No. 957
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State


At twelve o’clock today, Ambassador Woodward and I met, on the invitation of the Prime Minister, with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet in the Cabinet Room.

The Prime Minister opened the meeting with some gracious words of welcome, and spoke of the many years in which he had worked with President Truman and with me in our common interests. He referred first of all to matters of primary concern of the United States and Canada, referring to the St. Lawrence and to trade relations. He spoke of the great importance to Canada of going forward with the St. Lawrence development, and of maintaining and expanding their trade relations with the United States. He hoped and believed that the change of administration in the United States would not affect these matters. He said that temporary differences would not affect our pursuing fundamentally mutual interests, but that if we adopted, over a long range, basically different policies, he would be apprehensive. In regard to world policies, he again referred to our pursuing, as in the past, future closely parallel courses.

After hoping that in private life I would not be a stranger to my friends in Canada, he asked me if I had any matters that I would like to mention to the Cabinet.

[Page 2060]

After expressing my pleasure at the honor which they had conferred upon me in asking me to meet with the Cabinet, I referred to the matters specifically mentioned by the Prime Minister.

I said that the President had appreciated deeply the understanding patience which the Canadian Government had shown during our long efforts to have the St. Lawrence Waterway Agreement approved by the Congress. I said, as the President said to the Prime Minister, that I believed that such approval was highly unlikely, and that Canada was entitled to proceed by itself with the development of the Waterway, and jointly with the State of New York in the power development. He hoped that these matters could be put into final shape before the end of his Administration, but this depended upon proceedings before an independent agency, the course of which he could not predict. I said that I felt, although I had no knowledge of the subject, that the incoming Administration would also proceed sympathetically with Canada in this matter and I saw no reason for apprehension.

In regard to trade between the countries, I did not take a pessimistic view. It was proved that during the past twenty years the efforts of Democratic Administrations to liberalize our trade policies from time to time met opposition from the Republican side, although I thought the broad principles of the Trade Agreements Act had strong bipartisan support. I believed that the new Administration, when confronted with the responsibilities of power, would see the necessity of bringing its economic and commercial policies into coordination with the necessities of our common military effort, not only with Canada but through our Atlantic Community.

I then said that I should like to mention one or two other matters of current concern to me. The first related to developments in the United Nations which were illustrated by the current problems before it. I said that the emergence of voting blocks in the General Assembly had not been foreseen by the framers of the Charter. We had two recognizable voting blocs—the Latin American bloc and the Arab-Asian bloc. Together, if they were solid, they could muster thirty-three out of sixty votes. They were, of course, not always solid, but they represented a very large group of votes which strongly influenced proceedings in the General Assembly. I pointed out that the Charter was founded on two objectives. One of these I thought was a dominant one. The first, and dominant one, was the objective of collective security. The other important, though less important, was the objective of social, economic and political advancement.

It should be noted that this large block of votes contributed little or nothing to the first objective. It was primarily concerned with the second, to which should be added an undercurrent of resentment [Page 2061] arising out of past colonial relationships and economic exploitation.

The second quality of this bloc of votes was that in the precise meaning of the word, it was irresponsible. The word was not used as an epithet, but as a description of a group which advocated action, the consequences of which did not fall upon the group but fell upon others. In this sense, they would not be responsible for what they did, whereas others would be responsible. I illustrated this point by referring to the North African and South African issues, pointing out that the resolutions were introduced not in the belief that the General Assembly could or would resolve the matters referred to, but from the general propaganda effect which came from stirring up these issues. I pointed out also that these propaganda effects had a counterproductive effect upon the principal objective. The United Nations is carried by other countries in their creation of collective security.

I then said that I should like to illustrate this point again in regard to the Korean resolution.1 Here was an undertaking which had the greatest significance in regard to collective security, where the burden was carried by a comparatively small number of countries, and primarily by the United States. These countries had agreed upon a resolution which, in the judgment of those primarily responsible, would contribute most to the bringing about of an armistice, whether now or later, under terms acceptable to the achievement of the whole purpose undertaken. It would seem to me normally that those carrying the great burden of responsibility would be expected to have the principal voice in determining what should be done. At least, their opinions should have great weight. However, this did not appear to be the case. There was a tendency now to accept the leadership of India, which had contributed nothing to the undertaking and would assume no responsibility for the result of its actions. I said that, in a word, what the Indians wished to do was to bring about an armistice by resolving the prisoner question through exchanging some prisoners now and leaving others to be disposed of by indefinite and ill-conceived procedures, to my judgment, which, brought doubt upon the whole principle that force should not be used. Those in charge of military effort, who bore the full responsibility for any misjudgment, believed that it was far too dangerous to leave this explosive question unsettled, to remove all air pressure upon the Communists and run the risk [Page 2062] of a resumption of hostilities due to a failure to abide by impossible armistice terms and under circumstances which would be militarily most disadvantageous to us.

This raised two questions: One, whether the judgment of those responsible was right, and secondly, whether others not responsible were justified in substituting their judgment for those who were responsible. It seemed to me that the latter was the question of primary importance. I did not believe that those who were encouraging and supporting the Indian effort really understood the full consequences of what they were doing, and I felt that if their actions were continued to the point of a sharp break between those who were carrying the main brunt of the effort and those who were not, the gravest results would flow both to the United Nations and to the whole future of collective security.

I then spoke of the grave problems now confronting NATO, pointing out that in May there was a great and buoyant momentum toward the integration of Germany into Western Europe, also growing in unity. The Schuman Plan, the E.D.C. Treaty, the Treaty with Germany, the plans laid at Lisbon, plans laid for other political countries looking toward greater unification, all opened up a vista of hope and promise which could enlist the enthusiasm of European youth. All of this seemed to me to be now changed. The momentum had been lost or retrograded momentum was taking place. Rapprochement between France and Germany seemed more remote than ever. Our plans for European defense had been checked, and instead there was a growing uneasiness at the effort involved. I was full of foreboding about the future. I realized that the American election had deprived this Government for many months of an assured voice. It might be some months still before this Government could again speak with assurance. I wondered whether now was not the time for the Canadian Government, which I was sure had the same basic concerns and aspirations, to take a more vigorous and leading role. Such a role could not depend upon words alone, but upon the force of example. If Canada could come forward with a vigorous defense production program, linked with the idea of mutual aid, it could speak with real authority in urging the other countries to move forward with determination and courage. I asked that this matter be given deep thought, for we were in a most critical time.

I again expressed my appreciation at the more than kind reception which I had had in Ottawa, and specifically by the Cabinet, and after a few closing words by the Prime Minister, the meeting ended.

  1. The reference is probably to a draft resolution introduced in the General Assembly by Acheson on behalf of the United States and 20 other governments. The text, U.N. doc. A/C.1/725 dated Oct. 24, is printed in Department of State Bulletin, Nov. 3, 1952, p. 680. For documentation on this resolution and related developments on the disputed repatriation of prisoners of war in Korea, see vol. xv, Part 1, pp. 563 ff.