500.A15 Arms Truce/20: Telegram

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


141. Reference is made to the Department’s telegram of September 18, 1 p.m., No. 113. In regard to the question of the destroyer Eugene [new destroyers?] there is submitted certain consideration in advance with respect to the attitude of [omission].

Should the United States Government take part in this debate it would without doubt encourage those who favor the proposal of Grandi. If this proposal were given a whole-hearted support in the early part of the discussion, doubtful states might very easily be induced to follow in line. With respect to the matter of destroyers our position here would undoubtedly be strengthened if you could find means of meeting the situation in America. On the other hand, if you are of the opinion that the destroyer situation should be settled through a possible agreement in Geneva, then I feel that we should not lessen our support through any reservation made immediately and which might possibly result in our participation being minimized. In consequence I suggest that in the early part of the discussions the American delegate should simply confine himself to giving wholehearted approval to the Grandi proposal, referring to the difficulties caused by the cruiser levels, and to the sacrifices the United States is willing to make, and merely adding that certain minor difficulties exist which we can overcome when the matter of details comes up. Such a course would not weaken the force of our [omission], and at the same time would give us the opportunity of hearing the reservations with respect to the many difficulties with other states and would perhaps enable us to reach, through a consideration of those other difficulties, some formula which would take care of our own difficulty without making it necessary for us to make a definite reservation about it.

I would appreciate being informed, if it is convenient, as to the number of contracts for destroyers which have been let, and how many [Page 448] contracts to be let still remain. I should also like to know whether the new construction is “replacement” construction. An understanding might well be reached to the effect that new contracts would not be let for naval units rather than making the laying down of keels the basis. Such an understanding might take care of our needs.