International Control of Atomic Energy

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International Control of Atomic Energy

On 8 November 1945 the Cabinet discussed the future use of atomic energy and the atomic bomb.  They discussed the use of an international convention to regulate the use of the atomic bomb, the sharing of scientific information on the atomic bomb, in particular with Russia; and the balance of power and the future for world peace.

The following extracts give a flavour of what was said in Cabinet:

P.M.  

Didn't want to get at once into detailed ques. of policing the bomb etc. 
  Wanted first to talk on basis tht. this discovery alters whole basis
  of world peace.
  Para. 2 is most important.  Real aim shd. be to get behaviour right –
  then bomb won't matter.
  Scientific basis – genl. knowledge.  In a few years everyone will
  know how to make it .
  Industrial use – at least 10/20 yrs. ahead.
  Moral:  get together with U.S. & Russia & others & develop U.N.
  conception.
  Don't believe in a) genl. agreemt. not to use it.
            b) we cd. use it to threaten others.  U.K. is in most
                 unfavourable geogr. posn.
            c) agreemt. tht. we wd. use it v. anyone who first used
                it, wtr. aggressor or not.
  Start therefore on basis can't regulate this w'out world good will.
  Logic of situation  i) no secret wh. can be kept.  In time can be
                   developed widely by nations.
               ii) therefore effective world organn is only remedy.

H.M.  

How do we go?  Assume no./countries will make & hold a. bombs.
  We must do so ourselves.  Agreemt. v. aggress. warfare is old
  problem:  only new thing:  nastier weapon.  But still have the fear
  tht. someone won't play & must therefore be prepd for bad faith.
  Let Intern. Org. prohibit their use.  No good however unless you let it
  be known at once tht. anyone who brks. faith will be forcibly
  suppd if need be by means includg. a. bombs.  Open ques. wtr.
  a. bomb must be used for this purpose.
  Does P.M.'s memo. p.3. lead back to disarmament mistakes of
  inter-war years?
  Failure then was merely hoping people wd. behave, with no
  power of effective sanctions.

P.M.  

Danger:  isolate a. bomb & deal separately.
  Logic is:  outlaw all war, much more than ever before.

A.B.  

Sense of security essential prelimin. to readiness to disarm.
  P.4. (f)  R. will say "thanks for nil".  If true tht. R can make in a
  2 yrs worth dramatic gesture – give it them now.  If mutual
  confidence is basis of peace we shd. not only declare but
  ensue it.  Attempt to restrict this to a few countries will brk.
  attempts at U.N.O.  Must take some risks in attempt to
  create feelings of mutual confidence.

P.M.  

We've given R. everythg. during war:  & received nothg.
  Little return from giving things to R.

R.S.C.  

This is peculiar case.  In 10 yrs. R. will be able to make it.  Won't
  make much diff. if we tell them – might reduce it to 5.
  Ques. is therefore of tactics.  Shall we rule this out at once as a
  power politics factor & let everyone have it at once.  Believe,
  if we are running policy  of moral basis vice power politics,
  first need is to do this with the a. bomb.

E.Sh.  

x/ in (f).  R. may be suspicious of Anglo-U.S. intentns & reluctant
  to discuss world organ. unless a. bomb included in it.  Doubt
  if we'll get anywhere by approach as at x/.  Wd. prefer to
  modify that, in order to remove R. suspicion.
  Agree they aren't playing ball.  But suspicions founded on pre-war
  experience attitude of capitalist countries.
  a) Wd. like to offer the bomb but link the offer with discns themselves.
  b) I assume small country cd. make this.  Prs. a Fascist country, like
  Spain.  Need therefore for U.N.O. to promote democracy.

P.M.  

Suspicions on both sides.  U.S. are suspicious of R.  Both sides have
  cause for suspicion.

E.B.  

Worried about this memo. because all related to a. bomb:  and this is
  only one of a no. of nasty weapons.  Risk tht. conversns will
  turn on a bomb unduly – and leave e.g. R. to go ahead
  undisturbed with other nasty weapons.
  Vice (f)   As soon as UNO organ. & accepted give it function of
  examing. & recommendg. means of exchanging informn re
  fundam. scientific research & all new weapons.  Wd. be
  in keepg. with war-time agreemts:  the reservation clause might
  have to be modified.  Wd. like some specl. machinery of U.N.O.
  to deal with this.  Such an arrangemt. might put U.N.O. on its
  feet.

P.M.  

Wd. like to move in tht. dirn.  Diffy  about diffce between scientific
  discovery & know how.
  Not (in reply to A.B.) to R. alone:  China, Argentine, & others wd.
  have to have it.
  Want to lift this away fr. a. bomb to genl. powers of destn.  Welcome
   E.B's suggn.

R.S.C.  

We have enough arms now to keep world in order. What we want is   to prevent competitive race in terror quality of new weapons.
  If we can stop that – competitive drive for terror weapons & we    can later disarm other weapons.

A.B.  

Main anxiety – argument betwn U.S. & Russia.
  Let G.B. mediate:  and let our view be known.  Rally round G.B. the   nations who fear this hostility betwn. U.S. & U.S.S.R.  Agree
  with much of what E.B. has said.
  R. is frightened.  Pride based on R. Army:  & a. bomb has wrecked
  it overnight.
  We must get at the state of mind wh. is behind R. suspicion.

P.L.  

One aspect not covered.  Unlikely anyone will start by dropping an   a. bomb.  What is likely is:  a Power will want to do somethg.
  at expense of small neighbour:  & will use threat of a. bomb
  to secure its ends.  What is to be our posn in that case?  We
  cdn't protect Danzig – only attack Germany.  That only gets
  into war, leadg. to destn of civilisation.

A.B.  

With universal awareness of weapons, we shd. avoid situation in wh.   an aggressor can rely on weapons which others haven't got.

P.M.  

My objn to Conventn (AVA) is tht. it is delusion to suppose you have   done anythg. by getting that paper protection.  That is my only    point.  You may have Conventns:  but they alone won't protect    you:  must be part of U.N.O. & good will & knowledge.

R.S.C.  

Remember that scientists are serious in their view tht. they will not
  hold their mouths merely because they are told so by Govts.

Taken from C.M. 51(45) - Meeting held on 8 November 1945.