500.A15A5/431: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Bingham)

155. Your 288, June 26. It would seem from your telegram that the British are now considering a very different procedure from that which was discussed and contemplated last fall. At that time the idea was, as we understood it, that England, Japan and the United States would endeavor in preliminary conversations to reach a basis for future agreement, that France and Italy would be apprized of this and, if possible, brought into line, preparatory to a Five-Power naval conference, which might even be set up as a preliminary conference with a view of holding a subsequent conference to include Russia and Germany after the five Powers had reached an agreement. If the British contemplate reversing this process, we feel that we should know further how they envisage the interweaving of a European agreement with a five-Power agreement. We do not wish to go on record at this time as opposing this idea, but feel that we should point out that we are not disinterested in naval agreements affecting the Atlantic. While a naval agreement between the continental Powers is of more immediate concern to the British, and while we sympathize with their desire to bring about an understanding between them and thus to help bring about a general naval agreement, we are inclined to feel that the calling of a purely European naval conference or the inclusion in any conference called under the provisions of the Washington or London naval treaties of one or more non-contracting states would normally call for prior discussion and understanding with the parties to the present naval treaties.

We are surprised at the statement or intimation made to you that the American naval building program had never been formally transmitted by the United States and that whenever the United States [Page 74] might be ready to furnish this reciprocal information “in compliance with the Anglo-German agreement”, the British would be prepared to submit the German building program to American representatives. My understanding is that Davis and Standley told the British last autumn that our present building program was to build up to treaty strength, adding that our future programs would be relative and dependent upon developments. The British told us, as you know, that they would like to increase their cruiser tonnage beyond the present treaty limits, but further discussion between the two Governments with regard to this was left in abeyance because of the Japanese proposals for a radical change in the whole basis of present naval limitation. Davis and Standley were under the impression, however, that as a result of the frank exchange of views between our two respective navies each one understood perfectly well the position of the other and that until it was determined whether or not some basis for agreement could be arrived at with Japan we could not usefully formulate our respective future building programs. We are also at a loss to understand the spirit and purport of the British intimation that whenever the United States may be ready to furnish reciprocal information the British will be prepared to inform us of the German building program. It is hard to understand that the British-German agreement should contain such a provision, in view of the repeated assurances given us by the British that they would keep us fully and frankly informed.

For your personal information only, the Embassy in Paris reports28 that it learned from a reliable Foreign Office source that when Eden suggested that the French discuss with the British the Anglo-German naval agreement and, if necessary, send experts to London for this purpose or else receive British experts in Paris he met with a curt refusal.

  1. Telegram No. 524, June 22, 1 p.m., from the Ambassador in France, not printed.