740.0011 Mutual Guarantee (Balkan)/173: Telegram

The Chargé in France (Wilson) to the Secretary of State

463. In conversation with the Yugoslav Minister he remarked that a good deal of misunderstanding appeared to exist regarding the position of the Little Entente as a result of the Italian-Yugoslav treaty and the recent conference at Belgrade. The Little Entente, he said, remained exactly what it always had been, a defensive alliance against Hungarian revisionist aims. The French Government had committed the error of trying to get the Little Entente countries to alter the nature of the pact binding them into something very different, namely, a mutual assistance pact against aggression from any quarter in particular against Germany. Why, said Pouritch, should the Little Entente agree to become the experimental rabbit on which France would try out an injection of mutual assistance serum? He said that [Page 70] he had told the Quai d’Orsay that if France was in favor of mutual assistance pacts she ought to make one with England instead of endeavoring to try out the experiment on her friends of the Little Entente. It was senseless, said Pouritch, ever to have believed that Yugoslavia would go into a mutual assistance pact such as France had proposed since such an arrangement would merely give rise to the query on the part of Germany as to whom this mutual assistance pact was aimed at; the answer of course could only be that it was aimed at Germany and this might well furnish a pretext for Germany actually to undertake some aggressive action against one of the states of the Little Entente. It was Yugoslavia’s firm policy, said the Minister, to avoid getting into any situation which might furnish a cause or pretext for developing a conflict.

The Minister said that when the French Government proposed that the Little Entente enter into a mutual assistance pact and that the French Government would then for its part make bilateral mutual assistance treaties with Yugoslavia and Rumania as it had already done with Czechoslovakia, the Yugoslav Government had replied proposing that France should make these treaties first direct with Yugoslavia and Rumania. The French Government, however, was not willing to do this saying that it might cause resentment on the part of Italy, that France could not go effectively to Yugoslavia’s aid through the Mediterranean if Italy was against them et cetera. The Yugoslav Government had then pointed out according to Pouritch that this statement in itself furnished a complete answer to the French proposal that the Little Entente develop a mutual assistance pact among themselves. Pouritch remarked that the event of March 7, 1936,91 and the failure of the League in the Ethiopian question had left definite impressions in the minds of the governments in Central Europe and that considerable skepticism existed in his country as to whether France would really go to the assistance of Czechoslovakia for instance despite the treaty between the two countries in the event that Germany should invade Czechoslovakia.

The Minister said that much of the criticism of Yugoslavia in certain official and journalistic circles in Paris was due to Yugoslavia’s refusal to be drawn into the system of treaties which bind France and Czechoslovakia to the Soviets. He remarked that there were people at the Quai d’Orsay and influential journalists here who saw the European problem only as an eventual conflict between France and Germany and who with this in mind were working at all costs to bring Yugoslavia and Rumania into this system with the thought that when the expected war took place all these countries would come to France’s assistance. The Serbs as Slavs got on well with the Russians, [Page 71] the Minister said, but they were determined to have nothing to do with the Bolshevik Government.

Pouritch said in confidence that in the recent negotiations the Italian Government had proposed to the Yugoslav Government a defensive military alliance. Yugoslavia had of course refused this. She had however found the moment favorable to obtain tremendously valuable concessions from Italy such as the abandonment of Italian support for Hungarian revisionist claims and the ending of Italian assistance to Croat terrorist organizations. Yugoslavia remained, said the Minister, as she always had been, a supporter of the League of Nations of collective security of friendship with France but in the degree and only in the degree that these principals showed themselves capable of effective action.

  1. German military occupation of the Rhineland.