500.A15A4/1470: Telegram

The American Delegate (Wilson) to the Secretary of State

383. At tea with Sir John Simon this afternoon he developed the following thoughts on the German situation.

Sir John said that he was not sure what the future would bring forth but as he saw it there were only four ways by which “equality of rights” could be applied. These were:

Incorporation of the obligations of Germany in the same document as that of the other states.
The same duration for its obligations as for the other states.
The same qualitative criterion, in other words, the right of Germany to have the same types of weapons as the other states.
The same quantitative criterion, that is, the right of Germany freely to enter in the treaty the numbers of weapons and forces which it would freely negotiate as in the case of other states.

As to point 4, Sir John was very definite. Equality in numbers could under no circumstances be permitted since the purpose of this Conference was to reduce armaments. To admit the contrary trend would be derisive. He had been happy, he said, to note from advices from Washington that you were of the same opinion.

Point 3, according to Sir John, raises very difficult problems for the United States and England as well as France. Were we willing to accept a thesis whereby Germany would have the right to build a 35, 000–ton battleship? It had been hinted to Sir John that the Germans would like to have “echantillon” types, that is, types at least of the arms which are now forbidden it but which will be permitted the other powers after the negotiation of the treaty. Although not favoring this method he did not definitely exclude it from possibility if carefully restricted but felt it of the highest importance that our two countries should deliberate this question.

As to point 2, Sir John believed that this should be accorded Germany. In his note he had desired to hint this possibility.

As to point 1, there was no question in his mind but that this should be accorded.

Sir John could think of but one explanation to the ominous fact of the widespread opposition to accusations in Germany and that was that the Government there was endeavoring to persuade its people that there was neither a legal nor moral obligation placed upon them by part V of the Treaty and that this prefaced an announcement by Germany that it would no longer remain bound by part V. Ever [Page 445]since Nadolny had spoken,66 the question, I explained, had been in my mind as to whether Germany really desired to negotiate a reduction on the part of her neighbors or whether she desired to justify a renunciation of the Versailles military clauses. In the latter event Sir John felt that it was not the type of quarrel which would induce the French people to fight, to say nothing of the British and the Americans. It seemed to us here there was nothing the French could do to prevent Germany denouncing these clauses if it so desired but that they would take every means in their power to pile obloquy upon Germany even to the extent of forcing Germany out of the League although this would serve no purpose beyond inflaming public opinion.

Sir John will see von Neurath this evening but has no intention of going through this analysis with him as he has no knowledge yet whether von Neurath is seeking a solution or hoping for one, for the question still remains as to the real intention of the German Government.

Sir John described France as being between two alternatives; one, a refusal to amend the Treaty of Versailles or [i.e.] to make efforts to meet the German point of view. In this event he thought the Germans would probably refuse longer to be bound by the military clauses. The other alternative is perhaps to concede upon the first two of the four points mentioned above at the same time making such reductions as to make it worth while for Germany to take the further voluntary engagement for the duration of the treaty even though we have to listen to hours of discussion on security in which they continue to search for another path which does not exist. These are the only two alternatives facing France and when that is realized it will have to make its choice.

I thanked Sir John for this illuminating analysis and he said if you cared to put your thoughts on paper it would greatly interest him to learn whether you saw the picture in the same light.

  1. Speech of July 22, wherein the German delegate opposed the resolution concluding the first phase of the General Disarmament Conference; see p. 313.