740.00111 A.R./1033: Telegram

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

127. Referring to the Department’s telegram 65, of April 24, 5 p.m., the following is translation of aide-mémoire today received from the Minister of Foreign Affairs in reply to our Government’s aide-mémoire of April 25 last.

“The Argentine Chancellery has examined with the closest attention the memorandum submitted on April 25 last by the Ambassador of the United States on behalf of his Government with reference to the suggestions put forward by the Argentine Government for a reconsideration of the position of neutrality adopted by the American Republics in view of present conditions of war.

Chancellery recognizes the particular situation which the Neutrality Act of November 4, 1939 creates for the North American Government, but it considers that, in conformity with the spirit of that act, intended, as its preamble states, to preserve the neutrality of the United States, a special manifestation by the American countries is appropriate at this moment, whether its purpose be to bring neutrality face to face with a realistic situation, or to restore the juridical significance of the status chosen by these countries to isolate themselves from the war.

It is evident, as is recalled by the North American Government, that international law does not recognize any intermediate state between neutrality, on the one hand, and belligerency, on the other; but this, in the opinion of this Chancellery, should not compel nations to choose indefinitely between the two positions even alter the original concept and practice of neutrality as a system of reciprocal guarantees has fundamentally changed. That concept, in common with many others of international relationships, owed its origin to the need for such relationships and must undergo the same change. The men who, in various international conferences were responsible for the recognized interpretation of neutrality, with its rights and its responsibilities, could surely not have imagined the actual interpretation. Obliged to decide between belligerency and neutrality, nonbelligerent countries can only choose a fiction. It is precisely to free itself of that fiction, and to restore to the non-belligerent strong legal position in keeping with the reality, that the Argentine Chancellery [Page 759] suggested the revision of the present concept of neutrality. The Argentine Government, therefore, does not share the reservations by which the Government of the United States, in examining its initiative, points out the dangers it presents for the maintenance of the principles of order and peace inherent to the international policy of our continent. The question is, precisely, to change the already unstable basis of those principles for a more solid and real one.

The memorandum to which a reply is made recalls the work accomplished by the American countries in Panama in September 1939 and the general rules unanimously adopted at that time to safeguard the neutrality of the continent. It is fitting, however, to point out that under the present war conditions that system does not appear to be respected nor does there seem to be any way of causing it to be respected. It is true that it is in the interest of the safety of the continent to have a common policy, but there is no reason, whatsoever, to think that the system which was considered at the time cannot be revised now with the same unanimity in view of circumstances which doubtless require new forms of political coordination.

If methods of war continue to spread as at present, the status of neutrality offered as the only alternative to the status of belligerency will prove ineffective and false. Without binding itself to any express formula, the Argentine Chancellery believes that this situation should not be allowed to continue without reaction on the part of the American states. In the face of a failing system under which there has gradually been left to the neutrals only the responsibilities and none of the guarantees, it is at least fitting that they should utter a warning in defense of their rights, a declaration for the protection of the policy of aloofness which they have adopted.

This initiative should not be presented as an aim or even with the indirect purpose of bringing the continent closer to the war. It will be necessary to seek an attenuated formula to recall to the belligerent countries the solidarity of the neutrals and their respect for the rules which they have accepted as a reciprocal system of guarantee between themselves and the belligerents. To the merely juridical concept of neutrality there must be opposed a policy of vigilant neutrality. Buenos Aires, May 6, 1940.”

The Brazilian Ambassador returned from Rio de Janeiro on May 4. He has informed the Foreign Minister that his Government is considering the Argentine proposal with regard to a declaration designed to enforce our neutrality and that he expects to receive further instructions within the next few days.

The Brazilian Ambassador expressed to me the opinion that if our Government and the Brazilian Government are considering the proposal favorably, it might be well for our two Governments to submit a draft of what we feel the declaration should cover in order to anticipate a draft from here which he thinks would probably go further than we would wish.

Repeated to Rio de Janeiro.