Department of State Atomic Energy Files

Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, by Mr. Edmund A. Gullion, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State (Lovett)

Mr. Osborn called to ask me to advise you that the next meeting of the UNAEC to consider and vote on the Third Report, proposed by the French, U.S. and U.K. delegations, would be on Monday, May 17.1 He said that he was gratified that a decision on the form of the Third Report had been taken, and that the adherence of the majority members had been assured before the recent publication of the U.S.-Soviet notes,2 because the latter might have blurred the issue. He said that he anticipated that Mr. Gromyko would attempt to draw some advantage from the fact that this Government had not yet stated whether it was for ultimate “destruction” or “disposal of” atomic weapons tinder the majority plan.

[Page 341]

I said that we were working on a position statement, based on the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s position of July 23, 1947, “that they saw no objection, after successful establishment by treaty or convention, of control agreement embodying the plans of the U.S. (Baruch plan) proposal for the control of atomic energy, and after adequate demonstration of the plan’s effectiveness, to the disposal of existing atomic weapons by any means, including destruction, which may be agreed upon at that time.”3

Mr. Osborn said that he thought the statement ought to make clear that the word “destruction” was relatively meaningless if it were meant only to apply to weapons and not to the nuclear fuel contained therein, and that when the matter was last discussed in the UNAEC in July 1947 several nations, including Canada, thought that the nuclear fuel ought not to be destroyed.

I told Mr. Osborn that in his forthcoming press conference, the Secretary might refer inquiries on the future course of UNAEC to Mr. Osborn. Mr. Osborn said that he would be prepared and would welcome such an opportunity, and that if the question were asked as to what next steps were contemplated he would say that if the minority showed a readiness to moderate its resistance to the majority plan, this would be an example of the state of affairs which would be necessary to warrant resumption.

He also indicated that for his part he would like to say that such a move by the Soviets would be one indication of a genuine desire to improve relations with the United States. (The Secretary was not questioned on this matter; I believe that we can safely use the Atomic Energy Commission as an example of what the Secretary described “as fields when action is possible and urgently necessary at the present time … matters before the Security Council, etc.”4)

I cited the remote possibility that Gromyko might choose this moment to announce some real or pertinent concession to the majority views. Mr. Osborn said that if this were done he would refer to the two years in which the Soviet had had an opportunity to make some offer and state that the Russians would have ample opportunity to present it, and the nations to consider it, in the Security Council debate which was coming up. I observed that if, in the unlikely event that Gromyko should offer anything which, in Mr. Osborn’s judgment, was really a concession, the latter would, no doubt, consider with the majority whether the vote on the Third Report should be postponed.

  1. At the 15th Meeting of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, May 7, François de Rose of the French Delegation, on behalf of the United States, United Kingdom, and France, presented the draft report prepared by the delegations of the three nations (see footnote 2, p. 336). He also circulated “A Summary of the Majority Plan of Control” which became Annex 2 to the report. The tripartite statement was adopted by the Commission at its 16th Meetings May 17, by a vote of 9 to 2 (the Soviet Union and the Ukraine). It formed the substance of the Third Report of the UNAEC to the Security Council (AEC, 3rd yr., Special Suppl., or Department of State Publication 3179 (July 1948)).
  2. For documentation on the conversations between Walter Bedell Smith, United States Ambassador in the Soviet Union, and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, see vol. iv, pp. 845–871, passim. For texts of notes they exchanged, May 4 and 9, released to the press on May 11, see Department of State Bulletin, May 23, 1948, pp. 679–683.
  3. With respect to the position here cited, see Rusk’s memorandum to the Secretary of State, July 24, 1947, Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. i, p. 572.
  4. This quotation is taken from the Secretary of State’s press and radIO news conference of May 12 which was devoted to discussion of Soviet-Americans relations.