A Decade of American Foreign Policy 1941-1949
Soviet Misinterpretaton of U. S. Position

Statement by John D. Hickerson, Assistant Secretary for United Nations Affairs, November 11, 1949 (1)

Yesterday the Soviet Representative repeated almost every argument, charge, and distortion previously made by various Soviet representatives against the motives of the United States and other members of the Atomic Energy Commission, and against the United Nations Plan of Control and Prohibition.

Again, the representative of the Soviet Union gives clear evidence that he hasn't read or has misunderstood, or misinterpreted, or refuses to believe the clear intent of the United Nations plan.

For example, the Soviet representative quoted the Baruch proposals to support his claim that the international agency would have the power to fix the quotas and, therefore, to interfere with the economic life of nations. But that is not what is provided in the plan developed by the Commission and approved by the General Assembly last fall. That plan provides that quotas of each country are to be agreed upon and written into the treaty before the treaty is ratified and signed by the participating nations. The agency would thereafter be obliged to carry out these agreed quotas.

The Soviet representative further stated that the plan empowers the agency to prevent and suppress national research in the field of atomic energy. This is sheer imagination. The United Nations plan provides that the agency should encourage and promote research in all national and scientific institutions and, in cooperation with the scientists of all nations, should publish scientific information so that there would no longer be secrets in the field of atomic energy.

The Soviet representative then quoted the Acheson-Lilienthal report of 1946 to justify the absurd charge that the United States might be in a position to retain its atomic weapons, even after the control plan had gone into effect. But if he read the plan approved by the General Assembly, he would find that the plan prohibits the national ownership ,or use of weapons and also prohibits the national possession of nuclear fuel which is in the explosive weapons. When the plan approved by the General Assembly goes into effect, neither the United States nor any other nations would have in its hands atomic weapons or the explosive nuclear materials out of which they are made. These are the provisions of the plan approved by the General Assembly which would make the prohibition of atomic weapons effective and enforceable.


The United Nations plan provides that the stages of transition from the present situation to that of complete international control are to be agreed upon in advance and written into the treaty. The plan provides that the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, which operates by majority rule, shall determine when one stage is completed and another shall begin. No nation would be in a position to protract or prolong this period of transition leading to full effective control and prohibition. All nations would be treated in exactly the same way. The nuclear fuel in atomic weapons in the possession of the United States would be removed and turned over to the international agency at exactly the same time that the nuclear fuel would be removed from any atomic weapons in the possession of the U. S. S. R. or any other nation and turned over to the international control agency.

It is apparent that the Soviet representative was not really debating the United Nations plan. He was discussing some sections taken out of context of the Acheson-Lilienthal report or out of the proposals first put forward by Mr. Baruch. He was discussing various statements and articles carefully selected from the press in countries where there is freedom of expression for every shade of opinion.

The Soviet representative charged that the purpose of the United Nations plan is to extend and expand an American monopoly over the entire nuclear industry of the world in the guise of some great super-trust. I am frankly at a loss to understand how the willingness of the United States to turn over its atomic energy industry and its atomic materials to the possession, operation, any management of an international agency under the United Nations could be construed as "continuing and expanding an American monopoly." We are rather proposing to participate in a great international cooperative in which all nations would participate on fair and equitable terms to develop and use atomic energy solely for peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.

The Soviet representative told us yesterday that atomic energy was being used in the U. S. S. R. for such peaceful purposes as moving mountains, irrigating deserts, and clearing jungles. Whether or not this is nonsense, I will not say. I can say, however, that when the Soviet representative said this he was implying a recognition of one of the basic facts that must be taken into account in any solution of the atomic energy question; that is, the same atomic energy developed for peaceful uses is automatically and inescapably available for military purposes. If nations have devices in their possession which can level mountains, they also have in their possession devices which can level cities. If nations are permitted to own and control such power, no system of control or inspection can be more effective than the good faith, intentions, and motives of the nations possessing such power. That is why the United Nations plan provides for an international cooperative to take over all such dangerous materials and facilities and to make sure that they are used for peaceful purposes only. Because nuclear fuel can be converted so easily and almost instantaneously into bombs, the proposals put forward by the Soviet Union would be wholly ineffective as a means of control.

