Volume #21 - 51.|
UNITED NATIONS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
ISSUES BEFORE THE TENTH SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
SUB-COMMITTEE OF THE UNITED NATIONS DISARMAMENT COMMISSION
Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs67
February 21st, 1955|
You will see from telegram No. 209 of February 16? from London (copy attached) that Mr. Nutting has asked for our views on the United Kingdom suggestions concerning tactics during the Disarmament Sub-Committee talks which will begin in London on Friday of this week. The United Kingdom suggestions are in line with our views as embodied in a memorandum for the guidance of the Canadian Delegation (copy attached).
The memorandum suggests that the main purpose of the London meetings should be to ascertain the exact significance of the Soviet proposals submitted by Mr. Vyshinsky at the last session of the Assembly which contain a number of apparent concessions.68 The memorandum then reviews the main points of disagreement between the Western powers and the Soviet Union, namely, the veto problem (page 1), atomic energy control (page 2), the problem of stages (page 3) and inspection (page 5). The main conclusion reached is that Western Delegations should make a special effort to lay bare the position of the Soviet Government on the problem of inspection which is at the root of the disarmament problem. This, as you know, is precisely the field where the Soviet Union is most vulnerable.
The memorandum conveys our views on the Indian proposals. After consultation with the military and scientific authorities, we have come to the conclusion that a freeze on present military levels, pending agreement on an international convention, is unacceptable since we have no way of verifying whether the USSR would implement this suggestion (page 6). Mr. Nehru's suggestion for a ban on test explosions of nuclear weapons is equally unacceptable for the reasons indicated on pages 7 and 8 of the memorandum. There is no objection to Mr. Nehru's suggestion for more publicity (page 8).
The Delegation is told that while we agree with the generally accepted view that disarmament can hardly take place before some, at least, of the major issues between the East and the West are resolved, we consider that the present armaments race is in itself a source of tension and, consequently, that the West should explore every possibility of reaching agreement (page 9). Finally, it is important that the efforts of Western Delegations to clarify the Soviet position should not lead to a purely negative attitude on their part. The Anglo-French proposals might be supplemented, if need be, in order to keep the initiative which the West gained last spring.69 The United Kingdom already suggested a revision of the French-United Kingdom-United States paper on the question of ceilings for armed forces which was tabled in the Disarmament Commission (Annex A and B of London telegram).70 The new proposals have been approved by our Armed Services.
I should appreciate knowing whether you agree with the line taken in the attached memorandum which has been approved by the Interdepartmental Working Party on Disarmament consisting, as you know, of representatives from the three Services, the Atomic Energy Control Board, the Defence Research Board, and the Department. Should you express your concurrence, it is our intention to send the memorandum immediately to the Canadian Delegation, subject to the approval of the Chiefs of Staff, as agreed with the Service members of the Working Party. We shall indicate to London by telegram our agreement with the suggestion made by Mr. Nutting and at the same time outline our own position.
We doubt whether the attached memorandum requires Cabinet approval. In view of the general interest in the problem of disarmament, however, you may wish to inform Cabinet of the action taken in this matter after we have received the comments of the Chiefs of Staff. These should be forthcoming within the next day or two.71
MEETINGS OF THE SUB-COMMITTEE OF THE DISARMAMENT COMMISSION
LONDON, FEBRUARY 1955
The main purpose of the London meetings from the Western point of view should be to ascertain the significance of the Soviet proposals submitted during the 9th session of the General Assembly. The Western Delegations should seek clarification of the exact meaning of these proposals. Western questioning should be such as to enable, if possible, a proper interpretation to be placed on present Soviet Disarmament policy. In this connection the Canadian Delegation should note the views expressed in the JIC paper (Annex 1, Appendix E).72
In the past the main points of disagreement between the Western powers and the Communist bloc on the problem of disarmament, including the control of atomic energy, were as follows:
The Veto Problem
(1) The West has considered that in order to achieve a truly effective disarmament programme the permanent members of the Security Council should abandon their right of veto in decisions relating to this programme. This requirement is spelled out in the United Nations Plan for the International Control of Atomic Energy which,73 under the terms of reference of the Disarmament Commission, should serve as a basis for international control "unless a better or no less effective system is devised". Although the Soviet Union has recognized that the operation of the International Control Authority itself should not be subject to the veto, there has been no indication as yet that the Soviet Government is ready to relinquish its veto in connection with the Security Council decisions on recommendations of the Control Authority. The fact that the Soviet proposals inevitably called in the past for the establishments of the control organ "under the Security Council" has been interpreted by the West as meaning that the Soviet Union wanted to retain its right of veto. The Soviet proposals submitted at the 9th session provide for the establishment, in the first phase, of a temporary International Control Commission under the Security Council. There is no mention of the Security Council, however, in connection with the standing International Control Organ to be established in the second phase. In recent years it has been recognized in many quarters that insistence on the relinquishment of the right of veto by the permanent members of the Security Council would not have any real significance in practice from the Western point of view since a serious violation of the Disarmament convention by a major power and the subsequent exercise of the veto would bring about the breakdown of the disarmament programme, or alternatively, an attempt at enforcement action would lead to war. There is no doubt, however, that the West can derive a propaganda advantage from its position in this matter and the background paper prepared by the Western powers at the end of the London talks last spring duly made this point. It would, therefore, be useful to ascertain what the present position of the Soviet Union is on this question.
