IO Files: US/A/1163, also AEC/22, also S/C.3/6

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Frederick Osborn


Subject: Atomic Energy and Conventional Armaments Policies in the General Assembly

Participants: Sir Alexander Cadogan, United Kingdom Delegation
Mr. Falla, United Kingdom Delegation
Mr. Frederick Osborn, United States Mission

Cadogan handed me a written memorandum of what he had in mind to say, which is as follows:

“As far as the United Kingdom Delegation can see, the differences between the United States and United Kingdom positions on this matter are of procedure rather than substance. In particular, the Foreign [Page 386] Office have made it clear that His Majesty’s Government do not in any way depart from their support of the majority proposals of the Atomic Energy Commission.

“The central idea of the Foreign Office as regards tactics in the Assembly is that the behaviour of the Soviet Delegations in the Atomic Energy Commission, the Commission for Conventional Armaments and the Military Staff Committee respectively is symptomatic of a wider problem, namely the abuse by the Soviet Union of its voting rights within the United Nations. They are strongly of the opinion that unless and until there is some sign of reform on the part of the Soviet Union, further discussions in these bodies will in all probability be useless and may foster dangerous illusions.

“The Foreign Office are consequently unwilling to commit themselves at present to the idea of presenting in the Assembly a separate resolution endorsing the substance of the latest atomic energy proposals. They fear that this would, distract attention from the real difficulty, namely the Soviet attitude referred to above, and would obscure the fact that Soviet tactics have been equally obstructive in the Commission for Conventional Armaments and the Military Staff Committee.

“The Foreign Office are actively considering the best way of presenting the case in the Assembly on the lines suggested above. They hope therefore that the question of tactics may be left in suspense for a week or two, by which time they hope to be able to exchange further views with the State Department.”

Cadogan modified this statement somewhat verbally, but with no addition to its content. I stated that with regard to general tactics dealing with the Soviet in the General Assembly on all three matters, any expression of opinion on my part was outside of my competence, but I would like him to know that I thought the United Kingdom proposal laid all of us wide open to a general debate in which all sorts of charges would be made, and in which Soviet propaganda was likely to make as much impression as the statements of other nations.

On the matter of atomic energy, it seemed inconceivable to me that the General Assembly should not debate and then vote upon a resolution similar in form to the resolution voted nine to two in the Security Council, approving the pertinent parts of the three Reports of the Atomic Energy Commission. Since such a debate and such a resolution appeared inevitable, it seemed best to prepare for it now, regardless of what tactics we adopted on larger issues. Certainly the strongest preparation would be for all those nations which have taken part in an expression of majority views in the Atomic Energy Commission during the past two years jointly to sponsor the resolution of approval.

Under the circumstances of our conversation, and unless I receive further instructions from the State Department, it is my opinion that it would be unwise for me to contact the other delegations in New [Page 387] York until the British position is cleared up. I recognize that this means that the whole question of sponsoring the resolution may have to await our arrival in Paris.

Immediately following on this conversation, I telephoned Mr. Falla and asked him to inform Cadogan as follows:

“I have been considering our talk of this morning and am forced to recollect that twice in my experience, once last spring and once this spring, the British Government have attempted to prevent a vote on the Commission Report, or to introduce reservations. Under these circumstances, I cannot but take into account the possibility that this is again their intention.”