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Truman Papers

Cohen Notes

Churchill : One point Marshal Stalin raised [was] that there was some trouble on the Greek-Albanian frontier. I made inquiries. We have heard of no fighting but people don’t like one another very much and there is no [some?] sniping. There is no field division in northern Greece at all. There are many more troops on the borders in Albania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria than there are in Greece (citing certain figures). We should make it clear to small states we will not tolerate [Page 131]marauding parties across frontiers and the frontiers will be settled by the Peace Conference.

Truman : These are matters to be settled by the Peace Conference—not by direct action.

Stalin : I did not raise the question at this meeting but privately, and I will explain my views on other [another?] occasion.

Eden : At the beginning of our meeting Secretary Byrnes said that he wanted to propose revision of [the document on] the Council for [of] Foreign Ministers and this was referred to the drafting committee.

The second point examined was the political principles for Germany. We submit a revised draft.

Churchill : We agree to revised draft.

Stalin : I agree.

Truman : It is accepted.

Eden : The Polish question is next. We hope to have a draft ready for meeting tomorrow afternoon.

Churchill : We are agreed that the Polish question shall be discussed as soon as drafting committee settles its work.

Eden : Following additional items for the agenda today: (1) German Navy and merchant marine; (2) Spain (3) Yalta declaration on liberated Europe; (4) Yugoslavia; (5) Rumania (removal of industrial material as booty).

Truman : First question is disposition of German fleet and marine[.] [There] must be decision as to what is war booty and war reparations, and if war booty then how we are to share the booty. I am interested in German fleet because I want that to continue under present control until the Japanese war is over.

Stalin : Any weapons taken in the course of the war by army represents booty. Armies surrender to those to whom they surrender. The same applies to the navy. The navy had to be surrendered. Therefore it is booty. It may be possible to discuss whether merchant fleet is booty. In case of Italy both battle and merchant fleet were placed in the category of booty.

Churchill : I do not want to approach this matter from a juridical standpoint.

Truman : I do not either.

Churchill : I hope we may solve these problems by agreement. We have the whole of these vessels in our hands. We are not opposed in principle to the division of the German fleet. I am not speaking of the Italian fleet. Of course in these matters the replacement of losses is relevant. We have had tremendous losses. The questions of U–boats stand on a different footing. They have a limited legitimate use. The way they were used by Germany was prohibited by treaty. These vessels should be sunk. The latest U–boats contained valuable [Page 132]information on future construction. That knowledge should be shared. But the bulk of U–boats should be sunk and the remainder divided equally. The surface ships should be divided equally. We are not opposed in principle to Russia’s demand for one-third of the German fleet. Her flag should be welcomed on the seas by her allies. As to merchant ships, until the war with Japan comes to an end, these should be fully utilized. The prosecution of the war is limited by shipping. The transport of men and the feeding of civilians is limited by shipping.

There is another point. The Finnish fleet has passed into the hands of our Russian Allies. The Rumanian fleet, containing two very valuable troop ships, has fallen into their hands. It would seem that the three fleets should be shared.

Stalin : We have not taken a single ship from Finland and only one troop ship from Rumania, which is being used to carry the wounded.

Churchill : There is also a question of others. The Norwegians have suffered terribly. The oil fleet was a great part of the nation’s strength. It is a question whether the merchant fleet should be divided into four parts and the fourth part given to those not represented here. I should deprecate a hasty treatment of this subject.

Truman : The subject [is] most interesting from our point of view. I should be very happy to make a division of the merchant fleet, but we must use these ships for the war and relief for liberated areas and the carrying of goods to our Russian Ally.

Stalin : What about Navy?

Truman : I am ready to dispose of it at any time. Further, when the Japanese war is over, the United States will have merchant ships and navy ships for sale. But until the war is over, I don’t want to disturb the situation.

Stalin : Are the Russians not interested in the Japanese war?

Truman : Of course, and I desire to see Russia in the shipping pool with us.

Churchill : But we all have our difficulties. Ships could be earmarked before being put into the pool. The advance of the Russians along the Baltic makes untenable the German harbors. I want to support the Marshal’s request that Russia should in principle receive her share of war and merchant vessels. The only alternative is sinking and this seems wrong as long as one of our Allies desires the war vessels.

