500.A15A4/1135: Telegram

The Acting Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Secretary of State

257. Your 136, June 18, 11 p.m. The delegation is delighted with the broad program which you have suggested and feels confident [Page 192]that its presentation at this time will revivify the Conference, and that after the first difficulties due to its radical nature a large portion of it may possibly be achieved. The suggestions which we are making below are intended to make it more acceptable here.

The President’s plan envisages taking Treaty of Versailles alone as the basis for computation of police forces. Our present figures had been prepared and the plan explained on a combination of coefficients of Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria. We could of course take the coefficient of Germany alone if the President considers this desirable as we already have studies worked out on this basis. For strategic reasons, as it produces a result more likely to be accepted by most Continental Powers, we had considered the other basis preferable. We suggest the following phraseology:

“Under Treaty of Versailles and other treaties, concluded shortly thereafter, the armies of Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria were reduced to armies denominated as forces required for the maintenance of internal order, Germany being assigned 100,000 troops for a population of approximately 65,000,000 people. I propose therefore, that we should accept a basic police component of soldiers proportionate to that allowed Germany and these other states as being sufficient for the maintenance of order in the home territory with such additions as may be necessary for the preservation of order in colonial possessions or to equalize the relative weight of different types of troops.” Continue as in your cable June 18, 11 p.m.

Aviation. Your 138, June 19, noon, just received and alteration noted. We suggest after word “population” in second sentence to add “and this should be coupled with the total abolition of all bombardment from the air”.
French-Italian naval agreement. Your statement under navies regarding possible basis for French-Italian naval problem is not clear. Would you envisage urging them to enter the framework of the London Treaty on “basis of accord” of March 1, 1931?57
Cruisers. Referring your suggested 20 percent cut in cruiser category, we invite attention to the facts that in your suggested form this will be highly unpalatable to the British. What it amounts to is reserving for ourselves the right to build our full complement of 8-inch gun cruisers while we ask them to reduce the numbers of their cruisers when they already feel strongly that their numbers of existing cruisers are below their requirements. With the assumption that we could gain acceptance of French and Italians would you be willing to contemplate a 33 1/3 percent cut in cruiser tonnage which would save us all further building but would mean relinquishing [Page 193]construction of last three 8-inch cruisers. While this would require a still further reduction of British numbers, I believe it would be more palatable to make a greater proportionate reduction if the question of the three additional 8-inch cruisers is eliminated. If you envisage a 33 1/3 percent cut in capital ships and cruisers we suggest the same for destroyers.
Regarding submarines your phrase “shall be reduced proportionately” is not entirely clear, would you envisage the following possibility: a cut of 33 1/3 percent on submarine tonnages, with agreement that any further construction for replacement on the remaining 66 percent should be in a limited number and of a unit size not exceeding 250 tons. The simplicity of a straight one-third cut in all naval categories should tremendously help in getting the popular support to put over this idea.
In your paragraph regarding naval reductions, believe reference should be to reduction of “tonnage fixed for the above mentioned treaty powers” to obviate any misapprehension that reduction is on the basis of existing tonnage.
We suggest deletion of paragraph regarding retention of remaining cruiser tonnage in any sub-category. We see nothing in proposal to negative this idea and we will have full opportunity at a later date to make our position clear on this point. Retention of paragraph would only increase British difficulties in going along with us.
Limitation of expenditure. Your proposal does not mention limitation of expenditure. Under present financial conditions limitation of expenditures is the one thought regarding disarmament which is universally popular on the Continent. Could you not couple to your proposal an offer that the savings thereby effected “should be reflected in a limitation of expenditure for the future?”
In case you should approve of the suggestions in this cable we would propose the addition of the following sentence before your paragraph marked “general”: “to summarize I propose the total abolition of many of the most aggressive and costly weapons of war, a one-third cut in all naval arms and in the defense contingent of armies; together with a limitation of expenditure to insure the effectiveness of these measures”.
Reference your concluding general paragraph, in order to prevent any attempt at piecemeal acceptance suggest insertion “as a whole” after “program”.