The Secretary of State to the British Chargé (Lindsay)

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Lord Grey’s notes of November 13, December 16 and December 23, 1919, regarding the Arms Traffic Convention, and particularly the sale of arms to non-signatory states. It is stated in those notes that in many cases there can be no objection to the transactions save the difficulty arising from the delay in the ratification of the Convention which makes it impracticable to invite such non-signatory states to adhere, and that His Majesty’s Government is of opinion that this difficulty might properly be surmounted by the signatory power obtaining from the non-signatory purchasing government an undertaking to sign the Convention when an opportunity is offered. You add that your Government purposes to be guided by these principles in any future negotiations for the sale of arms under the conditions indicated, and you inquire whether this Government concurs in this interpretation of the obligations of the signatory powers.

[Page 202]

In reply I have the honor to inform you that this Government perceives no objection to the adoption of the course outlined by your Government subject in so far as this Government is concerned to the qualifications hereinafter indicated. I may state that this Government cannot regard itself as legally bound by the terms of the Arms Traffic Convention prior to its approval and ratification. However, as regards the sale of Government owned arms and munitions, it will, as a matter of policy and in keeping with the spirit of the Convention, decline to sell arms to non-signatory states except under a guarantee that the non-signatory power in question will adhere to the Arms Traffic Convention when an opportunity is offered. I may add, however, that it may be found necessary in certain cases to make exceptions to this course of action. In this connection I beg to refer to the promise made by the Allied and associated powers in May and June last to assist Admiral Kolchak and his associates with munitions and other supplies and to inquire whether it is the intention of the British Government to permit the exportation of arms to the so-called Kolchak Government.

With specific reference to Lord Grey’s note of December 23, I would point out that this Government is not at the present time controlling the exportation of arms and munitions by private concerns to any government, signatory or non-signatory, except Mexico, China and Bolshevik Russia. If, however, the Government of Brazil should desire to purchase arms and ammunition intended for a war-like use from the Government of the United States it would be required to give the desired guarantee before obtaining the arms and munitions desired.

Accept [etc.]

Robert Lansing