Ownership vs Managerial Supervision
(2) Under the United Nations Plan for the International Control of Atomic Energy, the Control Organ should own all atomic raw materials from the moment they are removed from the ground and at the same time own, operate and manage basic atomic energy installations. The Soviet Union has consistently refused to accept this feature of the United Nations plan and argued that inspection alone would suffice to achieve effective international control. For some time now the French have held the view that ownership was not essential for effective control and the Western powers suggested in the Sub-Committee last spring, either explicitly or implicitly, that one way out of the impasse would be something akin to managerial supervision. This suggestion could usefully be made again in order to underline the co-operative attitude of the West. The new Soviet proposals are silent on this point. Unless there are indications that the Soviet Government is now ready to consider some measure of management of its atomic installations in addition to straight inspection, which is inadequate, the unco-operative Soviet attitude should be contrasted with the positive stand taken by the Western powers, provided, of course, they are explicitly unanimous on this point. It would appear, however, that a firm position on this particular aspect by the Western powers should await detailed consideration of supervision and management as a method of control with a view to ascertaining its effectiveness. A technical appreciation of the problem of nuclear weapon control as it now stands is contained in Annex 2.? This paper confirms what is now openly admitted, namely, that even if an effective international control system including adequate inspection were established in 1955, this system could only be effective insofar as future activities are concerned. There is at present no adequate means of preventing nations from concealing an appreciable number of nuclear weapons from existing stockpiles. The existence of these stockpiles fundamentally affects the prospect for atomic energy control to ensure its use for peaceful purposes only and suggests that attention should now be paid to problems raised by past as well as future production in the nuclear field.
The Problem of Phasing
(3) The West has always insisted that the prohibition of nuclear weapons and the reduction of armed forces and conventional armaments should only begin after the establishment and positioning of the control organ. The Soviet Union has held the view that total prohibition and control should take place "simultaneously". Repeated questioning has revealed that the Soviet position is that the organ should be established on paper and that from that very moment complete and unconditional prohibition of nuclear weapons, including the elimination of stockpiles, would become effective. The best interpretation placed by the Soviet representatives on their position was that prohibition would be immediately proclaimed in principle but that it would become effective only when international control came into effect. There would thus be an indeterminate period during which nuclear weapons would be prohibited without any international control to ensure the implementation of the disarmament programme. The Soviet representatives have up to now failed to furnish a satisfactory explanation of their position on this point and Mr. Vyshinsky failed once again to answer the question raised by the Canadian representative in this connection at the 9th session.
The Soviet Union, however, can claim to have made a substantial concession to the West in their new proposals by accepting the concept of stages. They can also claim that their proposals are more favourable to the West than the Anglo-French proposals, since under the former the first half agreed reductions in armed forces and armaments does not call automatically for the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Most of all they can argue that signatories to the Disarmament Convention should be placed on an equal level and that there is no good reason why countries having a preponderance in the field of nuclear weapons should execute their obligations after countries with larger armed forces and conventional armaments have executed theirs. During the 9th session Mr. Vyshinsky enquired from the United Kingdom representative whether the Western powers would "agree that the commencement of measures for the reduction of conventional armaments and the prohibition of atomic weapons should coincide in time with the entry into operation of the permanent control body?" The Western powers might find themselves in a somewhat vulnerable position if the USSR succeeded in convincing the man in the street that the expression "entry into operation" should be regarded as having the same meaning as the word "positioning" used in the Anglo-French proposals. This underlines the importance for the West to lay bare the position of the Soviet Union on the problem of inspection.
