740.00111 A.R./1012: Telegram

The Ambassador in Argentina (Armour) to the Secretary of State

112. I have just come from the Foreign Minister77 who called me in for the purpose of talking over in great confidence a matter which he and President Ortiz78 have been discussing and which they both wish to present to the President and to you for earnest consideration.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs said that his Government was worried by the position in which the American Republics find themselves as a result of the evolution of the war in Europe. The American Governments have declared their neutrality and have even declared a zone of security destined to protect this neutrality. In practice, however, this zone actually [possible omission] and would even seem to be a dead letter. In Europe, on the other hand, neutrality no longer exists and a neutral status creates duties but gives no rights. The weaker countries of Europe are not in a position to defend themselves against the stronger powers. As a result neutrality today is based upon rules and conceptions which have no basis in fact.

The Minister pointed out in the friendliest manner that the neutrality of the United States is not in reality effective in that we can and do provide aid to the Allies and that we seem disposed to continue to do so more and more as time goes on.

Dr. Cantilo believes that it is in the interest of the American Republics and of the world that we abandon this fiction of neutrality. He suggests, therefore, that the American Republics agree to declare [Page 744] that they have become “non belligerents”. Italy, the Minister added, has given us an idea of what is in effect meant by “non belligerence”. This status consists in not entering into the war and permitting each nation to do what it feels to be in its best interest (he pointed out that Italy helps Germany but also continues to do business with England, France and the other belligerents).

If the American Republics declared that they are “non belligerent” rather than neutral, Dr. Cantilo feels that the following will be the consequences:

There is no risk, because “non belligerence” does not imply entering into the war.
Such a course would give liberty of action to the American Governments as they would no longer be bound by rules of neutrality which appear to be without practical foundation in Europe today.
Germany could not blame us for an attitude which it accepts from Italy, while the Allies could only congratulate the American Republics on a change in position which would favor them.
As to procedure, Dr. Cantilo desires, for the moment to present this idea for the consideration of our Government alone. If we view the idea favorably, Dr. Cantilo will then discuss the matter with Aranha79 to see if he agrees and if he does, they will together present the proposal officially to the United States Government.

The President, with whom Dr. Cantilo has discussed the matter, heartily approves the idea. Dr. Cantilo presumes that, if our Government approves and in the event Brazil should not, then Argentina and the United States Government could take the initiative on their own. Cantilo feels reasonably sure, however, that if we and Argentina are in agreement, Brazil would come into line.

Cantilo stated that President Ortiz believes that such action would constitute a dynamic gesture in Americanism which would free us from the static state in which we now find ourselves.

Also to procedure, Cantilo suggests that if agreement were reached between the three Governments named, he thought the best plan would be for the United States to call a conference of the representatives of the American Republics. We could, of course, he said, handle the matter by consultation between the various Governments but that, he felt, would be a cumbersome and long drawn out method of procedure. He asked me to make it clear to you that if our Government should not agree to the proposal, his Government would of course drop it immediately.

Dr. Cantilo feels that the matter is urgent because of the rapid progress of events in Europe and hopes our Government can give it immediate consideration. In the meantime, he particularly requests that the proposal be regarded as strictly confidential.

  1. José María Cantilo.
  2. Roberto M. Ortiz.
  3. Oswaldo Aranha, Brazilian Minister for Foreign Affairs.