Volume #17 - 206.|
SIXTH SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN PARIS, FIRST PART, NOVEMBER 6-DECEMBER 21, 1951
Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
October 27th, 1951|
THE NEW U.S. PROPOSALS ON REDUCTION OF ARMAMENTS|
The two attached telegrams from Wrong (WA-3825 and WA-3827)? ,relate to the new U.S. position on the regulation and reduction of all armed forces and armaments including atomic weapons. This new position is set out in a paper which has been approved by Mr. Truman, Mr. Acheson and Mr. Lovett; the text appears in WA-3825.8 The paper is regarded as so secret that it has not yet been given to the U.S. Permanent Delegation to the U.N., and among foreign governments has so far been shown only to the U.K. and ourselves. It is expected, however, that the U.S. Ambassador in Paris will very shortly discuss it with Mr. Schuman in an effort to obtain French support for joint action by the Big Three at the opening of the Assembly.
We have not yet had time to prepare a well-rounded and detailed commentary on the new U.S. proposals, and these notes are made up of preliminary remarks on particular aspects of the subject. The attached telegram to Wrong, for your signature if you approve, prescribes a course of action which appears tolmeet the immediate circumstances.
A. New Features
There appear to be two really new features incorporated in the U.S. paper; outside of these and some propaganda material, it does not differ notably from the terms of the General Assembly resolution of 1946 on disarmament.9
The first new point is the express willingness of the U.S. Government to accept as a first step "a progressive system for international disclosure and verification of all armed forces and armaments on a continuing basis. This means revealing in appropriate stages all armed forces - including para-military, security, and police forces - and all armaments, including atomic, and providing for proper and progressive international inspection to verify the adequacy and accuracy of this information." Hitherto the U.S. has not been prepared to disclose atomic weapons.
The second new point is the list of criteria, termed "examples which could be suggested for consideration in the course of detailed negotiations on the programme" for the regulation, limitation and balanced reduction of all armed forces and armaments. This schedule of criteria is something which has not been attempted since the debates on disarmament in the League of Nations; it appears to lead to proposals of the same general type of those put forward in the League, although we have not yet had time to work out in detail the implications of the criteria listed. This point is discussed in the attached telegram to Wrong.
B. A Genuine Offer?
We now know that the U.S. refusal in 1946 to disclose the number of atomic weapons which it held arose from the fact that the number was very small. This is no longer the case, and perhaps the U.S. would rather like to make public the figures, on the respective atomic capabilities of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. now, when the disparity is greater proportionally as it is ever likely to be again. If so, the U.S. may in this proposal be making a genuine offer to the U.S.S.R. in the hope that the latter will accept, and not be putting forward a proposal they do not themselves believe in, in the expectation that the Russians will reject it. At any rate, considered as a genuine offer, the paper appears to us to be a good proposal; it is the first U.S. overture which gives any appearance of being a real effort at horsetrading, and in this light it appears both realistic and enlightened.
C. Propaganda Aspects
It may be that there is no expectation in the U.S. that the U.S.S.R. will nibble. In this case, presumably the proposal is being put forward as a propaganda exercise. As such, it is from the U.S. point of view a good manoeuvre, for it will help to reduce the doubts of the countries of Western Europe that the U.S. is honestly willing to seek for a real accommodation with the Russians and is not hell-bent for a show-down. Unless the Russians come out with something even better at the Assembly, this proposal should also capture the propaganda initiative for the West for the sweeping references to reduction of international tensions, easing of the burden of armaments, cessation of fighting in Korea and reduction of the danger of war are supported by at least one concrete and significant concession on atomic energy.
The U.S. hopes that the U.K. and France will support it in sponsoring this proposal in the Assembly, but is likely to go ahead on its own if necessary. We are told that these new proposals, having been approved at the very top level, are not subject to modification for bargaining purposes but represent a firm position. On most of the points covered, this is probably justifiable, but there is one item which we think might be of value as a bargaining counter should the U.S.S.R. show any interest. This point is the reference to the Majority Plan for atomic energy which in the context appears to us superfluous; it is not a necessary safeguard, and it is possible that a skilful approach on our part might persuade the U.S. that this reference could be deleted if genuine negotiations should develop.
It is intended that Mr. Acheson shall put forward the new proposals in his opening speech, but it is unlikely that any real answer can be given by the U.S.S.R. until a good deal of time is spent in examining the terms. The Americans wish to have their proposal considered as a separate new item on the agenda instead of being considered in the debates on the report of the Committee of Twelve.10
8 Voir/See United States, Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1951, Volume 2, Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1979, pp. 559-562.
9 Voir/See Volume 12, pp. 801-21.
10 Au sujet des origines du Comité des 12, voir le volume 16, pp. 514-538; pour un bref résumé de ses travaux, voir Canada, ministère des Affaires extérieures, Le Canada et les Nations Unies, 1951-52, Ottawa, Imprimeur de la reine, 1952, p. 11.