740.00119 EAC/113: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Winant ) to the Secretary of State

1944. Comea 38. Thank you for your message 1623 March 3, 10 p.m., Eacom 8. After receiving it I contacted my two colleagues here and came to the conclusion that if we met formally, as scheduled, on March 7, we could not hope for anything more than a continuation of the deadlock in which each of us insisted on his respective draft. Therefore, I suggested that the three representatives meet informally in Gousev’s private office at Lancaster House. We had an amicable and useful discussion lasting some 3 hours. I believe I can now give you a clearer picture of the situation here.

Strang said that he thought that the British might agree to accept a shorter document, since both we and the Russians are agreed on a relatively brief instrument for German signature; but with the understanding that the proclamation and orders would contain the substance of the points covered by the British draft. On the latter reservation I stated personally that I felt my Government would agree. I based my position on paragraph 6 of the comment which accompanied our draft instrument. Gousev replied that he had already agreed to this in our formal meetings, and graciously said he felt that Strang’s statement was more than a concession, that it was a contribution to general agreement. Strang then added that he hoped that his Soviet and American colleagues might be able to compromise their documents into a combined short instrument; but the British would want to make some drafting comments and possibly add two or three clauses which they felt should be included.

I had previously pointed out that there were certain general obligations covered in clauses 5, 6, and 7 that we considered essential to an inclusive instrument of surrender. It had already become plain to me that the concept back of our draft, which in a sense was a briefing of the British instrument was to ensure for us a broad basis of authority, while the Russian document was a strategic military instrument recognizing the possible psychological and political reactions on the part of the surrendering power. In Gousev’s comments which followed I came to understand both the Russian position as well as their point of view as translated into their draft surrender instrument.

The Russians have consistently refused to consider any other question before the Commission until the form of surrender terms has been decided. I came for the first time to realize fully that they did not want to be compromised on any collateral issue until we reached agreement on this basic decision, to which they attach primary importance. [Page 198] They are determined to end the war as quickly as possible. I believe they are willing to deal with any government or control [central?] military command that will agree to unconditional surrender and immediate disarmament and demobilization. They want nothing in the surrender instrument that would hamper the achievement of this objective. As Gousev pointed out with crude realism, if you include a clause on war criminals and are attempting to deal with men who might consider themselves in that category, they might well refuse to do business on any terms; or, as he said, if we asked for terms and included articles such as our V, the Germans might well refuse to meet our terms and then use the drastic nature of our demands as a weapon with which to whip their people back to continued resistance. To put the case quite simply, he stated that his Government believed that if we could get unconditional surrender and disarmament and demobilization, the continuance of war would become impossible as a practical matter. All this would mean a separation of surrender terms from other demands.

It is my understanding, from what General Wickersham tells me of his recent talk with General Hilldring, that the reference in clause IV of our draft to “the annexed proclamation and orders” is not meant to imply that the proclamation and orders should be shown to the Germans simultaneously with the surrender terms. Thus Gousev’s attitude, as described above, falls generally in line with our present position. I believe that we can persuade the British to join us in this position, provided we can get agreement in advance to the proclamations and orders which will be issued after signature of the surrender document.

The point that I kept hammering at was that the surrender terms and the proclamation and orders should be made a part of a general agreement by all three countries. I personally accept the reasonableness of the chronology suggested by the Russians of tackling first the military surrender terms and working out the proclamations and directives in order of importance; but the surrender terms and the proclamation and the orders should be part of a general agreement to be arrived at in the Commission.

It would be very unfortunate if we made concessions on surrender terms and the Governments jointly agreed to subscribe to them and then ran into difficulty on the proclamation and orders. I believe the Democracies will ultimately hold us responsible for a standard of conduct in enemy countries wherever there is joint surrender to the armed forces of the three powers.

Gousev told me in answer to a question I put him that the agreement on the proclamation and orders would be as binding on the three nations in his view as the agreement on surrender terms themselves.

[Page 199]

Since it is impossible to envisage in proclamations and orders drawn up in advance all the future contingencies to be met in the course of military occupation, I asked if his Government would support a continuing tri-partite authority for the immediate post-hostilities period. He said that they would, provided we could agree on surrender terms.

At our last formal meeting38 we asked the question which you later suggested we might put as to prisoners of war. You now have their reply. The Russian position is that as a practical matter it would be easier to handle the German forces as prisoners of war and that the psychological effect in Germany would be to force the recognition of complete defeat.

I told him that we did not want a war guilt clause to be part of our terms of surrender. I do not think that there would be serious objection to the elimination of this provision from their terms.

We are scheduled to hold a meeting of the commission on next Tuesday39 at 3:00 o’clock. I would very much appreciate any guidance you could give me as to my approach at that meeting on the question of surrender terms.

  1. March 3, 1944.
  2. March 14.