740.00119 EW/12–844: Telegram

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

10864. Personal for the President and the Secretary. Please read my 10348, November 24, 7 p.m. to Dunn and also my 10732, December 4, midnight. I have received the Department’s 10190 (December 5, 10 p.m.) instructing me to state in the European Advisory Commission that our Government does not wish to extend its undertaking with respect to the number and location of troops to be used in Austria.

I hesitate to again trouble you with this question but I feel, after the most careful consideration, that recent developments have warned us that this is more than a local Austrian question and that the issues involved dig deep into the background of future world security.

Several months ago, when the question of the Austrian protocol first came up before the European Advisory Commission, I was able, by your consenting to furnish a small token force for Austria, to get both Strang and Gousev to agree to our stationing this force in one of the three areas of Vienna without our taking over a zone elsewhere in Austria, and with the further understanding that there would be complete tripartite control within Austria. We believed at that time that this would satisfy our obligation under the Moscow Declaration on Austria.

It was because of our delay in settling the assignment of the German zones that the Russians refused to complete agreement on Austria at that time. They have now come forward with a very different proposition, as outlined in my 10441 (November 27, 3 p.m.), for an American zone in western Austria, contiguous to our zone in southern Germany.

In the intervening period since July armistice terms have been worked out for Rumania, Finland9 and Bulgaria. The first two were settled in Moscow and the latter, which was being handled in the European Advisory Commission, was interfered with by British intervention in Moscow. Mr. Churchill10 and Mr. Eden,11 while in [Page 475]Moscow, also discussed Greece and Yugoslavia.12 Among other comments made there, you will recall the acceptance by Molotov and the British of British control in Greece; Molotov’s frank statement of 80% Soviet control and 20% Anglo-United States control in Rumania and Bulgaria, with a similar proportion suggested for Hungary; and 50% Soviet and 50% Anglo-United States control in Yugoslavia.

It is important to note that in the case of Bulgaria, prior to Russia’s declaration of war and her 5 hours [days?] state of war, we had an agreement for Anglo-American control over the fulfillment of the armistice terms.12a Delays by all parties interfered with the consummation of this agreement. After Russia’s declaration of war Soviet demands for increased control grew daily in direct proportion as they extended their occupation. In other words, actual physical occupation has been the constant and determining factor in apportioning the degree of control.

Certain implications of Soviet dominance in Rumania and Bulgaria can already be seen. Department’s circular information telegram of December 1, 9 p.m.,13 describes our reaction to the Russians moving American owned oil equipment out of Rumania. Department’s 10192 (December 5, midnight)14 outlines the difficulties arising from exercise of Soviet predominance in Bulgaria and in Bulgarian politics.

The question of dominant control during military operations and until the surrender of Germany can be defended within limits. This would not run contrary to our own insistence on top military control by our Supreme Commanders in Africa, Sicily, Italy and Western Europe. But it is the insistence of the Russians that their control shall continue after the surrender of Germany and until the conclusion of peace that disturbs me most as I believe this interim period will seriously influence the pattern of postwar settlement.

Certainly we can draw at least two lessons from the experiences of these last few months. One is that, from a Soviet point of view, occupation is directly related to control, or, to put it in common law language, possession is 9 points of the law. Two, it is also clear that failure to work out in advance agreed arrangements with the Russians [Page 476]and the British in areas in which we share responsibility, as in Germany and Austria, will inevitably lead to a grab as grab can policy.

I note that the main reason for the decision not to accept a zone in western Austria is the desire of our Government “not to extend its undertaking with respect to the number and location of American troops to be used in Austria”. I should like to suggest that we could enlarge the geographical area in which the American contingent would be stationed without increasing the size of our force. In this connection a distinction needs to be drawn between the period of active military operations and the period of peaceful occupation. The commitment of forces in the operational period must naturally be determined by the conditions encountered in overcoming the enemy’s resistance as judged by the Commander in the field. Presumably Austria will be occupied first by SACMED or Soviet forces, probably by the latter.

On the other hand, the period of peaceful occupation, to which the proposals before the European Advisory Commission relate, calls for a military force to serve as a kind of reserve police force in case the reconstructed Austrian police operating under Allied control should prove inadequate to maintain order. The British envisage providing approximately one division in the period of peaceful occupation, to occupy one third of Austria together with one third of Vienna. I understand that we intend to provide one division for the occupation of one third of Vienna alone (CCS paper 481/11 of November 23). We might also want to take advantage of airfields in western Austria for policing Germany from the periphery.

The question is whether it would not be militarily more convenient and politically more effective to use approximately the number of troops we have already allotted for garrisoning one third of Vienna, in order to occupy a zone as well. We could shorten the size of the zone suggested in the Soviet plan. For the period of peaceful occupation the question is one of extending the location but not necessarily the number of American troops.

To understand the Soviet eagerness to have us take a zone in Austria we must go back to Eden’s discussions in Moscow on percentages of control in the various countries. The Russians, being literal minded folk, consider that in Austria we, the British and themselves are supposed to have one third each of the responsibility, both by virtue of our contributions to the common victory and because of the Moscow Declaration on Austria. If we now confine our direct responsibility in Austria to occupying one third of Vienna, the Russians will draw the conclusion that we do not want one third of the responsibility for Austria as a whole. As a result, we will probably be confronted with control machinery proposals which, while leaving [Page 477]us with one third of the responsibility in the eyes of American and world opinion, will give us much less than one third of effective power and influence in Austria. In a very tactful way, Gousev has been putting us on notice to expect this. Hence, in view of our leading position in the conduct of the war and the settlement of the peace, and in view of Austria’s key position in Central Europe, or refusal to take a zone of occupation may be interpreted as a sign that we are willing to leave this area to the free play of Soviet and British interests.

When Soviet and British bloc politics threaten to dominate the scene, it is perhaps wiser for us to stay on the job and to work against the bloc concept which, if left unchecked by strong outside influences like our own, may pull Europe to pieces, both in its international relationships and within the individual countries, as we unfortunately see happening in Greece.

I have grave doubts as to the ultimate wisdom of leaving British interests pitted against Russian interests in Austria. The basis of our policy of tripartite control in Germany, instead of permitting an Anglo-American force of occupation and a separate Soviet force, rests on the concept of the three powerful military countries, which will be responsible for the defeat of Germany, having authority and responsibility. If we had failed to share this responsibility on a tripartite basis it would have been sure to create suspicion and ill will on the part of the Soviet Government. We have felt all along that even [if?] civil government was substituted for military government in this part of Europe and our forces were largely withdrawn, we did not want to leave behind a legacy of conflict between an angry Russia and a weak Britain. Trouble in Austria might spread to Germany and interfere with the constructive approach we have adopted.

At bottom both the British and the Russians feel that our full and equal participation in Austria would help not only to steady developments there but also to work out relations between our two major Allies in a sensitive area.

As I understand it, we have two primary interests in the smaller states. One is to support their sovereignty and freedom, and the other to see that nothing can again take place in any part of the world that might disturb the peace of the world. Twice in 25 years we have been drawn into world war because of disturbances in European areas far distant from us and in which we had exercised little influence. In neither instance did we control the events which ultimately involved us in war.

In view of all these considerations, I earnestly hope you will review the question of our accepting a zone of occupation in Austria. Until I hear from you I shall avoid committing us on this matter.

  1. For correspondence regarding United States interest in the Allied armistice with Finland of September 19, 1944, see vol. iii, pp. 608 ff.
  2. Winston S. Churchill, British Prime Minister.
  3. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  4. For correspondence regarding the meetings of Prime Minister Churchill and Premier Stalin in Moscow between October 9 and 18, 1944, see vol. iv, pp. 1002 1024.
  5. The Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria on September 5, 1944, at 7 p.m. Soviet troops ceased hostilities in Bulgaria on September 9 at 10 p.m. With respect to these events, see telegrams 3321, September 5, and 3420, September 11, from Moscow, vol. iii, pp. 396 and 410, respectively. American and British representatives reached tentative agreement on a draft armistice for Bulgaria on August 25, 1944; see telegram 6928, August 25, from London, ibid., p. 367.
  6. Not printed; for correspondence regarding Soviet actions in occupied Rumania, see vol. iv, pp. 233 ff.
  7. Not printed; for correspondence regarding Soviet actions in Bulgaria, see vol. iii, pp. 481 ff.