26. Letter From the Deputy Representative on the United Nations Disarmament Commission (Wadsworth) to the Representative at the United Nations (Lodge)1

Dear Cabot: The more I think of it, the more I believe that we can find a way of turning this latest Soviet move2 to our own advantage.

[Page 79]

Although it is true that we do not have a firm coordinated policy in re several of the points which they have included in their latest proposal, I don’t think that that will necessarily paralyze our activities.

Most of the members of the staff were originally worried by the prospect of having to sit here and reveal, in one way or another, this lack of position, and most of their thinking has been along the line of getting out of here fast before too much harm has been done. As of this morning, everybody feels a lot better and all are agreed that we will make the best of it.

As I sleep on the thing over night, I cannot conceive of either the UK or France being willing to accede to a quick recess or adjournment at this time. Tony Nutting says that his first reaction is that this will make them a lot of votes and will virtually sew up the election for them. He is going to insert a section in a speech tonight, probably, which will take the same line as we plan to do in our public statement today, namely: “Patience has paid off—Western solidarity has caused the Russians to retreat from untenable positions”.

One of the most significant features of our meetings since April 19 when the “French 75” plan3 was tabled has been the silence of Malik on the perfectly normal question of how the United States felt about this proposal. I think we may assume that the Russians are so conditioned to believing that anything any one of us says has been checked and approved by all the others, that it just hasn’t occurred to him that I have made no statement whatever in favor of the idea. You will remember that your own “tough” speech shortly before you left4 was taken by Gromyko as a full Western position, even though your Western colleagues did not know you were going to make it.

What I would like to do is to drop the role of the Guy Who Wants to Go Home. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to come home, because I do, and I fully realize the dangers of staying here and exposing lack of US policy. At the same time, I think we must recognize that when you take away all the non-essentials of the latest Russian proposal, you must admit that they have made tremendous concessions compared to the position which Malik was strenuously defending as recently as last Thursday.5 It appears to me that it would [Page 80] come with poor grace for the United States, at this end, to pull out of a conference which now seems finally to be getting somewhere.

Until the Secretary has made up his mind as to how this fits into the Big Picture, I would rather not say a word to my Western friends about leaving. After all, the way this particular small plant of machinery works will be dependent on the ultimate US policy on a détente, and until that is decided, I think our best stunt is to follow the President’s line of being willing to go anywhere and do anything as long as there is the slightest chance of success.

In several of your letters you have asked me if you can do anything to help along. I believe that one of the most important things that can be done today is to persuade the United States Government that it must quickly take a position on these matters which have not yet been determined. You, of course, realize that there is considerable difference of opinion within the State Department, to say nothing of the independent and strongly held views of Defense and AEC. If you and Dave Key can be gadflies to the appropriate people who have been considering these matters it cannot help but be valuable. I would think that enlisting the aid of Harold Stassen, who has by now had a thorough briefing on all these matters, would be imperative. Then, when the Secretary returns I strongly recommend as rapid a decision as possible. It is all very well for Washington to tell us, as it did on April 12,6 that they can give us no assurance that they can reach “firm conclusions” in the “near future”. You and I know that political events are simply not going to wait for the bureaucrats, and there is no use playing the ostrich and pretending that they will.

These are the matters concerning which we have as yet had no policy determination and which are contained in the latest Russian proposal.

The actual time limits in which to carry out the whole disarmament program. This would be tied into Number 2 below.
Whether we can express specific support for force levels of 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 men for the US, USSR and China, and 650,000 each for the UK and France.
Discontinuance of nuclear tests and setting up an international commission to supervise such discontinuance.
Liquidation of bases located in the territories of other States. This is not quite as important for immediate determination, since we can lump it into the conventional disarmament picture and make statements about abolishing bases as the threat of aggression disappears. However, it should be given considerable thought.
Beginning prohibition and elimination of weapons of mass destruction after 75% reduction in conventional armaments.
[Page 81]

To my mind, there is nothing insurmountable about this list. True, it will take some firm, close military figuring, as well as some concentrated political analysis, but we still come back to the major point, which is how much do we want to demonstrate willingness to close the cold war and work cooperatively with the Russians for peace? Of course, we can’t trust them, and they are so constituted that they may make a 90, or even 180 degree turn from today’s policy at any moment. However, the fact remains that in the battle for men’s minds this latest effort will make a profound impression. Even those people who will not be taken in by claims that this is a Soviet proposal will be forced to admit that they have, outwardly at least, acknowledged the error of their previous position and moved much, much closer to the Western positions.

I anxiously await your comments in re the above—I did not feel I should send these sorts of thoughts in a telegram, and I hope that the pouch system will prove fast enough to let you get in some good licks, if you feel such is desirable, before the Department gives us even an interim answer to our questions. I am sending a copy of this to Dave Key for his information.7


James J. Wadsworth8
  1. Source: Department of State, IO Files: Lot 60 D 113, Ambassador Lodge. Personal and Confidential. A copy sent to Key was received May 16.
  2. See Document 24.
  3. The Anglo-French proposal to the Disarmament Subcommittee on April 19, provided, as one of its features, “that the prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons and the process of eliminating all nuclear stocks should be carried out at the same time as the final quarter of the agreed reductions in armed forces and conventional armaments begins, that is to say, when 75 per cent of those reductions have been completed.” For text, see Documents on Disarmament, 1945–1959, vol. I, pp. 453–454.
  4. Presumably Lodge’s extensive remarks on March 9 to the Subcommittee of the U.N. Disarmament Commission, summarized in telegram 3965 from London, March 10. (Department of State, Central Files, 330/13/3–1055) Lodge left the talks shortly after he presided at the March 11 subcommittee meeting.
  5. May 5.
  6. Not further identified.
  7. At the top of the source text, which is Key’s copy, is a handwritten note: “David: You have always been too understanding for words, so I’m sending this along as an analysis of today’s thinking. Tomorrow’s may be different. Jerry.” A handwritten note by Wadsworth at the end of the source text reads: “P.S. Cabot will probably not receive this until Friday morning.” Friday was May 13. The date of receipt in Key’s office is stamped May 16.
  8. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.