Department of State Disarmament Files

Memorandum by Mr. Donald M. Leith of the Division of International Security Affairs1


The following notes include a brief statement of the highlights of my recent trip to New York:2

Upon my arrival I went over with Mr. Osborn, in some detail, the material so far prepared by RAC and the Department dealing with the subject of conventional armaments. Particular emphasis was given in our discussions to the proper interpretation of RAC D–13/10e, the basic statement of general principles,3 and RAC D–18/2e, dealing with the elements of safeguards.4 I also gave Mr. Osborn some background on the thinking which had led to the development of RAC and Departmental positions on the subject of regulation of armaments.
Mr. Osborn, Mr. Burton,5 and I attended the 13th Meeting of the CCA Working Committee on January 21. This was a particularly useful meeting at which to have been present because Mr. Gromyko6 made a general statement criticizing the Australian Resolution,7 and during the course of this criticism revealed for the first time the line he is generally expected to follow in attacking resolutions having points in common with the Australian Resolution (as the United States draft Resolution on Item II has). During this meeting Mr. Osborn took the position that it was premature to appoint a subcommittee to deal with resolutions on Item II, a position in accord with Departmental thinking.
Although a sub-committee was not appointed, it was suggested that the British and Australians should endeavor to merge their draft resolutions into one.8 This suggestion was accepted.
The day following the meeting, we received a draft of the proposed joint U.K.-Australian Resolution on Item II9 for our suggestions. I was given to understand that this was on the initiative of the U.K. Delegation. The joint Resolution contained a few points to which we had major objections. Mr. Osborn sent Mr. Burton and me to the British to give them our views in an informal way. We emphasized that such views as we expressed were in no sense official and that we were not prepared, as yet, to commit ourselves to support any of the resolutions so far submitted. The British appeared to be in sympathy with our views and said they would discuss them with the Australians. A revision subsequent to such discussion has been forwarded to USUN (RAC).
The Chairmanship of the CCA changes Monday, February 2nd and Mr. Osborn takes over from Sir Alexander Cadogan.10 The date for the next meeting of the Working Committee has not been set and none of the Delegations is, as yet, pressing for an early convening of the Committee, Nevertheless, it is likely that there will be at least one meeting before the middle of February.
The tactics tentatively decided upon by USUN for the next few weeks are as follows:
When the joint U.K.-Australian Resolution is introduced to the Committee, USUN proposes to offer, as amendments, those important changes which have not been accepted. It is even possible that we shall introduce a resolution of our own, although the former method would be preferable since our resolution would be similar in many respects to that of the other two delegations. A vote on Item II will almost certainly be taken before the end of the month. This means that the Commission will be faced with the alternatives of either going on to Item III or not meeting at all for an indefinite period. Mr. Osborn’s present instructions call for proceeding with Item III.
While Mr. Osborn agrees with those who feel that there may be-a good deal of logic in stopping after the vote on a Resolution on Item II, he feels that the general principles are so general, that even a 9 to 2 vote on them would not make the strong record we should like. He, therefore, believes it desirable to proceed far enough into Item III to develop a majority supported statement regarding elements of safeguards. By developing such an agreed statement, Mr. Osborn feels that the majority and ourselves would be in the strong position of having made constructive proposals both in the atomic energy field and in that of conventional armaments which the Soviets and their satellites alone had refused to accept. Furthermore, he thinks that the Soviet [Page 315] rejection of proposals on safeguards would mean much more to the “man-in-the-street” than a difference merely on principles—important as these principles may be.
I asked Mr. Osborn whether he thought the discussion of safeguards could be controlled in such a way as not to involve us too deeply in the details of Item III, or so as not to invite a discussion on Item IV, either one of which would at this time seriously embarrass us. Mr. Osborn seemed confident that such discussion, could be avoided in the light of his experience in the UNAEC where a similar danger had existed. He said, however, his final attitude on the matter would be strongly influenced by the reaction of friendly delegations, notably the Canadian, French, and United Kingdom Delegations. With their cooperation he had no doubt that the discussion could be limited to the desired scope.
Mr. Osborn has already seen General McNaughton11 of the Canadian Delegation and Baron de la Tournelle12 of the French Delegation. Before meeting with these gentlemen, Mr. Osborn asked me whether I thought the Department would feel it worthwhile for him to see them, provided the conversation were kept on a highly personal basis with a clear understanding that no decision has as yet been reached by the State Department I told him I was sure the Department would approve such action on the basis contemplated. Both men, when consulted, seemed, favorable to Mr. Osborn’s suggestion.
Mr. Osborn, therefore, believes it will be possible, with such help as can be supplied from Washington, to undertake the consideration of elements of safeguards in the CCA such as are outlined in. RAC D–18/2e, if the tactical situation makes it appear wise to go ahead. However, he plans to discuss this matter at the RAC meeting on Wednesday, February 4.
Two Annexes are attached to this memorandum. Annex I is Mr. Osborn’s memorandum of the conversation which he and I had with General McNaughton, concerning the advisability of proceeding with a consideration of safeguards. Annex II is a memorandum of conversation I had with Mr. Osborn concerning his interview with Baron de la Tournelle of the French Delegation.

