765.84/4625: Telegram

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

223. Consulate’s 218, June 6, 3 p.m. The Argentine representative called on me unexpectedly today and said that he wished to give me confidentially an exposé of his Government’s policy in requesting a convocation of the Assembly. The essence of what he had to say is as follows.

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1. Argentina is seeking the widest possible support for the nonrecognition principle embodied in the Saavedra Lamas Pact.67 For this Council action, even if obtainable, would not have fully answered the purpose. The broader representation in the Assembly was manifestly preferable. In a sense Argentina feels its policy already achieved through a meeting of the Assembly being assured inasmuch as it makes little difference to her whether an indorsement of the principle is obtained through the medium of a resolution or through speeches. They feel a certainty that any form of expression must perforce be favorable.

The publicity following the leak respecting the diplomatic soundings they had made which I discussed in my 202, May 30, 6 p.m., forced a crystallization of the issue favorable to Argentina. For example, Chile was at about that time considering a convocation of the Assembly by joint action of a number of Latin-American states the agenda to include, in association with the Italo-Ethiopian question, that of revision of the Covenant. Argentina, however, desired to capture and hold the sole initiative respecting the acceptance of the nonrecognition policy antecedent to the Buenos Aires Conference. A certain degree of friction with Chile has developed over this. The Chilean delegation has made public here the Santiago memorandum of May 18.68

He told me that although certain of their diplomatic representatives had been instructed to make soundings they were told to do so under the guise of casually voicing their personal speculations and that no states either American or European had been associated in the project. He circumstantially described the surprise of the Quai d’Orsay and Eden’s discomfiture and extreme irritation when it was disclosed to him.

He fully recognizes the political effects of the prevalent belief that London and Buenos Aires were partners in the project adding that this belief cannot now be disabused because London has become favorable to an Assembly meeting. The reason for London’s favorable attitude he described as based on internal and external political considerations almost precisely as I described them in my No. 214, June 4, 5 p.m.,69 fifth paragraph, stating that advices to this effect had been sent him by the Argentine Embassy at London and also received from Cantilo70 who was recently in Geneva and who apparently is directing in Europe the execution of Argentine policy in these respects.

In regard to sanctions Buenos Aires has now determined its policy. [Page 157] Although regretting the necessity of associating the principle of nonrecognition with that of sanctions and also frankly hopeful that sanctions may be dropped, they are nevertheless “caught” by what they state to be the concurrence of these principles (articles 2 and 1) in the Saavedra Lamas Pact. Thus Argentina must perforce vote for the maintenance of sanctions should the question come to a vote. Their tactics are however to prevent it coming to a vote.

He referred to article 3 of the treaty as the “sanctions article”. This position he has taken in his discussions with Latin-American representatives here and has furnished them with copies of a publication issued by the Argentine Embassy at Washington dated September, 1932, containing a commentary71 on the draft of treaty in which reference to article 3 will be noted. Without venturing to appraise this interpretation I can definitely state that Argentina is advancing it here.

He has been working for support of the Argentine initiative among Latin-American representatives and informs me that their present attitudes are as follows. Bolivia will collaborate fully with Argentina including the policy respecting sanctions. Mexico, Peru and Uruguay will generally follow Argentina’s initiative. Chile had agreed to support the convoking of an Assembly and presumably must indorse the nonrecognition policy. Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela will support Argentina in principle. He added that in view of Brazil’s declaration of nonrecognition respecting Abyssinia he feels that he has Brazil’s moral support here among the Latin-Americans. I cannot overemphasize that running through our entire conversation the American aspects of the policy were solely evident, the European aspects being completely brushed aside and apparently having no play in the policy involved.

2. He stated to me that presumably Espil72 had discussed these matters with the Department but at the same time he particularly requested that both the circumstance and the substance of his disclosures to me be kept strictly confidential. I would thus appreciate the Department’s fully protecting my source.

3. I find the reaction in Geneva to the Argentine initiative to be substantially as follows:

A certain number of representatives applaud the move on principle as one of democratization vis-à-vis the domination of the League by the great powers and as supplying an opportunity for a general reaffirmation on a broad common front against an aggressor.
It is almost universally held that all states whether consonant with their individual political policies or not inescapably must support or at least not oppose the principle of nonrecognition.
At the same time the principle of nonrecognition is felt to be dangerously doctrinaire in that unless of value as preventing or resisting an aggression it only serves to complicate and obstruct a settlement.
There is a strong undercurrent of resentment at the impropriety of a non-European state intervening in a European question especially at a critical juncture. Many Latin-Americans share this feeling also declaring Argentina’s action to be inconsistent with the Latin-American attitude respecting European intervention in American affairs. It is further felt that the move may have repercussions in general European American political relations.

  1. See footnote 57, p. 146.
  2. This memorandum presented Chilean proposals for the agenda of the Inter-American Peace Conference. For text, see Chile, Memoria del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Comercio, correspondiente al año 1936, p. 168.
  3. Not printed.
  4. José Maria Cantilo, Argentine Ambassador in Italy.
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1932, vol. v, p. 261, footnote 7, for reference to this commentary.
  6. Felipe A. Espil, Argentine Ambassador in the United States.