500.A15 Arms Truce/45: Telegram
The Minister in Switzerland (Wilson) to the Secretary of State
[Received 10:45 p.m.65]
167. Your 128, September 25, 6 p.m. Following is the text of draft resolution submitted by the Bureau of the subcommittee of the Third Committee. This text was not formulated when I telegraphed yesterday.
- “1. Being convinced that the crisis which at present is creating such serious disturbances among the nations of the world is due to a number of economic and political causes, one of the principal sources of which is the lack of mutual confidence between the nations,
- 2. Being convinced that a resumption of competition in armaments would fatally lead to an international and social disaster,
- 3. The Assembly addresses a solemn appeal to all who desire the application of the principles of peace and justice on which the Covenant is based to devote all their efforts to the creation of a world opinion strong enough to ensure that the General Disarmament Conference will lead to definite results involving particularly a gradual reduction of armaments which will be continued until the object mentioned in article 8 of the Covenant is attained,
- 4. Considering that an undertaking of all participating states not to increase their armaments would contribute to create an atmosphere of confidence, to prevent rivalry in armaments and to prepare favorable grounds for the success of the work of the forthcoming Conference.
- 5. The Assembly requests the Governments invited to the Disarmament Conference to prepare for that Conference by a truce of armament and consequently requests the Council to urge the Governments to invite [invited to] the said Conference to give proposal [proof of] their determination to bring to success the efforts designed to assure and organize peace, and without prejudicing the decisions of the Conference or such programs or proposals as each Government may submit, the Governments to abstain for a period of 1 year as from November 1st, 1931, from initiating any new project which would tend to an increase of its annual expenditure for national defense which would involve an increase in the present level of armament; also asks the Council to request the Governments to state before November 1st, 1931, whether they are prepared to accept such an armaments truce.”
Here follows the alternative text of French draft resolution which differs from the above Bureau text beginning with paragraph 4.
- “4. Considering consequently that in refraining from increasing their armaments and in avoiding in this way rivalry of armament the states would contribute to create an atmosphere of confidence favorable to the success of the work of the forthcoming Conference.
- 5. The Assembly requests the Governments invited to the Disarmament Conference to prepare for that Conference by a truce of armament and consequently requests the Council to urge the Governments invited to the said Conference to give proof of their firm determination to bring to success the efforts designed to insure and to organize peace and without prejudicing the decisions of the Conference or such programs or proposals as each Government may submit, the Governments to abstain from any initiation of any new project tending to increase their armaments; also asks the Council to request the Governments to declare before the 1st of November 1931 whether they are prepared to accept such an armament truce for a period of 1 year beginning on that date”.
The above in both versions of paragraphs 4 and 5 is my own translation from the original French texts and may therefore differ slightly from the official form which will not be available until Monday.
You will note that the only essential difference between the Bureau text and the French text is that latter omits all reference to budgetary limitation.[Page 460]
Subcommittee on drafting proposal for truce will probably not meet again. Third Committee will probably be called for Monday morning, finish its work by noon, Assembly will consider results Monday afternoon and then adjourn sine die.
During the course of this morning’s discussion I stated that I had not received definite instructions from my Government pending receipt of texts but that it was felt in Washington that the proposed resolution was too vague and open to misconception and that the possible misunderstandings therefrom might be worse than no truce at all. I added that the budgetary method of limiting Navy and Air appeared to this extent entirely adequate [inadequate?].
In private conversations as well I expressed these views to other members of the subcommittee but it was immediately clear in the debate that the [garbled] census [consensus?] of opinion of subcommittee was overwhelmingly in favor of the project as drafted as the utmost obtainable with any degree of unanimity and that there was not the least possibility of going any further in the sense indicated in your 128, of September 25, 6 p.m. Indeed, the French delegation declared itself without instructions to accept even the draft resolution as prepared by the Bureau in its present attenuated form owing to the absence in Berlin of Briand and Laval.66
You will note from the texts that there can be no question as to our right to continue the cruisers which have been laid down and the destroyers on which bids have been offered since the truce will merely call for a declaration of abstention from the “initiation” of any project designed to increase armament (French project) or if the Bureau project be adopted to abstain from increasing expenditure which would result in an increase with present level of armament.
The committee was practically unanimous in the feeling that the draft resolution even in its present attenuated form is a step of real value especially in so far as continental states are concerned, and that public opinion in Europe will regard this as an earnest [of?] good faith and as providing an auspicious atmosphere for the forthcoming Disarmament Conference.
If we do not on Monday [indicate?] willingness to acquiesce in a resolution if adopted, which I believe in either form represents the maximum achievement possible under the circumstances, we shall find ourselves entirely alone or perhaps at the best in company with France and some of her continental allies in opposing a measure which the rest of the world really desires.
Nearly all speakers have laid emphasis on the fact that a declaration by the Governments would be an act of faith and that, necessarily, trust [Page 461] in the good faith of each other was the essential basis of this undertaking. Such a declaration has in fact been referred to often in the course of our discussions as a “gentleman’s agreement”, in counter-distinction to a detailed and formal convention.
Grandi tells me privately that he has made very great concessions from his original plan, that he does not like the present draft, but that at least a declaration by the states in favor of the truce is a step in advance and will have a good psychological effect. He is therefore ready to acquiesce in the Bureau text.
Certainly the result of our efforts is meager. Certainly many of the states would have desired a much more definite undertaking. All attempts however to discuss this plan on the basis of a more definite undertaking at once raised such insuperable technical contentions that it was apparent that such attempts must be abandoned.
I hope unless you feel strongly to the contrary that I may be instructed to express the concurrence of my Government on Monday morning before the Third Committee in whose [whichever?] form appears acceptable to the overwhelming majority of the states represented.