23 Cablegram from Spender to Department of External Affairs

Washington, 22 May 1957

560. Secret Guard


Your telegram 411.1

When I saw Stassen2 this morning he emphasised that the United States was always viewing the latest Soviet moves on disarmament with the greatest caution. He nevertheless said that the Russian Delegation's attitude at the London meeting3 had been more business like, direct and realistic than at any time in the past 11 years of the disarmament discussions. He said that the four Western Delegations4 were all agreed on his assessment.

[matter omitted]

  1. Stassen said that Soviet position had moved in some important respects, whereas previously the U.S.S.R. had rejected any kind of trial area under the Eisenhower 'open skies' proposal5 they were now offering to open up a small but significant strip of their territory in Europe and also a strategically significant area in Siberia. They were of course asking too much in return6 but he thought it clear that their proposals were not flat demands but were a negotiating position.
  2. The second important change in the Russian position was that they no longer placed primary emphasis on the elimination of nuclear weapons.7 They had also dropped talk of the complete elimination of foreign bases, although they still think in terms of some reduction in these bases. (Stassen said that he had made it absolutely clear to Zorin8 that unless the Russians dropped their insistence on the elimination of foreign bases the United States saw no point in pursuing the negotiations).
  3. In answer to my question regarding the present Soviet attitude towards nuclear tests Stassen said that whilst their formal position was that there should be a complete ban on such tests there was some indication that they were not prepared to consider a moratorium as a step towards that end. They had not responded favourably to suggestions for the registration of tests, claiming that this would be of no value. The Russians still call for the prohibition of the production of fissionable materials for weapons purposes but the United States had made it clear that at this stage it would not agree to such prohibition except as part of a wide agreement capable of being effectively policed.

[matter omitted]

  1. I asked Stassen whether the problem of China9 had been prominent in the London discussions and he said that apart from the fact that it had been given the same figure for force levels as the United States and the Soviet Union it had not figured prominently. The United States attitude was that it should be possible to find some limited preliminary steps towards disarmament which would avoid political problems connected with China.10 He said that there were indications that the Soviet Union was adopting a similar attitude.

[matter omitted]

  1. Stassen said that the United States was seeking to move towards some system of inspection of fissionable materials. This was true of guided missiles but the problem was to design an effective inspection system. He said that in any case such inspection could follow on after the 'first step' agreement had been reached.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1209, 1957/4928]