IO Files: USGA/1a/AECom/31

United States Delegation Position Paper


The Question of “Separate Stages”

There has been considerable confusion about the meaning of the provision in the Moscow Resolution stipulating that the work of the commission shall proceed by “separate stages.” This provision comes immediately after the list of four subjects on which the commission was directed to make specific proposals, and it has been assumed by many people, including Senator Vandenberg,21 that the four subjects were the separate stages, “the successful completion of each of which will develop the necessary confidence of the world before the next [Page 726] stage is undertaken”. The result of this would be that the important subject of safeguards would not be reached until the other three, dealing with exchange of information, control of atomic energy, and elimination of atomic weapons and other means of mass destruction, has been acted upon. It was thus foreseen with some uneasiness by Senator Vandenberg that an exchange of information might be proposed before full security had been achieved for the United States through the establishment of an effective inspection system.

As a matter of fact, the term “separate stages” was not intended to correspond to the four subjects on which the commission was specifically directed to make proposals. This is clear from the text of the Agreed Declaration,22 from which the provisions of the Moscow Resolution were taken verbatim. In the Agreed Declaration the provision about separate stages is followed by another sentence to the effect that “specifically it is considered that the commission might well devote its attention first to the wide exchange of scientists and of scientific information, and as a second stage to the development of full knowledge concerning natural resources of raw materials.” This second stage obviously does not correspond with the second of the four subjects mentioned above. Hence it can be assumed that there was no intention to direct the commission to deal with these four subjects separately, completing one before the next was undertaken. The commission is left quite free to consider each subject in relation to the others, and in whatever order it sees fit. Senator Vandenberg was so assured by the Department of State.

There is another more serious issue bearing on the order of the work of the commission. Many people take the position that no step toward international control of atomic weapons should be taken until a system of safeguards satisfactory to the United States has been accepted by the rest of the world. This view holds that not even the normal exchange of general scientific information should be considered until an effective inspection system has been assured in all countries having any capacity to produce bombs. It suggests that the only kind of an international control system which the commission can consider is one which springs full-blown into existence all at once and does not grow by gradual stages.

This position is not supported by any statement of the United States, and would in fact interfere seriously with the commission’s work. It is based on the erroneous assumption that our present advantage [Page 727] in possessing bombs will continue indefinitely and that the problem of international control is merely that of inducing other states to accept our terms. As a matter of fact, our advantage is only a temporary one. Other states might well prefer to wait until they had developed their own capacity to make bombs in order to be assured of entering into any scheme of international control on a basis of equality with the United States.

The problem of finding effective safeguards is essentially one of creating conditions under which all states will have a strong interest in making a system of international control work. It has been pointed out in the Agreed Declaration and elsewhere that no system of safeguards can be certain to work against a nation bent on defeating it. The process of setting up the necessary conditions will very likely have to be done in stages, and it was this fact which was foreseen in the “separate stages” provision of the Agreed Declaration and the Moscow Resolution. It would be most unfortunate if the impression were given that this position had now been abandoned, and that the commission could not consider any system of international control that called for gradual steps of development. If that body should be restricted to the consideration of schemes which would provide all nations with full safeguards right from the start, it might well have been given an impossible task.

  1. Arthur H. Vandenberg, United States Senator from Michigan; Representative to the General Assembly.
  2. The reference is to the Agreed Declaration by President Truman, Prime Minister Attlee of the United Kingdom, and Prime Minister King of Canada, signed at Washington, November 15, 1945; for text, see Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) No. 1504, or 60 Stat. (pt. 2) 1479.