USUN Files

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of International Security Affairs (Johnson)

Participants: Senator Austin
Mr. Fahy
Mr. Gross
Mr. Ross
Mr. Joseph E. Johnson

Subject: Regulation of Armaments: Atomic Energy

In response to Mr. Ross’s request that he give the rest of the group a summary of his views on the whole problem now facing us with respect to the regulation of armaments including the Atomic Energy Commission’s Report, Senator Austin made the following points:

The discussion and the problem are now only procedural. There has been no consideration of the substance of arms regulation matters.
Other delegates have told U.S. Delegation they found it difficult to understand our insistance on priority for consideration of atomic energy. Several of them, notably Parodi, have asked two principal questions: [Page 373]
Why do we insist on giving up our chief weapon before considering other armaments, when that weapon might be our principal bargaining point in obtaining agreement on reduction of other armaments?
Why do we announce that we will not disarm the United States unilaterally and then propose to do just that by getting rid of the weapon which we alone hold?
Senator Austin said that Mr. Herschel Johnson had told Gromyko, Parodi, and Cadogan that the United States did not intend to press for a vote on issues respecting the Atomic Energy Commission Report on which there was disagreement and read what he, Austin, had said in open Council on this point.
Mr. Austin had had a very satisfactory talk this morning with Senator Vandenberg. He said that the position of Vandenberg and that of Mr. Austin and the Department are not inconsistent. Mr. Austin had pointed out to Senator Vandenberg that the Atomic Energy Act passed by Congress provides that no information shall be given without Congressional approval and that in addition, any treaty on this subject must be approved by the Senate. He had also called Senator Vandenberg’s attention to the provision in the Atomic Energy Act to the effect that U.S. national atomic energy policy shall not be inconsistent with any such treaty. These facts, Austin had said, made it clear that it would be impossible to agree upon a treaty which was not satisfactory to Congress and particularly to the Senate. Mr. Austin had emphasized to Senator Vandenberg his determination that they should be, and his belief that they are, in agreement on substance. He felt, however, that he must have latitude with respect to negotiations. He had said, “You must trust me. I cannot be put in a straight jacket.” Senator Vandenberg had replied that he realized Austin’s need for negotiating freedom. He just wanted to be certain that there would be “no giving in to the Russians.”
Austin, referring to the regard in which he knew Vandenberg held Baruch, had then told Vandenberg of his talks with Baruch in which he had asked Baruch if he thought the same urgency exists now as existed earlier. Specifically he had asked Baruch whether he thought the sanctions (“veto”) issue should be forced to a showdown in the Security Council now. Baruch, Austin told Vandenberg, had made it clear that he did not think there was urgency and had pointed out the difference in circumstances between the present and when he, Baruch, had pushed for a vote in December. Baruch had made it clear that he felt Austin should allow the matter to simmer and should not press issues to a vote. Vandenberg, who had not known of Austin’s conversations with Baruch, was “visibly affected by this information.”
In response to a query, Senator Austin indicated that he was satisfied that, as a result of his conversation with Vandenberg, we are [Page 374] no longer in the position of having to press for a vote on the sanctions issue. In other words, the January 21 draft of the position paper1 is not now binding. Senator Austin also said that he feels the Department must leave him much freedom in negotiation. He proposed that an effort be made to reach agreement here in Washington on a draft of a resolution for introduction on February 4. He would take this draft back with him to New York on January 29 and use it as a basis for negotiations with other members of the Council over the week end, although he would not agree to any changes suggested by other delegations without prior consultation with the Department. In this connection the Senator referred to the similarity of thinking in the Department and that in the United States Delegation in New York, and read two drafts of resolutions that had been prepared by Mr. Noyes, one a short one and one very long and detailed.2 It was the initial reaction of the Department officers that the longer draft was too detailed and that an effort to spell out the resolution too much merely created more difficulties.
