500.A15A4/1211: Telegram

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

158. For Gibson and Davis. Your 276, June 25, 2 p.m., 283, June 29, 1 p.m.

  • First: These cables have been carefully considered and discussed. I think there would be a real danger of ultimate misunderstanding between the two nations if we should encourage the French to enter a disarmament treaty in reliance upon any form of agreement for consultation. The situation in many respects is quite similar to that which we confronted in London in 1930. Then as now the French had publicly announced their unwillingness to disarm without further [Page 245]material security; the British, from whom they really desired it, had refused to give it and an agreement to consult was being suggested as a substitute. I feel now as I felt then that if we should persuade them to disarm on the faith of any substitute agreement whatever its form, we might very possibly sow the seeds for future trouble. So long as there is a bilateral agreement, it is susceptible of misunderstanding or misinterpretation between the parties at either end. Under all these circumstances I am inclined to feel that the only safe protection against such misunderstanding is that the United States should retain entire control over its own readiness to consult. If it is to give any assurance of future consultation, it must retain the right to interpret and condition this obligation. This was the advantage of the suggestion made by Senator Swanson last February [March]; it would be the advantage of an assurance to be given in a unilateral statement by the Executive of this country, if the time should ever become ripe for such a step; it would be in line with the precedent of past action taken by our Government in similar cases.
  • Second: the scope of the consultation provided for in Part 6 of the draft Convention is in my opinion narrowly limited by the context both in Article 50 and 52. If it were not so it might be seriously objectionable. And if we should stress its importance to the French as a substitute for the security which they have been seeking, we might lead them into making a broader interpretation of its meaning and thus lay the groundwork for future misunderstanding.
  • Third: The question is greatly complicated by the existing political situation. While we should be very glad to have it taken out of party politics, that is very far from being the case yet. Irrespective of what the Democratic platform may contain, it would probably require also some assurance for joint action by the candidates to accomplish this end. In the present bitter and critical attitude by men of both parties against any further steps in foreign relations, no lesser assurance would seem to avail against any step of this sort being grossly misrepresented before Elections.
  • Fourth: For the present, therefore, I think our only safe argument with France is to urge, as Davis did, the increased strength of defense given to France by the fact of disarmament and the increased power of weapons of defense as against any covenants for assistance. I realize very clearly the strain under which you must be put by the pressure of Jouvenel and the desire which you must have to give him encouragement, but I feel that both in the interest of avoiding all future misunderstanding and also of avoiding the raising of an issue which may prevent the ratification of a treaty by this country, [Page 246]we must be doubly careful what we say to them. For the same reason, I do not see how I can at present lend any assistance through Claudel.