British leaders to continue to think in terms of drawing on unique links with the US, some of which had been forged in World War II and still existed, others which had been developed in their common struggle against communism. By 1967 some of these links had been broken and others greatly weakened for a variety of reasons. Britain's relative world power had continued to decline, thus reducing her usefulness to the US; Britain began to look seriously to the EEC for its future and away from the US, which, for its part, was becoming increasingly preoccupied with Vietnam and the Far East in general; the economic structure Britain and the US had designed to manage the free world's. economy and in the direction of which they had cooperated extensively began to breakdown; and finally after the Kennedy–Macmillan friendship there was no really close relationship between British and American leaders until the mid-1970s. Before looking at this period of transition, however, it is necessary to review an earlier era when the Special Relationship was unquestioned.