16 Despatch from Spender to Casey

New York, 1 December 1954

1/54. Restricted

Disarmament in the United Nations

I have the honour to offer some brief general comment on the question of Disarmament in the United Nations.

[matter omitted]

  1. As a result of Western leadership in United Nations efforts on Disarmament having passed from the United States to France and the United Kingdom, a change appears to have taken place, if not in the Western approach in its basic principles, at least in the manner in which these principles are being presented.1 What was originally an American method of approach has been superseded by an Anglo-French method of approach, and this seemed apparent in the work of the Disarmament Commission Sub-Committee, which met in London in May and June 1954. What I am trying to indicate is my feeling that the United States adopted a typically thorough-going method of approach which tried to take account of all factors and amounted to a very detailed blue-print of what the United States would be prepared to do and of the sort of controls the United States would accept and would want the USSR to accept.

    [matter omitted]

  2. The Anglo-French approach on the other hand appears designed to appeal directly and dramatically to European public opinion. No doubt all the stages and safeguards demanded by the Americans are still implicit in the Anglo-French plan, but these safeguards and stages are hidden in language which gives the impression that the positions of East and West on this matter are closer than in fact they are. This tends to encourage the public to expect some tangible result in the not too distant future.

[matter omitted]

  1. Meanwhile, as you know, it is intended that Australia should present views to the Disarmament Commission on the substance of the proposals now before it and my own feeling is that the best thing for us to do is to put as frankly as we can (in view of the presence in the Disarmament Commission of the Soviet Union and a number of powers with whom we do not have very intimate relations) our real thoughts about the likely effects for Australia of the adoption of the Anglo-French proposals as the basis for a world Disarmament Treaty. I do not myself feel that this could do us anything but good internationally, and may serve to bring the Disarmament Commission down to earth. It will also serve notice on our friends that we are not prepared to have thrust upon us as faits accomplis, proposals such as the 1% population ceilings for armed forces of May, 1952, no matter how agreeable the propaganda benefits of such manoeuvres may appear to European eyes.2 You will of course be able, much better than I, to gauge its beneficial results in terms of public support in Australia for the Government's defence programme, and Australian commitments under the Manila Treaty.3

[matter omitted]

  1. I feel therefore that we shall need to keep in very close touch with the work of the Sub-Committee next year. There is talk of the Sub-Committee's holding its meetings in Paris or Geneva; Moscow has also been suggested as a meeting-place, although probably only in half earnest.
  2. I am sending a copy of this despatch to the Australian Embassies in Washington and Paris, to the Australian High Commissioner's Office in Ottawa, and to the External Affairs Officer in London.

[NAA: A1838, TS681/10 part 3]