765.84/4440: Telegram (part air)

The Consul at Geneva (Gilbert) to the Secretary of State

177. The aftermath of the Council meetings has presented to my mind a picture of definite significance.

The turn of events has obviously brought European League states very close to a crossroads where decisions must perforce be taken. There is reflected here an actual conflict in progress in all European capitals between two courses of action, i. e., whether to make a final effort to salvage if possible collective security or to seek to achieve their national necessities by other means. In the “neutral” states this latter takes the form of a possible return to their historical position of neutrality; among the other states it is seen in their seeking new alliances or regional arrangements. Which tendency may prevail is still an open question, but this preponderating evidence of the moment suggests a turning to nationalistic policies, a trend which is given an impetus by the feeling in a number of states that they cannot afford long to postpone the tactical advantages of early action.

The policy of the maintenance of existing sanctions is not accorded real support in any quarter. It is described here as being “no policy” in that it not only does not accomplish the end sought but also has the disadvantages of prolonging the disruptions in finance and trade and of being in a political sense an aggravation rather than a cure. In my view, however, this policy does serve the immediate end of holding the European states temporarily together on the semblance of a common basis.

The unanimous view of the government representatives here is that there are only two possible courses which can in honesty be called policies, (1) to impose effective economic sanctions which would presumably involve military measures or, (2) to abolish all sanctions.

Eden, Litvinoff,41 Munch42 and a number of foreign ministers remained in Geneva yesterday for consultation. I am generally informed confidentially of what transpired and I present a few characteristic elements.

Eden remained in Geneva with the intent of ascertaining further the views of the European states and in order to formulate his report to the Cabinet and to prepare to face Parliament. There was no attempt at coordinating a policy between the League states inasmuch as he had no British policy to present.

[Page 137]

The neutral powers merely recapitulated their attitudes as outlined in my 158, May 11, 5 p.m.43

The Little Entente displayed a marked division of views among its members indicating trends toward new arrangements. The Balkan Entente showed a somewhat greater solidarity in expressing common fears of Italian designs on their territory. The Jugoslav Foreign Minister stated bluntly to Eden “you will eventually have to fight Italy for the Mediterranean and the Suez. I suggest the wisdom of your doing so now while you have us with you and not later when we might very possibly be in some other camp.” There is a recrudescence of talk, although vague, concerning a Mediterranean pact and the possible inclusion of Italy therein.

Litvinoff said to Eden, “should you have proposed in yesterday’s Council military action against Italy I would have pledged material support”. As the matter stands, Russia is seen as playing an opportunist policy. Litvinoff was responsible for the insertion of the weakening phrase “in the meantime” in the Council’s resolution of May 1244 and Russia is generally perceived as favoring Italy as a counter to Great Britain’s leanings toward Germany.

Poland, while naturally in no way associated with them, adopts here the general position of the neutral powers and assumes a questioning attitude.

The extreme uncertainty of the French position is seen in that Paul-Boncour absented himself from the drafting of the Council resolution and did not remain over for yesterday’s discussions.

What Great Britain will do in the present circumstances is regarded here as incalculable. There is talk that London may be able to exercise a determining financial pressure on Italy. There is also a revival of the belief that Great Britain will attempt to check Mussolini by encouraging Berlin to precipitate the Anschluss.45 While many states apparently directly concerned do not show great alarm over such a development there is, nevertheless, a general fear of its bringing in its train unforeseeable disturbances.

Vasconcellos46 has published a notification in the form of a reply to the communication of the Chilean Government (Consulate’s 173, May 15, 10 a.m.) postponing the date of meeting of the Coordination Committee to that of the next Council, now fixed for June 16. In respect of the effect of this situation on the League it is believed it [Page 138] will be even more difficult politically and technically to raise sanctions than it was to impose them. This situation is also thought of in the terms of a revised League, or of a future League, for which a favorable point of departure is being considered.

  1. Maxim Litvinoff, Soviet delegate on the League Council.
  2. Peter Munch, Danish delegate on the League Council.
  3. Not printed.
  4. League of Nations, Official Journal, June 1936, p. 540.
  5. Union between Germany and Austria.
  6. Augusto Vasconcellos, Portuguese delegate to the League of Nations and Chairman of the Committee on Coordination.