Volume 3 1926~1932

Doc No.

No. 618 NAI DFA 11/3A

Memorandum by the Department of External Affairs
on the General Disarmament Conference

Dublin, 15 December 1931

1. The Disarmament Conference will be the most important since the Conference of Versailles. Every State in the world, whether Member or non-Member of the League, is likely to be represented at it.

2. The proceedings of the Conference will not be confined merely to fixing the levels of national armaments. National security, international political relations (e.g. Germany's demand for equal treatment), existing alliances, and even political and territorial clauses of the peace treaties, must be expected to figure largely in its discussions and decisions.

3. From our point of view, the success of the Conference will involve, in the first place, our acceptance of maxima figures which must not be exceeded by our military establishments for ten years. What those maxima should be in our case will require consideration. It is not sufficient to say that we should hold out for the maxima to which we would be entitled under Article 8 of the Treaty. That would amount to a demand for an increase of our existing armaments of from 50 to 200% (according to the interpretation of Article 8), and we would have to be prepared to justify those increases. On the other hand, are we to accept a less favourable position vis à vis the United Kingdom in the Disarmament Convention than that which we obtained in 1921 under Article 8 of the Treaty? Other questions of a technical nature will require consideration. For instance, are we to abandon for ten years the possibility of having an armed coastguard or an auxiliary marine force capable of administering our ports and safeguarding our neutrality in the event of war or strained relations between foreign Powers?

4. Apart from technical questions, it must be anticipated that constitutional questions will crop up at every stage of the Conference, and some of these may be of vital importance to us. In particular, the conclusions of the Conference are likely to have a decisive influence, from the point of view of its survival or abandonment, on the principle of the unity of the Commonwealth for purposes of peace and war. It will be one of the principal tasks of the Delegation to ensure that wrong conclusions are not drawn from the adoption of a global naval tonnage for the Commonwealth.

5. There has been a move in some quarters designed to secure the postponement of the Conference, but there is no evidence that this effort will succeed.