(4) The most important point of disarmament between the East and the West relates to the powers of inspection of the international control organ. The Western powers hold the view that the international organ should have unlimited powers of inspection "at any place, at any time" including the right to conduct aerial surveys. After having advocated "periodic" rights of inspection for the international organ, the Soviet Union came round to the view that the organ should be authorized to carry out inspection on a continuing basis without interfering however, in the "domestic affairs" of states. The Soviet representatives also indicated on various occasions that inspection could only be carried out at places which the Soviet Government regards as being covered by the Disarmament Convention. Inspection in other places could only take place in cases where there were suspicions that the convention was being violated.
The problem of inspection is at the root of the disarmament question and one in which the free world cannot afford to make substantial concessions. It so happens that this is the field where the Soviet Union is most vulnerable. The attention of the Canadian Delegation is drawn to the opinion expressed in paragraph 6 in Annex 1, Appendix E (Part I)? that effective international inspection is inherently repugnant to the Soviet system and that this assumption is underlying the thinking of present Soviet leaders. The latest Soviet proposals did not repeat the reservation of non-interference in domestic affairs and merely mentioned inspection on a continuing basis "to the extent necessary to ensure implementation of the convention by all states". It is hardly likely that the Soviet position on this vital problem has undergone any fundamental change. The West should make a special effort with a view to underlining to the world at large the basic defect of the Soviet position on this score and by the same token placing the latest Soviet proposals in their proper light. In particular, Western delegations should endeavour to bring into the open Soviet intentions on the powers of the temporary control commission envisaged in the first phase of the Soviet proposals.
At the 9th session the General Assembly referred to the Disarmament Commission the Indian draft resolution (Annex 3, Appendix F)?74 which suggests that progress towards a Disarmament Convention would be materially advanced by a freezing of the level of armed forces and armaments, pending agreement on a convention. The draft resolution specifically recommends "the study of ways and means of establishing `an armament truce' pending such an agreement". The Indian Government should be commended for endeavouring to end the present armaments race and all that it entails. However, it is difficult to see how the West could withdraw from that race until it is reasonably certain that Soviet participants have also abandoned the race. The only means of securing satisfactory evidence in this connection is the establishment of an effective system of control and inspection. In the last analysis, the question of an armament truce forms an integral part of the disarmament problem. In the present context of international relations the Indian proposal cannot be regarded as practicable. An armament truce would, moreover, make it more difficult for Western governments to insist on the rearmament of Western Germany to which they are politically committed (see Annex 3, paragraph 12).?
In a statement in the Indian parliament on April 2, 1954, Mr. Nehru made the following suggestions:
"(1) Some sort of, what may be called, "Standstill Agreement" in respect, at least, of these actual explosions, even if arrangements about the discontinuance of production and stockpiling, must await more substantial agreements amongst those principally concerned.
"(2) Full publicity by those principally concerned in the production of these weapons and by the United Nations, of the extent of the destructive power and the known effects of these weapons and also adequate indication of the extent of the unknown but probable effects. Informed world public opinion is in our view the most effective factor in bringing about the results we desire.
"(3) Immediate (and continuing) private meetings of the sub-committees of the Disarmament Commission to consider the "Standstill" proposal, which I have just mentioned, pending decisions on prohibitions and controls etc., to which the Disarmament Commission is asked by the General Assembly to address itself.
"(4) Active steps by States and peoples of the world, who though not directly concerned with the production of these weapons, are very much concerned by the possible use of them, also at present, by these experiments and their effects. They would, I venture to hope, express their concern and add their voices and influences, in as effective a manner as possible to arrest the progress of this destructive potential which menaces all alike."
A few days later the Government of India requested that these suggestions be placed before the Disarmament Commission and its Sub-Committee. The Nehru proposals, however, have not yet been considered in the Sub-Committee or the Disarmament Commission nor was there any discussion of these proposals in the General Assembly at the 9th Session. On November 19, 1954, the Indian Government again asked that these proposals be taken into consideration by the Disarmament Commission.
