Department of State Atomic Energy Files1

Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs (Hiss) to the Secretary of State 2

Subject: Questions of Special Importance Raised By Submission of Interim Report of the Atomic Energy Commission to the Security Council3 and the Placing on the Agenda of the Security Council the General Assembly Resolution of December 14 on the General Regulation and Reduction of Armaments4


The interim report made by the Atomic Energy Commission transmitted on December 30 to the Security Council faces the Department and the Government with a new situation. Atomic energy problems are now transferred to a new forum where the spokesmen for the governments concerned, including particularly our own representative, will [Page 329] be different from those who have heretofore considered this matter. Senator Austin5 will now be our spokesman instead of Mr. Baruch.6 Three entirely new countries (Colombia, Syria and Belgium), whose representatives will not have had the benefit of the discussions in the Atomic Energy Commission, will participate in the Security Council consideration of this problem. (Mexico, Egypt and the Netherlands have ceased to be members of the Security Council.)

The Department will be faced with the necessity of issuing day to day operating instructions to Senator Austin. This represents an entirely new responsibility and arrangements should be made for the effective discharge of it. Other agencies of the government have a very direct and vital interest in the formulation of policy which will guide Senator Austin’s actions in the Council. These include the War and Navy Departments, the Congress, our domestic Atomic Energy Commission, and Mr. Baruch. Senator Austin should, of course, also participate directly in the formulation of policy. It is suggested that the Under Secretary,7 the Counselor,8 and the Legal Adviser9 be asked to assume special responsibilities for supervision of the development of policies to govern instructions to be drafted by the Department. It is believed that informal arrangements already instituted by the Department for liaison with the War and Navy Departments should be adequate for that purpose, although it might be wise to get definite confirmation from the Secretaries of War and Navy if this arrangement is satisfactory from their points of view. It is suggested that Senators Vandenberg10 and Connally11 should be consulted on basic questions of policy. This should adequately provide for the necessary Congressional liaison. Mr. Lilienthal12 could be asked to designate a liaison officer for the domestic Atomic Energy Commission. It is suggested that the Secretary talk personally to Mr. Baruch about the basic policy questions relating to atomic energy referred to subsequently in this memorandum and also ask Mr. Baruch to designate a liaison officer for day to day liaison with the Department.

The consideration by the Security Council of the General Assembly’s resolution of December 14 on general regulation and reduction of [Page 330] armaments raises another major question which will affect the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission and the governmental agencies referred to above. The General Assembly resolution and our own policy emphasize as of priority second only to control of atomic energy the control of other modern scientific discoveries and technical developments elsewhere in the resolution referred to as “other major weapons adaptable now and in the future to mass destruction”. The terms of reference of the Atomic Energy Commission as approved by the General Assembly in London last January include the making of specific proposals “for the elimination from national armaments… of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction”.13 It is the agreed policy of the United States to urge that after the Security Council has completed its forthcoming consideration of the control of atomic energy, the Council should as its next step in carrying out the General Assembly’s resolution of December 14 consider the question of control of other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. This consideration should be in the nature merely of brief discussions of principles, with emphasis upon the importance of giving priority to the study of effective safeguards, as provided in the Atomic Energy Commission terms of reference, and by the Council thereupon requesting the Atomic Energy Commission simultaneously with its drafting of a treaty or convention for the control of atomic energy to prepare recommendations as to the control of the other major weapons. Very little thought has been given to the formulation of our own policy on this subject and it is urgent that prompt steps be taken to formulate that policy. It is suggested that discussions be held promptly with the agencies listed above and with Dr. Bush14 on this subject to the end that arrangements can be immediately instituted for the development of such a policy. It is suggested that the Secretary discuss this matter of arrangements with Mr. Baruch and ask Mr. Baruch to designate a principal member or members of his staff to participate in the establishment of these arrangements and the formulation of policy.

