Department of State Disarmament Files

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Donald C. Blaisdell, Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of United Nations Affairs (Rusk)


Subject: Suspension of the Work of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, Commission for Conventional Armaments, and the Military Staff Committee

Participants: Mr. D. D. Maclean, British Embassy1
Mr. J. N. Henderson, British Embassy2
Mr. Gullion, Department of State
Mr. Elliott, Department of State
Mr. Leith, Department of State
Mr. Blaisdell, Department of State

At their request, Messrs. Maclean and Henderson of the British Embassy called on me this morning and left the attached Aide-Mémoire (595/–/48, dated May 18, 1948). I asked Messrs. Gullion, Elliott and Leith to be present at the meeting.

Upon finishing a reading of the attached Aide-Mémoire, I asked Mr. Gullion if he felt he wished to make any comments or any observations at the present time. I said that so far as I was concerned I would wish to have an opportunity to re-read the Aide-Mémoire and reflect upon it before making any comment. Mr. Gullion remarked that he too thought that the matter raised by the Aide-Mémoire should be thoroughly “ingested” in the Department before any reaction was forthcoming.

Mr. Elliott asked if a similar Aide-Mémoire were being left with governments of the other members of the Atomic Energy Commission majority. Mr. Maclean replied that only the French Government was being approached.

Before concluding the discussion, Mr. Gullion inquired whether either Mr. Maclean or Mr. Henderson was familiar with the study program which the Foreign Office may be undertaking with respect to international atomic energy control. Mr. Maclean replied that he was familiar only in a general way; that the British Government would be reviewing the situation before the next session of the General Assembly. At this point Mr. Henderson interjected a comment that he was not clear whether paragraph 7 of the Aide-Mémoire referred to a survey by the British Government alone or by the British [Page 343] and United States Governments. He said he was inclined to the latter interpretation.

I said that the Department would give this prompt attention and that we would be in touch with the British Embassy when we were prepared to comment.

Donald C. Blaisdell


The British Foreign Secretary has been reviewing the stage now reached in the work of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Commission for Conventional Armaments, and of the Military Staff Committee on the agreements prescribed in Article 43 of the United Nations Charter.

2. As the United States Government is aware, the Atomic Energy Commission is now considering a report to be made to the Security Council to the general effect that no further progress in its present task can be achieved without an improvement in the international situation and recommending that the matter be brought to the attention of the General Assembly (the Commission’s Parent Body).

3. The United States Government will be aware that in existing circumstances no real progress is likely to be achieved in their allotted tasks either by (a) the Commission for Conventional Armaments or by (b) the Military Staff Committee. As to (a) it appears highly improbable that the Commission will agree on a report on the basic principles on which a system of disarmament should be reached, failing which there seems no use in taking up further items in the Commission’s plan of work. As to (b) the Military Staff Committee has failed to reach agreement on several of the most important of the general principles which it has formulated as requiring agreement before the individual agreements between members of the United Nations and the Security Council postulated in Article 43 can be drawn up. Its report has for several months been before the Security Council which has made little progress and shows no signs of making more. Discussion in the Committee on the strength of the proposed security forces has also failed to produce agreement and can hardly be usefully prolonged.

4. Mr. Bevin4 considers that if these three bodies, in the circumstances described above, merely go on in their present grooves, not only [Page 344] can no useful result be achieved, but the United Nations will be discredited and the all-important issues at stake will become befogged and belittled with very serious results. Mr. Bevin thinks therefore the time has come when there ought to be a breathing space as regards work in all three fields, and with this aim he proposes the following procedure.

5. During the next few weeks the work of the three bodies on the tasks at present before them shall be allowed to come independently to a standstill. The Security Council should receive successively reports from the three bodies announcing the view of the majority that no further progress can be made, and should thereupon direct those bodies to suspend the work on which they are engaged. There would of course (Mr. Bevin is particularly anxious to make this clear) be no question of suspending the three bodies themselves. It could be recommended that the Security Council report the situation to the next ordinary session of the General Assembly as a matter of special concern.

6. In the Security Council Mr. Bevin would propose to instruct Sir A. Cadogan to make it clear that His Majesty’s Government remain most anxious to see progress made on these vital questions of atomic energy, disarmament and security, and that this desire is not diminished by their belief that the present discussions cannot usefully be continued and should therefore be suspended.

7. His Majesty’s Government would then be prepared for a major discussion of the issues involved at the General Assembly next autumn and in the meantime they would carefully survey their policy in all three fields with the aim of trying to give a fresh start to the work if conditions at the time of the Assembly permit.

8. His Majesty’s Government must of course be ready to counter vigorously accusations by the Soviet Government that the machinery as well as the atmosphere of peace is being destroyed by an organized conspiracy. His Majesty’s Government’s general line on this might fee, as stated above, that they are most anxious to make progress, that no one disputes the right of the Soviet Government to their own views, but that they have so far shown themselves quite unwilling to try to adjust those views to the views of other governments.

9. Though not optimistic, Mr. Bevin thinks it is conceivable that the action proposed successively in the three fields in question may have some effect on the Russians in thinking over their policy during the intervening months before the General Assembly.

10. The British Embassy have been asked to put the foregoing views to the State Department and to express Mr. Bevin’s hope that the State Department will agree to instruct the United States representative in the Security Council on the above lines.

  1. Donald D. Maclean, Acting First Secretary, British Embassy.
  2. John N. Henderson, Second Secretary, British Embassy.
  3. In an aide-mémoire to the British Embassy, May 25, the Department of State acknowledged receipt of the present document and requested information on the nature of the action which the British Government would hope the General Assembly would take regarding the subjects under reference (501.BC/5–1848).
  4. Ernest Bevin, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.