[Page 316]

Annex 1

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Appointed Deputy United States Representative to the Commission for Conventional Armaments (Osborn)

Mr. Leith and Mr. Osborn called on General McNaughton Tuesday afternoon, January 27, 1948. George Ignatieff, General McNaughton’s top assistant,-was present.

General McNaughton went over with them the situation in the Commission for Conventional Armaments, with which he was relatively unacquainted. He considered the plan of work and the draft of the British-Australian resolution covering Item II—General Principles, immediately pointing out the weakness of the Australian proposal for progress on disarmament by stages.

General McNaughton then discussed the advisability of continuing through Item III—Safeguards, attempting to get a majority report setting up the general principles of safeguards, without, however, developing any specific proposals. He rather indicated that he thought this could be done in a four or five page document and that it would be worth doing because if it got majority approval and the Soviets opposed it, as they certainly would, it would again put the Soviets in the position of refusing to come into a plan and a system of inspection which the majority felt was essential to world security. General McNaughton did not think there was any danger of our being drawn into a discussion of actual reduction (Item IV). He suggested that we not make up our minds at once on whether to proceed with Item III, but see how we made out on Item II. In any event, he felt there could be no possibility of considering Item IV; in other words, that the present work of the Commission must be concluded either with Item II or with Item III.

Ignatieff was more diffuse in his statements and did not appear to support the idea of a majority expression on principles covering safeguards. (Mr. Osborn noted that on the Atomic Energy Commission General McNaughton’s own views always prevailed, and always overruled Ignatieff’s position, but this might not be the case in the Conventional Armaments Commission:; with which General McNaughton was not as much concerned.)

[Page 317]

Annex 2

Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, by Mr. Donald M. Leith of the Division of International Security Affairs

Mr. Osborn called me Friday afternoon January 30, 1948, to report on his conversation with Baron de la Tournelle of the French Delegation regarding the subject of future activities in the CCA. The Baron indicated that he was much disappointed with the lack of progress so far made in the CCA. He had expected that since the United States had taken a position of leadership in the beginning, especially respecting the Plan of Work and Item I, we would have had much more concrete proposals to make respecting Items II and III and would have been more eager to make them. He himself thought that it would be most desirable at this point to develop a basic statement on safeguards which could in turn become the basis for a vote on Item III. He felt very definitely that the Russians would be in no position to agree to such a statement in as much as it had already been made evident that a thorough going system of inspection would be contrary to what they believed their interests to be. He felt definitely that any discussions on Item III could be controlled to such an extent that it would not be necessary to deal with material that might be embarrassing to us at this time.

Mr. Osborn stated that in talking with Baron de la Tournelle the above suggestions had been made on the initiative of the Baron.

  1. This memorandum was directed to Dean Rusk, Director of the Office of United Nations Affairs; Donald C. Blaisdell, Special Assistant to Mr. Rusk: Howard C. Johnson, Associate Chief of the Division of International Security Affairs; and John C. Elliott, Acting Assistant Chief of the Division and Executive Secretary of the Executive Committee on Regulation of Armaments.
  2. Leith visited the United States Mission at the United Nations from January 20 to January 28.
  3. For a statement of United States policy on this subject based on document RAC D–13/10e and submitted to the Commission for Conventional Armaments on September 17, 1947, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. i, p. 660.
  4. Not printed, but see previous draft, document RAC D–18/2d, ibid., p. 703.
  5. John R. Burton, Jr., Staff Member, United States Delegations to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission and to the Commission for Conventional Armaments.
  6. Andrey Andreyevich Gromyko, Permanent Representative of the Soviet Union at the United Nations; Soviet Representative to the Commission for conventional Armaments.
  7. The Australian resolution, relating to Item II of the Plan of Work (General Principles), is not printed.
  8. The British resolution is not printed.
  9. Not printed.
  10. Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom at the United Nations; British Representative to the Commission for Conventional Armaments.
  11. General Andrew, G. L. McNaughton, Permanent Canadian Representative at the United Nations; Canadian Representative on the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission and Commission for Conventional Armaments; Chairman of the Canadian Atomic Energy Control Board.
  12. Baron Guy de la Tournelle, Alternate French Representative to the Commission for Conventional Armaments.