The Acting Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Secretary of State
[Received 4:18 p.m.]
272. The private conversations between the French, British and Americans have adjourned until Monday90 on account of the return to London of Sir John Simon. The delegation has reported in other [Page 226]telegrams regarding the details of these conversations. It now remains to summarize the general situation. This is especially necessary as the production of the President’s plan has brought us to the crossroads.
We could probably write a treaty of limited objectives. In entering these conversations Paul-Boncour stated that he waived for the time being all questions of security and was willing to negotiate with us as to what he could do with security in its present state. In general, our conversations show the possibility of drawing an immediate treaty along the following lines: limitation of effectives with possibly very slight reduction; limitation and some reduction of expenditure both global and material in accordance with the draft convention;91 an engagement not to build guns above a specified caliber, perhaps 220 millimeters or possibly even 155 millimeters; an engagement of the same nature for tanks not to exceed perhaps 30 tons; an abolition of airplanes above a specified weight with certain exceptions; bombing limited to the battlefield and to the same naval objectives permitted to navies; and the abolition of chemical and bacteriological warfare. The fleets have not been discussed. Part 6 of the draft convention to remain practically as it exists.
The French and so far the British have seemed anxious to push ahead and to unite in presenting to the Conference agreements along the foregoing bases. What the thoughts of the British will be on Simon’s return after consulting his Cabinet and the Teuton on the Allies’ plan, we do not know. We also know that Paul-Boncour is studying the President’s proposal and we do not know how far this proposal may alter the views of both the French and British as to the objectives we can obtain by conversation. But in fairness to them we should leave them under no misapprehension as to our position.
We submit that such a plan as sketched above would in all probability be rejected by Germany unless it were understood that it was merely the first practical steps in a larger plan and to bring Germany to accept it would take the united pressure of all of us, if indeed could be done at all.
We therefore feel that having given out the President’s plan it would be ridiculous for us to join in urging on the Conference the adoption of a minimum program. Moreover, in loyalty to those who supported us it would not be fair to use our influence for a result so far removed from what we have given grounds to hope for. We believe that the least we can do is to explain frankly to the French and British our position and state that we are willing to unite with them [Page 227]after the other great powers have been consulted in informing the Conference of the results of our exploration. This would be for the information of the Conference only and would be coupled with the right of each one of the powers to press for broader solutions.
An expression of your views is urgently requested. In this connection see delegation’s 273.92