Relationship Between the International Atomic Energy Authority and National Agencies for Atomic Energy

The recommendations of the Atomic Energy Commission contain the following paragraph:

“Decisions of the authority pursuant to the powers conferred upon it by the treaty or convention should govern the operations of national agencies for atomic energy. In carrying out its prescribed functions, however, the authority should interfere as little as necessary with the operations of national agencies for atomic energy, or with the economic [Page 331] plans and the private, corporate, and State relationships in the several countries.”

The problem raised is whether our representative in the Security Council should propose elimination of or modification of the second sentence, in view of the fact that that sentence is capable of being construed in such a way as to impair the powers of the international atomic energy authority, a basic element in the American program. It is important that the views of the interested agencies referred to above be obtained promptly on this point. As a first step in this process it is recommended that the Secretary talk to Mr. Baruch to see whether Mr. Baruch would have strong objections to elimination of or modification of the sentence under reference.

In the event that it should be decided not to attempt to eliminate or modify this sentence it will be important to formulate with care the statement of the United States position to be made in the Security Council on this point in order to make it clear that approval of this paragraph by the Security Council would not be a decision requiring that the treaty be drafted in such a way as would impair the powers of the international atomic energy authority.

The Veto Question

The recommendations of the Atomic Energy Commission contain the following provisions which raise the question of procedure to be followed in the Security Council:

“3. …

(e) Specifying the means of methods of determining violations of its terms, setting forth such violations as shall constitute international crimes, and establishing the nature of the measures of enforcement and punishment to be imposed upon persons and upon nations guilty of violating the terms of the treaty or convention.

“The judicial or other processes for determination of violations of the treaty or convention, and of punishments therefor, should be swift and certain. Serious violations of the treaty shall be reported immediately by the authority to the nations parties to the treaty, to the General Assembly and to the Security Council. Once the violations constituting international crimes have been defined and the measures of enforcement and punishment therefor agreed to in the treaty or convention, there shall be no legal right, by veto or otherwise, whereby a willful violator of the terms of the treaty or convention shall be protected from the consequences of violation of its terms.

“The enforcement and punishment provisions of the treaty or convention would be ineffectual if, in any such situations, they could be rendered nugatory by the veto of a State which had voluntarily signed the treaty.

“4. In consideration of the problem of violation of the terms of the treaty or convention, it should also be borne in mind that a violation might be of so grave a character as to give rise to the inherent right of [Page 332] self-defence recognized in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.”

This subject may well prove to be crucial in terms of whether or not the entire international consideration of control of atomic energy is to break down at this stage. Of equal importance is the question of estimating whether the Congress would approve any recommendations that might be agreed to. It may develop that the best tactics to be followed, in order to avoid either a break down of international consideration of atomic energy or adoption of principles which would not be acceptable to Congress, will prove to be to urge the Security Council not to attempt to reach a definitive decision on this subject at this time, but after an expression of views of the various members to approve other portions of the recommendations and refer the entire recommendations back to the Atomic Energy Commission with the request that the Commission proceed promptly to draft a treaty or convention carrying into effect the recommendations, with the understanding that alternate drafts would be prepared in those cases where the Commission finds itself unable to reach unanimous agreement as to particular provisions.

It is suggested that as the initial step in formulating policy on this subject the Secretary should talk to Mr. Baruch to ascertain Mr. Baruch’s views on the subject.

  1. Lot 57D688, the consolidated lot file on atomic energy, 1944–1962, located in the Department of State, including the records of the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State on Atomic Energy and the records of the United States Delegation to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission.
  2. The file copy is labeled “draft.”
  3. AEC, 1st yr., Special Suppl.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. i, p. 1099.
  5. Warren R. Austin, United States Representative at the United Nations; Senator from Vermont, 1931–1946.
  6. Bernard M. Baruch, United States Representative on the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, 1946; his letter of resignation is printed infra.
  7. Dean Acheson.
  8. Benjamin V. Cohen.
  9. Charles Fahy.
  10. Arthur H. Vandenberg, United States Senator from Michigan; Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 80th Congress.
  11. Tom Connally, United States Senator from Texas; ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 80th Congress.
  12. David E. Lilienthal, Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission.
  13. Omission indicated in the source text.
  14. Vannevar Bush, Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development.