740.0011 EW 1939/3–2144

Memorandum by Mr. Cloyce Kenneth Huston of the Division of Southern European Affairs

The Rumanian proposals presented by Prince Stirbey in Cairo, as summarized in Ambassador MacVeagh’s Yugos–61, are more encouraging than we expected and need not be dismissed as a possible basis of discussion. Their acceptability depends largely on the Russians, who can scarcely consider them unreasonable as a first bid.

The telegram contains two surprises: (a) The suggestion that Marshal Antonescu, “who like all Quislings wants only to save his skin,” would be willing to lead a movement to change fronts and (b) the indication that the Rumanians desire a debarkation on the Black Sea coast even though recognizing that the Russians are the only ones now in a position to effect such a landing. The detailed minutes of the talks may throw some light on these two points.38 We have never quite looked upon Marshal Antonescu as a Quisling and there is enough of the martyr in him to make us doubt his readiness to turn actively on the Germans to save his own skin. (This sounds more like Vice Premier Mihai Antonescu). The Marshal might step down, turn the reins over to Maniu or allow himself to be overthrown, but we still entertain doubt as to his being willing actually to turn actively against the Germans. With regard to a Soviet debarkation, it is enough to recall that Rumania’s greatest dread has been the prospect of having Russian forces of occupation.

The American view would seem to be that we do wish immediate action and our position with regard to the four points on which assurances are specifically requested may be stated as follows:

Rumanian independence should be maintained;
Rumanian territorial rights will, in principle, be respected; the proposal for a plebiscite in Bessarabia (and Northern Bucovina) is reasonable, but the problem of Transylvania is so complicated and serious as to require a general postwar examination;
Co-belligerent status could be granted to Rumania only on Rumanian soil and for the purpose of ejecting the Germans from [Page 153] Rumania; it could in no case be allowed to operate beyond the Rumanian frontiers; and
If Rumania were to surrender and take an active pro-Allied position, the Allies would provide such assistance as might be possible in the event of an unprovoked attack of either Hungary or Bulgaria; the launching of a Rumanian attack against either of these countries would, however, not be tolerated; should one or both of these countries likewise join the Allied camp, their military operations should not be allowed to extend into Rumanian territory nor should Rumanian military operations be allowed to extend into their territory.

  1. The minutes did not use the word “Quisling” but stated that Prince Stirbey “considered that he [Antonescu] would be prepared to execute a volte-face for the purpose of saving his skin”. (740.00119 European War 1939/2400)