860F.01/370: Telegram

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

1271. For the President, Secretary and Under Secretary. Dr. Beneš had a long talk with me last Friday.8 He expressed the hope that it might be possible to secure some clarification of our Government position in regard to the recognition of the Provisional Czechoslovakian Government.

As he explained to the President while in America, before he left Czechoslovakia after the Munich agreement, he had set up an organization to function there in his absence because he had realized at that time that war was inevitable.

He stated that the recognition of his Provisional Government by the British following the fall of France had greatly strengthened his position. He had numerous points of contact in Czechoslovakia and the leaders of the existing regime as well as the people were loyal to him. In fact he had two governments, one in exile and another in Czechoslovakia itself. He had exchanged thousands of telegrams since the beginning of the year with the leaders of the existing regime who were as far as possible following his directions. When questioned however he admitted his hold on the Slovaks was not as strong as on the Czechs.

He stated that he realized that arguments could be made either way as to the juridical position but the question of recognition was realistically speaking a political question to be governed by the political consequences.

[Page 25]

Not only did he feel that the political advantages of recognition were considerable but that there was some obligation on the democracies to him and his country. He had refrained from provoking war in order to give the democracies time to prepare. Even our own Ambassador,9 he remarked, had privately given encouragement to Chamberlain10 in his Munich policy.

He stated that Churchill,11 Eden12 and Halifax13 understood the situation of his people and had been most friendly. He was particularly pleased that Halifax, just because of his unhappy association with Munich, should have signed the document recognizing his provisional Government.

He pointed out that three possibilities were open to our Government:

It might do nothing in the way of recognizing his Governments;
It might be favorably disposed toward recognition but wish to delay actual recognition for some time;
It might be prepared as he obviously hoped, to consider immediate recognition, in which case it would probably wish to negotiate as the British had done with reference to certain conditions such as frontiers.

Dr. Beneš stated that he had confidence in Mr. Hurban but being without adequate facilities to communicate by cable he found difficulty in keeping Mr. Hurban completely informed of developments here and in Czechoslovakia. For that reason he thought it would be preferable if conversations could be had with him, Dr. Beneš, in London.

Dr. Beneš also recalled that the United States was the first to recognize the Provisional Czechoslovakian Government during the last war14 and emphasized the point that the Germans were now exploiting the fact that Mr. Biddle had not been accredited to the Provisional Czechoslovakian Government.

Recognizing the equivocal character of his position for the time being Dr. Beneš asked the privilege of keeping in touch with me privately and suggested that I might examine the documents that had passed between him and the British Government.

I should appreciate your advice for further guidance.

  1. March 28.
  2. Former Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy.
  3. Neville Chamberlain, former British Prime Minister.
  4. Winston S. Churchill, British Prime Minister.
  5. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  6. Viscount Halifax, British Ambassador in the United States and former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  7. The United States recognized Czechoslovakia on April 23, 1919; see Foreign Relations, 1919, vol. ii, pp. 85 ff.