The British Embassy to the Department of State 9


Reference is made to the British Embassy’s aide-mémoire of December 26th, 1943,10 on the subject of Yugoslavia.

The British Chargé d’Affaires in Moscow has received a letter from Monsieur Molotov11 in reply to the enquiry which, as indicated in the last paragraph of the British Embassy’s aide-mémoire under reference, he was instructed to address to the Soviet Government regarding their views on the possibility of finding a compromise between the contending groups in Yugoslavia. The text of M. Molotov’s letter is given in Annex A,12 from which it will be seen that the Soviet Government feel the need for obtaining a more comprehensive and balanced picture than they have at present, before suggesting any practical measures.
It is understood that the departure of the Soviet Mission to Yugoslavia has been delayed on account of the illness of its leader but that the Soviet Government are most anxious that it should leave as soon as possible. In the meantime, as reported in the penultimate paragraph of the aide-mémoire under reference, the head of the British Mission with the Partisans13 has been examining the whole situation with Marshal Tito.14 His Majesty’s Government hope that if his discussions lead to any hopeful developments, they may secure the support and assistance of the United States and Soviet Governments in putting such proposals into effect.
The general views of His Majesty’s Government on the activities of the Partisans and of General Mihailovic and on their relations [Page 1332] with one another are summarized in a memorandum dated December 7th, 1943, a copy of which is attached (Annex B)15 for information. Some revision of the proposals set out in the memorandum became necessary when His Majesty’s Government were advised that it would be impossible to arrange for General Mihailovic to be brought out of Yugoslavia in response to the King’s summons and that he would in all probability refuse to obey such a summons.16 Furthermore, a new aspect has been given to the situation by the broadcast on December 17th by the “Free Yugoslavia” radio station of the decisions reached and the resolutions passed at a meeting of the Partisan anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation on November 29th.17 According to this broadcast the Partisan administration demanded political recognition for itself and formal withdrawal of rights from the Yugoslav Government in exile, and condemned not only General Mihailovic and the Yugoslav Government as traitors, but also King Peter for having supported them. In the light of these claims it seems to His Majesty’s Government that the only way of reconciling their obligations to maintain recognition of King Peter and his Government and of continuing military support to the Partisans, whose military effort is of such great value, is to try to find some modus vivendi between the King and the Partisans.
The latter’s main objection to the King seems to be his connection since 1941 with General Mihailovic and with what the Partisans consider to be pan-Serb elements. It therefore appears that if it were possible to bring the King and the Partisans together on the basis that the King would be prepared to set up a new Government in Yugoslavia and sever his connection with General Mihailovic and the exponents of a pan-Serb policy, thus demonstrating that the monarchy is not identified with a policy of Serb hegemony to which the Partisan movement are opposed, the Partisans might accept the King. This would not prejudice the right of the Yugoslav people after the war freely to decide whether they wish for a monarchy or not. The appearance of the King in Yugoslavia would remedy the isolation in which he now finds himself, while the Partisans would gain an advantage in that they would secure political recognition under the new Government which the King would set up, and would obtain the dwindling assets of the exiled Yugoslav Government, e.g. ships and service personnel. Moreover, once in Yugoslavia, the King, [Page 1333] by issuing an appeal for unity, might be able to bring about cooperation with the Partisans of Serbs and Chetniks to whose loyalty to the throne he could appeal.
It was with such a plan in mind that His Majesty’s Government decided to send the head of the British Mission with the Partisans back to Yugoslavia to examine the possibilities (without, of course, committing the King to any specific course of action) of unifying the forces of resistance both in and outside Yugoslavia and of bringing together the contending parties.
It may be that the Partisans will not react favourably to the idea of the King’s return to Yugoslavia, but there seems to be no harm in making the suggestion, it being understood that His Majesty’s Government will continue to give full military support to the Partisans. His Majesty’s Government will keep the United States Government informed of developments, and, should the outcome of the soundings taken of the Partisans prove favourable, will seek their support in recommending the proposal to King Peter, who has not so far been informed of the plan which is now under consideration. If the outcome is unsatisfactory it will be necessary to review the situation which will then arise.
In communicating the above views of His Majesty’s Government on the solution of the Yugoslav problem and their appreciation of the present situation in Yugoslavia, His Majesty’s Ambassador is instructed to say that His Majesty’s Government would welcome an expression of the United States Government’s views on these matters, and hope that if they concur in His Majesty’s Government’s appreciation and in the action which is being undertaken, the United States Government will lend His Majesty’s Government their support.
  1. Handed to James C. Dunn, Director of the Office of European Affairs, on January 13, 1944, by Michael Wright, First Secretary of the British Embassy.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. ii, p. 1037.
  3. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, Soviet People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Brig. Fitzroy H. R. Maclean, Commanding Allied Military Mission to the Partisans in Yugoslavia.
  6. Josip Broz Tito, President of the National Committee of Liberation of Yugoslavia; military leader of the “Partisan” resistance forces.
  7. Not printed.
  8. In Annex B it is stated that the Senior British Liaison Officer with Mihailovich proposed that the latter should be summoned to Cairo for consultations with King Peter II of Yugoslavia and there dismissed. “This is therefore the line that we are considering.”
  9. Meeting held at Jajce to outline a constitution for post-war Yugoslavia.