With regard to the proposal of a ban on nuclear test explosions, the Delegation will note the views expressed in Annexes 4 and 5 (JIC papers 129 and 130 (55)).? It would appear that the immediate danger to human life resulting from test explosions is limited to the area surrounding the testing grounds, although in the case of larger weapons these areas are admittedly relatively large. Moreover, the significance of test explosions in relation to the maximum number of nuclear explosions permissible is negligible. From a military point of view continuance of tests would provide the best means of following the Soviet development of nuclear weapons. Canada's close association with the United States and the United Kingdom in the basic Western defence programme, which relies on the use of nuclear weapons, makes it difficult for us to support the suggestion of a ban on test explosions if it is considered that these tests are essential to the proper development of the defence programme. The United States recently confirmed its opposition to the proposed ban on tests. At the recent Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, Mr. Nehru repeated his suggestion for a ban on tests which he said lent itself to "scientific" as opposed to "conventional" methods of control since it was possible for scientists to detect thermo-nuclear tests. In his reply, Sir Anthony Eden remarked that scientific checks were not wholly reliable and that the best course seemed to support what he called the French disarmament proposals.75 The United States Atomic Energy Commission Report of February 15, 1955, implicitly rejects the suggestion of a ban on nuclear test explosions.
There seems to be no objection to the Indian suggestion that there should be more publicity about the effects of nuclear weapons and a good deal of information on this subject has been released in the United States and the USSR since Mr. Nehru made his original suggestion (see in particular United States Atomic Energy Commission Report). It should be noted, however, that last September the United States expressed its firm opposition to the Nehru proposal as such which calls for "full publicity". At the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference Sir Winston Churchill expressed the opinion that the essential facts about the destructive force of thermo-nuclear weapons should certainly be made known to the world. The report of the United States Atomic Energy Commission should be regarded as a noteworthy contribution to the task of educating public opinion.
At a recent Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference Lord Salisbury repeated the generally accepted thesis that the armaments race is the effect rather than the original cause of international tension and that nations can hardly be expected to disarm until some, at least, of the major issues remaining between the East and the West are resolved. This view was held by the United Kingdom and the United States during the abortive talks at the Palais Rose in 1951. General Eisenhower's speech of April 16, 1953,76 also proceeded on the same assumption and the United Kingdom proposals on levels of armed forces pre-suppose not only agreement of the Austrian and German questions, but also the settlement of the Korean and Formosa issues and China's admission to the United Nations. There is no doubt, however, that once it has set in, an armaments race is itself a source of international tension. Any progress, therefore, towards the limitation of armaments would contribute to a lessening of this tension, and the Western Delegations should explore every possibility of reaching agreement with the Soviet Union. This is not to say that the Western powers should cater to a false sense of security. There is no doubt that the next logical step for the West is to ascertain in an unmistakable manner the true significance of the Soviet proposals submitted at the 9th session and the present intentions of the Soviet Government, bearing in mind the developments in Moscow of February 8 and their aftermath.77 In this exercise the Western Delegations should avoid giving the appearance of adopting a purely negative attitude and thereby losing the initiative which they gained last spring.
The Anglo-French proposals might usefully be supplemented by addenda concerning the reduction and composition of armed forces and the type and volume of armaments for these forces which were the subject of a tri-partite working paper in 1952. Other fields in which further action might conveniently be taken are (1) the disclosure of information which is touched upon in the Soviet proposals and on which the Anglo-French plan is silent and (2) the International Control Organ. Both fields were the subject of somewhat detailed papers submitted by the United States in the Disarmament Commission and the Sub-Committee.
Whatever decisions are reached on the Indian proposals, the action taken by the Sub-Committee in this connection should be such as to satisfy the Indian Government that its proposals were given careful consideration.
The existence of stockpiles of nuclear weapons, over which scientific control is impossible, adds further importance to international inspection as the only means of controlling armaments, e.g., carriers and guided missiles, without which nuclear warfare cannot be effectively carried out. Attention is drawn to the conclusions outlined in Annex I, Appendix D,? and in particular to the view that an alert inspection team would probably prevent the production of major naval units, aircraft and heavy items of land armaments in secret.