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Letter to Committee Chairmen on the Wherry Amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations Bill.

September 20, 1950

My dear Mr. Chairman:

When the Senate passed H.R. 9526, the Supplemental Appropriation Bill for 1951, it added an amendment, offered by Senator Wherry, which would require the United States to cut off economic and financial assistance to all countries which export to the Soviet Union or its satellites any articles which might be used for the production of military materiel. This amendment is of such grave importance, and is fraught with such danger to the United States and to world peace, that I feel I must make a special request to the Congress to eliminate it in completing action upon this bill.

No one can quarrel with the ostensible purpose of the amendment--to weaken the war-making potential of communist dominated countries--and on the surface the amendment may seem to be a plausible means for accomplishing that end. But the fact is that it would defeat its own purpose and accomplish substantially the opposite result from that intended--it would weaken the free nations more than it would weaken the Soviet bloc.

The amendment applies not only to arms and armaments but to any articles that could be used for the production of military materiel. Since almost all goods and commodities can be used for the production of military materiel in one way or another, the amendment, if effective, would require a substantially complete embargo on trade between Western and Eastern Europe. The countries participating in the European Recovery Program have embargoed the export of arms and armaments to Eastern Europe for some two years. But trade in other commodities has continued to some extent. This trade works both ways, of course. Countries of Western Europe obtain from it goods which are vital to their economic and military strength--the very strength we are helping to build up. To cut this trade off suddenly, would bring about dislocations in the Western nations that would more than offset any advantages that might be gained.

The appropriate agencies of the Government have been negotiating, and will continue to negotiate, with countries receiving aid from us in order to curb trade that would aid the war potential of the Soviet bloc, and to do this in a way that would protect the strength of friendly nations. These negotiations have produced very substantial results and I am confident they will continue to do so. This method, which permits selective and cooperative treatment of the host of varying problems in this field, is far superior to the arbitrary blanket approach prescribed in the amendment now in question.

The amendment affects countries in the Near East and Far East as well as in Europe. Some of these countries do not have strong traditional ties with the Western World. It is important to us to develop and strengthen these ties, which is one of the aims of our assistance programs. While they are friendly to the United States, the trade of those countries with the Soviet Union may be so important to them economically that they would have no alternative but to forego the limited economic aid which we now make available to them. The amendment leaves no room for negotiation, and accordingly would tend to force such countries into the Soviet orbit, in spite of their friendship for the United States. The amendment would also have most unfortunate effects on our relations with the Latin American countries. I am sure these are results wanted by nobody who supports the amendment.

Before legislation of this character is adopted, we ought to be sure that we would get more out of it than we would lose. I am convinced that this amendment in its present form would not accomplish the purpose intended but, on the contrary, would do much more harm than good.

Consequently, I earnestly urge the Congress to leave the amendments out of the bill.

I am sending a similar letter to--.



Note: This is the text of identical letters sent to the Honorable Kenneth McKellar, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and to the Honorable Clarence Cannon, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.

On September 27, 1950, the President approved the Supplemental Appropriation Act of 1951 (64 Stat. 1044). The proposed amendment offered by Senator Kenneth S. Wherry of Nebraska was not included in the final bill.

Harry S Truman, Letter to Committee Chairmen on the Wherry Amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations Bill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230257

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