152. Memorandum of Conversation Between Secretary-General Hammarskjöld and Secretary of State Dulles0

At the dinner given by Sir Leslie Munro I had an extended conversation with Mr. Hammarskjold, in latter part participated in by Mr. Wilcox with respect to a meeting of the UN Disarmament Commission. I expressed strongly and positively the view that the Commission ought to meet. I said that it would be a very serious blow to the prestige of the United Nations, and certainly to its standing in the United States, if the Commission thus established by the UN, failed to meet merely because the Soviet Union’s one member of the Commission did not want it to meet.1 This would, in effect, be conceding a veto power and power of nullification [Page 600] to the Soviet Union which would indicate a subservience, even servility, of the Organization and would produce very bad future results. I said that I did not think it necessary for the Commission to do any substantive business. Indeed if the Soviet Union was not there, it could not do very much in the way of disarmament. It might note the absence of the Soviet Union and recess, or it might note that since disarmament was presumably being discussed between the East-West talks at Moscow, it would be better to defer independent action. But it seemed to me that a meeting was imperative and should be held before the end of the month which was a date in the UN Resolution as a date by which at least some action was expected.2

The Secretary-General indicated that he agreed in principle that the Disarmament Commission should meet and that the Assembly action should not be nullified by the Soviet Union. On the other hand he indicated that he was reluctant to see a meeting under conditions which might interfere in some way with the disarmament negotiations which might be conducted at Moscow, or a subsequent meeting of Foreign Ministers, or Heads of Government. He suggested that in some way the Soviets might take umbrage at a meeting of the Commission and use that as an excuse for breaking off disarmament talks elsewhere.

The Secretary-General also said that he did not have any clear responsibility in the matter.

I expressed the view that it was, I thought, unrealistic to think that the Soviet Union would break off disarmament talks on a pretext so slight as that a duly constituted Commission of the United Nations held a meeting at which it transacted no substantive business but merely recessed or adjourned. (There was a curious reluctance on Mr. Hammarskjöld’s part, which he was unable to justify rationally, but which made me wonder whether he had not perhaps given some private commitment to the Russians when he was in Moscow recently.)

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, General Memoranda of Conversation. Secret; Personal and Private. Drafted by Dulles.
  2. By the terms of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 1150, November 19, 1957, the General Assembly agreed to enlarge the U.N. Disarmament Commission by 14 members. The Representative of the Soviet Union declared that his government would not participate in any future negotiations of the new or old Disarmament Commission or its Subcommittee. For text of Resolution 1150, see Documents on Disarmament, 1945–1959, pp. 916–917.
  3. On November 14, 1957, the U.N. General Assembly passed Resolution 1148, which called upon the Disarmament Commission to reconvene its Subcommittee to establish a group of experts to study inspection systems for disarmament measures. The Subcommittee was instructed to report to the Disarmament Commission by April 30, 1958. For text of the resolution, see ibid., pp. 914–915.