760H.61/63: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Matthews) to the Secretary of State

2041. I inquired of Sargent36 this morning whether Clark Kerr had gotten anywhere in his discussions at Moscow relative to British approach to the Partisans in Yugoslavia (my telegram No. 1397, February 24, midnight). He replied immediately that the British Ambassador had gotten nowhere. The Russians blandly took the line that they had no contact whatsoever with the Partisans and were giving them neither material nor any other support nor even encouragement on the radio. The Soviets made it clear, he said, that they would not cooperate in any way with any British initiative to help the Partisans (who, incidentally, the British prefer to call patriots). In reply to my further question, Sir Orme said that having made the approach to the Russians the British now feel they can go ahead on their own and establish such contact with the Partisans which, he added, is now [not] however easy to do. He went on to say that as a matter of fact such recent fighting against the Axis as has gone on in Yugoslavia has been entirely the work of the Partisans, both the Communist group and the Croat group. Mihailovitch, he said, has frankly admitted that he has maintained contact with the Italians, that he is getting supplies from them and that he intends to conserve his strength and meager resources until the moment of an Axis collapse approaches. He says, according to Sargent, that he expects thereby at the moment Italian withdrawal to acquire all their supplies and to establish and maintain order throughout Yugoslavia; he argues that if he does not do so there will be either complete chaos or the bitterest civil war. It is unfortunate, Sargent said, that the Yugoslavs have no strong man here. The intra-governmental quarrels are such, he pointed out, that they have still not been able to [Page 985]appoint an Ambassador to the British Government. He said, when I asked if there were any likelihood of the Yugoslav Government being transplanted to Cairo as has been done with the Greeks, that it was far too fragile: It would probably fall to pieces en route.

I referred to reports one hears from time to time that the Soviets would see with reluctance the establishment of their much-demanded second front in the Balkans. Sargent said that he felt sure in his own mind that the Russians would not enjoy the prospect of Allied operations in that particular area though they had, he said, never given any intimation to that effect.

  1. Sir Orme Sargent, British Deputy Under Secretary of State.