710 Consultation 4/11–2947

The Acting Secretary of State to President Truman

The President: The undersigned, the Acting Secretary of State, has the honor to lay before the President, with a view to its transmission to the Senate to receive the advice and consent of that body to ratification, if his judgment approve thereof, a certified copy of the inter-American treaty of reciprocal assistance, formulated at the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security and signed at Rio de Janeiro in the English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish languages on September 2, 1947, by the plenipotentiaries of the United States of America and by the plenipotentiaries of other American republics.38

. . . . . . .

The inter-American treaty of reciprocal assistance was drawn up in accordance with the recommendation in the Act of Chapultepec and within the framework of the United Nations Charter. As stated in the preamble, the treaty deals with “those matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security which are appropriate for regional action”. This regional arrangement is thus of a type contemplated in chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter. It is entirely consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations and will facilitate and supplement the effective functioning of the United Nations. The authority of the Security Council with regard to the application of enforcement measures, and its general powers with respect to maintenance of international peace and security are fully recognized in the treaty, and Article 10 contains the stipulation that none of the provisions of the treaty “shall be construed as impairing [Page 91] the rights and obligations of the High Contracting Parties under the Charter of the United Nations”.

The principal features of the treaty include (a) references to certain basic considerations and precedents (preamble); (b) a reaffirmation of basic principles with respect to the pacific settlement of disputes (Articles 1 and 2); (c) the stipulation of specific obligations in the event of an armed attack against an American State, with a definition of the areas within which an armed attack would invoke the maximum obligations of the treaty (Articles 3 and 4); (d) provisions for consultation and collective measures in the event of certain other dangers to continental peace (Article 6); (e) provisions specifying the types of measures which may be taken in either event and specifying certain acts of aggression (Articles 7, 8, and 9.); (f) provisions assuring consistency with and fulfillment of the obligations under the United Nations Charter (Article 3, paragraphs 3 and 4, and Articles 5, 10, and 24); and (g) procedural matters affecting consultation regarding, and execution of, measures, voting and the binding effect of decisions (Articles 11 to 21, inclusive).

The basic principle underlying the Act of Chapultepec is restated and extended in the treaty and concomitant obligations set forth in Article 3 as follows:

  • “1. The High Contracting Parties agree that an armed attack by any State against an American State shall be considered as an attack against all the American States and, consequently, each one of the said Contracting Parties undertakes to assist in meeting the attack in the exercise of the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.
  • “2. On the request of the State or States directly attacked and until the decision of the Organ of Consultation of the Inter-American System, each one of the Contracting Parties may determine the immediate measures which it may individually take in fulfillment of the obligation contained in the preceding paragraph and in accordance with the principle of continental solidarity. The Organ of Consultation shall meet without delay for the purpose of examining those measures and agreeing upon the measures of a collective character that should be taken.”

Thus, apart from such collective measures as may be agreed upon in consultation, each of the parties obligates itself to take affirmative action to assist in meeting an armed attack. This important provision converts the right of individual and collective self-defense, as recognized in the United Nations Charter, into an obligation under this treaty. The provision for immediate assistance is applicable to all cases of armed attack taking place within the territory of an American State or anywhere within the region delimited in Article 4. This region embraces the American Continents and Greenland, adjacent [Page 92] waters, and polar regions immediately to the north and south of the American continents.

Regardless of where the armed attack may take place, the parties are obligated to consult immediately with one another to agree upon appropriate collective measures.

The Conference decided that no attempt should be made to define aggression in general terms, but two recognized types of aggression are specified in Article 9.

In the event of an aggression which is not an armed attack or in the event of the occurrence of other possible dangers to the peace, the parties similarly obligate themselves in Article 6 to consult to determine the measures to be taken to aid the victim of the aggression or to restore peace and security.

The recommendation in the Act of Chapultepec with respect to the measures which might be taken to meet threats to inter-American peace and security or acts of aggression against any American State is restated in Article 8 of the treaty as follows:

“For the purposes of this Treaty, the measures on which the Organ of Consultation may agree will comprise one or more of the following: recall of chiefs of diplomatic missions; breaking of diplomatic relations; breaking of consular relations; partial or complete interruption of economic relations or of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, telephonic, and radio-telephonic or radiotelegraphic communications; and use of armed force.”

Article 7 provides that in the event of a conflict between two or more American States, the initial collective action to be taken by the parties shall be to call upon the contending States to suspend hostilities and restore the situation to the status quo ante bellum.

It is provided in Article 20 that decisions which require the application of the measures specified in Article 8 shall be binding upon all the signatory States which have ratified the treaty, with the sole exception that no State shall be required to use armed force without its consent. In Article 17 it is provided that the Organ of Consultation shall take its decisions by a vote of two-thirds of the signatory States which have ratified the treaty. This arrangement, whereby the measures specified in Article 8, with the one exception, become obligatory for all parties upon a two-thirds vote of the States parties to the treaty, represents a significant advance in international relations.

Article 22 provides that the treaty shall come into effect between the States which ratify it as soon as the ratifications of two-thirds of the signatory States have been deposited. Article 23 contains additional protocolary provisions relating to signature and ratification.

Article 24 determines the procedure for the registration of the [Page 93] treaty, when it has entered into force, with the Secretariat of the United Nations. Such registration is to be effected through the Pan American Union.

Article 25 provides that the treaty shall remain in force indefinitely but that any State party thereto may denounce it by a notification in writing to the Pan American Union, such denunciation to become effective for that State two years from the date of the receipt of such notification by the Pan American Union.

Article 26, the final article, provides that the principles and fundamental provisions of the treaty shall be incorporated in the Organic Pact of the Inter-American System. This has reference to an instrument in the nature of a basic constitution or charter for the reorganization of the System which it is contemplated will be considered and adopted at the forthcoming Ninth International Conference of American States to be held at Bogotá, Colombia, early in 1948.

This treaty represents a significant advance in international cooperation for the maintenance of peace and security. Its provisions commit the other parties promptly to assist the United States in the event of an armed attack by any country on our territory or anywhere in the region defined by the treaty, and the United States similarly pledges its assistance to the other parties in case any of them is subjected to such an attack. In determining collective measures, the parties guarantee in advance to observe important decisions reached by two-thirds of them, reserving for their individual consent among the listed measures only the vital decision as to their participation in the use of armed force. The obligatory character of decisions by a two-thirds majority assures that the general collective will of the community can be made effective, and avoids the possibility that the operation of the treaty might be paralyzed through the nonconcurrence of a small minority.

The vital spirit of Pan American solidarity is implicit in the provisions of the treaty and there is every reason to believe that the treaty affords an adequate guarantee of the peace and security of this Hemisphere, thereby assuring so far as possible a necessary condition to the continued advancement of the economic, political, and social ideals of the peoples of the American States.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert A. Lovett
  1. For text of treaty, see Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 1838, or 62 Stat. (pt. 2) 1681.