871A.014 Bessarabia/170

The Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray) to the Under Secretary of State (Castle)

Mr. Castle : I think it very likely that the Rumanian Minister will, before he leaves, take up with you again the Bessarabian question.

Mr. Davila still holds that because of our recognition of the possession of Vilna by Poland, despite the dispute which still exists between Poland and Lithuania, we should recognize Rumania’s possession of Bessarabia. He is inclined, however, to disregard that phase of the question and to renew his plea for our early recognition of the Bessarabian annexation on the following grounds: [Page 507]

When Mr. Colby made his pronouncement in 1920 regarding the alienation of Russian territory as long as the Russian people had no government that was considered competent to speak for them,5 the collapse of the Bolshevik régime was considered a matter of months, or at most a year or so. This collapse has not taken place, but, instead, the Bolshevik régime has thoroughly consolidated itself until few people, if any, consider its disappearance at an early date as likely. Mr. Davila argues that the time element in this case cannot be ignored and that it is only logical and just that we recognize the status quo in Bessarabia which has remained unchanged for more than twelve years. He will argue that even Rumania’s severest critics do not claim that the Bessarabians are dissatisfied with their present incorporation in Rumania or that they desire any change in their present situation. He will probably cite the declaration made in 1856 by President Pierce to the general effect that it is no concern of ours how a change in sovereignty comes about even though such change may have been effected by the intervention of a foreign Power.6
Mr. Davila may make the point that by including Bessarabia in the consular jurisdiction of our Consulate at Bucharest, by our willingness to visa the Rumanian passports of persons born in Bessarabia, and by looking to the Rumanian authorities for the protection of any American interests or rights in Bessarabia, we have in fact recognized the status quo.
Mr. Davila will lay particular stress on the desirability of settling this matter in some fashion prior to American recognition of Soviet Russia. He seems to feel that due to the depression and the necessity for expanding our foreign markets a change in our attitude regarding the recognition of Soviet Russia may be near at hand. He states that if we wait until after we have recognized Soviet Russia before arriving at a solution regarding Bessarabia agitation on this question may spread to Congress. He feels that, on the other hand, if the matter were settled now in a more or less routine fashion in connection with the administration of the quota7 it need excite no comment or discussion either in the United States or in Rumania.

I may add, in conclusion, that Mr. Flournoy feels that this matter could be settled in a purely administrative way by including the [Page 508] Bessarabian quota in the Rumanian quota, such a procedure constituting ipso facto a recognition of that territory as Rumanian soil, Mr. Flournoy furthermore feels that if the matter were ever raised we could easily justify our action not only on the grounds of an administration of a quota but also because of the necessity of regularizing our consular jurisdiction in the disputed province.

This question has dragged along now for well over a decade and I, for one, would welcome an opportunity to bring it to a close if this could be done without causing any injury to American interests. I do not see that we gain anything particularly by upholding the Colby principle so rigidly in the case of Bessarabia when it has been treated somewhat lightly in other instances of the alienation of Russian territory.

I should appreciate knowing your views on the above points.

Wallace Murray
  1. For Secretary Colby’s position, see telegram No. 821, August 2, 1920, 5 p.m., to the Ambassador in Great Britain, and note dated August 10, 1920, to the Italian Ambassador, Foreign Relations, 1920, vol. iii, pp. 461 and 463.
  2. This statement of policy was enunciated by President Pierce in a special message to Congress, May 15, 1856; see House Executive Document No. 103, 34th Cong., 1st sess., p. 5.
  3. The reference is to the quota allowed Rumania under American immigration laws.