Truman : We are not apart.

Stalin : What ships will be earmarked?

Churchill : The merchant ships.

[Page 133]

Stalin : Of course it is not possible to treat Russia as having the intention of interfering with the war against the Japanese. Nor can it be considered that this is a gift from the Allies. The matter should be cleared up. Have the Russians a right to receive a third of these ships? They want only their right. If my colleagues think otherwise, let them say so and I will obey. I want only clarity. The Russians are satisfied if their right to a third is recognized. If one-third is allocated to Russia, we will raise no objection to their use against Japan. So I suggest that the matter be settled at the end of the Conference as suggested by Churchill. One thing I should like. Our people are not allowed to see the fleet and are not given a list of them. Would it not be possible to lift this ban so that a Russian Naval Commission can inspect these ships?

Churchill : You seized a number of U–boats in the Baltic. We could make an arrangement for an interchange of inspections[.]

Stalin : All the U–boats are damaged but we can arrange for you to see them.

Churchill : All we want is reciprocity.

Stalin : Your people can see them.

Truman : So far as the United States is concerned we are willing to exchange inspections, but we want it reciprocal.

Churchill : I made a distinction between U–boats and surface fleets. The Marshal will appreciate the sensitiveness of an island power producing only two-thirds or less of its food about U–boats. I would argue that the bulk be sunk, the balance divided. My consent is conditioned on discussion of U–boats’ disposition. I must ask pardon because of our special position.

Stalin : I am also in favor of sinking a large proportion.

Truman : That seems enough discussion. Let us proceed. The next subject is Spain.

Stalin : Our proposals have been submitted.1

Churchill : His Majesty’s Government and past government have strong distaste for General Franco and the government of Spain, All I said for Franco was that there was more in Spanish politics than drawing cartoons of Franco. But I view with disgust the killing of people for what they did five or six years ago. When Franco asked me to line up against the menace of Soviet Russia, I sent him a most chilling reply and I sent correspondence to Marshal Stalin and the President. We all detest the Spanish regime.

The difficulty with the Marshal’s proposal is with the breaking off of relations with Spain. It may cause them to rally to his support. Breaking off relations breaks your influence. Ambassadors are needed [Page 134]particularly in time of difficulty. The course suggested would strengthen Franco’s position, and he has an army. Should we take a rebuff or use force? I am against that. I am against interfering in the internal affairs of a country which has not molested us. I would greatly regret embroiling ourselves in their internal affairs. At the present time Franco’s powers are undermined. We should speed the parting guest. But breaking off relations because of its internal conduct is a dangerous principle in this war. Nor would I like to see a renewal of the Spanish Civil War.

The San Francisco Charter has a provision against interfering in internal affairs.

Truman : I have no love for Franco. I have no desire to get into a Spanish Civil War. We would be most happy to recognize another government. But Spain must settle it.

Stalin : That means everything remains unchanged in Spain.

Truman : No. Franco is weakening.

Stalin : Franco is gaining strength. He is encouraging Fascism elsewhere. I believe you have no love for Franco, but you must prove it by acts. I do not propose a civil war, but I wish the Spanish people to know that we are on the side of the democratic forces of the Spanish people and against the regime of Franco. There are diplomatic means of showing this to the Spanish people.

Let us assume breaking relations too severe. There must be more flexible means. We should not pass by this cancer. Otherwise we sanction it. It is presumed that the Big Three can settle such questions. Are we entitled to keep silent? We cannot shut our eyes to the dangers that the Franco regime holds out for all Europe.

Churchill : We cannot favor breaking relations. We have valuable trade relations and could not interfere unless we were certain of success. I appreciate how the Marshal feels as they sent the Blue Brigade against him. But they refrained from using arms when we went into Africa when they could have done us great harm.

Stalin : I suggest that the foreign secretaries try to find some means of making it clear that we are not in favor.

Truman : I agree.

Churchill : I should deprecate this. The question should be decided by the Big Three.

Truman : I urge the Prime Minister to let the foreign secretaries discuss the question.

Churchill : It is a matter of principle against interfering with internal affairs.

Stalin : It is not a matter of internal affairs. No such regime exists in any country of Europe.

