500.A15A4 Plenary Sessions/101: Telegram

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

115. This morning’s meeting was devoted to long reiteration by Litvinoff of the Soviet position followed by Tardieu who attacked the American proposals of yesterday.

His79 speech was far below the level of the usual able French presentation and conception and was characterized on all sides as a lamentable exhibition. Unfortunately he showed some temper and used expressions distinctly offensive in this respect as regards our proposals, saying that they were “pas sérieux” hastily improvised and not studied. In an ironical phrase he referred to the omission of capital ships from my speech and that of Sir John Simon and at different times dwelt largely on this element of aggressive power. He contrasted the virtue of the French plan whereby these aggressive weapons are put at the disposition of the League of Nations.

I presume you will receive the essential portions of the text through the press. Inasmuch as we were informed confidentially by one of the French delegates that Tardieu’s anger was chiefly aroused through the feeling that we had prepared this plan in consultation with the British and left him in the dark and as it has been emphasized to the French press that this was a surprise move you may care to explain to our press that Sir John Simon arrived in Geneva at 8 o’clock on Monday morning and Tardieu at 10:30; that Sir John Simon asked to see me and chose his own hour of noon; that as soon as I returned I got in touch with a member of the French delegation, explained the whole plan to him, and before the afternoon meeting gave Tardieu the French translation of my speech so that he was apprised of our intentions practically simultaneously with Simon. Furthermore, the similarity of the American and British views was fortuitous, each project having been worked out independently.

While you probably will not wish to prolong a press controversy if you should find it necessary to comment further you might think it well to point out that the only real conclusion to be drawn from Tardieu’s speech is that we not only cannot hope for any results but that it would actually be regrettable if we effected any reduction because, on the one hand it would leave law abiding states at the mercy of the aggressor, and on the other hand any money which might be saved would inevitably be spent in some other and more [Page 87] pernicious manner such as in developing pocket cannon and pocket planes, apparently overlooking the fact that in our original proposals we had expressed our readiness to consider limitation of expenditure as a neutral method to prevent just this danger on matériel.

Almost all the delegations were much struck by the fact that he had argued so strongly that treaties for abolition were mere scraps of paper while at the same time basing his whole scheme on a treaty for the institution of an international force, namely, the Covenant and a supplementary obligation to set up such a force.

  1. i.e., Tardieu’s.