740.00111 A.R./1012: Telegram

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

65. Your 112, April 19, 6 p.m. The Department has given the most careful consideration to the proposal submitted by the Argentine Government through yourself. The Argentine Ambassador in Washington has likewise communicated to the Department a telegram he received from Dr. Cantilo on April 22, which clarified in some ways the purposes and objectives of the Argentine Government in formulating the proposal made. This Government has reached the conclusion that it cannot adopt or support the proposal made.

Please transmit to the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs the reply made in the name of the Government of the United States in the form of an aide-mémoire. The text of the reply is as follows:

“The Government of the United States greatly appreciates the opportunity afforded it by the Government of the Argentine Republic to consider the proposal submitted through the American Ambassador in Buenos Aires on April 19, and through a further communication on the same subject received from the Argentine Ambassador in Washington on April 22.88

Because of the very close relations existing between the two Governments, as well as because of the significance of the proposal itself, the most careful study and the most friendly consideration have been given to the proposal advanced.

The Argentine Government proposes that the American Republics, by common accord, declare that they cease to be neutrals, and announce that they have become ‘non belligerents’.

In support of this proposal the Argentine Government states that, because of the violation of the neutrality of sovereign nations in Europe by certain belligerent powers, neutrality no longer exists in reality, and that the norms and conventions which the American Republics as neutrals are presently applying, and which they have until now invoked, have become a dead letter. For that reason, the Argentine Government states, the American Republics might well advantageously adapt themselves to the realities above-mentioned.

Finally, the Argentine Government states that it believes that the procedure proposed would be in the nature of a warning in the face of present aggressions; that it would give the American Republics full liberty of action by freeing them from the restrictions of ‘an illusory and fictitious neutrality’; and that the German Government would be unable to make any protest with regard to such procedure because that Government accepts such a status in the case of the Government of Italy, whereas the Allied governments would view the suggested procedure with pleasure because, in the opinion of the Argentine Government, the course proposed would prove favorable to the latter governments.

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It is with very real regret that the Government of the United States finds itself unable to support the proposal made by the Argentine Government, or to acquiesce in the view of the Argentine Government that the procedure recommended would result in benefits both to the American Republics and to the world.

In so far as the policy of the United States Government itself is concerned, as the Government of the Argentine is doubtless aware, the Congress of the United States enacted, and the President of the United States approved on November 4, 1939, a statute whose purpose, as stated in the preamble, was declared to be, ‘to preserve the neutrality of the United States in wars between foreign states and … to avoid involvement therein’. Under the terms of this statute the Government of the United States is obliged to maintain its neutrality in the present war until and unless the people of the United States through their elected representatives may determine otherwise.

In the opinion of this Government the independent republics of the Western Hemisphere constitute the greatest force which still exists in support of the principles of international law which, as the Argentine Government so justly points out, are being flagrantly violated in so many other parts of the world. International law, it is clear, does not recognize any intermediate status between neutrality on the one hand and belligerency on the other.

Would it not seem to the Argentine Government as if a declaration on the part of the American Republics, that they were now refusing any longer to uphold those principles of international law upon which modern civilization has been to so large an extent founded, might be considered by that large body of public opinion in other parts of the world which still seeks a return to the principles of international law, and to a stable world order, as a most serious blow to that aspiration? Might not such a step also be regarded as a prejudicial retrogression on the part of twenty-one republics who have for many generations prided themselves upon their support of those principles upon which they have always believed sound and healthy international relationships must depend? The mere fact that certain nations are today openly flouting the accepted principles of international law does not, in the opinion of this Government, constitute an argument in favor of further derogation of these standards of international conduct. On the contrary, it most earnestly believes that the tragic breakdown of international law in so many great areas of the world makes it all the more imperative that the American Republics continue to be the standard-bearers of the most enlightened principles of international conduct.

At the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics or their representatives, held in Panama in September 1939, during the course of which the Government of Argentina played so helpful and constructive a part, the American Republics not only unanimously adopted accords dealing with specific neutrality measures, but likewise unanimously adopted policies of general neutrality in view of the situation which confronted them all as a result of the war which had broken out in Europe. The agreements there reached were arrived at because of the then unanimous belief that a common policy was in the interest of the security of the Western Hemisphere. If an attitude of “non-belligerency” were now to be adopted by the American Republics, would it not seem probable to the Argentine [Page 754] Government, by reason of the fact that “non-belligerency” is a status not recognized in international law, and that it is, consequently, an uncharted course, that the result might well be that the American Republics would, consequently, in many instances undertake to follow divergent policies, which might soon result in a complete abandonment of that unanimity of criterion which in the opinion of the Government of the United States has already resulted in such close, continuing, and friendly cooperation between them all?

The Government of the United States has ventured thus to point out in some detail some of the reasons because of which it would find it impossible to support, or to follow, the policy proposed for its confidential consideration by the Government of the Argentine Republic.”

The Department is likewise handing a copy of the aide-mémoire to the Argentine Ambassador today. The Ambassador will be told that it is a matter of particular regret to this Government that it finds itself unable to agree to the suggestion of the Argentine Government and that it hopes the reasons for this attitude will be sympathetically received and understood by the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs.

  1. See memorandum by the Under Secretary of State, April 22, p. 745.