The Soviet representative gave a startling confirmation of this yesterday.

The United States has not overlooked or neglected the peaceful side of atomic energy, even though we have not attempted anything so spectacular as mountain-moving. For example, for some time the United States Atomic Energy Commission has been distributing, either free or at very low cost, isotopes for medical and research purposes to any and all countries which desire them. To date, I believe some 30 countries have received shipments. Soviet scientists are offered the same opportunities that have been given scientists of other countries, providing they comply with the conditions applicable to all. These conditions merely call for a collective and open sharing of scientific results and developments. What is the Soviet Union doing to share the knowledge of the peaceful uses it has developed?


Yesterday the Soviet representative made frequent and disparaging references to the statement by representatives of Canada, China, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States on the consultations of the six permanent members of the Atomic Energy Commission. The closing words of that statement are so opposite to our discussion that I am impelled to bring them again to the attention of the Committee:

"It appears from these consultations that, as in the past, the Soviet Union will not negotiate except on the basis of the principles set forth in the Soviet proposals of June 1947.
"The essential points in the Soviet control proposals, and the, reasons for their rejection by the other five Powers, as brought out in the consultations, are as follows:
"The Soviet Union proposes that nations should continue to own explosive atomic materials.
"The other five powers feel that under such conditions there would be no effective protection against the sudden use of these materials as atomic weapons.
"The Soviet Union proposes that nations continue, as at present, to own, operate, and manage facilities making or using dangerous quantities of such materials.
"The other five powers believe that under such conditions it would be impossible to detect or prevent the diversion of such materials for use in atomic weapons.
"The Soviet Union proposes a system of control depending on periodic inspection of facilities the existence of which the national government concerned reports to the international agency supplemented by special investigations on suspicion of treaty violations.
"The other five Powers believe that periodic inspection would not prevent the diversion of dangerous materials and the special investigations envisaged would be wholly insufficient to prevent clandestine activities.
"Other points of difference, including Soviet insistence on the right to veto the recommendations of the International Control Agency, have not yet been discussed in the consultations.
"These consultations have not yet succeeded in bringing about agreement between the U. S. S. R. and the other five Powers, but they have served to clarify some of the points on which there is, disagreement.
"It is apparent that there is a fundamental difference not only on methods but also on aims. All of the Sponsoring Powers other than the U. S. S. R. put world security first and are prepared to accept innovations in traditional concepts of international cooperation, national sovereignty, and economic organization where these are necessary for security. The Government of the U. S. S. R. puts its sovereignty first and is unwilling to accept measures which may impinge upon or interfere with its rigid exercise of unimpeded state sovereignty.
"If this fundamental difference could be overcome, other differences which have hitherto appeared unsurmountable could be seen in true perspective, and reasonable ground might be found for their adjustment."

The correctness of every word of this statement was demonstrated by the speech of the Soviet representative yesterday. U. S. SUPPORTS FRENCH-CANADIAN RESOLUTION

Obviously, we must continue our efforts to resolve these differences. I am sure we can all agree on that. The question is where and how. The debate in this Committee has confirmed our conviction that the best way to do this is to carry forward the consultations of the permanent members of the Atomic Energy Commission in accordance with the terms of the resolution introduced by France and Canada. I renew the pledge I made a few days ago that we in the United States, with a deep sense of humility in the face of this problem, are prepared to continue to do our full part in meeting the challenge of atomic energy. We are prepared to consider sympathetically any proposals or suggestions looking to a satisfactory solution. The efforts to resolve these differences must continue, and we, for our part, are ready to continue.

(1) Made before the Ad Hoc Political Committee of the General Assembly on November 11, 1949, and released to the press by the United States delegation to the General Assembly on the same date. Department of State Bulletin of November 26, 1949, p. 811. Back

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