500.A15 Arms Truce/44: Telegram

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


128. Reference is made to your No. 164 of September 25, 2 p.m. It is difficult to give you definite instructions without the entire text of the resolution before us. It is felt, however, that the phrase “will abstain from any measure that might lead to an increase in general expenses [Page 458] which might result in an increase in the actual level of their armaments” upon analysis would not constitute a real truce, since extensive scrapping and replacement of naval armaments would be permitted. Is it meant for the “actual level” armaments built and building or only completed units? It might be interpreted, if the latter, as not allowing us to complete the seven Class A cruisers which are now building. These cruisers are not replacements. The phraseology might readily be interpreted as elusive in the light of the ambiguities described above. Rather than to include a truce which might lay the declarants open to forces of disingenuousness, it would be better to conclude no truce at all.

While we are prepared to agree in this case to a limitation of expenditures regarding land forces, it is still our feeling that, in the proposed truce, a practicable means in dealing with naval and air forces would not be represented thereby.

We feel that, without wishing to suggest any specific language, our position might best be met with a formula somewhat as follows:64

“Effective October 1, 1931, the powers declare that they will abstain from any construction of new naval armaments excepting those for which contracts have been let. The powers further declare that they will not increase their present strength of land and air armament.”

The following for your confidential information: Replacement of aircraft and land material will be permitted by such a formula, and it is hoped that the necessity for a reservation regarding destroyers will be eliminated.

  1. The following paragraph not paraphrased.