500.A15A4 Steering Committee/510: Telegram

The Chairman of the American Delegation ( Davis ) to the Secretary of State

Lord Cranborne, who will head the British delegation at the Bureau meeting of the Disarmament Conference, unless Eden should decide to go, came to see me yesterday afternoon to discuss the situation as the British see it in respect of the Bureau.

He first told me the British will put forward a proposal on publicity of national armaments expenditure which is the limit his Government is prepared to go at this time. This would serve as a touchstone since, if the Germans are not ready to go along on a simple provision for exchanging information with regard to expenditures for armaments, obviously there was no use in pressing more ambitious schemes for arms limitation and reduction until some fundamental change in the general situation has taken place. I pointed out that there might be some difficulty for us in supporting a proposal for budgetary publicity divorced from other aspects of disarmament. Cranborne expressed the hope, however, that we would raise no obstacle and insisted that if the leading Governments would not publish figures showing their actual expenses for armaments it was a waste of time to talk about other matters such as inspection and control of the export of arms.

Cranborne then reiterated what has been stressed to me in other conversations that this Government had not wished to hold a meeting of the Bureau but Blum had insisted upon it apparently as a marshaling of opinion in France. It was necessary for Blum in order to get popular support for his rearmament program, to evidence an interest in arms limitation and a desire for a regulation which would put a stop to the armaments race and check the heavy armament expenditures. The French were now planning, he said, to send Paul-Boncour15 to Geneva to make a speech and somewhat of a splash. This was not a popular move with Massigli but he did not always reflect the views of the political side of his Government.

Referring to the rumors current that the Bureau might be postponed from May 6 to a date after the meeting of the Council and Assembly, say around May 31 when Eden, Blum, and others would be in Geneva and when the stress of the Coronation16 would have [Page 6] abated, Cranborne asked what I thought of the idea. I replied that I saw no objection to this and that at least a postponement would give more time for developments and preparation. He asked whether in that event I would remain here until the postponed meeting. I stated that I expected to return home at the close of the Sugar Conference but could possibly return to Geneva for a later meeting if the indications were that something useful could be accomplished and that my attendance would be advisable or helpful. I told him that if the meeting is not postponed and Eden and Delbos do not deem it advisable or worthwhile to attend I could see no reason why I should attend. He said that although it would be difficult for Eden to attend the meeting on May 6 he was sure he would do so if I thought it advisable and asked him to go. They felt, however, that unless there is more prospect of success than is now indicated it would raise false hopes for him to attend. He added that although they would like me to go in any event, they realized this same objection would apply in my case. I told him I would not assume the responsibility of asking Eden to go and thoroughly appreciated the objections to creating a false impression. Cranborne then said there was a conviction in the British Government that political and economic conditions on the continent were improving. It was essential not to rush matters and equally essential that economic agreement should go hand-in-hand with political settlement. There was grave danger in furnishing economic assistance to a dissatisfied Germany. There were signs that the Germans were moderating their views and that they were feeling the effect of the British rearmament program. It was in these circumstances imperative to move with caution and to avoid the appearance of activity unless there was something positive behind it. At the same time it was important not to discourage any advances or efforts to keep alive the question of disarmament.

In conclusion Cranborne said that he was inclined to favor a postponement of the Bureau meeting. He would first sound out the French and if they were agreeable he would ask Avenol17 to suggest the postponement to the Governments concerned. He would also take occasion to question the French further with regard to their ideas, specifically what they intend to propose and would inform me.

In the light of this conversation and after further consideration, I have come to the conclusion that unless there is some unforeseen change in the situation it would be inadvisable for me to go to Geneva,18 particularly in view of the fact that the chairmen of the other major delegations will not be present which would mean that my going would [Page 7] undoubtedly give rise to speculation in the press and a belief that we have something concrete to propose.

Hugh Wilson sent me a copy of his 40, April 15, 3 p.m., to you with which I am substantially in accord. I think it would be advisable for me to have a full discussion with Wilson of the various aspects of the Bureau meeting and of the whole disarmament question. I believe he could now come to London unobtrusively without causing any undue comment and I should like to have him do so. If this meets with your approval please instruct him accordingly and advise me.19

  1. Joseph Paul-Boncour, French permanent delegate to the League of Nations.
  2. Coronation of King George VI of the United Kingdom, May 12, 1937.
  3. Joseph Avenol, Secretary General of the League of Nations.
  4. The United States was represented at the session of the Bureau by Mr. Wilson, the Minister in Switzerland.
  5. On April 26 Mr. Wilson was instructed to proceed to London for consultation with Mr. Davis (500.A15A4 Steering Committee/517).