Disarmament files, lot 58 D 133, “Chronological”

Memorandum by the Deputy United States Representative on the United Nations Disarmament Commission (Cohen) to the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson)1

  • Subject:
  • Status of the Disarmament Commission Work.

The Disarmament Commission has now been meeting in New York for the past several weeks during which the United States has made general statements of our objectives and has presented the Commission with a detailed proposal on the subject of verification and disclosure.2 During this period there have been the usual verbal exchanges between the principal delegations of the Western Powers and the delegation of the Soviet Union. From these exchanges, from my discussions with other members of the Commission [Page 884] and from the reactions of the press and public, certain trends have clearly emerged.

One of these is that our friends on the Commission as well as the public are beginning to feel that the Western Powers, and the United States particularly, do not have at the present time a comprehensive pattern of proposals which would serve to meet in a satisfactory compromise the position of the Soviet Union. Our friends realize that even if we adopt a more affirmative and flexible position we may fail to obtain Soviet agreement, but they feel that we must do something to correct the impression that we are almost as unyielding and inflexible as the Soviet.

The French, British and Canadian delegations have indicated that they feel that on certain points we should be prepared now to explore new approaches to the Soviet position. These points involve the problems of the length of time required to carry out the stages in disclosure and verification and the possible telescoping of these stages; the character of the control organization to be set up for atomic energy (i.e. whether this control organization must be based on “ownership” by the International Community or whether a reasonably effective system of controls through inspection and supervision can be devised); the possibility of agreeing upon some limitation and/or reduction at the end of the first or second stages of disclosure and verification; and the possibility of agreeing upon a new formula which would provide for prohibition of atomic weapons and weapons of mass destruction to be effective upon certain conditions precedent having been fulfilled. It is my impression that these questions will be pressed by our friends as time goes on.

It is in this connection that I hope it will be possible to develop the U.S. position along more positive lines than we have thus far been able to do. Specifically, I would suggest that urgent consideration be given to the imperative need for a directive from the President to the highest authorities concerned in the U.S. Government indicating the importance he attaches to these authorities giving active and affirmative assistance in developing a positive program. The Department is now receiving adequate advice from the Defense authorities on what to avoid in our statements in the Disarmament Commission, but there is an obvious lack of constructive suggestions coming from the cooperating agencies of the Government for positive proposals. I would like to urge that the Secretary and the President encourage the taking of a fresh look at some of the positions which have been established now for several years, in the hope that answers can be found to the points that will undoubtedly be raised by the French, British and Canadian delegations. Also in this connection, I would suggest that the Panel of [Page 885] Consultants3 with research aid from the Ford Foundation be activated as soon as possible in order that we may avail ourselves of any contribution that they may have to offer. There is a crying and urgent need for something like an AchesonLilienthal plan4 for armaments other than atomic. And in the meanwhile there is need for some specific even though limited proposals for immediate action in the field of limitation and reduction. It is also important whether we ultimately change our position or not that we undertake a comprehensive review of our position regarding the UN plan for atomic energy in light of developments since its adoption.

General Eisenhower in his first annual report to NATO5 said that in the building of our military, economic and moral strength through NATO, “the Iron Curtain rulers may finally be willing to participate seriously in disarmament negotiations.” It seems to me that General Eisenhower has struck the right note, and that meanwhile and without delay we should be making serious preparations so that we will have some constructive proposals to make if and when the Soviet Government is ready to negotiate.

  1. Drafted by James W. Barco of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs. Copies were sent to Bechhoefer, UNP, and to William Sanders, Special Assistant and Planning Adviser to the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs.

    On Mar. 7 President Truman approved a memorandum by Secretary Acheson of the same date recommending that “Benjamin V. Cohen, of New York, who has represented this country at the Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Sessions of the General Assembly, be appointed Deputy Representative of the United States of America on the United Nations Disarmament Commission.” (330.13/3–752)

  2. Reference is to UN doc. DC/C.2/1, “United States Working Paper Submitted to the Disarmament Commission: Proposals for Progressive and Continuing Disclosure and Verification of Armed Forces and Armaments, April 5, 1952.” For text, see Documents on Disarmament, 1945–1959, vol. I, pp. 346–356.
  3. Regarding the Panel of Consultants, see the minutes of the meeting of the Secretary of State with that body, Apr. 28, p. 896.
  4. A Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy, March 16, 1946, Department of State Publication 2498 (Government Printing Office, 1946). For documentation on the AchesonLilienthal Report, which provided the basis for U.S. proposals on international control of atomic energy of 1946, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. i, pp. 712 ff.
  5. The report by General Eisenhower was released on Apr. 2; for text, see Department of State Bulletin, Apr. 14, 1952, pp. 572–579.