300. Memorandum of a Conversation, Geneva, October 28, 1955, 3 p.m.1


  • United States
    • Mr. Robert R. Bowie
    • Col. William B. Bailey
  • United Kingdom
    • Mr. I.T.M. Pink
    • Rear-Admiral G.A. Thring
    • Mr. A.R.K. MacKenzie
  • France
    • M. Bernard de Menthon
    • M. Genevey


  • Disarmament

Mr. Pink opened the conversation by saying that the U.K. had general reservations regarding the advisability of submitting a substantive declaration, such as contained in the Tripartite Working Group Report (DWG–9a2). He said that a substantive declaration acceptable to the West would be subject to Soviet amendments which would, in turn, be difficult for the West to counter without entering into a long discussion of substance, the very thing we are anxious to avoid.

M. de Menthon said that on the other hand it was important that the Western powers show initiative on the subject of disarmament.

Mr. Pink replied that the U.K., and he presumed the U.S., do not now have a disarmament policy position worked out in detail. Soviet amendments to the Western declaration would therefore prove embarrassing. He observed that a great deal depends on the tactical situation and that it may be preferable to agree on a declaration which would merely put the Subcommittee back to work and which could be accepted by the Soviets without the precipitation of a substantive discussion.

Mr. Bowie remarked that it [was] now too early to judge the tactics to be employed and the West might better wait to see how the conference was developing. In any case he indicated that it would not be difficult to draft a purely procedural paper later if one were required.

Mr. Pink stated that the Washington draft declaration would be unacceptable to the Soviets in its present form and certainly would be amended by them to include the prohibition of nuclear weapons and the provision of definite force levels. He questioned whether we would want to discuss these points of substance now because to do so would—

Reveal lack of position; and
Prove embarrassing to the U.K. and France because of their previous positions on these questions.

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Mr. Bowie remarked that we would certainly accomplish something if we were to achieve agreement with the USSR on the basis of the Washington declaration. He noted that the essential point was to prevent our lack of position being exploited by the Soviets as a lack of interest in achieving disarmament on the part of the U.S.

Mr. Pink then stated the U.K. fear that a Western rejection of the probable Soviet amendments of the declaration would provide the USSR with a great propaganda advantage.

Mr. Bowie observed that the Soviets already are in the position of having put forward various disarmament proposals which the West has not been able fully to deal with.

M. de Menthon then pointed out that the Western powers would be in serious difficulty during the General Assembly debate on the disarmament question if the Foreign Ministers could not agree on something more than just a procedural draft.

Mr. Bowie suggested that the working group go over the Washington draft to see to what extent agreement could be reached, in order that the paper would be ready in case a decision was made later to introduce it. This was agreed.

The working group then proceeded to examine alternative language suggested for paragraph 3(a) of the Four-Power Declaration, and after some discussion the following language was accepted by all:

“(a) the renunciation, in accordance with the U.N. Charter, of the use of nuclear weapons or any other weapons except in defense against aggression;”.

Concerning the split language on paragraphs 6 through 9, Mr. Bowie explained that the U.S. found the French alternative acceptable and hoped that the British could accept it also.

Mr. Pink replied that he felt that the U.K. position represented the only conditions under which the U.K. could associate itself with a substantive declaration. However, he promised to reconsider the U.K. position overnight.

There is attached a translation of a second French alternative suggestion for paragraphs 6, 7 and 8,3 which presumably will be considered at the next meeting. It was agreed that this would be held on October 29 at a time to be mutually determined.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/10–2855. Secret. Prepared in the U.S. Delegation but no drafting information is given on the source text.
  2. Not found in Department of State files. A subsequent draft, DWG–9c, dated November 7, is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627, CF 561. For text of this declaration as it was submitted to the meeting of the Foreign Ministers on November 10, see Foreign Ministers Meeting, pp. 199–201, or Department of State Bulletin, November 21, 1955, pp. 831–832.
  3. Not printed.