Truman Papers

Thompson Minutes

top secret

The meeting of Foreign Ministers began at 12 noon on Saturday, July 21, 1945. Secretary Byrnes was in the Chair.

Date of Meeting for the Council of Foreign Ministers

Mr. Byrnes said that the first item of business was the fixing of the date of the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers. He proposed not later than September 1.

Mr. Molotov inquired what day of the week this would be.

Mr. Eden replied that it was Sunday.

Mr. Molotov said he agreed.

It was agreed that the Council of Foreign Ministers would meet at a date not later than September 1.

Mr. Molotov inquired in what composition would the Council of Foreign Ministers meet.

Mr. Byrnes replied that they had agreed first of all to meet in London and that they would have a formal meeting there to set up the Council.

Mr. Molotov inquired if this meant five members. He pointed out that the composition of the Council would determine the type of questions to be discussed.

[Page 187]

Mr. Byrnes replied that it would be five, because there was the question of organizing the Council and deciding the procedure to be followed.

Mr. Eden pointed out that he did not wish to be grasping. It had been decided that the Secretariat would be in London but the Council might wish to meet elsewhere. He thought this might be said.

Mr. Molotov thought they might rotate the meetings.

Mr. Eden proposed that they approve the addition of language to state that the Council should normally meet at London, which would be the seat of its Secretariat, but that it might meet elsewhere by common agreement.

Mr. Byrnes said it was decided that they would communicate with France and China before final announcement was made of the creation of the Council. He proposed that they each appoint a representative to draft a telegram. Mr. Byrnes named Mr. Matthews, Mr. Molotov named Ambassador Gromyko, and Mr. Eden named Mr. Ward, for the purpose of drafting a telegram.

Report of Subcommittee on German Economic Questions

Mr. Byrnes pointed out that the Subcommittee on German Economic Questions had presented its report.1

Mr. Molotov said that the Subcommittee had finished its work late at night and he had had no time to get acquainted with its report. If possible, he would prefer that this question be taken up as item 1 on the agenda of the Foreign Ministers’ meeting the next day.

This was agreed to.

Mr. Molotov inquired if they would have any agenda for the present meeting today.

Mr. Byrnes said that they would first consider the questions submitted to them by the Big Three. Then they would take up the reports of the subcommittees which they, the Foreign Ministers, had appointed. Finally, they could consider the agenda for the Big Three meeting.

Polish Question

Mr. Byrnes said that papers on this subject had been submitted by the British and Soviet delegations. These had been considered by a subcommittee, and he would now call on the chairman of the subcommittee for his report.

Mr. Vyshinski said that the subcommittee set up to deal with the Polish question had not reached full agreement on their report.1a They had had three papers before them: (1) a British paper of July 19, (2) [Page 188] an amended text of the British draft of July 19 which the British had submitted, (3) a Soviet amended draft of the same British text.2 They were guided in their discussions by the second draft submitted by the British. In drafting the final text on this question there were five matters upon which no agreement was reached. These were:

