91. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.K. Draft Treaty


  • Lord Chalfont, U.K.
  • William C. Foster, USDel/ENDC

At Lord Chalfont’s request, I received him in my apartment at the des Bergues at 4:30 today. He said that the purpose of his visit was to make it clear that his government felt that it must table its present draft treaty with respect to the major articles on nuclear arrangements. Although appreciative of U.S. attempts to find compromise language which would reduce German and Italian opposition to their present language, his government felt that the statements of Prime Minister Wilson in December were so explicit on this subject that any backing away from that would be political suicide. They also believed that their formulation was the best possible in order truly to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. He said he recognized that our position is difficult in attempting to develop a European consensus and that as we had said in the Western Four meeting, our suggestions were probably as far as we could go in attempting to help achieve this consensus. He again stated that they had no objection to our proposed safeguards clause, nor to our concern about early tabling of any assurance clause. He said his government would be willing to make some concessions toward the Canadian draft in order to attract Canadian support.2 While he recognized our difficulties with the proposed Canadian withdrawal clause including the possible submission of problems and decisions to the Security Council, he felt that they could accept the Canadian formulation to obtain Canadian support.

I expressed our disappointment that our suggestions could not be accepted, particularly since he had heard the strong objections to the U.K. formulation of the Germans and the Italians, at Paris and here.

I inquired whether some general language which avoided the specific problem of ANF/MLF and the majority vote would allow them to change their current position. He said that they had considered this but believed that so much legal ingenuity had been expended in getting where we are that there is little hope for this as a promising course.

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He said that he and his government had perhaps misread what they thought were signals as to U.S. position as set forth in my Foreign Affairs article,3 the Kennedy speech4 and what he characterized as a leak of the Gilpatric report.5 From those alleged signals they had concluded that the U.S. Government was assigning top priority to non-proliferation, even as against the necessity for achievement of an MLF/ANF. In view of that, he believed they may recently have promised too much too soon in the House of Commons and with the press, all of which may have caused much of the present embarrassing differences between the allies. I conceded that he might be right as to the embarrassment. I also said that non-proliferation continued to have top priority with us but that we also continued to support our basic commitments on MLF/ANF. Until after the German election, at least, any discussion in this field is very difficult for the present German government. This political problem for the FRG was much like his own estimate of his proposal as being essential for the political health of his own government.

In an attempt to find a possible way out of this dilemma, I inquired whether the speculation which I had heard from some source, which source I did not recall, as to their possible willingness, although admittedly reluctant, to accept as amendments our Articles I, II, and IV, after a U.K. treaty had been tabled. He said that this offered possibilities, and if they could table their present draft with some possible Canadian amendments and possibly the safeguard clause added, then we or one of our allies, or even one of the non-aligned, might offer U.S. amendments and they could (in what could be made to appear reluctantly) accept the amendments. They then would have carried out their political commitment.

I said that this appeared to have possibilities and it might be that we could advise our allies that we still did not like Articles I, II and III, of the U.K. draft, as we have already informed the British. However, by agreement, we could perhaps publicly commend the British for their initiative but stating in low key that we would have to give more thought to their formulation since it had features which we felt were not the wisest. We would need to discuss such a statement with our allies before presenting it, so that each could weigh the political consequences, and, indeed, we would need to develop a scenario that could help answer many of our problems. I said that I hoped the British had also considered the political cost of appearing to diverge from a unified position with the U.S., both in [Page 235] terms of cohesion of the alliance and in terms of possible attacks from their conservative opponents at home. Lord Chalfont said he recognized this problem and hoped that any public evidence of the differences could be minimal.

In concluding, he asked that our discussion and his personal tentative favorable reaction to this sort of plan be kept in the closest confidence while he discussed it back home as he presumed I would do also. I told him that I would only discuss it with Washington and with Mr. Bunn here in view of Mr. Bunn’s participation in treaty activities. He said that he would discuss it only with his associate, Sir Harold Beeley, and that we could consult again later in the week when we had word back from home.

He raised the question of the Italian position. I said we had not heard, but we both agreed that if we and the U.K. and probably the Canadians, agreed with the plan, and also the Germans came along, that the Italians could undoubtedly be persuaded also to accept.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 18-3. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Foster. This conversation took place in the Hotel des Bergues.
  2. See Document 85, footnote 2.
  3. Foreign Affairs, July 1965, pp. 587-601; annotated in Documents on Disarmament, 1965, pp. 265-280.
  4. Reference presumably is to a speech by Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY); not further identified.
  5. Document 64.