Volume #12 - 450.|
FIRST SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
(OCTOBER 23 — DECEMBER 15)
Deputy High Commissioner of Great Britain|
to Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
October 26th, 1946|
Dear Mr. Pearson,
The United Kingdom authorities do not feel able to accept the proposal in the Soviet Government motion, and I enclose for your secret information the text of a telegram which has been sent by Mr. Bevin to the United Kingdom Ambassador at Washington.
The United Kingdom Government hope that the Canadian authorities may see their way to instruct the Canadian Delegation at New York to keep in touch with the United Kingdom Delegation there and to act with them when the matter comes before the General Assembly.
Le secrétaire d'État aux Affaires étrangères de Grande-Bretagne
à l'ambassadeur de Grande-Bretagne aux États-Unis
SECRET. I have been considering the line to be taken in the General Assembly in answering the Soviet item on Allied troops abroad. To my mind the overriding consideration is that in no circumstances can we admit the obligation to disclose all our troops strengths and dispositions abroad. It would be disastrous to reveal at the present time the exact strength and composition of our forces abroad for the reasons I explained to Mr. Byrnes in Paris. Furthermore, to agree under any circumstances that the General Assembly has a right to this information would establish a precedent whose consequences require to be carefully thought out. Once the figures of service strengths overseas are given to the United Nations there is nothing to stop a recurring request by the General Assembly or Security Council for the figures to be brought up to date. In other words, every replacement or re- equipment of land and air units in the Middle East (or Philippines) and every movement of naval units outside home waters might have to be notified. Powers with a high proportion of air and naval forces and scattered bases would have far more to lose by publicity of this sort than a land power depending mainly on an army inside its own frontiers, a fact which has evidently not escaped the Soviet Government.
2. Similar objections apply to Mr. Byrnes's original proposal to which he has now reverted, to extend the proposal to cover ex-enemy territories. It is quite possible that M. Molotov would jump at this offer and provide figures whose accuracy, although it might well be highly dubious, we should have no means of checking. In exchange the whole world would know the precise strength of British and United States forces in Germany and Austria as well as elsewhere, which it is certainly not in our common interest to divulge at the present time.
3. For these reasons I cannot take any line in the Assembly which, even if the Russians turned the item down when extended to cover ex-enemy territories, would admit the obligation to disclose our troop dispositions abroad. Even the Military Staff Committee if it were a united and effective body would still not be entitled to have this information beyond what is required for Article 43, and it seems to me out of the question to concede the point at the present time.
4. I quite agree that the difference in procedure between the Security Council and the General Assembly makes it impossible to keep the Soviet item off the Assembly agenda, as was done in the Security Council. Apart from this, however, I would propose to take much the same line as was taken then, namely, that this is a Soviet propaganda move, that British troops abroad are not a menace to peace and security and that nobody seriously believes they are. I am of course assuming, as I think is bound to be the case, that the Soviet spokesman in the Assembly will take essentially the same line as M. Gromyko took in the Security Council. I understand that Article 11 will be invoked in the Assembly and this Article, though more widely drawn, seems to give as much scope for such a Soviet line as Article 34 did in the Security Council. I should then meet Mr. Byrnes's point by observing that the Soviet item specifically excludes those countries who cannot speak for themselves, and yet have to bear the burden of a quite excessive number of Soviet troops. I should also point out that if any Governments feel aggrieved it is up to them to raise the question for them-selves. The Soviet motion is either an insult to the Governments concerned or an interference in their internal affairs.
5. I cannot be certain that a motion exonerating British and United States troops would get a clear two-thirds majority as there might be a number of abstentions. On the other hand, it is most unlikely that a Soviet motion on the lines of their Security Council argument would get a two-thirds majority. Our tactics should therefore be to get them to propose a motion which, provided the United States and United Kingdom delegates take similar line, we should have no difficulty in defeating.
6. Please convey a message from me to Mr. Byrnes in the sense of the foregoing, explaining the grave risks I foresee for both our countries if we give way to the Russians in this matter which I regard as a vital point of principle. You should emphasize that the Russians are attacking us both equally in this matter and that we must co-ordinate the defence of our common interests. I very much hope that Mr. Byrnes will agree to the considerations I have put forward. If not, please urge him to make no move until I have had an opportunity of discussing it with him further on my arrival in New York.
1Voir Nations Unies, Documents officiels de la seconde partie de la première session de l'Assemblée générale, premiere commission, annexe 8a, p. 333.