The Secretary of State to the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Connally)

My Dear Senator Connally: I refer to the Department’s letter of March 8, 1950 which acknowledged receipt of your letter of the same date transmitting for the Department’s comment a copy of [Page 64] Senate Resolution 236 requesting “the United Nations to call an international conference with a view to achieving world disarmament”.1

The Department fully understands and is in complete sympathy with the objective of the resolution, namely, achieving world disarmament. However, it cannot agree with the timeliness of the method advocated for achieving the objective.

By subscribing to the Charter of the United Nations, particularly Articles 11, 26 and 47, the United States committed itself to work for and to achieve the universal regulation and reduction of armaments and it presumed that all the other signatory nations undertook the same solemn obligation. Conscientious efforts have been made in the United Nations since its establishment to fulfill these requirements of the Charter by action in the General Assembly, in the Security Council, in the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (created for the formulation of specific proposals for the international control of atomic weapons and other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction), and in the United Nations Commission for Conventional Armaments (the field of competence of which is the formulation of proposals for the regulation and reduction of all other weapons).

As you know the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission was set up by the General Assembly Resolution of January 24, 1946. It has developed a detailed plan for the international control of atomic energy and the prohibition of atomic weapons based on United States proposals submitted by Mr. Baruch to the Commission on June 14, 1946 and now endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the Member nations in the United Nations. The Commission for Conventional Armaments established by the Security Council Resolution of February 13, 1947 has directed itself to the careful preparation of proposals for the regulation and reduction of conventional armaments and armed forces. In effect, therefore, it can be said that a disarmament conference has been going on since 1946 within the United Nations with the full support and active leadership of the United States.

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Realizing its responsibilities and desirous of seeing the objectives stated in the United Nations Charter fulfilled, this Government has guided itself along two lines. First, it has taken the position that the planning activities for the international control of atomic energy and the regulation and reduction of conventional armaments and armed forces should go forward for implementation when conditions permit, Second, it has been working for measures to build up the political, economic and military strength of the non-communist nations in order to convince the Soviet Union that its best interests will be served by unqualified cooperation with other United Nations Member nations and so make agreements meaningful.

Counter to this Government’s position the United Nations records reveal that in every instance of any importance, in every forum since the establishment of the two Commissions the Soviet Union has opposed and has voted against the majority’s proposals relating to the possible international control of atomic energy and the regulation and reduction of armaments and armed forces. The inescapable conclusion is that all efforts for the foreseeable future, whether within the United Nations or outside of it, toward achieving disarmament will be thwarted by the Soviet Union which by its objectives, policies, and methods is making ever clearer it does not want universal disarmament with the necessary concomitants of effective safeguards and controls to protect complying states against violations and invasions [evasions]. In the existing situation to ignore this fact would be to ignore the obvious responsibility of the Soviet Union for the lack of progress toward disarmament and would be to create a false illusion that some new method of approaching the Soviet Union would cause the reality of Soviet obstructionism to disappear. Accordingly, the Department strongly believes that the calling of an international conference by the United Nations for the purpose of attempting to reach an understanding and agreement for disarmanent would suffer the same fate as the patient labors already expended in the United Nations. In fact, the calling of an international conference might have quite the opposite effect from that so earnestly desired by the resolution since it might well result in wiping out such progress as has been made in the fields of the control of atomic energy and the regulation and reduction of conventional armaments.

The United States has taken the position in both areas of negotiation that the security of this nation and of all peaceful and freedom-loving peoples requires the establishment of effective safeguards and controls which would protect complying states against violations and invasions. The Soviet Union by its actions has rejected this concept. Instead it has presented superficially attractive proposals for the prohibition and destruction of atomic weapons and the reduction of conventional [Page 66] armaments, the implementation of which would certainly disarm the United States and the other free peoples of the world but would provide no guarantee of compliance by the Soviet Union or its satellites. As things now stand in the negotiations which have thus far transpired in the United Nations the refusal of the Soviet Union to agree to necessary controls and safeguards is manifestly clear. Accordingly, the Soviet Union probably would welcome the calling of an international conference which would provide it with a new opportunity to present glittering proposals, and all of the propaganda that would go with them, while the peace-loving nations at such a conference would have the relatively colorless but essential task of reasserting the necessity of safeguards and controls as the basic element of any agreement for universal disarmament.

In view of these facts it would not seem desirable to call a conference such as is contemplated in Senate Resolution 236.2 However, the Department is not unaware that, given a sufficient change in the international situation, which unfortunately does not appear near at hand, the calling of such a conference might possibly be desirable, and accordingly the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations should be assured that the suggestion contained in the resolution will be borne in mind.

The Department has been informed by the Bureau of the Budget that there is no objection to the submission of this report.

Sincerely yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Jack K. McFall

Assistant Secretary
  1. S. Res. 236, introduced by Senator Millard E. Tydings of Maryland on March 6 and referred to the Foreign Relations Committee, read as follows:

    Resolved, That the United Nations is hereby requested to invite the representatives of the governments of all nations to enter into an understanding and agreement to achieve world disarmament on land, on sea, and in the air, including bacteriological warfare, poison-gas warfare, and so forth, by January 1, 1954, except only for such actual occupying forces, with appropriate weapons, and for such agreed period of time, as will be necessary to police the defeated and occupied nations as a result of the recent war, and except only for such armed forces and for such weapons as are to be placed exclusively under the jurisdiction of the Security Council of the United Nations Organization, and except only for such limited forces and limited small arms as are needed to keep law and order within each country, and directly prohibiting the manufacture, storage, and possession of all other weapons, ammunition, and munitions of war, and providing further for the international inspection force authorized and instructed to see that the terms of such world disarmament are rigidly adhered to and carried out, and thereafter maintained by all the countries of the earth.”

  2. The Foreign Relations Committee neither held hearings on the measure nor reported it to the Senate.