740.0011 Stettinius Mission/3–1944

Memorandum Prepared for the Mission to London of the Under Secretary of State (Stettinius)57

The important factor in the Yugoslav situation today is not so much the Tito–Mihailovic–Cairo conflict, as the interplay of Soviet and British policy in the question.

The Soviet line is fairly clear. Moscow has openly given every political and moral support to Tito and the Partisans, and has not [Page 1354] abated the attacks on Mihailovic and the Government in exile, although the King has not been attacked personally. No military aid from Russia, so far as we know, has got through to Tito, but he doubtless has some Russian radio equipment (the “Free Yugoslavia” radio station which sends out the heavy Partisan propaganda traffic is supposed to be somewhere near Tiflis) and he is also believed to obtain funds from Russian sources.

The Russians have recently sent a large military mission into Tito territory, headed by a Lieutenant General and a Major General, thus pointedly indicating that they intend to operate independent of the less impressive British mission. The Yugoslav Ambassador and Military Attaché at Moscow have resigned and announced their adherence to Tito; they are staying on at Moscow. With all this evidence of support of the Partisans, plus the inspiration which Moscow has certainly given to the Partisan political schemes, Moscow is clearly aware of the importance of Serbia (which is largely anti-Partisan) in any solution of the Yugoslav question. The Russians profess that their policy is parallel to ours,—being designed to get on with the war, leaving politics to the Yugoslav people themselves. They have thus far kept formally correct relations with the Government in exile.

The British, who previously gave exaggerated praise to Mihailovic, and who engineered at least one of the reorganizations of the Government in exile, now have cut loose from him completely, and have said many harsh things about the Government. They appear to be working on a plan whereby the King would represent, as a symbol at least, the Serbian element, and the Government would be reorganized along Tito lines. The King and important ministers are now in London, being worked on to bring this about. An extraordinary feature of the British policy is the immense personal prestige, on the part of Mr. Churchill himself, which has been brought into play (his personal letters to Tito, the assurance of direct and personal access to the Prime Minister, wide publicity on personalities in the liaison mission, the appointment of Randolph Churchill to the Tito mission, etc.). All this may have been designed to achieve by flattery a position at least parallel to what the Russians had gained by indoctrination. The British maintain than they are not competing with the Russians for Tito’s favor, and the Russians meanwhile are watching the British maneuvers with only mild interest. Tito himself has been very astute, and has refused to give the assurances of teamwork with King Peter which the British blandishments were designed to obtain. London is admittedly unhappy about this deadlock, having already promised a great deal and got nothing in return. The British Ambassador, Mr. Stevenson, has been rather bold in pointing out the dangers of [Page 1355] British involvements. Mr. MacVeagh thinks that Stevenson may now be in disfavor with Churchill.

The British probably hoped to persuade the people of Yugoslavia that Britain remains their friend, and, by a general encouragement of the leftist elements, strengthen the more moderate wing, against the communists who look to Moscow. It may be that the British Government has also in mind the effect of this policy on the labor vote in England. There is as yet no real indication that the British, in supporting elements to which the Serbs are antagonistic, are deliberately contributing to the separation of Croatia and Slovenia from Serbia, for some new aggregation of states in the Danube basin.

As for the U.S., the following recent developments are worth noting: 1. We are committed to giving military aid where it will do the most good, thus helping Tito in the military sense, without political relations with him; 2. We maintain correct relations with the Government in exile, without illusions as to its weaknesses, and have resisted British pressure to have Mr. Fotitch, the Ambassador here, withdrawn; 3. The President has approved a plan to send into Mihailovic territory an American intelligence group, though our liaison officers with Mihailovic were withdrawn with the British Mission; 4. We have liaison with the Tito forces, in conjunction with the British; and 5. The Tito organization is trying to get its hands on official Yugoslav funds in this country. This could be achieved, however, only after political recognition.

The Secretary’s statement of December 10, 194358 is in all respects applicable to the situation today. Under the policy therein outlined we could continue to deal with any Yugoslav Government established by orderly processes.

  1. This paper was prepared in advance for Under Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., who went to London to hold discussions with members of the British Government, April 7–29, 1944.
  2. Remarks made by the Secretary, in which he stated that the United States was prepared to assist all groups engaged in fighting the Germans, are printed in the New York Times, December 10, 1943, p. 9, col.