Sir Patrick Dean, Ambassador from Britain to the United States, said last night that the British government is seriously considering a reduction in her military commitments overseas. "A review of our defense policy now in progress", he told the Law School Forum, is giving very "careful attention" to a possible cut in expenditures abroad.
"We shall continue to meet our commitments "whereever possible", Sir Patrick said, but in view of the "tremendous strain" these commitments place on Britain's payments balance, "there may have to be changes in the way in which we do this."
In an interview earlier in the day, Sir Patrick declined to specify exactly what form these changes might take, or where they might occur.
He stressed, however, that no decision would be reached without prior consultation with the United States. Officials in the administration, Sir Patrick noted, "have made it perfectly plain that they would prefer that we didn't reduce our commitments, but they understand the extent of the burden we are carrying."
In addition to the three army divisions and fourteen tactical reconnaissance squadrons that she supports in Europe, and the 50,000 men she has sent to Malaysia, Britain now maintains bases and fleets throughout Asia and Africa.
"If we were to find the burden too much and had to withdraw significantly," Sir Patrick concluded, "the gap would be too great for the United States or any other Western country to fill even if they were willing to do so."