500.A15A4 Steering Committee/572

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Switzerland (Bigelow)

No. 4144

Sir: You are requested to transmit to the Secretary General of the League of Nations, in his capacity as Secretary General of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, the following note in reply to his note of June 19, 1937:44

“The receipt is acknowledged of your note, dated June 19, 1937, forwarding a copy of the Resolution adopted by the Bureau of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments on May 31, 1937, and requesting to be informed before September 1, 1937, whether the Government of the United States of America is prepared, in principle, to accept a system of publicity of national defense expenditure based on the Draft Convention prepared by the Technical Committee of the National Defense Expenditure Commission of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments.

“In reply the Government of the United States of America, while reserving its position in full with regard to the Draft Convention referred to above, is prepared to renew its acceptance of the actual principle of budgetary publicity and to accept as a basis of discussion a system of publicity of national defense expenditure in accord with the principles enumerated in the aforementioned Draft Convention.

“In accepting the principle of publicity for national defense expenditure, the American Government wishes to make two observations.

  • “(1) It has been the consistent practice of the American Government to publish the particulars of all expenditures made for national defense and, in addition, it has furnished each year complete statistics for publication in the Armaments Tear Book of the League of Nations. Expenditures made by the American Government for armaments are open to public scrutiny; the principle of budgetary publicity is in practice applied by the United States.
  • “(2) The United States reiterates its firm understanding that any agreement which may result with regard to one phase of the comprehensive problem of disarmament must be regarded as a complementary measure, a corollary, to a direct general reduction of armaments. The increasing burden of armaments, due to a failure on the part of nations directly concerned to find a solution of questions of a political [Page 23] or economic nature, makes the need for a reduction of armaments more than ever imperative, and my Government believes that the day must soon come when the Governments of the world can, and must, make another move forward in the direction of a limitation and reduction of armaments. In the meantime, pending a solution of basic economic and political problems, and until the moment when the efforts of the nations of the world to reach a general settlement of the armaments problem may be crowned with success, it is the view of the American Government that partial agreements should be approached with caution and only upon assurance that they would not accentuate existing differences of points of view and that all countries would be willing, ultimately, to accept their provisions.”

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Sumner Welles
  1. See despatch No. 5008, June 23, supra.