500.A15A4 General Committee (Arms)/319

The American Delegate ( Wilson ) to the Secretary of State

No. 114

Sir: I have the honor to supplement with the following information and comment my despatch No. 112, of April 15, 1935, with regard to a treaty for the regulation of the manufacture of and trade in arms, and my despatch No. 113, of April 17, 1935,83 transmitting a memorandum of a conversation I had recently with Sir John Simon.

Sir John himself initiated discussion with me on the question of our recent committee work here at Geneva. As my memorandum indicates, I gave him the substance of my views on the present phase of our work. His surprise at the fact that his Delegation had repudiated all mention of “numbers” may have been merely that he was not informed as to the details of this negotiation. On the other hand, it may be that there is not entire agreement on this point in the British Government and a chance exists for reconsideration of the matter at a later stage.

We only had opportunity for very brief conversations with other members of the British Delegation to the Council on this subject. They said, however, that the Japanese had given them every reason to believe that they would agree to a minimum text such as the British favored. Furthermore, their conversation implied that they thought it not unlikely that the Germans would adopt a similar attitude if the European situation permitted a treaty of any kind. It is evident that the British have discussed this matter with the Japanese and [Page 52] the Germans. In this connection, there is the statement Sir John made to me and which I have reported in my memorandum under reference, stating his thought that a manufacture and trade treaty would be highly useful as there were hopes of bringing both Germany and Japan into such a treaty.

I also took occasion recently to discuss the matter with Monsieur Komarnicki, Chief of the Polish Delegation and Rapporteur of the committee work. Monsieur Komarnicki spoke of the time-table for the next few months with respect to the negotiations among the Great Powers, mentioning the fact that the Council and Extraordinary Assembly meetings are set for May 20th, or thereabouts, when, among other things, the Committee of Thirteen Powers will discuss the question of sanctions for unilateral breaches of treaty; that shortly thereafter the Danubian Conference is expected to be held at Rome;84 and that meanwhile intensive diplomatic discussion will take place everywhere in Europe. Barring the unexpected, M. Komarnicki felt that it was impossible to believe that there could be any consideration of the resumption of disarmament work in the next few months. If and when the European situation unscrambled itself sufficiently to permit of further exploration for a treaty on manufacture and trade, M. Komarnicki felt it could only be successfully accomplished by the United States taking up the burden again and discussing separately and privately with the French and the British the fundamental differences which have emerged as a result of the committee work. M. Komarnicki felt that quite possibly both the British and the French might eventually be willing to agree to a compromise. The British might fall in with the idea of “numbers” and the French might abandon their insistence upon automatic and continuous inspection on the spot. If we should undertake this work and were successful in private discussions with the French and the British, M. Komarnicki felt that then the only way to put it to use would be to cut through the morass of Geneva procedure and the background of unsuccessful accomplishment here by the United States urging a special extra-League conference on the particular subject of manufacture of and trade in arms.

This idea of a conference to be called by the United States outside of Geneva was broached privately to us by M. Jean Paul-Boncour several weeks ago. At the time, M. Paul-Boncour underlined that this idea was entirely his own, etc., etc., but I could not help having the feeling that it had at least been discussed in Paris and quite possibly had the approval of the Quai d’Orsay. Doubtless M. Komarnicki got the idea from M. Paul-Boncour, between whom there is a close relationship.

[Page 53]

I have given no particular thought to the question of our calling such a special conference; it is a subject which I should want to weigh carefully even before recommending it to you for serious consideration. I feel, however, that M. Komarnicki’s analysis is correct, namely, that nothing can be done here by the Committee for the next few months; that if in the autumn the moment seems auspicious to bring up again the question of a treaty on the regulation of the manufacture of and trade in arms, the ground must be carefully prepared—and doubtless on our initiative—by private discussion with the French and the British; and that not only no further committee work or conference session should take place until the fundamental differences are solved, but that such meeting should be called only for final drafting and preparation of the text.

This accords with the view Sir John Simon expressed to me during the recent extraordinary meeting of the Council: that of the several alternatives with respect to the Disarmament Conference he preferred that of keeping the Conference in being although not in session in the hope that at some moment in the future the constant change of the European situation will present an opportunity when something useful may be done. I share this opinion. At the same time I feel that we should not have any illusions as to the chance that such an opportunity will present itself.

Respectfully yours,

Hugh R. Wilson
  1. Post, p. 248.
  2. The proposed conference was not held.