“About Time, Mr President.” The Atlantic Charter Then and Now

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From Julian Lindley-French, the New Atlanticist:  Seventy years ago . . . President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill met for the first time off the Canadian coast. “About time, Mr President”, said as the two men met. What emerged from that fateful meeting was the “Joint Declaration by the President and the Prime Minister”, which was soon to be termed “The Atlantic Charter”

The Charter was agreed at one of the darkest moments of a dark world in a dark and dangerous war. This single document not only created the transatlantic relationship but it quite simply galvanised the democratic saved. It words might sound quaint to a modern audience but its spirit should not. If today’s transatlantic leaders can share even a part of grand vision the two statesmen laid out then the transatlantic relationship has every chance of being as influential in our world as theirs. . . .

If Churchill were with us today he would doubtless be urging both American and European leaders to re-visit the grand vision of 1941. He would be impatient with the small-mindedness of today’s small leaders and would have chastised the doom-mongers and nay-sayers who say it is too late to save the world the West built.

It is not too late for America and Europe to lead this world to a safer place. It is not too late for America to regain the self-belief that made the American century possible. It is not too late for Europeans to regain the spirit that created a free and just Europe our grandfathers would scarcely have believed.

Seventy years on from the Atlantic Charter it is, as Churchill would have put it, about time!

Professor Julian Lindley-French, a member of the Atlantic Council Strategic Advisor’s Group, is Special Professor of Strategic Studies, University of Leiden, Netherlands and Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London.  (photo: History.Navy.Mil)

The Historical Context of the Atlantic Charter

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