IO Files: US/S/C.3/29

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Charles H. Russell, Adviser, United States Mission at the United Nations


Subject: Conventional Armaments

Participants: Baron de la Tournelle, General Penette,1 French Delegation
Mr. Cole,2 United Kingdom Delegation
Mr. Nash,3 Mr. Russell, United States Mission

At Mr. Nash’s suggestion, a meeting was held at the French Delegation yesterday afternoon to consider the work of the Commission for Conventional Armaments in view of the action taken by the Security Council on January 17, 1950 in transmitting to the C.C.A. the General Assembly Resolution of 5 December 1949, calling upon the C.C.A. to proceed with its plan of work.4

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Mr. Nash said that he presumed that when the Commission resumed its work, item 3 of the plan of work would be taken up. He referred to memoranda and letters on safeguards which had been prepared in 1947 and 1948, particularly a memorandum of the French Delegation of September 22, 1947.5 He thought that it would be desirable for any delegation to submit papers on safeguards which wished to do so. The Commission ought to be able to complete its work on safeguards before the meeting of the G.A. next autumn. Due to the inactivity of the Atomic Energy Commission, more attention would, perhaps, be paid to conventional armaments this year. He felt that conventional armaments must be regarded as part of an overall effort, together with atomic energy and Article 43 forces; they were parallel efforts which eventually would have to be integrated in an overall plan for collective security.

Mr. Cole said that the Foreign Office in a telegram of last August had approved of an examination of safeguards. He agreed that the Commission should resume its work on item 3. His delegation was not particularly anxious to have a meeting of the Commission arranged for the immediate future. He was not sure that the Foreign Office was ready for a discussion of item 4; he did not think that the C.C.A. could carry its work to a point comparable to that reached by the Atomic Energy Commission, as this raised the question of quotas, i.e. the proportions by which armaments would be reduced.

Mr. Nash agreed that it would be necessary to see what the situation was when the time to discuss item 4 arrived. In view of the U.S.S.R. opposition, there was obviously nothing to be done with the census and verification proposals at this time, but the work which had been done in 1949 would nevertheless be valuable in the consideration of safeguards.

Baron de la Tournelle said that in taking up the question of safeguards, he would like to pursue the views of the U.S.S.R. on the question of “control,” i.e., inspection and verification. He thought it would be useful to put the hypothetical inquiry to the Russians whether, in connection with their one-third disarmament proposals,6 [Page 21] they would be willing to have 1) a preliminary submission of information concerning armaments and armed forces, which would be subject to adequate verification, and 2) a continuous “control” after the plan went into effect to insure compliance therewith.

Mr. Nash agreed that if the U.S.S.R. reintroduced their one-third proposals, or renewed the discussion of them, a line of inquiry such as that proposed by Baron de la Tournelle might prove interesting and useful. He said that the Russians had never been called upon to explain their proposals in any detail, and thought that, given the opportunity, it would be well to do so provided the discussion could be kept within the area of item 3 of the C.C.A. plan of work, i.e. safeguards. He said that the Russians would likely insist that the C.C.A. get into immediate discussion of item 4, i.e. actual plans of disarmament, arguing that to consider safeguards first would be “putting the cart before the horse.” Such an attempt should be resisted firmly with the argument that under existing circumstances of the world situation, there is little use in considering a plan of disarmament until it has first been determined whether it is feasible to develop real protection, i.e. adequate safeguards to insure effective compliance with any plan.

General Penette said that he could see no major obstacle to the discussion of item 3 in the Commission. It would be impossible to consider item 4 now. Before item 4 was taken up it would be necessary to know the views of the French Government, including those of the General Staff, which would want to examine the situation in the light of atomic energy and the question of Article 43 forces. Mr. Nash and Mr. Cole agreed. General Penette also agreed with Baron de la Tournelle that it would be interesting to know more about the Soviet views on “control” as suggested by the latter.

There followed a discussion of the most suitable time for the next meeting. Baron de la Tournelle thought that it would be best to wait for about six weeks by which time there might be a change in the situation relating to membership and credentials in the Security Council. China would be chairman of the Commission in February and he thought that it would be preferable to wait. It was agreed that there was no necessity for calling a meeting in the immediate future and that in the meantime the delegations represented at the meeting would continue their study of safeguards and exchange further views. The desirability of requesting the Norwegian Delegation to participate in these discussions was mentioned and appeared to meet with general agreement.

  1. Général de Brigade M. Penette, French Army Representative to the Military Staff Committee from January 28, 1950.
  2. David L. Cole, Adviser, Permanent British Delegation to the United Nations.
  3. Frank C. Nash, Deputy United States Representative to the Commission for Conventional Armaments.
  4. In Resolution 300 (IV), December 5, 1949, adopted by a vote of 44 to 5 with 5 abstentions, the General Assembly recommended that the Security Council continue to study the regulation and reduction of armaments through the agency of the Commission for Conventional Armaments in accordance with its plan of work. For the text of Resolution 300 (IV), see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. i, p. 242.

    At its 462d Meeting, January 17, 1950, the Security Council approved a French proposal that the Resolution be transmitted to the Commission for Conventional Armaments. The vote on the proposal was nine in favor, with Yugoslavia not voting and the Soviet Union absent.

    For the text of the Plan of Work adopted by the Commission for Conventional Armaments on June 18, 1947, and approved by the Security Council on July 8, 1947, see United Nations, Official Records of the Security Council, Second Year, Supplement No. 14, p. 142 (hereafter cited as SC, 2nd yr., Suppl. No. 14). The plan consisted of six points: (1) terms of reference, (2) general principles, (3) safeguards, (4) practical proposals for regulation and reduction of armed forces, (5) extension of the system to non-United Nations members, (6) submission of a report or reports to the Security Council.

  5. For text, see S/C.3/27, August 4, 1948, First Progress Report of the Working Committee of the Commission for Conventional Armaments, Covering the Period 20 August 1947–2 August 1948, Annex VI, pp. 20–22. For documentation on the work of the CCA in 1947, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. i, pp. 327 ff.; respecting the work of the Commission in 1948, see ibid., 1948, vol. i, Part 1, pp. 311 ff.
  6. During the Third Session of the General Assembly, Paris, 1948, the Soviet Union introduced a resolution proposing the prohibition of atomic weapons and the reduction of the armaments and armed forces of the permanent members of the Security Council by one-third. For the text of the Soviet resolution (September 25, 1948), see ibid., p. 431.