500.A15A5/448: Telegram

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

341. My 333, July 25, 9 a.m. [p.m.] I called on the Foreign Secretary by appointment this morning on an understanding he was to give me a memorandum on naval affairs. In the course of the conversation I took occasion to stress the desire which had been evidenced by the American Government to cooperate with the British Government, referring in particular to incidents in 1932, again the desire of the United States Government expressed last summer for joint action by the two Governments in a statement outlining their desires [Page 83] for the preservation and renewal of the Washington and London Treaties,45 and lastly to the final agreement between the British and American naval delegations of December last which contemplated a continuing full interchange of information between the two Governments. I then took occasion to point out that the Anglo-German negotiations had been carried out after that agreement and in violation of the spirit of it in that the British Government had undertaken to withhold information of proposed naval programs therein reported. I then said we were interested in receiving what information the British had as to the proposed German naval program up to 1942 if it was in their possession. The Foreign Secretary stated that in opening negotiations with the German Government, in order to bring about negotiations at all, they had had to agree not to divulge the German program except on the basis of reciprocity with other countries; that the German Government may not have had the United States Government in mind at that time, but certainly they were very anxious in regard to the French and Italian Governments. I then pointed out that our naval program was a matter of public knowledge as the result of Acts of Congress, and therefore in the possession of the German Government as well as the rest of the world, and then inquired of the Foreign Secretary, that being true, whether his Government would be willing to communicate the German program up to 1942 to the United States Government. The Foreign Secretary then said he would again take up the matter and reply later, but that his personal view was, since the British Government was going almost at once into negotiations with the French Government on the naval program, and expected as soon as the negotiations with the French were finished, to proceed with similar discussions with the Italian Government, that their communicating the German program to the United States Government would make it nearly impossible for them to make any progress with either the French or the Italians. He added that he hoped to keep us as fully informed as possible on the negotiations with the French and Italian Governments. In conclusion I again pointed out that since the American program was known to the Germans as well as to the rest of the world as the result of the Vinson Bill,46 I could see no reason why the reciprocity agreement between his Government and the German Government should prevent the information from being given to us.

The Foreign Secretary then added that after the negotiations with the French and Italians, his Government intended to take up negotiations with the Soviet Government and pointed out that under existing [Page 84] treaties it would be necessary to have a conference within the next 6 months of the signatories to the Washington Treaty, and that thereafter the British plan was to have a further conference which would include the German and Soviet Governments.

Craigie, who has been on leave during July, has returned to Foreign Office.

Following is the text of the memorandum which was handed me:

“Since the departure of the United States naval delegation at the end of last year, Mr. Atherton has kept in close touch on the naval question with Mr. Craigie, who has informed him of all important developments as they have occurred. Since the conclusion of the Anglo-German agreement, no step of any importance has been taken. It will be recalled that the information in reference to Germany’s building plans was communicated to His Majesty’s Government on two conditions:

that particulars of the tentative British construction programme would be communicated to the German representatives in exchange;
that the German tentative programme should similarly be communicated to the governments of other interested powers on a reciprocal basis only. The French Government has been duly informed of this German stipulation, but have so far not stated whether they would be prepared to communicate their tentative construction programme to His Majesty’s Government on the proposed reciprocal basis.

When entering upon naval conversations with the representatives of the German Government, His Majesty’s Government were guided by the consideration that the probable naval requirements of France and Italy would be contingent upon the demands of Germany. They now hope to be able to proceed to an exchange of views with the French and Italian Governments at an early date, since time is becoming very short if a conference is to be held this year as prescribed by treaty.

His Majesty’s Government, as is well known, are very anxious to reach ultimate agreement on both qualitative and quantitative limitation. They are particularly desirous that agreement on qualitative limitation should be reached as soon as possible in order that competition under this head shall not arise in any of the building programmes which may be initiated immediately on the expiry of the present treaties. Should the French Government feel disinclined for the present to proceed with discussions in the quantitative field, His Majesty’s Government propose to invite the French and Italian Governments—and probably also the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—to exchange views forthwith on all matters connected with the qualitative limitation of naval armaments. This step would be taken purely as a method of avoiding further delays and not because His Majesty’s Government are any less impressed than they have [been?] in the past with the necessity of securing an international agreement on quantitative naval limitation. Moreover, as [Page 85] the United States Government will appreciate, it is necessary to know the views of both the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and German Governments on the question of future naval limitation before it is possible for the European signatories of the Washington Treaty to take part in a five-power conference as is prescribed by that treaty.

The United States Government will, as heretofore, be kept fully informed of all developments.”

  1. Telegram in two sections.
  2. See telegram No. 336, June 19, 1934, 6 p.m., from the Ambassador in the United Kingdom; and telegram No. 270, June 26, 1934, 9 p.m., to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, Foreign Relations, 1934, vol. i, pp. 262 and 277.
  3. H. R. 6604, approved March 27, 1934; 48 Stat. 503.