Signed in August 1941 by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Atlantic Charter brought hope on an international scale for a world free of apocalyptic destruction, extra-continental control, and generally unjust national acts. This proclamation resulted in widespread revolution. Whether it be passive resistance as in the case of India’s expulsion of the “Raj” in 1947, or violent rebellion in Algeria with the death of 10,000 French forces, it was clear to nations around the world that the exploitation of a resource rich country by a militaristically superior neighbor was violation of moral behavior. It’s evident in the fact that revolutions took place following the Atlantic Charter rather than the peaceful abdication of power, the subsequent retraction of empire was not caused by a newfound benevolence by colonialist countries, but by the elucidation of colonized countries to gross injustice. Supplementing the British’s violation of the third point of the Atlantic Charter, is the United States’ increase in military spending and support of radical organizations in other countries in the war against communism. As the these aspects of the Atlantic Charter were among the most important, and these two international superpowers disobeyed even more than the points outlined above, the United States and Britain reflected the principles of the Atlantic Charter in their foreign policy to a minimal, and dishonorable extent.
The United States blatantly resisted adherence to the third principle of the Atlantic Charter in their quest to irradiate communism; and in this quest, they violated either clause one of principle eight (general use of force), clause two of principle eight (depletion of military arsenals), or principle five. Following the end of World War II and prior to the late 1970s, the United States offered $175 billion to third world countries in the form of economic or militaristic aid in order to secure their reliance and loyalty to the United States (as opposed to aligning with the Soviet Union). This goes clearly against their stated agreement to “aid and encourage all other practicable measure which will lighten...the crushing burden of armaments”. If the country did not succumb to the United States’ generosity, “Washington could also raise the ante by concluding defense agreements”, which is a clear violation of their agreement to “bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations...with the object of securing...social security”. Finally, if these offers weren’t enticing enough, Washington “resorted to a third option: CIA-sponsored covert operations”. 7 This is likely the worst, yet most frequent violation of the Atlantic Charter committed by Britain or the United States. Numerous countries were fallen victim to the United States’ determination to uphold its sphere of influence, such as the Iranian government in 1953, Castro’s Cuba in 1960, and the Guatemala government in 1954. These acts went directly against their stated belief that “all nations of the world...must come to the abandonment of the use of force.”
United States military intervention with anti-communistic intent led to further disregarding of the principles of the Atlantic Charter. In likening communism’s spread to Korea to Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese’s spread throughout Europe and Asia, Truman justified “raising the defense budget from $15.5 billion in August to $42 billion by December.” This intervention demolished the Korean peninsula and totaled four million Korean deaths, with Korea only to remain divided with high tensions between both divides. This intractable war simply distanced reality from a world where the eighth principle was obeyed. In order to destroy communism, the Truman administration also denied Arbenz in Guatemala economic aid and weapons sales, despite officially neutral stance the United States took on Guatemala. This clearly violates the fourth principle of the Atlantic Charter which claims that the United States will provide equal terms of trade with other countries of the world (which should have remained true regardless of ideological differences).
Under Nixon, the United States did limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons which would suggest an alignment with the principles of the Atlantic Charter, however this limitation was exclusive to a certain manner with which the nuclear weapons could be used and had little to no effect on the nuclear arsenal of the United States. Nixon collaboration with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to freeze the number of nuclear missile launchers each nation could have. The issue with such a freeze is that it does not limit the number of actual warheads that could be held by each. This therefore did little to further the security of the world.
The United States surely wasn’t alone in this blatant violation of the principles they agreed to follow in the Atlantic Charter. In February 1942, Britain demanded the appointment of an Egyptian prime minister who was in support of good relations with Britain. These demands took a more coercive approach than the United States’ at first non-violent approach to bribe countries onto their side in the Cold War: the current monarch of Egypt, Farouk, and his political supporters abdicated control after being faced by British tanks. Such an action more audaciously and directly violated the third principle of the Atlantic Charter than any action the United States committed. While Egypt maintained control through a large military presence, nationalist guerrillas formed in Egypt. As the years went on, skirmishes between the British military force and the nationalists became more frequent, reaching its climax in January of 1952 when British forces attacked a police station rendering over fifty dead. This only furthered the British’s adherence to the Atlantic Charter.
A prime example of Britain’s neglect of the Atlantic Charter is their continued imperialistic rule over India. In August of 1942, a year after the Atlantic Charter was originally drafted, the Congress party of India passed a “quit India resolution” which claimed India’s “inalienable right to freedom and resolution” and offering to support the Allies in the war on the condition that they were granted their independence. The party claimed that they Britain was subjecting them to “an imperialist and authoritarian” rule which thwarted India’s national development. Despite being given a chance to abide by the principles they agreed upon in the Atlantic Charter and simultaneously benefit by receiving much needed assistance to the Allies in World War II, British authorities resist deny India independence.
It may be argued that the introduction of Indians into the administration of India and the granting of more economic and political power at the local and provincial level to these new administration members indicate a newfound adherence by the British to the principles of the Atlantic Charter. However, this loosening of Britain’s control of India was to do the fact that “World War II fatally weakened an already infirm British grip on the subcontinent.”
Similarly, it may be argued that the eventual granting of India its independence by Britain in August of 1947 was indicative of a benevolence realized only after 1945 due to Britain’s preoccupation with World War II. This is certainly not the case as it can be clearly seen that the granting of independence was primarily motivated by economics, military limitations, and outside pressures by the United States (this seems to be a rare instance when America’s hyper-phobia of communism actually supported the eradication of extra-continental control): “The British Labour Party was already on record favoring independence” and “the Americans...worried that a prolonged, violent independence struggle would radicalize the colony to the embarrassment of the free world and to the benefit of international communism”. Additionally, Britain lacked the troops to maintain abroad in defense of what remained of its empire. Thus it can be seen that it was American pressures and “economic stagnation” that were “undercutting [Britain’s] dreams of international influence”, not a desire to adhere to the Atlantic Charter. An identical counter argument and counter-counter argument can be made regarding Britain’s ability to continue to control (through setting limitation on Jewish immigration and enforcing strict control of land sales to Jews) the situation in Palestine as it was exclusively “the accumulated costs of war” that reduced British influence.
Following the close of World War II, the United States “betrayed its much-touted commitment to freedom” covert operations in places such as Iran, Guatemala, and Cuba, or open conflict such as in Lebanon, The Dominican Republic, and Vietnam. The British behaved similarly in India, Palestine, and Egypt. Consequently, both the British and the United States continued substantial military spending. It’s for these countless instances of disregard for proclaimed foreign policy that the United States and Britain’s actions did not reinforce at all reinforce their promises in the Atlantic Charter.
TODO: add all the footnotes/sources