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Nations: “No early solution of the conventional-armaments problem appears likely.”

Ambassador Austin outlined the dilemma confronting the United Nations in his speech before the First Committee of the General Assembly in Paris on October 12, 1948:

“I call your attention also to the fact that the principles considered essential by nine of the eleven members of the Commission for Conventional Armaments also call for a system of adequate safeguards which, by including an agreed system of international supervision, would insure the observance of the provisions of the resolution or convention by all parties. These ... must precede the initiation of any disarmament.

“The crucial aspect of this question is the steadfast refusal of the Soviet Union, in the study of atomic-energy control and in the field of conventional armaments, to agree in common with other members to the opening of its territory to representatives of the United Nations so that they might determine whether the agreements are being carried out.

"Does any member of this committee think for a moment that the Members of the United Nations should disarm while the Soviet Union gives no evidence whatsoever that it is willing to participate in the world community to the extent required for the control of atomic energy and the regulation of armaments?

Action in Commission for Conventional Armaments

The Commission for Conventional Armaments was established by resolution of the Security Council on February 13, 1947, pursuant to the recommendation of the General Assembly that “prompt consideration” be given “to formulating the practical measures . . essential to provide for the general regulation and reduction of armaments and armed forces". In carrying out the recommendation of the General Assembly the Security Council is meeting responsibilities under article 26 of the Charter of the United Nations for formulating “plans . for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments".

The activities of the Commission during the year 1948 were primarily devoted to efforts to formulate a statement of principles relating to the regulation and reduction of conventional armaments and armed forces. Preparation of this statement is called for by item 2 of the plan of work of the Commission approved by the Security Council on July 8, 1947.

The Commission on August 12, 1948, by a vote of 9 to 2 (U.S.S.R. and Ukraine) adopted a resolution to the effect that (1) a system for

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the regulation and reduction of conventional armaments and armed forces should provide for the adherence of all states and initially should include all states having substantial military resources; (2) it can only be put into effect in an atmosphere of international confidence and security; (3) examples of conditions essential to such confidence and security are (a) the establishment of an adequate system of agreements under article 43 of the Charter, (b) the international control of atomic energy, and (c) the conclusion of the peace settlements with Germany and Japan; (4) a system for the regulation and reduction of armaments and armed forces should provide for the least possible diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources; (5) it must include an adequate system of safeguards which functions under international supervision to insure the observance of the provisions of the treaty or convention and which (a) is technically feasible and practical, (b) is capable of detecting promptly the occurrence of violations, and (c) causes minimum interference with the economic and industrial life of individual nations; and (6) provision must be made for effective enforcement action in the event of violations.

Throughout the discussion of this resolution the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian S.S.R. persistently attacked the majority position, challenging the need for establishing international confidence and security before the regulation and reduction of conventional armaments and armed forces could be put into effect. They also repeatedly insisted, despite the terms of reference of the Commission for Conventional Armaments which exclude it from considering matters relating to the control of atomic energy, that their proposals for the prohibition of atomic weapons should be taken up by the Commission for Conventional Armaments.

The United States gave its strong support to the Cca resolution on item 2 (principles). Frederick Osborn, Deputy Representative of the United States on the Commission, restated the position declared by Secretary Marshall to the Second Session of the General Assembly 1 that

“We believe it is important not to delay the formulation of a system of arms regulation for implementation when conditions permit."

Mr. Osborn emphasized, however, that

“The work of this Commission has continued to be hampered by demagogic appeals and irresponsible propaganda'. We cannot but note regretfully that the Soviet system of obstructionism in this Commission is the same as that employed by them in the Atomic Energy

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Commission. Nevertheless, the United States believes that the Commission must proceed with its work.”

The Commission on August 17, 1948, approved a draft progress report to the Security Council with the understanding that the draft would become final in the absence of a request by any delegation before September 15 for the Commission to consider the revision of the text. Just prior to the date agreed upon the Soviet Union informed the Secretariat that it could not accept the draft progress report. Because of the pending opening of the General Assembly, the next meeting of the Commission could not be held, and therefore the report could not be officially transmitted to the Security Council. Action in General Assembly

As in the case of the 1946 session of the General Assembly, the major propaganda theme of the Soviet Union at the 1948 session was disarmament. And as in the case of the 1946 meeting, the Soviet Union had not placed the question on the agenda prior to the opening of the session. In his opening address before the General Assembly, the Delegate of the Soviet Union accused the United States and the United Kingdom of preparing for aggressive war against the Soviet Union and introduced a resolution "for the purpose

of removing the menace of a new war which is being fomented by expansionists

calling for the prohibition of atomic weapons, the reduction of the armaments and armed forces of China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union by one third within one year's time, and the establishment within the framework of the Security Council of a control commission to supervise the carrying out of these proposals.

