500.A15A4/1237: Telegram

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

169. Your 300, July 2, 3 p.m.

We agree with your view that an all around one-third cut of every defense component would work a decided hardship on certain smaller countries and make it difficult for them to accept. Certain modifications of the present formula to meet the special situation of the small armies therefore would be unobjectionable provided they remain within the spirit of the President’s proposal and provided they do not give other nations an excuse to claim consideration for their own peculiar circumstances and thus open the door to an endless series of special claims which would so whittle away the essential features of our plan as to leave little more than an empty shell.
If we correctly understand your proposal, it would mean that (a) states having total effectives of less than 40,000 would be permitted to maintain their present status quo; they would not be required to make any reductions but would simply enter into the treaty their present strength which would thus become their treaty strength; (b) states having effectives in excess of 40,000 but whose defense component is such is [as] that a 1/3 reduction would reduce the total below 40,000, will be granted a total treaty strength of 40,000 without regard to percentages of reduction; (c) all other states would cut their defense component by 1/3.
From the point of view of paragraph 1 above, we see the following serious objections to this suggestion:
It would exempt from the application of the President’s plan 34 states, or considerably more than one-half the total of 59 states listed in your last table. Fourteen of these have total effectives in excess of 10,000 and eight in excess of 20,000. Nine have defense components in excess of 10,000, and two in excess of 20,000. To place in a special category and exempt from all reduction such a large [Page 262]number of states and such large defense components seems to us to result in an inadmissible restriction of the scope of our plan which must be world-wide if it is to be truly effective.
We feel that, with the exception of those states which have relatively few or no defense components, all should be required to make some sacrifice, even if on a reduced scale. It must be borne in mind that the small countries stand to gain relatively most by the abolition of aggressive weapons; they should in turn be prepared to make some contribution in the way of reduced defense components.
Are you sure that your suggestion would be acceptable to certain Powers with effectives in excess of 40,000 who are bordered by a chain of states which would be exempt from any cut although possessing relatively the largest defense components of all?
It does not seem impossible to work out some formula which, while meeting half-way the difficulties of the smaller armies, would nevertheless draw a larger number of states within the scope of our, plan and call upon the majority to make a contribution commensurate with their status.
Thus we feel that the aims you desire to achieve by the plan suggested in your 300 might be arrived at by a formula which would exempt from reduction the first 10,000 of every defense component, regardless of total effectives. Since our whole position is based on the theory that for purposes of comparison and international reduction, only that portion of the total effectives constituting the defense component should be taken into account, it would seem more logical to base any derogation from the principle of all-round percentage reduction on defense contingents alone. This would also emphasize the point of view, inherent in our formula, that even an army which is small in actual numbers may be disproportionately large in comparison to population. Under the suggestion contained in your 300, the President’s plan as regards effectives, would apply to less than one-half of the nations of the world. Our proposal, outlined above, while achieving roughly similar results in practice, would apply the principle of a division into police and defense components to all states and would thus maintain the universality and uniformity of application which we consider essential.
So far as the actual size of the exemption is concerned, we do not insist on the figure 10,000, although we believe that this amount should prove acceptable to the states concerned. It would require each country to reduce by one-third that part of its defense component which exceeds 10,000. Leaving out of account those countries having no actual defense components, there are 12 states which have defense components of 10,000 or less and would thus be exempt from reduction. Nine of the 34 countries covered by the proposal in your 300 (namely, Albania, Bulgaria, Esthonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, [Page 263]Lithuania, Sweden and Australia) would be required to make certain cuts on a greatly reduced scale. Hungary, for instance, would have to cut 1,616 from a total of 34,993, instead of 4,949. Since the principal land powers have defense components in excess of 100,000, such an exemption would amount to less than 10 per cent of their defense components and would constitute a still smaller percentage of their total effectives.
If you find a different figure for the exemption would have a greater chance of adoption you may, if necessary, modify it up to a total of not more than 15,000. This latter figure would exempt from reduction every state covered by the proposal in your 300, with the exception of Bulgaria, Finland, Latvia and Sweden. Of course, the smaller the exemption the better from our point of view.
These are merely thoughts for your consideration, but they will indicate how our minds are running and what are the limits of modification we are prepared to agree to. Within these limits you are free to work out a detailed formula most adapted to the needs as you meet them on the spot.
The President wishes you clearly to understand, however, that you should make no change in his original plan unless you have assured yourself that a modification will bring about a material increase in general support of the plan and in the likelihood of its ultimate adoption.