Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State
The British Minister, Sir Ronald Campbell, called at his request.
I remarked that it was my understanding that British officials were getting uneasy about the delay of this Government in discussing economic matters, if not others as well, relating to the post-war situation. He replied that this was true to the extent of economic matters coming under Article VII of the Lease-Lend Act [Agreement]. I then proceeded to say that this Government is only too glad to discuss and develop to the fullest extent feasible and practicable any and all post-war questions and programs. The Minister interrupted to say that it was his impression that this. Government would be averse to discussing many questions of a post-war nature which might well be discussed. I said I must correct him there; that I had in mind the complete postponement of only those questions, policies and programs which it would not be feasible or practicable to discuss or to [Page 197] make decisions about until the end of the war; that I could offer no better illustration of this class of prohibited questions than to refer to the recent question relating to Baltic territorial matters and policies which came up between Great Britain and Russia when they entered into the twenty-year treaty.40 I said that this country never would agree for that kind of question to be discussed and acted upon during the war, especially in the light of our very trying experience in opposing the recent Baltic State provisions that were in the very act of going into the British-Russian treaty by mutual agreement. The Minister said he could fully understand what I meant about postponing such questions for discussion and decision until after the war.
I then said that this was not the time for formal conferences between any of our governments relating to post-war programs and policies, that there is bitter feeling against what is called neglect in prosecuting the war, when we are losing the war every day for the sake of sitting down and engaging in long-winded conversations and formal conferences about post-war policies and programs, which it is possible could and would never eventuate. The Minister by this time cheerfully said that he quite agreed.
I said that we would be glad to have any appropriate official in an entirely informal and unofficial manner sit down and talk with any economist, who may come here from Great Britain or any of the twenty-eight United Nations, about matters touching any phase of economic affairs that might be feasible and practicable at this stage; that there would be nothing kept from an economist or official of any of the twenty-eight United Nations; that we will probably be engaging in such individual and informal talks from time to time in the foregoing respect with different countries; there would be no decisions and merely the groundwork laid for conference and decision at a suitable time; and that this Government is in the meantime desirous of any progress that can be made under the foregoing plan. The Minister led me to think that he concurred in this idea.
I said to the Minister that the greatest danger to the whole post-war planning, second only to the importance of winning the war and the danger of losing it if too much is taken for granted, is the question of securing the support of the electorates for our post-war program as it may be made up; that unless the most careful, sound and tactful course is pursued, especially by the important nations concerned, in working [Page 198] out a suitable program, which is definite and practical, the governments supporting any different plan and program will be completely swamped at the first election held after the last shot is fired, assuming of course that we win the war. I added that this all-important phase is being considered by but very few persons or officials and that this is another fact and factor which must be kept in mind in planning the time, nature and extent, first of informal conversations, and later of conferences and agreements which would go to make up the post-war program to the extent feasible and timely, and which it is hoped would be sufficient to indicate which way the world should go following the war.
- Treaty between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for an Alliance in the War Against Hitlerite Germany and Her Associates in Europe, and providing also for Collaboration and Mutual Assistance thereafter, signed at London, May 26, 1942; for text, see League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cciv, p. 353. See also telegrams No. 2897, May 24, 1942, and No. 2922, May 26, 1942, from the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iii , section under Union of Soviet Socialist Republics entitled “Discussions relating to policies and problems …”.↩