740.0011 European War 1939/18926

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

The Icelandic Minister57 came in to see me at his request.

He said that he had been invited by the President to the original meeting at which the Declaration by United Nations had been discussed, and the President had said he hoped Iceland would sign. When, however, the document was later opened for signature Iceland had not been invited. He wished to cable the situation to his Government. He made it clear that this was not in the nature of a protest but merely an inquiry as to the circumstances.

I said that as the Declaration had finally been drawn it applied only to governments which were at war, since it included a covenant not to make a separate peace. The Icelandic Government had made it very plain that it was not a belligerent but a neutral. In these circumstances, [Page 31] and since the President had opened the question with the Icelandic Minister, I had considered that we should leave it to the Icelandic Government to follow up or not, as it chose. Since it was not at war, I feared that the Minister might have been put in the position of having to refuse to sign the Declaration and that the kindest method was, accordingly, to leave it to the Minister’s discretion and the determination of his Government. This was peculiarly true since American troops were on Icelandic soil and we wanted it perfectly clear that there was not the slightest desire to influence their course.

The Minister said he knew all this, and was very appreciative of the fact that we had left the matter entirely to their discretion. Iceland, he said, was not at war and could not enter the stipulations of the Declaration without an act of Parliament, which did not meet until February 15. Their policy had been that of nonbelligerency. He had thought, at the time of the White House discussion, that the Declaration was merely one of principle, without including the stipulation making it virtually an act of belligerence; and that when that clause appeared, a different set of considerations came into play.

He wondered whether some other form of adherence ought to be considered.

I said that particularly because our troops were in Iceland, we were loath to advise. I personally thought that they might want to take into consideration the possibility of adhering to the Atlantic Charter; or conceivably they might wish to propose adherence to the Declaration by United Nations, with reservation that, not being at war, the “no separate peace clause” naturally did not apply. But, I said, as to that, it was entirely a matter for their determination and we would sympathetically consider any approach they might make.

The Minister said he was going to report to his Government by mail in time for discussion at the next meeting of the Icelandic Parliament.

A. A. B[erle], Jr.
  1. Thor Thors.