Department of State Atomic Energy Files

Memorandum for the File, by Mr. R. Gordon Arneson, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State (Webb)

top secret

Dr. Oppenheimer came in at 10 o’clock on Thursday, March 17, to familiarize himself with the U.S.-U.K.-Canadian Policy Study1 in its final form. Joe Volpe was present for part of the morning. While Oppie did not disagree with the main conclusions of the Study he expressed some concern about what he felt was the general tone of the paper; namely it seemed to stress too much the “quids” we would demand for the “quos” we would get from the British. He urged that the “style” of negotiations should be altered in such a way as to make the point initially to the British that we wish to consider them full partners with us in this enterprise, that each should have full freedom of action, and that once these two points were made and the tone of the negotiations thereby established, we should suggest to the British that there were certain arrangements and allocations of effort which would appear sensible among full fledged partners. These arrangements and allocations of effort would be along the lines of the negotiating objectives set forth in the Study. Joe, Oppie and I agreed that the question of “style” was very important and that the State negotiators should have this point very much in mind. It seemed to us that the question of just in what way negotiations should be approached was of course one for the State Department to decide.

Oppie indicated that he planned to discuss with the Secretary not only the question of the tri-partite arrangements but also the question of our policy toward the UNAEC negotiations. He planned to bring to the Secretary’s attention the sum of the views of the Board of Consultants’ meeting held in New York on March 8.2 He said he would not dwell upon the intra-departmental difficulties which he had learned about from Mr. Osborn but would leave that phase of the problem for Mr. Osborn to handle when he saw the Secretary later.

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After his 12:30 luncheon with the Secretary, Oppie stopped by the office briefly to tell me about it. He was very pleased with the reactions of the Secretary which were briefly these:

As to the tripartite negotiations the Secretary indicated that he of course had had very much in mind the question of style and that he thought Oppie’s approach had much merit. When Oppie remarked that these negotiations would be difficult to do, the Secretary was reported to have said “I will handle them.”
UNAEC negotiations
The Secretary expressed no sympathy with the line that the U.S. should attempt to do positive constructive work in the UNAEC. He had felt from early 1947 that there was little that could be done by the United States to bring about international control in view of the adamant position taken by the USSR.
He seemed rather surprised to learn of our commitment by virtue of our support for the G.A. resolution to participate in consultations with the sponsoring powers to see whether a basis for agreement existed.3 Oppie suggested that the consultations, strictly limited to the question of atomic energy, might be the occasion for a declaration by the United States alone or, if possible, in company with the U.K. and Canada, that the impasse was so deep and so persistent that while the United States would be willing to continue negotiations in favorable circumstances, such circumstances did not at present exist and therefore nothing further could be done in the absence of Soviet cooperation. In characterizing favorable circumstances, Oppie would dwell on the prerequisites of a measure of openness and willingness to cooperate on the part of the Soviet Union.

Oppie and I agreed that the developing situation had three very much interlinked aspects:

The tri-partite arrangements, the acknowledgment of which might then lead to
A U.S.-U.K.-Canadian statement of the nature of the impasse in the UNAEC negotiations, which in turn would dwell upon
The need for a measure of openness and cooperation on the part of the Soviet Union which could be a means of stressing the point of view that has so long been urged by Niels Bohr.4

  1. Supra.
  2. The March 8 meeting is described in memoranda of conversation, dated March 10, by Frederick Osborn, Deputy United States Representative to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission; for texts, see pp. 39 and 41.
  3. Reference is to General Assembly Resolution 191(III), November 4, 1948, which is described in footnote 7, p. 8.
  4. Danish theoretical physicist and pioneer in nuclear physics; adviser, Manhattan Engineer District, 1943–1945. Dr. Bohr’s proposal for “openness” and the reaction of the Department of State to it are described in a memorandum to the Secretary of State, August 20, 1948, on regulation of armaments in Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. i, Part 1, p. 388.