500.A15/454: Telegram

The Chief of the American Representation on the Preparatory Commission (Gibson) to the Secretary of State


201. Your No. 99 sets forth six main objections to statement I proposed in my No. 195. We understand and are in agreement with them as they tend to make our original intention clearer.

  • Objection No. 1. We shall amplify statement so as to make it clear beyond doubt that our Government adheres fully to position set forth in declaration to which you refer published in section 3 of subcommittee A report; we shall state that we thoroughly disapprove, as wrong in principle and not workable in practice, of international supervision and control of armament; that not under any conditions will we accept it; and that we are convinced that it is upon the good faith of nations and respect for treaties that the execution of any international agreement for the limitation of armaments must depend.
  • Objection No. 2. This objection will be obviated by statement as amplified under No. 1.
  • Objection No. 3. Amplification of statement will make clear that we will not accept sanctions of nature indicated.
  • Objection No. 4. We are adhering fully to declaration published in section 3 of Subcommittee A report. Our adherence will be made clearer in statement when rewritten, and when discussions reach subject of control will be dealt with more fully. On this issue Germany, Italy, and some of the other powers will continue to oppose the French; the better part for us is to state our position and leave it to them to protect their own interests.
  • Objection No. 5. We are not impliedly advocating a plan “even for other nations which we would be unwilling to accept for ourselves”. We are adhering strictly to statements made repeatedly in pursuance of your written instructions which make it clear that should other powers desire to apply to themselves a regime of inspection or control, this is not a matter which concerns the United States. Statement I proposed will not in any way go beyond this position repeatedly taken and is merely logical development of that position. My No. 199, March 26, 11 a.m. indicated urgent necessity of this course from strategical point of view, and our position will be very greatly strengthened if we adopt it and will be seriously impaired if we do not.
  • Objection No. 6. Your quotation from my proposed statement read “machinery and authority of the League of Nations could best be calculated to meet problem”; my statement read “might” instead of “could” but nevertheless this portion will be omitted.

The above changes in the proposed statement seem in large measure to meet your views and at same time to carry out our original intent. The Preparatory Commission has begun a detailed discussion on the [Page 189] coordinated Anglo-French draft on land armaments, and until we shall have enunciated a general policy we are in an awkward position to press our views. We request your authority to redraft the statement in conformity with above changes and present it as soon as we can.

The fact that the issue is not confined to the question of control should be borne in mind. All the other delegations on the Preparatory Commission are prepared to use the League of Nations machinery in forms which would not be acceptable to us and which range from the obligation to report activities to the League to provisions of elaborate nature for security and sanctions. We clarify the situation and at same time relieve ourselves of necessity for cooperating in any of these matters if it is agreed that the convention is to be restricted broadly to limitation provisions to which you could adhere. Members of the League would be left free to take whatever measures they can negotiate to make the convention operative among themselves. We have frequently declared that any such arrangements do not concern us, and if the Conference is to break down on disagreements on League matters among European powers it seems highly important that we should avoid taking sides beyond a statement of our views.

The cross-currents and tension here are difficult to describe. Speaking with our knowledge of the situation, we feel strongly that the course we propose should be taken without delay, as tension here will largely be relieved as far as we are concerned and we shall be left free to maintain our full thesis on what should go into a draft convention which is restricted to provisions of limitation; at same time we shall be free from resentment which is inevitable if we take part in what is now becoming a European political fight.

All of us attach the utmost importance to idea of a double convention as only means of avoiding participating in delicate discussions of League of Nations problems, and as means whereby others will be left free to reach agreement among themselves. As I stated in my No. 199 it is important that you communicate your views without delay, for it would be unfortunate were we anticipated in this proposal and I were not in position where I could make some sort of response.