International Control of Atomic Energy

February 4, 1948

Report Outline
Atomic Energy and the Threat of War
United Nations and Atomic Energy Control
Atomic Dilemma and Search for Solution

Atomic Energy and the Threat of War

Deadline on American Immunity from Atomic Attack

As committees of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission resumed work in mid-January, after a four-month recess, the President's Air Policy Commission warned that, failing an agreement for effective international control of atomic energy, the United States could not count upon security from atomic attack after Dec. 31, 1952. Estimates of the time required by other nations to break the secret of the atomic bomb, and to develop supersonic bombers and accurate guided missiles in quantity, are admitted to be no more than “informed guesses.” But the Air Policy Commission concluded that it would be unsafe to assume that other nations would not have atomic weapons in volume and “the planes and missiles capable of delivering a sustained attack on the United States mainland” by the end of 1952.

Stalemate in Negotiations for World Control Plan

Meanwhile, the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, though continuing its search for an agreed solution of the problem of international control, appears to be as far as ever from the goal set for it when it was created by the General Assembly two years ago. Frederick H. Osborn, deputy United States delegate to the commission, speaking in Boston on Jan. 15, could find “little hope for the establishment of that condition of world cooperation essential to the effective control of atomic energy.”

Osborn's estimate of the situation seemed to be confirmed the following day when, at the first 1948 meeting of the commission's Working Committee, Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Gromyko reaffirmed Russia's adherence to principles of control which the majority of the commission had already rejected as inadequate. And on Jan. 29 Gromyko raised an apparently insuperable obstacle to further real progress by stating categorically that a treaty outlawing atomic bombs, and requiring destruction of existing stockpiles, must be “signed and ratified and put into force” before a treaty establishing a control system was concluded. Former Sen. Warren Austin, head of the American delegation, has pointed out that the majority of the commission insists “that prohibition can be effective only if it is a part of an overall and thoroughgoing system of control through an international agency.” At Richmond, Va., Dec. 8, 1947, he declared: “On this there can be no compromise whatever.”

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