SCI Files

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

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Mr. Fisher and I saw Mr. Webb this morning on several matters that are emerging in the atomic energy field. The first item dealt with [Page 512]the expansion of the atomic energy production program proposed by the NME. Mr. Webb read the letter from the President to Mr. Souers,1 and Mr. Kennan’s memorandum of the meeting held in Souers’ office on August 3.2 Mr. Fisher and I recommended to Mr. Webb that in view of the delicate problems facing the Department in connection with tripartite talks and the uncertainty prevailing as to the NME’s attitude concerning the basic proposals, the Department should not take a leading role in evaluating the NME’s requested expansion. We expressed the view that the Department should take a rather rigid institutional approach to the question, making whatever contributions were called for in evaluating the effect of the proposed increase on the foreign policy of the United States but avoiding any attempt to play a Budget Bureau role as to detailed justification. Mr. Webb agreed. Concerning procedure, it was understood that the subsequent meetings of the working group with Souers, Mr. Webb would be the senior Departmental representative.

We then sketched for Mr. Webb the state of affairs on the tripartite problem. We expressed the view that the most serious matter requiring prompt handling was to make certain precisely where the NME stood on the basic proposals which had been approved by the President. We indicated that on the basis of the testimony of General Eisenhower and Secretary Johnson before the Joint Committee3 that there was considerable basis for doubt as to whether the NME had shifted its ground in the direction of an uranium swap. Until this doubt was laid to rest, and to do so would probably require an Acheson–Johnson talk, we were not in a position to lay any firm plans either as regards Congressional relations or as regards the negotiating process itself. If the NME has in fact become unhinged on this proposal it seemed exceedingly doubtful whether the negotiations should proceed. Mr. Webb agreed that this uncertainty had to be resolved as promptly as possible. It was recognized that it would not be useful to attempt to put pressure on Secretary Johnson through the President inasmuch as the views of the NME must be based on thorough conviction which it would be willing to state even to a hostile Congress. No agreement with the NME based on pressure or blandishment would be sufficient to insure a firm and unequivocal conviction.

Fisher and I suggested that we would need to undertake rather soon as intensive a campaign as possible of persuasion with members of the Joint Committee. In view of the position that the Commission finds itself in it did not seem likely it would be able to do much of the selling job. It appeared, therefore, to devolve principally on the Department and on the NME. The NME, of course, could be used only if we [Page 513]were certain of their convictions in the matter. Mr. Webb agreed that there seemed to be no other choice at the moment but to put the focus of this campaign in the State Department.

I raised the question of the desirability of having an authoritative article written by some leading figure who had been rather closely associated with this problem during the war period and thereafter. I suggested that among the names that had been thought of were Stimson,4 Patterson,5 and General Marshall.6 Mr. Webb’s reaction was that this would have to be thought further about and he had no immediate comment.

I suggested that in view of the fact that the tripartite negotiations on atomic energy represented a very major facet of our relations with the U.K. and the fact that talks would follow closely on the scheduled financial talks, Assistant Secretary Perkins7 ought to be given a rather thorough briefing of this whole situation and his advice sought as appropriate. Mr. Webb agreed that this was very desirable and asked me to undertake to give Perkins the necessary briefing and to see that he obtained necessary clearances so that he might be able to contribute more fully on this problem in the future.

Fisher and I are to see Mr. Webb again tomorrow on his call in order to review the points that had been raised with him today and to see what recommendations we would like to make to the Secretary on them.

  1. Dated July 26, p. 501.
  2. Ante, p. 507.
  3. For the records of the meetings of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, July 20 and July 27, see pp. 490 and 503.
  4. Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War, January 1940–September 1945.
  5. Robert P. Patterson, Secretary of War, September 1945–July 1947.
  6. General of the Army George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, United States Army, September 1939–November 1945; Secretary of State, January 1947–January 1949.
  7. George W. Perkins, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.