765.84/4718: Telegram (part air)

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

246. 1. The chief points in the situation here respecting the June 30 Assembly appear to be as follows:

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Argentina plans to be represented by its Ambassadors at Rome and at London and by Guiñazú.79 The latter informs me in confidence that his Government’s position now is that the question of “old sanctions” which covers all action taken by the League, leading to and including the application of article 16, is something entirely separate from that of “new sanctions” under article 10. He declared that Argentina’s attitude respecting the former is one of “indifference,” but, respecting the latter, that her policy of nonrecognition is “insistent and irrevocable.” He disclosed to me, however, that Argentina is prepared to be satisfied by support in some form of the policy of nonrecognition and to leave to a later date the possible application of it to Abyssinia. He frankly admitted to me that the theory of a difference between old sanctions and new sanctions was a device to justify the quashing of the old sanctions.

2. It is obvious that a reconciliation of the probable course of events with the provisions and the evident intent of the Covenant will be a difficult if not an impossible undertaking. The present effort from the strictly League viewpoint is to arrive at prearranged formulae as palatable as possible to League and world opinion and such as could receive “acceptance” in at least some form by the League.

To what extent the procedures and formulae which are taking shape here are advanced or have received any general acceptance by the powers including Italy, I am unable to determine. By the same token it is difficult to forecast what may transpire.

The Argentine position described above has all the characteristics of a “negotiated” arrangement and the composition of the Argentine delegation is suggestive in scope. Although the “atmosphere” of negotiation certainly exists among the League great powers nothing positive respecting them yet emerges in Geneva. The crux of the problem seems to lie in the interpretation of the British position, that is whether it fits into negotiated arrangements or whether Eden’s speech occurring prior to the Assembly means that Great Britain desires to achieve the tactical advantage of being the first to disassociate itself from commitments and thus be free to maneuver for the middle position, the traditional keystone of British policy. The best opinion here leans to the latter view. In general, I feel that while the action here will denote a common will for an appeasement, any appraisal of it as indicative of a specific plan of European settlement should be regarded with reserve.

3. The best indications here point, however, to the following course of events in the Council Assembly meeting.

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(a) Sanctions—Open discussion will be as far as possible avoided. A committee meeting in private will formulate a statement of the “existing facts” leaving action to the individual state.

While it is not considered probable, except as a tactical move, that any state will oppose the lifting of sanctions there exists here among small state delegations an extreme resentment at, as they described it, having been used by the powers particularly by Great Britain under the guise of League action as a tool in great power politics and a declared resistiveness to any tendency of London to divert responsibility for the present situation to Geneva. A voicing of these sentiments might render difficult the accomplishment of a planned program; but in recent experience similar attitudes of the small powers have not reached formal utterance.

(b) Nonrecognition—An attempt will be made to confine this question to speeches or statements of principle and to avoid anything in the nature of a decision by disposing of it through reference for study to a committee of jurists.

The Russians have privately advanced the thesis that the cases of Manchukuo and Abyssinia are not parallel inasmuch as in the former, China was a recognized government, whereas in the latter, the government has disappeared.

(c) League Reform—My personal view is that a preliminary discussion of this question may be merged into the liquidation of the present situation in order to smother the disrupting effects of such liquidation in an appeal for unified support of a new endeavor. Even if it be not so planned, the issue may be launched by some small state delegation, possibly by Chile, which in Latin American circles is believed to be anxious to assume a role here in emulation of Argentina.

4. A situation without precedent prevails in what it is beginning to be regarded here as a European-American issue, the European endeavor being in general terms to employ the Assembly to liquidate the Italian-European situation and the alleged American endeavor being to employ the Assembly chiefly as a springboard for positions at the Buenos Aires Conference.

  1. José María Cantilo, Manuel E. Malbrán, Enrique Ruíz-Guiñazú, respectively.