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

No. 2353

Sir: Reference is made to your telegram no. 760, April 24, midnight, for the Under Secretary, transmitting a translation of a note you received on April 24, 1942, from the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs concerning the desire of the Argentine Government to obtain war matériel from the United States despite the reluctance of the Argentine Government to enter into any systematic arrangements for the protection of shipping between Argentina and the United States.

There is now enclosed a draft of a note which you are requested to deliver in appropriate form to the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs in reply to the note you received from him on April 24, 1942, provided you agree with the wording. The Department would appreciate your telegraphing any suggestions you may have concerning possible modifications in the enclosed draft.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Sumner Welles

Draft of Note to His Excellency Dr. Enrique Ruiz-Guiñazú, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship of the Republic of Argentina

Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency’s note of April 24, 1942 with respect to discussions between representatives of our two Governments concerning collaboration in hemisphere defense and the provision of matériel under lend-lease arrangements. Immediately upon receiving this communication from [Page 397] Your Excellency, I transmitted it to my Government, which has now instructed me to reply to you as follows:

My Government is impressed by the desire of Your Excellency’s Government to make its contribution toward the solution of the problems of security and supply which confront the Argentine Republic and the United States as well as the other American republics. My Government hopes that, on account of this attitude, it will be possible for the two Governments to arrive at an identical appraisal of the situation which confronts them so that the difficulties which have arisen in these negotiations may be immediately resolved to their mutual benefit. Indeed, it is precisely the nature of that situation which has dictated the current policy of the Government of the United States.

Following the drastic reversal in the international situation caused by the fall of France, the American republics, fully aware of the extreme peril and having declared that any attempt on the part of a non-American state against the integrity or the inviolability of the territory, the sovereignty, or the political independence of an American state should be considered as an aggression against all of them, actively engaged in strengthening their defenses and their armed forces against all eventualities and in organizing cooperation for defense among them. During this period, the Government of the United States offered to enter into both lend-lease arrangements and military conversations with the Government of Argentina.

As a result of the aggression of Japan upon the United States on December 7, 1941 and the immediately following declarations of war by Italy and Germany, a very different situation has existed. The United States and nine of the other American republics are at war with the Axis. In addition, nine of the remaining republics have broken off diplomatic and economic relations with the Axis. All nineteen of these republics have, to a greater or lesser degree, each according to its means, taken active, even drastic, measures to eliminate Axis activity within their frontiers.

In accordance with its intention to render assistance to the utmost of its ability to the American republics which have thus placed themselves in the forefront of hemispheric defense, the Government of the United States has made available to these American republics all of the military and naval matériel which it could possibly spare in order that by so doing it might make the utmost possible contribution to the cause of hemispheric solidarity and to the practical defense of the New World. Because of the imperative demand for matériel at the fighting fronts in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, and in the South Seas, and the training requirements of the United Nations, it has unfortunately not been possible for the Government of the United [Page 398] States to make available to these other American republics all of the military and naval matériel which is required by them in the common interest of all.

It is of course obvious, in view of the situation above indicated, that the Government of the United States could not conceivably divert vitally needed naval or military matériel to the Governments of the American republics which have made no effective contribution to the cause of hemispheric defense.

It was because of this consideration of indisputable validity that my Government offered Argentina a proposal to collaborate in keeping open the sea lanes between Argentina and the United States over which flows the trade which is so important to the well-being and protection of our two countries. My Government has felt that were the Argentine Republic to undertake this responsibility, it would be contributing in a practical and effective measure to the cause of hemispheric solidarity and to the cause of hemispheric defense and that under such conditions all of the nineteen American republics, of which the United States is one and to which reference is above made, would have jointly felt that under such circumstances the Argentine Republic should legitimately share in the supplies of armament available to my Government for distribution among the other American republics.

My Government considers the proposal made to Argentina for protection of shipping in waters adjacent to Argentina eminently fair and reasonable. The United States today is utilizing such of its naval forces as are available for the protection of shipping in the north and even south Atlantic, including shipping to and from Argentina. The least that Argentina should be willing to do is to give protection to such shipping off Argentine shores.

My Government, therefore, sincerely regrets to learn the indication of your Government in its note of April 24, 1942 that Argentina is not disposed to collaborate effectively in the manner proposed in order to further the cause in which nineteen of the American republics are actively cooperating. Candor requires my Government to state that it finds itself in disagreement with the conclusion that the proposal implies the creation of a state of belligerency. The history of the last few years offers many instances of naval action taken by a neutral country in protection of its shipping that did not result in a state of belligerency. The example of my own country might be cited which, for many months prior to the declaration of war upon it by Germany and Italy, was taking daily naval action to assure that its ships arrived safely in the ports of many distant lands. The United States did not become a belligerent as a result of that action.

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If the proposal appears like an exclusively Argentine obligation, it is because the nineteen other American republics have already taken steps of far greater consequence and risk. Ten of them are at war with the Axis countries, and another nine have broken off diplomatic relations. In the absence of either action by Argentina, my Government hoped for some positive measures by Argentina that would persuade the other eighteen countries that Argentina was making its contribution to the maintenance of hemisphere solidarity and therefore was entitled to share in the distribution of the armament available for the other American republics.

In view of the position of your Government, my Government regrets to find itself unable to proceed with the signature of the agreement which has been under consideration by the appropriate authorities of our two Governments and with the negotiation of a Lend-Lease agreement which is, of course, in itself only incidental to the actual provision of matériel.

Accept, Excellency, the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.