500.A15 Arms Truce/32: Telegram

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

155. My 150 September 21, 8 p.m. No formal amendment distributed. Herewith follows pertinent text of Marinis’s speech:

“The Italian delegation realized that if the principles which I have just mentioned were to be applied in practice, land, sea and air armaments would have to be considered separately and that an attempt [Page 454] should be made to find a practical solution for each of the three main categories of armaments. It thus reached the following conclusions:

As regards land armaments it would doubtless be difficult to conceive of a truce in the form of a cessation of all manufacture, or purchase of material; neither is it possible to contemplate the restriction for a short period of the normal operation of recruiting and the military organization of effectives. It is therefore necessary to have recourse to some indirect means such as that of preventing any increase in expenditure. The Italian delegation accordingly proposes a truce in land armaments in the form of an undertaking on the part of each state not to increase expenditure on its army over and above the figures already voted for the current year.

As regards naval armaments a truce could easily be obtained through the suspension of any new construction. Each state would undertake for the period of the truce not to lay down any new warships. Ships in course of construction might on the other hand be completed.

As regards air armaments the truce might take the form of an obligation not to build new military air craft with the exception of the replacement of machines scrapped during the period of the truce.

As regards the duration of the truce the Italian delegation considers that the time which can reasonably be regarded as necessary under the most favorable conditions for the Conference to carry out its work and for the acceptance of its findings by all Governments (set forward?) as a criterion [sic]. In any case since the truce can only be of a temporary nature, and it is essential for practical reasons that its duration should be definitely limited, we are of opinion that a suitable period would be 1 year.

Finally as regards the form of the obligation to be assumed by states for the application of the truce the Italian delegation, with a view to avoiding the delay and difficulties inherent in the signature and ratification of a convention, proposes that each Government should make a formal and solemn declaration signifying its intention respecting the limitations imposed by the truce. I am well aware that from the strictly legal standpoint this form of undertaking, which our English friends call a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ is not the most perfect form but I think you will all agree that in practice a declaration of this kind would be no less binding upon Governments than a treaty or convention.”