500.C117/21

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland ( Gibson )

No. 14

Sir: I enclose, for transmission by you in the usual manner, a communication to the Secretary General of the League of Nations, in reply to one addressed by him on January 9, 1924, to the Secretary [Page 80] of State,63 requesting, in conformity with a direction of the Council of the League, the views of the Government of the United States as a Government not a member of the League of Nations, respecting a draft Treaty of Mutual Assistance.64

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Joseph C. Grew
[Enclosure]

The Secretary of State to the Secretary General of the League of Nations ( Drummond )

The Secretary of State of the United States of America has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a communication of the Secretary General of the League of Nations, submitting, by direction of the Council of the League of Nations, the draft Treaty of Mutual Assistance proposed by the Third Committee to the Fourth Assembly, and requesting the expression of the views of the Government of the United States.

In reply it may be said that the Government of the United States is most desirous that appropriate agreements should be reached to limit armament and thus to reduce the heavy burdens of expenditure caused by unnecessary and competitive outlays in providing facilities and munitions of war. The desire and purpose of this Government were fully manifested when the great military and naval Powers were invited by the President of the United States to send representatives to meet in conference at Washington in 1921, for the purpose of considering the limitation of armament. While that conference resulted in the conclusion of an important naval Treaty between the United States of America, the British Empire, France, Italy and Japan for the limitation of capital fighting ships, it was found to be impossible to obtain an agreement for the limitation of the tonnage of auxiliary naval craft or to make any progress in the direction of limitation of land forces. The Government of the United States, having reduced its own armament, continues to cherish the hope that the desired result in the case of other Powers may be achieved, and it notes with keen and sympathetic interest every endeavor to that end. In this spirit the draft Treaty submitted has been carefully considered.

It appears from the preamble of the Treaty that it has been formulated with the desire “of establishing the general lines of a scheme of mutual assistance with a view to facilitate the application of Articles 10 and 16 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and of [Page 81] a reduction or limitation of national armaments in accordance with Article 8 of the Covenant ‘to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations.’”

The following provisions of the draft Treaty may be especially noted:

Article 2

“The High Contracting Parties, jointly and severally, undertake to furnish assistance, in accordance with the provisions of the Present Treaty, to any one of their number should the latter be the object of a war of aggression, provided that it has conformed to the provisions of the present Treaty regarding the reduction or limitation of armaments.

Article 3

In the event of one of the High Contracting Parties being of opinion that the armaments of any other High Contracting Party are in excess of the limits fixed for the latter High Contracting Party under the provisions of the present Treaty, or in the event of it having cause to apprehend an outbreak of hostilities, either on account of the aggressive policy or preparations of any State party or not to the present Treaty, it may inform the Secretary-General of the League of Nations that it is threatened with aggression, and the Secretary-General shall forthwith summon the Council.

The Council, if it is of opinion that there is reasonable ground for thinking that a menace of aggression has arisen, may take all necessary measures to remove such menace, and in particular, if the Council thinks right, those indicated in sub-paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) of the second paragraph of Article 5 of the present Treaty.

The High Contracting Parties which have been denounced and those which have stated themselves to be the object of a threat of aggression shall be considered as especially interested and shall therefore be invited to send representatives to the Council in conformity with Articles 4, 15 and 17 of the Covenant. The vote of their representatives shall, however, not be reckoned when calculating unanimity.

Article 4

In the event of one or more of the High Contracting Parties becoming engaged in hostilities, the Council of the League of Nations shall decide, within four days of notification being addressed to the Secretary-General, which of the High Contracting Parties are the objects of aggression and whether they are entitled to claim the assistance provided under the Treaty.

The High Contracting Parties undertake that they will accept such a decision by the Council of the League of Nations.

The High Contracting Parties engaged in hostilities shall be regarded as especially interested, and shall therefore be invited to send representatives to the Council (within the terms of Articles 4, 13 and 17 of the Covenant), the vote of their representative not being [Page 82] reckoned when calculating unanimity; the same shall apply to States signatory to any partial agreements involved on behalf of either of the two belligerents, unless the remaining Members of the Council shall decide otherwise.

Article 5

The High Contracting Parties undertake to furnish one another mutually with assistance in the case referred to in Article 2 of the Treaty in the form determined by the Council of the League of Nations as the most effective, and to take all appropriate measures without delay in the order of urgency demanded by the circumstances.

In particular, the Council may:

(a)
decide to apply immediately to the aggressor State the economic sanctions contemplated by Article 16 of the Covenant, the Members of the League not signatory to the present Treaty not being, however, bound by this decision, except in the case where the State attacked is entitled to avail itself of the Articles of the Covenant;
(b)
invoke by name the High Contracting Parties whose assistance it requires. No High Contracting Party situated in a continent other than that in which operations will take place shall, in principle, be required to co-operate in military, naval or air operations;
(c)
determine the forces which each State furnishing assistance shall place at its disposal;
(d)
prescribe all necessary measures for securing priority for the communications and transport connected with the operations;
(e)
prepare a plan for financial co-operation among the High Contracting Parties with a view to providing for the State attacked and for the States furnishing assistance the funds which they require for the operations;
(f)
appoint the Higher Command and establish the object and nature of his duty.

The representatives of States recognised as aggressors under the provisions of Article 4 of the Treaty shall not take part in the deliberations of the Council specified in this Article. The High Contracting Parties who are required by the Council to furnish assistance, in accordance with sub-paragraph (b), shall, on the other hand, be considered as especially interested, and, as such, shall be invited to send representatives, unless they are already represented, to the deliberations specified in sub-paras (c), (d), (e) and (f).”

Without attempting an analysis of these provisions, or of other provisions of the draft Treaty, it is quite apparent that its fundamental principle is to provide guarantees of mutual assistance and to establish the competency of the Council of the League of Nations with respect to the decisions contemplated, and, in view of the constitutional organization of this Government and of the fact that the [Page 83] United States is not a member of the League of Nations, this Government would find it impossible to give its adherence.

The Government of the United States has not failed to note that under Article 17 of the draft Treaty “Any State may, with the consent of the Council of the League, notify its conditional or partial adherence to the provisions of this Treaty, provided always that such State has reduced or is prepared to reduce its armaments in conformity with the provisions of this Treaty”, but it would not serve a useful purpose to consider the question of a conditional or partial adherence on the part of the Government of the United States when the conditions imposed would of necessity be of such a character as to deprive adherence of any substantial effect.

  1. Not printed.
  2. For text of signed treaty, see Monthly Summary of the League of Nations, September 1923, vol. iii, no. 9, p. 236.