765.84/4543: Telegram

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

202. Consulate’s 201, May 29, 8 p.m.53

(1) I have now had opportunity to discuss with the Argentine Minister54 the character and status of the Argentine position respecting the convoking of the Assembly in the Italian-Ethiopian dispute.

He tells me that several days ago he received instructions to sound out other permanent representatives here concerning such action by Argentina. He stated that although they were definitely not expressing the official views of their governments he found them generally favorable. He mentioned in particular certain Latin American powers although not naming them, the European “neutral” states, Portugal and Poland. He asserted that neither Great Britain, France nor Italy had any advance knowledge of the matter and that “naturally” there had been no approach to Russia. Yesterday he had exposed these developments to Azcárate.55 It was not intended that this matter be made public until it could be further explored but that almost immediately after his conversation at the Secretariat a leak had occurred. He emphasized that it should be distinctly understood that his Government had made no formal démarche whatsoever, that any formal action determined would of course have to be in writing and would have to include the terms of reference of such a demand for a convocation concerning which terms his Government in particular had come to no decision. Possible terms of reference had indeed been [Page 146] in part the subject of his conversation with the other representatives here, and had embraced the question of sanctions and the problem of “recognition”. These discussions had naturally impinged at least by direct inference on the whole problem of the “reform” of the League and of the future of the League. His Government envisages the date for such a meeting of the Assembly as before or during the meeting of the Council scheduled for June 16th.

(2) It is impossible at the moment to appraise the nature or the results of this development. It may be immediately noted, however, that the list of the powers which Argentina has consulted in advance is a very special one in both its inclusive and exclusive aspects. It represents powers which not being directly concerned are inclined to base their positions on principle. In association with principle it, in a broad sense, further represents as indeed the Argentine Minister expressed it to me a “revolt” of the small powers against the League and themselves being used as an instrument in the policies of the great powers. I think it may readily be seen that Poland also would like to have hand in such a game.

How deep are the understandings in this, reached beforehand among the powers, or whether the action of Argentina is in a sense precipitate, is not yet apparent. The position taken by Argentina in the May 12th meeting of the Council should be noted (Consulate’s 168, May 12, 9 p.m.) and members of the Secretariat inform me that they are certain that Great Britain and France had felt that Argentina would make some move of this character but that this particular action came to them as a surprise. I think that it may especially be noted that while the urge for such action on the negative side so to speak is fairly evident of the widespreading “dissatisfaction” with the League the possible results on the positive side are not at all evident, and may have unpredictable and far-reaching consequences.

To what extent the Argentine action may be motivated by Latin American political considerations is from this point regarded as being a highly probable angle of the picture. The divergence in policy displayed here between Argentina on the one hand and Chile and Ecuador on the other hand is noted and speculation turns on presumable preoccupation of Saavedra Lamas56 concerning the Argentine pact of non-aggression57 and his pertinent policy in relation to the Buenos Aires conference.

(3) The small “interested” powers appear to be obviously taken completely aback by this happening. I feel convinced that they had no advance knowledge of it here inasmuch as when I took up the [Page 147] question with the Jugoslav Minister last evening it was evident to me that I was the first to tell him of it. The representatives of the Balkan Entente powers tell me that they have as yet no opinion as to what attitude their Governments will take. The reaction of London and Paris is thus far here entirely a matter of speculation. The neutral power representatives while agreeing to such action in principle gravely question its timeliness. The Italian reaction here, in so far as I can ascertain it, is an extreme annoyance.

There is also a general criticism of Argentina’s action as an improper intervention in critical European affairs.

(4) The technical situation is that the Assembly stands adjourned subject to the call of the President. Beneš has been informed of this matter. It is believed that as Chief of State he cannot serve and the question seems to be whether a vice president of the Assembly would act or a new president be elected. It is felt, however, that Beneš will keep his status in respect of this open for a time and thus to a degree keep his hand on the situation.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Enrique Ruiz-Guiñazu, Argentine permanent delegate at the League of Nations.
  3. Pablo de Azcárate, Deputy Secretary General of the League of Nations.
  4. Carlos Saavedra Lamas, Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  5. Anti-War Treaty on Nonaggression and Conciliation, signed at Rio de Janeiro, October 10, 1933, Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. iv, p. 234.