763.72119 Military Clauses/105: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Germany (Sackett)

115. Your 190, September 21, 8 p.m. As a result of press items appearing on September 20, of which the following headline from the Herald Tribune may be taken as typical:

“Paris Receives Support of United States Against Berlin”, the President issued the following statement to the press in order to clarify the situation:

“With reference to press dispatches from Paris on the German Arms question, the position of this government is clear. The sole question in which this country is interested is in reducing armaments of the whole world, step by step. We are not a party to the Versailles Treaty and its limitation on German arms. That is solely a European question. The United States has already declared that it takes no part in that discussion. We are anxious that Germany shall continue to participate in the arms conference which has now-such promise of progress for the entire world, and that she shall lend her aid in this great purpose.”

This statement was not intended to be in contradiction with our attitude as set forth in the Department’s 325, September 16, 1 p.m., to the Embassy in Paris, which was a considered statement of the [Page 443]views of this Government and which was sent you to serve for your guidance in any oral or informal conversation with the German Government which you considered advisable. We have not taken any position in regard to the validity of the Germans’ contention as to equality of rights (see first sentence, paragraph 4 of our 325). This is because we consider that this question is primarily a European political question and although Part V of the Versailles Treaty is incorporated in our Treaty with Germany, we wish to avoid becoming involved in such a controversy.

For your personal and confidential information and not for use in any way, my personal conclusion based on my study of the documents is that their contention, as indicated in their note to the French and as explained by Leitner to Castle is without legal foundation. Thus I cannot allow to pass unchallenged the statement which Bülow made to you interpreting the stand taken by the President as definitely approving the German thesis in the controversy over the equality question. But although we have refrained from taking sides on this issue, we still view the German position as adding a new difficulty to the task of the Disarmament Conference. The German Government should remember that the American people however unwilling they may be to take sides in any of the strictly legal questions arising among the parties to the Versailles Treaty in connection with the disarmament problem, nonetheless remain deeply interested in bringing about a general reduction of armaments and thus in the success of the Disarmament Conference.

I have made no public statement on the German démarche. Through diplomatic channels I have stated our interest in general disarmament, that we regard this step as necessarily a gradual one, that the revision of armaments must proceed downward and not upward, and that any modification of treaties must take place through consultation and not through unilateral action. I have in the same manner expressed my apprehension lest Germany’s raising of legal questions, her withdrawal from the disarmament conference, and her implied threat to increase her armaments, may retard the attainment of the general objective in which we are so deeply interested.

I think that the foregoing will clear up any confusion which may have arisen in your mind and which probably has resulted from a difference of emphasis, rather than a difference of substance between the President’s statement (as corrected) and my 325. I hope you will discreetly, but nonetheless firmly, point out our real concern lest Germany fail to cooperate in working out and evolving a wide measure of general disarmament.