Volume #16 - 224.|
Ambassador in United States|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
February 23rd, 1950|
Dear Mr. Pearson:
We discussed in Ottawa last week the question of what, if anything, might be done to lessen the international deadlock with the Soviet Union. I have been thinking a good deal about this and have had talks about it with, among others, Messrs. Rusk and Hickerson since I returned to Washington. It is also the subject of very active discussion in the press.
The public debate on the question was stimulated particularly by the President's announcement in January of the decision to seek actively to develop the hydrogen bomb. The appalling possibilities of such a weapon led to a good deal of soul searching and a number of suggestions advanced by public men. The more notable of these include Senator McMahon's proposal for a peace settlement with Russia baited with a worldwide economic recovery scheme to cost the taxpayers of this country $50 billions which would be found by reducing defence appropriations by two-thirds. Senator Tydings followed by repeating the old suggestion for a general disarmament conference. Mr. Stassen has now produced the idea of a bipartisan and apparently bilateral general conference with the Russians, and Mr. Churchill has suggested that the wartime practice of meetings between the Heads of the Soviet, British and American Governments should be revived.
The Administration through Mr. Acheson and the President himself has pointed out the difficulties and deficiencies of all these schemes although they have not closed the door completely for a meeting of Heads of Governments. The chief statements of the Administration's attitude were made by Mr. Acheson in his press conference of February 8th, a transcript of which appeared in the New York Times of February 9th, by the President in an exclusive interview with Mr. Arthur Krock which was reported in the same paper on February 15th, and by the President once more in a speech in Alexandria yesterday, of which the text appears in today's papers. The general line is that they are prepared to consider any methods which are likely to produce good results but that certain conditions must be met. They will not negotiate with the Russians alone on matters of deep concern to other countries. They do not believe that any sweeping proposals, like those of Senator McMahon and Senator Tydings could of themselves produce results. Success can only come from strength because, as Mr. Acheson put it, "Agreements with the Soviet Union are useful when those agreements register or record an existing situation of fact." To talk of a general settlement is futile because of the total absence of common aims and common moral standards between the Soviet Government and the democracies.
It is becoming clear to me that something fairly dramatic will have to be done before long if only to satisfy public opinion. I think that the methods which might be adopted fall into three main classes: (I) negotiations might be started outside the United Nations either directly between the United States and the Soviet Union or including one or two other countries as Mr. Churchill desires; (2) an effort might be made to abate tension and reach some sort of working agreement through United Nations machinery after careful preliminary negotiation; (3) plans might be concerted for a bold approach by the Western powers at the next Assembly in the virtual certainty that the Soviet Delegation would be in a small minority.
I have not much to say about the first possibility as yet. It could include a lot of different tactics from the convening of a Big Three conference to the undertaking of private talks with Soviet representatives, such as the Jessup-Malik talks which led to the lifting of the Berlin blockade. The Jessup-Malik precedent, it seems to me, can be applied most effectively only in relation to a particular situation in which the Russians desire an agreement because they are not strong enough to maintain their attitude. A high-level meeting of Heads of Governments or of Foreign Ministers does not appear to me to hold much prospect of success in present conditions, and the wider its agenda the more resentment would it cause among countries not represented.
The second and third approaches could not be made so long as the conflict over the recognition of the Communist Government in China persists. The present state of affairs in United Nations bodies is not so much like "Hamlet" without the Prince of Denmark as like "Faust" without the Prince of Darkness. We must therefore assume that that situation will be resolved by the next Assembly in any planning for action at that time.
Mr. Rusk is deliberating on a plan which falls into the second category. It would require careful preparatory discussion with a group of the democratic countries and also with the Russians. It is as yet vague in outline. It is based on the fact that both sides are bound by Articles 1 and 2 of the Charter and that all members of the United Nations ostensibly accept these articles as the basis of their foreign policy. He thinks that these articles might provide the occasion, possibly at a special conference, for reviewing the existing international situation in the light of the purposes and principles of the United Nations and attempting to arrive at some sort of a general agreement with the Russians on their application to particular situations. He remarked to me that the person who could best take an initiative to bring about a realistic discussion of this sort was the Secretary General of the United Nations, but he seems to have little hope that Mr. Lie could act effectively. He added that if you held that office something promising might be started.
Some thought is also being given in the State Department to action in the Assembly falling into the third category - that is, designed to win another propaganda battle with the Russians. I cannot say that I regard tactics of this sort as particularly profitable, but we may hear more of them. A current idea is that a group of the Western powers might propose a very generous disarmament scheme covering both atomic weapons and conventional armaments, which the Russians would be certain to refuse because it must involve effective inspection but which would nevertheless commend itself to public opinion of most of the rest of the world. I am not myself much attracted by any plan for the acceptance of which there is no hope.
There are a few oddments which it may be useful to add. Mr. Kennan's ideas for atomic disarmament through agreement to give up all but experimental installations has little, if any, support inside the State Department and none, I think, in the Department of Defense. Even if it were possible to reach agreement on renouncing the use of atomic energy as a source of power (which is almost certainly not the case), a scheme on Kennan's lines could not be accepted without effective inspection inside the Soviet Union.
Mr. Lippmann has been putting forward another proposal which is equally unlikely to be supported. This is the idea of creating a neutral bloc between the Soviet sphere and the West, running in a great arc from Sweden and Finland through Greece, the Middle East, the Indian Peninsula, perhaps to the Philippines. The trouble with this, of course, is that neutrality has become an empty term which is no shield from attack whenever it is in the interests of a great power to make use of neutral territory. Neutrality of this sort might conceivably be maintained for some time in certain areas, particularly in southeast Asia, but this would be because of geographical situation and not because of any international agreement.
I am sending a copy of this letter to the Acting Under-Secretary for his information.