500.A15A4 General Committee/620: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chairman of the American Delegation (Davis)

372. Your 727 October 6 midnight and 729 October 7, 9 p.m. In the absence from Washington of the German Ambassador, the first [Page 241] secretary (Meyer) yesterday outlined to Moffat51 the German position on armaments substantially as set forth in your 727. I am seeing Luther who has asked for an appointment tomorrow morning and contemplate impressing upon him orally the following points, leaving to you any observations you may consider necessary in the technical sphere.

The declaration of December 11th which seems to be the cornerstone of Germany’s demands provides for granting Germany “equality of rights in a system which would provide security for all nations.” As I analyze the German position they stress only one half of the declaration and ignore the other. Security is as much as anything else a state of mind, which can most effectively be induced by a feeling of confidence in the intentions of one’s neighbors. With political conditions in Germany unstable as they are, and with the provocative attitude of Germany’s present leaders before they assumed office still fresh in people’s minds, it is incumbent upon Germany to win back the trust of other nations. A few years, as provided in the first stage of the disarmament plan, wherein Germany should prove herself stable and pacific would undoubtedly restore such confidence and regain her universal sympathy. On the other hand a demand for arms at this juncture would in its very essence cast doubt upon her intentions and arouse such a feeling of uneasiness as to make disarmament exceedingly difficult.
I have much sympathy with the idea of ultimate equality, to be reached through gradual stages, but only if achieved through revision of armaments downward and not upward. Should Germany now ask for rearmament in any form, she would be assuming a serious responsibility in moving against the trend of world opinion. I cannot believe the German Government is prepared to let the Conference fail, and shall appeal through the Ambassador to his Government to reconsider its present position.
Finally, I shall probably allude to the Treaty of 1921,52 which specifically accords to the United States certain rights and advantages stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles including those arising under the military and naval clauses. The concession of these rights and advantages was not imposed upon Germany by duress, but was voluntarily granted as a just and reasonable claim. It follows that any modification which may be made in these provisions should be brought about by methods of compromise and mutual agreement and not by threats or intransigeance. If I do allude to the treaty, it will be without stressing the point.
Please telegraph me any comments you may wish to make before I receive Luther, as my purpose is entirely to give you support in your negotiations. Given the difference in hour between Geneva and Washington a prompt reply should arrive in good time.
  1. Jay Pierrepont Moffat, Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs.
  2. Treaty between the United States and Germany, signed at Berlin, August 25, 1921, Foreign Relations, 1921, vol. ii, p. 29.