561.311F1 Advisory Committee/1055: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

4796. To the President from the Former Naval Person.3 After discussion with Ambassador Winant I send you this note setting out the result of our Cabinet discussion on the matter which has been causing us some difficulty.

We have been considering carefully what should be the next step regarding the conference upon wheat which is due to resume its deliberations next week. I feel a certain amount of concern as to the repercussions on the war situation of the proposed wheat agreement in its present form. The draft seems to give the impression that it is contemplated to force on the wheat importing countries of Europe, as a condition of immediate post-war relief, a series of obligations including a drastic restriction of their wheat production, which would vitally affect their agricultural systems. This is to touch a tender spot in the policy of many countries. Any wheat agreement capable of this construction would in our view be dangerous in the extreme. It would supply Nazi propaganda with a weapon which it would not be slow to use. It would arouse wide spread suspicions as to the spirit in which the United States and the United Kingdom meant to use their power when the war is over and would confuse and dishearten the elements in Europe now hoping and working for the defeat of Germany. We regard it as essential therefore to remove from the draft agreement all provisions implying Anglo-American interference in European agricultural policy.

The relation of Russia to any agreement also raises a difficulty. Russia was still a neutral at the time when the arrangements for the Wheat Conference were made. But, as things are now, it appears to us virtually out of the question either to conclude an agreement which may seriously affect her interests without consulting her, or to approach her on such a matter at a time when she is engaged in a life and death struggle, and when her richest wheat fields are in the battle area.

We have been considering what instructions we can give to our delegates, who are now on their way to Washington, with a view to meeting these difficulties, but we have not been able to find a really satisfactory solution consistent with the present framework of the draft agreement. Considerable revision would certainly be required; and we are alive to the danger, which we are anxious to avoid, of protracted [Page 538] negotiations which might lead to a breakdown. For our part, we welcome the proposals for establishing a pool of wheat for postwar relief. There are other important features of the agreement, which do not prejudice, or which could easily be given a form which would not prejudice, the interests of unrepresented countries, e. g., the agreement of the four exporting countries represented as to the rations of their respective export quotas, and the provision for an “ever normal” granary.

The other issues of policy might usefully be explored by the Conference with a view to preparing the ground for later decisions; but it seems to me that we should be ill advised to attempt to reach definite conclusions about these now. Apart from the fact that important countries not represented at the Conference are affected, there seems to be advantage in trying to fit these questions into the larger discussions on Anglo-American collaboration in regard to post-war economic problems generally which, as Lord Halifax will be able to explain more fully, we hope to be able to begin at an early date.

If you agree generally with my view, I will instruct our delegation accordingly. [Churchill.]

  1. Code name for Prime Minister Winston Churchill.