765.84/1686: Telegram

The Minister in Switzerland (Wilson) to the Secretary of State

325. My 323 October 8, 5 p.m. On the matter of the possible invitation to us to cooperate in some form with the work of the Committee of Coordination I venture to lay before you certain pros and cons.

Arguments in favor of participation. The discussion on economic sanctions involving, as it well may, rationing readjustment and canalisation of the world movement of important raw materials may take on aspects of general economic importance, may affect directly our own trade policy and possibly offer opportunities of constructive as well as of limiting purpose from the development of which we might find it disadvantageous to be absent. More specifically there is always a certain risk involved in letting the other states of the world make arrangements and arrive at conclusions which are eventually offered to us on a take it or leave it basis. The presence of an American in these discussions might shape the result more to our liking than might otherwise be the case and would afford us an opportunity to [Page 842] estimate the reality of intention and the effectiveness of the measures under discussion.

Certainly as Massigli and Coulondre analyzed the situation, the inescapable conclusion of their thought is that the states of the League can apply effective pacific means of pressure only with the cooperation of the United States. If the states of the League fail to obtain American cooperation for the application of effective pacific sanctions they are driven to consider the establishment of a blockade of Italy or the East African Italian provinces to which they now feel that the United States would offer no serious objections. To their minds—and in this I believe they are right—the establishment of a blockade could only lead to the spread of hostilities. Thus if we refuse to collaborate the sentiment may grow among European states that the reluctance or inability of the United States to aid in pacific means for terminating the war has driven them squarely to the unhappy alternative of using force. Of course it may be and many think it likely that the Committee will soon find agreement impracticable and that the Assembly will have to face blockade measures whether or not we participate.

Massigli said that it was contemplated that the Committee of Coordination is to be a political rather than a technical committee although technicians will be present to give their aid. If you should contemplate a form of participation I should appreciate the opportunity of expressing views on the type of representation.

Arguments against participation. The complexities of the application of economic sanctions grow more bewildering as one endeavors to think them out. We are not certain of the ultimate purposes in the minds of any of the delegates or of their national policies. We do not know how far they are actuated by determination to stop the war or how far they are actuated by the desire to go through the forms of the Covenant obligations without jeopardizing their relations with Italy. If they were all actuated by the first motive it would still be a considerable period of time I think before definite projects towards embargoes could be worked out and accepted.

Further I take it that our public opinion is determined at all costs that we should not be brought into war. With all the will in the world to the contrary economic sanctions bring definite danger of armed conflict. Our participation in the development of these sanctions might carry along with it implication of future danger from which our people naturally recoil.

The invitation may come immediately, hence I have offered these preliminary reflections in the hope that it may be helpful to you to see how the situation appears in Geneva. I have tried to analyze the possibilities as objectively as possible.