Churchill : Portugal might be considered a dictatorship.

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Stalin : Portugal’s government arose from internal forces; Spain from foreign forces. I do not place on the same level Spain and Portugal.

Churchill : Franco is moving to his finale. He came to power many years ago. The Russian government as well as the fascist government[s] took part in the civil war.

Stalin : The foreign secretaries should prepare an appraisal of the regime of Franco, including the sentiments express[ed] by Mr. Churchill. This will not bind the government of Great Britain. I suggest [a] most mild form of influence—less than we applied to Greece and Poland.

Churchill : I am not agreed in principle to making any Allied declaration and I did not understand that the President was.

Stalin : Statement need not be in reference to Spain alone but to all Europe.

Churchill : Our action in other countries is because of their involvement in the war. Of course if you wish to make a declaration of general principles regarding governments which have not achieved those principles, that is different. That declaration is in the American Constitution. We can’t improve upon it. I don’t know what the Spanish people think but I feel that they do want to be rid of Franco.

Truman : There seems to be no chance of agreement. Let us pass on and come back to this question later.

Stalin : But let us refer this matter to the foreign secretaries. Perhaps they can find a formula.

Churchill : That is the very question we are debating. I suggest we leave the question without decision for the moment.

Truman : Let us consider the declaration on Liberated Governments. I recommend discussion of paper submitted by me at first meeting.

Stalin : I suggest we defer this as we have written another document to submit on this.

Truman : The next question is Yugoslavia.

Stalin : We can not consider this question until we hear the Yugoslavs. Yugoslavia is an Ally.

Churchill : The two sides (Tito and Šubašić) are in disagreement.

Stalin : I have no such information. Let us verify this. Let us summon them.

Churchill : The TitoŠubašić agreement2 has not been carried out. Tito has imposed a partisan organization. Yugoslavia has not realized the hopes we entertained at Yalta. We supported Tito, [Page 136]and are grieved and disappointed at the way things have turned out. Our proposal is very modest.

Stalin : Mr. Churchill has passed to the discussion of this question in substance without answering the President’s question whether the question is worth discussing. The information which Mr. Churchill has given is not known to us. Perhaps Mr. Churchill is right but his information may not be correct. It would be just to hear the Yugoslavs on Mr. Churchill’s accusations.

Churchill : I made complaints, not accusations.

Stalin : It is not a matter of words. I cannot agree to substitute complaints for accusations.

Churchill : I must think over this. But it might be well to have Tito and Šubašić come here. Do you think they would be willing to come?

Truman : I am here to discuss world affairs with Soviet and Great Britain government[s]. I am not here to sit as a court. That is the work of San Francisco. I want to discuss matters on which the three heads of government can come to agreement. I did not come to hear Tito, de Gaulle, and Franco.

Stalin : That is the correct observation.

Churchill : I thought that this was a matter in which the United States was very interested, particularly in view of their Yalta papers.

Truman : That is true. I want to see the Yalta agreement carried out.

Stalin : According to our information, Tito is carrying out the Crimea decisions.

Churchill : Our paper is a repetition of what we have already said.

Truman : Let us drop it.

Churchill : It is very important.

Truman : We are dropping it only for the day as we did with Franco.

Churchill : I had hoped that we could discuss these matters frankly.

Stalin : But we must hear the Yugoslavs first.

Truman : We turn to the British paper on Rumanian oil property taken as booty.

[Page 137]

Churchill : I suggest that this be discussed by the foreign secretaries.

Stalin : I think that these matters can be settled by the usual diplomatic channels. But since the question has been raised, I should like to correct an inaccuracy. No British property was taken in Rumania. There were tubes purchased by the British before the war. The Germans captured them and used them. We took these tubes because Germany devastated our wells in the Caucasus. The Conference should not be troubled by this trifling matter.

Churchill : This is not a trifling matter. Our people paid for these tubes. We have made no progress through diplomatic channels. Perhaps the British and Russian foreign secretaries could settle it.

Eden : The United States is interested too.

Truman : Why not let the three foreign secretaries see what they can do?

Stalin : No objection.


  1. For the documents referred to in these notes, see the footnotes to the Thompson minutes, supra.
  2. See Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, pp. 251254.