740.0011 European War 1939/28836

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The Bolivian Ambassador29 called to see me today at his request.

The Ambassador said he had a personal and confidential message for me from his Foreign Minister30 asking for “guidance” in the following matter. The Bolivian Government felt that, as the months passed, there would be an increasing effort on the part of the European powers to draw a sharp distinction between the American Republics [Page 544] which had declared war upon the Axis and those American Republics which had severed relations with the Axis and were cooperating with the United Nations in every other way but which had not actually declared war. Furthermore, he said, the Bolivian Government had confidential information which led it to believe that the Government of Chile, in order to improve its general position within the Hemisphere, was intending to declare war upon the Axis within the relatively near future. Dr. Elio, the Bolivian Foreign Minister, was anxious to know what we thought Bolivia should do.

I replied to the Ambassador saying that of course, as the Bolivian Foreign Minister already knew, President Roosevelt had created a precedent by inviting to the first meeting of the United Nations, to be held here in Washington the end of next month,31 representatives of the “Associated American Republics” as well as representatives of the American Republics which had declared war. I said I believed that that precedent would in all probability assure the representation of the “Associated American Republics” at all meetings of the United Nations of the same character which were not strictly limited to naval or military matters. On the other hand, I said, I felt it was probably true that, as the end of the war came nearer, many powers in Europe which had been in the struggle from the beginning would probably feel that nations which had not actually participated in the armed struggle should not be treated on a basis of equality with nations which had actually participated in the war.

With regard to the attitude of Chile, I said, I had no specific information, but I had gained the impression that the Chilean Government was considering in fact going beyond the limits of its present policy and taking a more active role in the war effort.

The Ambassador said that if Chile were to declare war Bolivia would have to declare war, and undoubtedly Peru as well. I said that, as the Ambassador knew, this Government had never suggested to any other American Government that it declare war upon the Axis, but that, in view of the question which his Government had asked me and in view of the great importance of the question, I wondered if the Bolivian Government would not think it desirable to consult the other “Associated American Governments” and ascertain whether they thought the time had come when they should take a more decisive part in the war, so that if one of the powers mentioned were actually to declare war, the others would not be placed in the position merely of having to follow the lead of another power. I said I felt that the consultative procedure had proved immensely helpful in inter-American [Page 545] relationships and perhaps this would be a good opportunity, in this informal and secret way, for this procedure to be adopted among the six American Republics which had cooperated in every other way with the United Nations. The Ambassador said he felt this was much the best solution and that he would communicate secretly with his Foreign Minister along these lines.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Luis Fernando Guachalla.
  2. Tomás Manuel Elio.
  3. The invitation to the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture, originally scheduled to meet on April 27, 1943 “at some suitable place in the United States”. The opening date was postponed to May 18, and Hot Springs, Virginia, was designated as the place.