Senator Austin, indicating that he had spoken in a similar vein to Senator Vandenburg, referred to his conviction that the whole problem of the control of atomic energy and of regulation of armaments generally is intimately linked to other factors of which he mentioned specifically the strategic trusteeships and the provisions of Security Council forces under Article 43. He went on to elaborate his present belief that the treaty for the control of atomic energy must provide for enforcement by means of a collective security pact, which would bind all non-violating signatories to go to war immediately against a nation committing a violation tantamount to an act of war, such as the seizure of an atomic energy plant. Senator Austin stressed the fact that this would be war and not the kind of enforcement action envisaged by Article 42 of the Charter. For this reason the forces to be provided under Article 43 agreements would be entirely inadequate and would be only part of whole.
Mr. Austin had discussed with Senator Vandenberg in a general way the question of his relationship with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Vandenberg had indicated that he thought it desirable to go slow in developing relationships with Lilienthal and his colleagues, at least until the hearings on their confirmation have ended. Senator Austin said that he intended to follow Vandenberg’s suggestion and made it quite clear that he had reached no decision as to the relations between himself and his staff on the one hand and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and its staff on the other.
Mr. Fahy, expressing the gratification which the Department [Page 375] officers felt at the results of Senator Austin’s conversation with Senator Vandenberg, raised the question as to whether it might not be advisable for Mr. Austin also to see the Secretaries of War and Navy.3 No definite decision was reached on this point, but during the ensuing discussion, Senator Austin mentioned the short JCS paper of December 6 for guidance of the U.S. Representatives on the Military Staff Committee (SWNCC 240/2 [1])4 and stated his approval of paragraph (d) thereof which spoke of the necessity of not proceeding beyond the discussion stage with respect to general regulation of armaments until a substantial measure of agreement has been reached regarding the international control of atomic energy.
Referring to a previous telephone conversation with Senator Austin,5 Mr. Ross asked whether the Senator still felt it desirable to keep the Atomic Energy Commission Report in the Security Council until agreement is reached. The Senator indicated that he did not feel this so strongly now, stating that there might be some advantage in sending the Report back to the Atomic Energy Commission for drafting, provided that it is clear that, once agreement in principle has been reached in the Security Council, on a particular point, the Atomic Energy Commission is not free to revise or modify that decision. Mr. Austin believes it most important that it be clearly understood at all times that the Security Council must make the decisions and that the Atomic Energy Commission cannot reverse the Council’s actions.
Senator Austin expressed great concern over the recommendation in the Atomic Energy Commission Report concerning supervision of the transitional process. He referred to earlier conversations with Mr. Byrnes on this point and to a talk with Mr. Baruch. What particularly concerns Mr. Austin is the fact that if the Atomic Energy Commission supervises the transition from one stage to another, as proposed in the Report’s Recommendation 5, the United States will not have the control that its security requires and that the McMahon Act specifically makes mandatory. After Mr. Austin had pointed this out to Mr. Baruch, the latter had said that he fully understood the Senator’s concern and remarked that here, in effect, was a case where the United States must have the veto. The discussion which followed Senator Austin’s remarks on this point at today’s meeting did not lead to any specific conclusion as to the manner in which this particular [Page 376] recommendation should be handled in the Security Council. It was definitely understood, however, that the Recommendation should be dealt with in such a manner as not to foreclose the issue of who would control the transitional processes.
During the discussion Senator Austin said that Mr. Noyes had prepared a paper6 which took the view that the Security Council should consider not only the recommendations in the Atomic Energy Commission Report, but the findings as well. The Senator said he saw much force in this position, which is contrary to that previously held in the Department. There was no discussion of this point.

  1. Ante, p. 370.
  2. Neither printed.
  3. Senator Austin did not see the Service Secretaries, but on January 30, after his return to New York, he spoke by telephone with Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson. The record of that conversation indicates that they exchanged general views on international control of atomic energy, regulation of armaments and collective security, and relations with Congress in regard to those subjects. (USUN Files)
  4. Reference is to SWNCC 240/1, December 9, 1940; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1946, Vol. i, p. 1091. (SWNCC 240/2, January 13, 1947, is printed on p. 356.)
  5. Reference is to a telephone conversation between Austin and Ross on January 22, the record of which is not printed (USUN Files).
  6. January 25, not printed.