751.6111/71: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the Soviet Union ( Bullitt )

95. Your 177, May 4, 10 p.m.,1 fourth paragraph from end. Aside from the question of the violation of treaty rights shared by the United States, our interest in German naval rearmament, as in Italian and French building, is primarily an indirect one through the effect which it may ultimately have on the naval policy of Great Britain and hence on the latter’s position in future naval discussions. Our first concern is with relations in the Pacific, where the navies of the United States, Great Britain and Japan are the controlling factors. The immediate influence of the naval armaments of the Continental states is confined to the Eastern Atlantic and to European waters in which our interest is relatively small. We therefore feel that the regional discussion of German naval rearmament as now envisaged is the most appropriate method of dealing with the issue at present.

With respect to the wide naval problem, although both naval treaties contain commitments to meet in conference in 1935, there are no provisions obligating any one Power to take the initiative in calling a conference. In this Government’s opinion, it is doubtful whether a useful purpose would be served by calling a naval conference as long as the prospects of agreement between the three principal naval Powers continue unpromising, although we are of course prepared to attend such [Page 163] conference on the invitation of one of the other parties. In any case, the British Government, having initiated last year’s naval discussions, retains the initiative for further steps in accordance with the joint communiqué issued at the end of the conversations last December.2

You should not officially inform Litvinoff3 of the above, but may use it informally as your understanding of the American view.

  1. Post, p. 270.
  2. For text of communiqué, see telegram No. 74, December 15, 1934, 8 a.m., from the Chairman of the American delegation, Foreign Relations, 1934, vol. i, p. 399.
  3. Maxim M. Litvinov, Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs.