The British Prime Minister (Churchill) to President Roosevelt 61

557. After much thought and talk I have sent the following signal to U. J.62

On Thursday last,63 accompanied by the Foreign Secretary and with the authority of the War Cabinet, I saw representatives of the Polish Government in London. I informed them that the security of the Russian frontiers against Germany was a matter of high consequence to His Majesty’s Government, and that we should certainly support the Soviet Union in all measures we considered necessary to that end. I remarked that Russia had sustained two frightful invasions with immense slaughter and devastation at the hands of Germany, that Poland had had national independence and existence restored after the first world war, and that it was the policy of the Great Allies to restore Poland once again after this war. I said that although we had gone to war for the sake of Poland, we had not gone to war for any particular frontier line but for the existence of a strong free, independent Poland, which Marshal Stalin had also declared himself supporting. Moreover, although Great Britain would have fought on in any case for years until something happened to Germany, the liberation of Poland from the German grip is being achieved mainly by the enormous sacrifices and achievements of the Russian armies. Therefore Russia and her Allies had a right to ask that Poland should be guided to a large extent about the frontiers of the territory she would have.
I then said that I believed from what had passed at Tehran that the Soviet Government would be willing to agree to the Easterly frontiers of Poland conforming to the Curzon line subject to discussion of ethnographical considerations, and I advised them to accept [Page 1241] the Curzon line as a basis for discussion. I spoke of the compensations which Poland would receive in the North and in the West. In the North there would be East Prussia; but here I did not mention the point about Konigsberg. In the West they would be free and aided to occupy Germany up to the line of the Oder. I told them it was their duty to accept this task and guard the frontier against German aggression towards the East in consequence of their liberation by the Allied Forces, I said that in this task they would need a friendly Russia behind them and would, I presumed, be sustained by the guarantee of the Three Great Powers against further German attack. Great Britain would be willing to give such a guarantee if it were in harmony with her Ally, Soviet Russia. I could not forecast the action of the United States, but it seemed that the Three Great Powers would stand together against all disturbers of the peace, at any rate until a long time after the war was ended. I made it clear that the Polish Government would not be committed to the acceptance of the Curzon line as a basis of examination except as part of the arrangement which gave them the fine compensations to the North and to the West which I had mentioned.
Finally I said that if the Russian policy was unfolded in the sense I had described, I would urge the Polish Government to settle now on that basis and His Majesty’s Government would advocate the confirmation of such a settlement by the Peace Conference or by conferences for the settlement of Europe following the destruction of Hitlerism, and would support no territorial claims from Poland which went beyond it. If the Polish ministers were satisfied that agreement could be reached upon these lines, it would be their duty at the proper time not merely to acquiesce in it but to commend it to their people with courage, even though they ran the risk of being repudiated by extremists.
The Polish ministers were very far from rejecting the prospects thus unfolded, but they asked for time to consider matters with the rest of their colleagues, and as a result of this they have asked a number of questions, none of which seems to me to be in conflict with the general outline of my suggestions to them. In particular they wish to be assured that Poland would be free and independent in the new home assigned to her; that she would receive the guarantee of the Great Powers against German revenge effectively; that these Great Powers would also assist in expelling the Germans from the new territories to be assigned to Poland; and that in regions to be incorporated in Soviet Russia such Poles as wished would be assisted to depart from their new abodes. They also inquired about what their position will be if a large part of Poland West of the Curzon line is soon occupied by the advancing Soviet armies. Will they be allowed [Page 1242] to go back and form a more broad based government in accordance with the popular wish and allowed to function administratively in the liberated areas in the same way as other governments who have been overrun? In particular they are of course deeply concerned about relations between the Polish underground movement and the advancing Soviet forces, it being understood that their prime desire was to assist in driving out the Germans. This underground movement raises matters important to our common war effort.
We also attach great importance to assimilating our action in the different regions which we hope to liberate. You know the policy we are following in Italy. There we have taken you fully into our counsels, and we want to do the same in regard to France and other countries to whose liberation we look forward. We believe such uniformity of action is of great importance, now and in the future, to the cause of the United Nations.
The earliest possible agreement in principle on the frontiers of the new Polish State is highly desirable to allow of a satisfactory arrangement regarding these two very important points.
While however everyone will agree that Soviet Russia has the right to recognize or refuse recognition to any foreign government, do you not agree that to advocate changes within a foreign government comes near to that interference with internal sovereignty to which you and I have expressed ourselves as opposed? I may mention that this view is strongly held by His Majesty’s Government.
I now report this conversation which expresses the policy of His Majesty’s Government at the present time upon this difficult question to my friend and comrade, Marshal Stalin. I earnestly hope these plans may be helpful. I had always hoped to postpone discussions of frontier questions till the end of the war when the victors would be round the table together. The dangers which have forced His Majesty’s Government to depart from this principle are formidable and imminent. If, as we may justly hope, the successful advance of the Soviet armies continues and a large part of Poland is cleared of the German oppressors, a good relationship will be absolutely necessary between whatever forces can speak for Poland and the Soviet Union. The creation in Warsaw of another Polish government different from the one we have recognized up to the present, together with disturbances in Poland, would raise issues in Great Britain and the United States detrimental to that close accord between the Three Great Powers upon which the future of the world depends.
I wish to make it clear that this message is not intended to be any intervention or interference between the governments of the Soviet Union and Poland. It is a statement in broad outline of the [Page 1243] position of His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain in regard to matters in which they feel themselves deeply concerned.
I should like myself to know from you what steps you would be prepared to take to help us all to resolve this serious problem. You could certainly count on our good offices, for what they would be worth.
I am sending a copy of this message to the President of the United States with a request for complete secrecy.
  1. Copy of telegram obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y.
  2. Uncle Joe, meaning Marshal Stalin.
  3. January 27.