File No. 600.119/313a
The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page)
5236. I had a conversation to-day by appointment with the British Ambassador, Sir Richard Crawford, and Lord Eustace Percy, in regard to the effect of the United States embargo on exports to the European neutrals. Each neutral was taken up in turn and its relations to the Allies and to Germany in respect to exports, imports, trade agreements, military possibilities, etc., were discussed. I pointed out that the United States was about to formulate a policy on the subject, but that it was embarrassed in doing so by not having formal, authoritative statements from the British and French Governments as to certain important points which appear to have been but vaguely or partially touched upon in the memoranda and interviews of members of the embassies. Indeed, some of the opinions and statements made from time to time seem to me somewhat inconsistent or at variance with each other. It seems that these matters should be cleared up at the earliest moment by frank and full exchange of views. Out of the discussion the following questions arose, upon which I asked the Ambassador to obtain an authoritative expression of views by his Government, for our consideration.[Page 913]
- What are the agreements Great Britain has with the northern neutrals, and what France has with Switzerland? We have not been furnished with copies of these agreements, but have simply been given general statements regarding them. We feel that we should know exactly the provisions of the agreements which may be broken by our embargo before it is made complete.
- Is Great Britain willing, and does she desire, to break these agreements with the neutrals? The United States probably would not be willing to appear to cause the Allies to break these agreements, unless it is understood officially that such action is acceptable to and desired by Great Britain and France. On the other hand, the United States would be placed in a peculiar position if it refused to allow wheat, for example, to go to Holland, while Great Britain freely shipped rice to that country under special agreements. If it seems best that the agreements should be terminated, the responsibility should be shared with the United States by the Allies.
- Are Great Britain, France, and Italy willing to forego the supplies or facilities which they are now obtaining from the neutrals in case these are cut off by the neutrals as a direct or indirect result of the embargo?
- Are the Allies prepared to meet, with such aid as the United States could supply at the moment, the military situation should Germany attack the neutrals or establish bases on their territory or coasts or otherwise use the neutrals to serve directly its military ends? The responsibility for bringing about so serious a situation and meeting it should be in common.
- What are the demands which Great Britain and France desire should be made upon the neutrals? Are all exports to Germany to be cut off? Is the use of neutral shipping to be demanded, and to what extent?
The responsibility for the effects of a drastic embargo should be clearly understood before action is taken, the probable effects upon supplies to Germany and the Allies and upon the military situation should be carefully worked out, the preparations necessary to meet and nullify these results, and the extent to which we and the Allies are willing to bear the burden of possible military and naval operations should be duly weighed and decided upon in advance.
I told the Ambassador that I was very anxious to have definite and official answers to these inquiries after they had been considered technically by British authorities to submit to the Exports Council before this Government could consider and possibly recommend the drastic demands which it is understood the Allies desire us to make on the European neutrals.1