Draft of a Letter From President Roosevelt to King Peter II of Yugoslavia81

Dear Peter: I have read your letter82 with most careful attention and have given much thought to the several questions you raise. I shall reply with complete candor and in simple terms, and I am sure you will see how deeply and sympathetically we in America realize the problems facing the Yugoslav people.

You remember the burst of admiration with which we greeted your country’s defiance of Germany three years ago.83 Believe me, our sentiments have not changed. We are pledged to the liberation of Yugoslavia and we hope again to see the union of its national elements under a common government, democratic in form and fact, as the purposes for which this war is being fought require.

It is one of the misfortunes of the war that your country, battered and dismembered by the enemy, has suffered also from internal conflicts, which in turn have revived other older antagonisms. You try, I know, impartially to defend the interests of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and to bind them together in loyalty to the common interest. [Page 1367] Let me frankly say that I think your advisers and your officials have not always shown the wisdom necessary to achieve this end. I mention this because you speak of the Government’s popularity with the people at home. I wish I could say that our reports from within Yugoslavia confirm this. On the contrary, they indicate that the people in Yugoslavia have sought, and still are seeking, a leadership which would have vision for dealing with the new social forces at work in the world today, and energy for undertaking the vast tasks ahead.

It is characteristic of you that you should find it hard to agree to a proposal which would affect the status of General Mihailovich. Let us not forget that the Mihailovich question has become more political than military. He did not mean it to be so, I am sure, and I really think it would be to the best interest of your country, and only fair to him as well, to use his excellent talents in the field but relieve him of government responsibility. It always seemed to me that this fine soldier should not have been expected to share the administrative burdens and the responsibilities of a member of the Cabinet, or of successive Cabinets, with which he has only intermittent contact, and of whose political decisions he can be kept only very imperfectly informed. In view of the important events ahead, a decision which would emphasize his service as a soldier in the field would be something which military men everywhere would understand. As a loyal officer he too would acknowledge the necessity for such action.

The suggestion that you might reorganize your Government by forming what one may call a “streamlined” administration, was doubtless one of several alternatives advanced in the search for a settlement of some of the troubles in Yugoslavia and some of the unhappy disputes among Yugoslav groups abroad. This is a question on which you will now have the wise counsel of Ban Subasic. I was pleased to learn of your decision to call him to London. Some of our officials here saw him before his departure, and he will tell you what our people have been thinking on Yugoslav matters in general and will assure you of our abiding interest in the welfare of your country.

He will report also on our attitude toward the Partisans, which is precisely what Mr. Hull and others have publicly stated,—military aid where it can be got through most effectively for resistance forces in operations against the enemy. While our relations with the Partisan leaders are of a military character, we are fully aware of the political implications of the Partisan movement, and of the desire of its leaders for representation or recognition, also in the field of foreign affairs. We contemplate no change in our present relationships, but you, better than anyone else, will realize how useful it would be to us in carrying out this policy if the public generally were sure [Page 1368] that an earnest effort is being made to resolve certain basic difficulties. One of them is that the Partisan movement is stronger, and has far greater popular support, and sympathy for it extends into larger areas, than your Government has been willing to acknowledge. I can assure you that our reports prepared by expert and impartial observers who have been able to evaluate and recheck the intelligence on the spot, as regards both the Mihailovich and the Tito forces, leave no doubt of this. Any fundamental approach to a solution of the unhappy civil strife in Yugoslavia must take this reality into account.

It is indeed our plan to work together with the British and the Soviet Governments in questions relating to Yugoslavia. I want you to know that, though we may be considered to have a less direct interest in Southeastern Europe, we treasure the friendship of your people, and are counting upon their cooperation both for expelling and defeating the enemy and for wholehearted association with us in a long-range program of general security and prosperity. These are the main objectives of us all, and we can speak frankly to the British and Soviet Governments on these things, and you may be sure I shall not forget the points you bring out in your letter.

If some of my observations seem disappointing, it is because my warm friendship for you prompts me to give you in this personal and direct way my thoughts on the several questions you ask.

Do not think I underrate your own admirable efforts on behalf of your country and people. These are times that strain to the limit the energies and wisdom of the most experienced statesmen, and I know with what earnestness and energy you are devoting your young years to your country’s service.

I send you from my heart every good wish for your welfare and happiness.

Very sincerely yours,

  1. Draft dated May 12, 1944. No indication can be found in Department files or in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y., of the date on which this letter may have been dispatched to King Peter.
  2. Ante, p. 1359.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. ii, pp. 937 ff.