500.A15 Arms Truce/41: Telegram

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

164. My 163, September 24, 11 a.m. [p.m.] Drafting committee met this morning. It was at once evident that neither Italian proposal in its entirety nor French proposal were acceptable to a sufficiently large number to hope for unanimity. Cecil stated that the Scandinavian [Page 457] resolution was unsatisfactory in that it did not specifically request the Governments to make a declaration adhering to a truce in armaments. He declared that he did not mind how general was this declaration provided a definite declaration could be obtained. I supported this view as I considered it the maximum of achievement possible.

It seems probable that consent can now be obtained to some general undertaking to a truce in armaments consisting of an engagement not to increase existing forces.

In view of general world conditions all delegates were desirous of making some mention of expenditure. There was at first a disposition to phrase the undertaking to the effect that the states would not increase either their expenditures or their armaments. I pointed out that our attitude on the general question of budgetary limitation had been made clear in the Preparatory Commission; that I did not know how you would view this problem in connection with a truce and suggested that something like the following phrase which provides more elasticity might simplify the problem:

“Will abstain from any measure that might lead to an increase in general expenses which might result in an increase in the actual level of their armaments”.

This suggestion met with general approval.

Several delegates, notably France and Japan, also stated that they must consult their Governments. The committee therefore will meet early tomorrow morning and I should appreciate greatly being in a position to give our views at that time.

While the proposed general declaration is not as specific as we might have liked, I am of opinion that at present it is less in the form of a pious wish and has taken the more definite and desirable form of a gentlemen’s agreement. Of this I am convinced: that it is the utmost limit of achievement possible at this time, and I believe that we can work out an undertaking which would create an excellent psychological effect. I hope it may be possible for us to concur.