860H.01/458: Telegram

The Ambassador to the Yugoslav Government in Exile (Biddle) to the Secretary of State

3. Yugoslav Series. British Foreign Office informs me it is today handing note to Yugoslav Government to the following effect: (a) That the British Government was seriously disturbed over developments in Yugoslav affairs and increasingly concerned regarding the future, unless measures were adopted to bring about a greater degree of unity among the resistance elements within Yugoslavia, the Croats, Slovenes and Serbs, and among Yugoslav circles abroad in general, the Government in particular; (b) that as regards the situation inside Yugoslavia, the British Government felt obliged to inform the Yugoslav Government (1) of certain views recently expressed in a speech by General Mihailović, and to suggest that the Yugoslav Government take the necessary steps at once, to inform the General of his Government’s views, and to instruct him to adopt a line more in accord with the attitude both of his own and the British Government; and (2) that unless Mihailović were prepared to revise his policy vis-à-vis the Italians and his compatriots now resisting the enemy, the British Government might find it necessary to revise its present policy of favoring Mihailović to the exclusion of other resistance elements in Yugoslavia.

In connection with the foregoing, the note draws attention to the British Government’s recent report from Colonel Bailey, British liaison officer to General Mihailović, to effect (a) that a virtual state of civil war continued between the forces of Mihailović and other resistance elements, that in this conflict Mihailović had associated himself, directly or indirectly, with the Italian occupying forces, that this association had been confirmed by the General himself in an address he had delivered at a local gathering on February 28 (which, on the whole, amounted to a tirade against the western democracies and the Partisans).

The note goes on to summarize the General’s speech, of which the following are the main points: (a) That the Serbs were now completely friendless; that the British to suit their own strategic purposes, were pressing them to engage in operations without any intention of helping them, either now or in the future; that the British were trying to purchase Serb blood at the cost of a trivial supply of munitions, that he needed no further contact with the western democracies, whose sole aim was to win the war at the expense of others; (b) that King Peter and his Government were not guests, but virtually prisoners of the [Page 988]British, who were shamelessly violating Yugoslav sovereignty by conducting negotiations on internal Yugoslav problems directly with Moscow; (c) that the hypocritical and anti-Yugoslav activities of the Partisans was a satisfaction for the Allies’ lust for fraud; however, nothing the Allies could do or threaten, could divert the Serbs from their vowed and sacred duty of annihilating the Partisans; (d) that as long as the Italians comprised his only adequate source of help generally, nothing the Allies could do would force him to alter his attitude towards them (in this connection see page 2 of my despatch Yugoslav series No. 38, January 2, 194342); (e) that his enemies were the Ustashi, the Partisans, the Croats and the Moslems; that when he had dealt with these, he would turn to the Germans and the Italians.

I understand that, while the British Government has no intention to deviate from its past 2 years’ policy of supporting Mihailović in his conflict against the Axis, and of rendering him every possible material help, it feels that the General should be brought to a sense of reality and “pulled up” as a result of his recent outburst. Besides, it feels it could never justify to British public opinion or to Britain’s other Allies its continued backing of a movement, whose leader declared publicly that their enemies were his Allies and that his enemies were not the German and Italian invaders, but his fellow Yugoslavs. Should information concerning this declaration reach Soviet ears, Moscow and the Communist press abroad may, to my mind, be expected to exploit it vis-à-vis the Yugoslav Government in light of Mihailović’s position as War Minister, and even as pressure on London to withdraw whatever support Moscow may suspect London is rendering the General.

I furthermore understand that the note is motivated by the hope that it may serve to bring the Yugoslav Government to face squarely the necessity for a greater degree of unity of thought and action. The conflict in the Cabinet has now resolved itself into an intra-Serb affair between two conceptions of the Serb extremists; the pro-Yugoslav and the pan-Serb.

  1. See paragraph beginning, “In this connection”, p. 963.