Denis Allen, Permanent Under Secretary, FCO, to all heads of post, 16 August 1968

Encloses a paper which “attempts to expand the Secretary of State’s thoughts on the sources and means of influence in the modern world”, whose contents “have been generally approved”.

Paper: “Sources and means of influence in the modern world”, July 1968

“It is this distribution of our economic interests, deriving in many cases from our Commonwealth connexions [sic], which differentiates us from say Germany or Italy. Our ability to affect general political developments outside the Atlantic area will diminish. But for the foreseeable future our direct economic worldwide interests will require us to do what we can to maintain and increase our existing influence outside Europe. Indeed, in terms of stark economic interest, we cannot afford to lose such influence especially since it is unlikely that we shall be fully inside the EEC within, say, the next five years… The success of our European policies depends on our economic strength. Our efforts will count for nothing if we lose the strength we derive from our economic assets throughout the Commonwealth and the rest of the world”.

“The single most important source of political influence is military power” but in the modern world economic strength is almost as important as military power. “Our influence abroad in almost every sphere is affected by the image projected by our society and by the sense we give or do not give of having a clear national purpose”. Then lists the following nine as “the principal elements at our disposal” as means of influence: Capital aid: “The aim of British aid is to help the development of those countries which need it and can use it effectively, and indirectly to secure influence for the United Kingdom, through participation in the overseas countries’ development plans, the stability to which the aid contributes and the goodwill towards the United Kingdom created by giving it. Capital aid can also be of commercial benefit to us… Our support for regional and multinational aid organisations and for the international aid effort in general also contributes to our influence”.

Technical assistance, including military and police: “Non-military technical assistance is one of the most effective ways – and a relatively cheap one – of promoting a country’s stability and development and of securing influence… Technical assistance and training in the military and security field is increasingly important because of its impact on sales of British military equipment (eg Libya)… Such technical assistance and training enhances our political influence, especially in view of the increasing number of military regimes, both inside and outside the Commonwealth…Technical assistance and training in the police field is another important means of promoting our direct influence and maintaining stability, especially as countries in most of the developing world are concerned with internal security and subversion as much as external threats”.

Trade promotion: “Our need for a high level of foreign exchange and for confidence in sterling prompts (a) a non-competitive concern in fostering stable conditions in sensitive areas such as the Gulf and South East Asia where we would wish to safeguard our assets and to stimulate prosperous demand, and (b) a competitive interest in holding on to and increasing our share of particular overseas markets”.

“Information work. Public relations are no substitute for power but… it is important both for our general influence and for the promotion of our exports to counter any misrepresentations by our competitors, and to put across a positive picture of British policies and achievements. Our main instruments for doing this are our Official Information Services, comprising government information departments and the COI at home, the British Information Services overseas, and the work of [sic] Information Research Department. They work through all the information media both at home and overseas and also through sponsored visits to the UK and sending lecturers abroad. They are supplemented by the BBC’s External Services, financed by a Government grant-in-aid, and Reuters news agency, assisted by Government payments for their news services”.

National Archives: FCO49/168