611.001/2–1150: Telegram

The Acting United States Representative at the United Nations (Gross) to the Secretary of State


152. In connection with responses to Depcirtel February 3,1 following impression of climate of opinion at UN Headquarters re H-bomb, and press conference statements by President February 9, and Secretary February 8,2 may be of interest. Report represents initial reactions being expressed at Lake Success primarily by correspondents, NGO representatives, Secretariat officials and a few delegates rather than a systematic survey.

Opinions are sharply divided, both as to consequence of present atomic deadlock, and as to actual meaning of policy indicated in Secretary’s remarks. Views appear to fall into four major groups:

Small number of “continental realists” (largely European newspapermen and delegates) hailed American position and especially Secretary’s statement as sign Department has at last awakened to real nature of Soviet policy.
Majority however appear distressed by what they regard as US closing door on negotiations.
Substantial number express lack of conviction that US has sufficiently re-examined possibility of achieving control agreement on basis of some form of inspection, and require more than simple repetition of American position on atomic energy to be convinced.
Some, while agreeing with Secretary’s analysis of Soviet behavior, express view statement tactically unwise in saddling US with onus of seeming to refuse to negotiate.

Following views representative of those in group one: Sunde (Norway)3 declared H-bomb decision essential. De la Tournelle (France) said “Secretary’s statement excellent although might not be readily understood by those who have not had to deal with Russians”. A French correspondent referred to Secretary’s citing of Berlin, Greece, Turkey as showing understanding that only thing Stalin respects is military force, and that only negotiation possible would be on basis of “one more step and it means war”.

Most Secretariat officials and NGO’s expressing views, however, were in second group. Secretariat sources, possibly reflecting Lie’s [Page 52] views, inferred from Acheson statement that US had written off UN, would abandon negotiation and rely on military power. Lie, however, after encouragement from USUN, reacted February 10 with vigorous “fight-talk” to correspondents. Eichelberger4 of AAUN said, “Secretary has closed door to negotiation and thrown the key away”. Another view expressed was that history of past efforts to reach agreement as recited by Secretary was “dishonest”, in that it gave one-sided picture and ignored cumulative and circular effect of our cold-war policy. Some correspondents held US political and moral position partly responsible for deterioration of relations with USSR, and among NGO’s this feeling frequently heard. One NGO reported view of veteran audience here that over-all settlement with Russians necessary and that Secretary’s statement demoralizing in that it held out no hope for future. Some NGO’s expressed regret that Secretary had listed Point Four among weapons in cold war, fearing context would derogate from its universal character in UN. Many urged that US strengthen its position by dramatizing its support of UN, e.g., by having Secretary appear occasionally at SC.

Among those in group three was best-informed American correspondent on atomic energy control who believed new look at control and new effort to negotiate essential on grounds that present attitude clearly devoid of possibilities for progress toward control and created public impression of inflexibility. He proposed having UN call meeting of world scientists inquire whether technical developments have altered control problem at all. In any case felt some such action even if not productive of solution to control problem would help public understand reasons for our insistence on international ownership in a way which constant repetition of US position no longer could do. A Church Peace Union representative just back from south reports considerable worry over US failure to advance new proposals. United World Federalist representative said his group may join with other organizations to petition President to appoint citizens committee to explore possible terms of over-all settlement of arms race.

In fourth group following views representative: former Canadian broadcaster now with Secretariat, while believing US analysis correct, thought would be wiser to wait for Russians to slam door. National Peace Conference representative, while reluctantly accepting US analysis of problem of negotiations, felt Secretary’s statement too cold, failed take account of US emotional need for some form of affirmative action. This group changed subject of February meeting from China to H–bomb because of deep concern.

Pouched Moscow, London, Paris.

  1. The circular telegram under reference, not printed, requested estimates of public reaction to President Truman’s H-bomb production announcement (see footnote 1, p. 513) and associated discussion in the United States (711.5611/2–350).
  2. For text of Secretary Acheson’s statement of February 8, see Department of State Bulletin, February 20, 1950, pp. 272–274. At his press conference of February 9, President Truman expressed concurrence with Acheson’s remarks; for the record of the conference, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1950, pp. 149–153.
  3. Ambassador Arne Sunde, Permanent Norwegian Representative at the United Nations.
  4. Clark M. Eichelberger, National Director, American Association for the United Nations.