Acceptance of the Soviet proposals would manifestly operate against effective disarmament. The demand for prohibition of atomic weapons was accompanied by no plan of control. In addition, its acceptance would have had the effect of discarding the plan of control developed by the Atomic Energy Commission and approved by the General Assembly. Despite intensive questioning by other delegations, the Soviet representatives failed to specify the nature of the safeguards which would be established to protect states which might agree to disarm under the proposal. In this connection, Sir Hartley Shawcross of the United Kingdom Delegation inquired: “Will Mr. Vyshinsky give us a series of proposals that mean adequate verification, adequate inspection for any disarmament proposals? Will he give this Committee a series of proposals which would persuade the people of the world that Soviet Russia is in earnest and has nothing to hide ?” Evasive Soviet replies to intensive questioning also

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made it clear that the Soviet proposals were designed primarily for propaganda purposes. The Soviet proposal for one-third reduction was exposed by the Representative of the United Kingdom as a “rough and unjust system of quantitative disarmament”, which took no account of existing disparity in levels of armaments, the great postwar reductions made by the United States and the United Kingdom, or the lack of security afforded France by her present level of armaments.

Speaking before the First Committee of the General Assembly on November 11, 1948, Mr. Osborn said:

“It is our understanding from published figures which the Soviet Union has not denied, that the Soviet nion has under arms at the present time forces totaling around four million men, and its associated states another two million.

“The Soviet states apparently have available combat troops at least five times more numerous than those of all Western European states put together.

“A reduction of one third would not change the disproportion in Soviet armies. So it would not relieve the anxieties of other nations. If the reduction in Soviet armies were to be carried out in secret behind the Soviet borders it would not remove from other nations the element of suspicion which is such a bar to peace.




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“The Soviet proposal for a reduction of one third in the armaments of the five major powers without any verification petuate the present Soviet superiority in aggressive forces. It would not reduce the threat of Soviet aggression; it might indeed increase that threat."

Unlike the Soviet proposals of 1946, this proposal was found unacceptable even as a basis upon which a compromise resolution could be constructed. There was no move, therefore, to amend the Soviet resolution. The United States had initially favored resolutions which would call attention to the Soviet obstructive tactics in the United Nations work on armaments and would recommend that CCA continue its work. Various other resolutions on the subject of the regulation and reduction of armaments were presented but were subsequently withdrawn in favor of a French resolution as amended by Belgium, to which the United States gave its support. This resolution was approved on November 19, 1948, by the General Assembly by an impressive majority of 43. Only the Soviet bloc opposed it.

The resolution of November 19, 1948, recognizes that the “aim of the reduction of conventional armaments and armed forces can only be attained in an atmosphere of real and lasting improvement in international relations". It considers, however, that international confidence would be greatly encouraged if verified data on the conventional armaments and armed forces of all states were available. Accordingly it recommends that study be continued on the regulation and reduction of armaments and armed forces and calls for first attention to be given to formulating proposals for the receipt, checking, and verification by an international agency of control of information with regard to conventional armaments and armed forces.


The sponsors of the resolution took the position that the information made available by such an international agency would provide a necessary factual basis for the intelligent development of proposals for the regulation and reduction of conventional armaments and armed forces. On November 19, 1948, in the plenary session of the General Assembly, John Foster Dulles said that “The United States Delegation hopes that the .. resolution will be. . implemented during the coming year” and that while it “will represent work that is perhaps unspectacular

it will be honest work and it will provide a solid foundation upon which, next year, this Assembly can proceed to erect further indispensable parts of the structure of peace.”

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Under article 43 of the Charter all Members of the United Nations have undertaken to make available to the Security Council, on its call, armed forces, assistance, and facilities necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security. The Security Council on February 16, 1946, directed the Military Staff Committee to examine article 43 from the military point of view and submit any resulting recommendations. The report which the Military Staff Committee submitted in April 1947 in response to this request revealed important divergencies of view between the United States, China, France, and the United Kingdom on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other.2

· For a statement of the most important divergencies, see The United States and the United Nations; Report by the President to the Congress for the Year 1947, Department of State publication 3024, pp. 105–106.

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