The first disagreement related to the question of the transfer of the assets of the London Polish Government to the new Provisional Government. The last sentence of paragraph 2 of the British draft was not acceptable to the Soviet delegation, which thought that no discussion of the question of liabilities of the Polish Government should be included in the declaration. The Soviet delegation thought that this was a matter of Polish-American and Polish-British relations. The amount and character of the assets and debts was not known to the Soviet delegation, and they thought that this question should be dealt with separately.
The second difference related to the last sentence of paragraph 4 of the British draft, which related to assurances for the return of Poles to Poland. Mr. Vyshinski pointed out that there were three thoughts embodied in this sentence. The Soviet delegation welcomed the last thought, namely, that the Poles who returned to Poland should have equal rights with other Poles. With respect to the other two thoughts, namely, the question of assurances to Poles and the thought that as many Poles as possible should come home, the Soviet delegation considered that it was not proper to include the mention of these assurances, and they thought that it was already clear that it was desired that as many Poles as possible return to Poland. The Soviet delegation had therefore suggested a shorter sentence, to the effect that the three Governments expect that those Poles that return home will be accorded equal rights with all Polish citizens. The British delegation did not agree with this proposal because of the word “expect”. The British delegation thought that the Polish Government should give assurances.
This disagreement related to the proposal of the Soviet delegation that the declaration include a statement to the effect that the British Government would undertake not to arrest Poles who wanted to return home.
This related to the sentence to the effect that the three powers took note that the Polish Government had undertaken to hold free and unfettered elections, etc. The Soviet delegation agreed to this except for the word “pledge”, which they objected to because the Crimea decision had said “should pledge” and not “pledge”.3 When the new Polish Government was formed it had given this pledge. A proposal had been made to state “It is the confident hope of the Three Powers that the elections will be conducted in such a way as to make [Page 189] it clear to the world that all democratic and anti-Nazi sections of Polish opinion have been able to express their views freely, and thus to play their full part in the restoration of the country’s political life.” Mr. Vyshinski said that if this meant that all sections of public opinion in Poland, including Nazis, had been able to express their views freely, it was not acceptable. If it meant otherwise, the Soviet delegation proposed to avoid repetition by merely adding to the first part of this paragraph a reference to democratic parties fully participating in the country’s political life.
This difference referred to the freedom of the press to report to the world upon developments in Poland before and during the elections. This wording was unlimited and meant that unrestricted freedom of the press was proclaimed. Hostilities had just finished, and the Soviet delegation thought that this would be difficult. They were of the opinion that the press should have greater freedom now because conditions had changed, but this was a Polish internal question and it was impossible to decide it without the Poles.

These five differences the Subcommittee had referred back to the Foreign Ministers. Mr. Vyshinski added that he should mention that there had been other serious differences which had been settled and, with the exception of the five points he had mentioned, the draft had been unanimously agreed upon. Mr. Byrnes proposed that they discuss these points in order.

(1) Liabilities and Assets of the Polish Government

Mr. Byrnes said that the chairman of the Subcommittee had suggested that the liabilities of the Polish Provisional Government should not be mentioned, because that was a question to be handled between the Polish and American and the Polish and British Governments. He felt, however, that the same thing was true of the question of Polish assets. The United States had recognized the Provisional Polish Government. It had promptly taken steps to protect those assets. He saw no reason to believe that the United States would not transfer them to the government which it has recognized. He was sure that the Polish Provisional Government had no doubt about the United States transferring to it property which belonged to it. The United States was unwilling to make any statement with respect to Polish assets without stating at the same time that we would discuss the question of liabilities through diplomatic channels. Otherwise, a statement with respect to Polish assets might deceive people in Poland and elsewhere, because transfers of this kind must be made subject to any liens under the laws of the United States. Secondly, he did not know what debts might be due to the United States by the Provisional Government of Poland. The Polish Government need have no doubt but that our attitude would be sympathetic, because our attitude toward Poland had always been sympathetic. He disliked to mention in a public statement that we would transfer property to the Polish Government that belonged to them now that we had recognized that [Page 190] Government. That followed as a matter of course. Since, however, his colleagues wanted a statement on this subject, the American representative on the Subcommittee had proposed the following language:

“The British and United States Governments have taken measures to protect the interest of the Polish Provisional Government as the recognized government of the Polish State in the property belonging to the Polish State located on their territory and under their control, whatever the form of this property may be. They have further taken measures to prevent alienation to third parties of such property. All proper facilities will be given to the Polish Provisional Government for the exercise of the ordinary legal remedies for the recovery of any property of the Polish State which may have been wrongfully alienated.”

Mr. Byrnes said that he had already stated to the Conference4 that on the day before the United States had recognized the Polish Provisional Government, the United States Government had learned of a proposal to transfer the Polish Embassy to a third party. The United States Government had intervened and had been prepared to institute proceedings to recover the property had that been necessary. The Polish Government knows this and needs no assurance that it will be treated fairly under the law.

Mr. Molotov said he found it difficult to discuss this question without the participation of the Polish Government.

Mr. Byrnes said that this was also his position—namely, that the matter could only be discussed with the Poles. He did not know what the debts were, but he would not wish to tell the Poles that we would transfer assets and then find that there were liabilities against these assets. In such a case we would be charged with bad faith. He therefore proposed that they mention neither the transfer of assets nor the payment of liabilities.

Mr. Eden said that they also did not know the extent of the liabilities and debts. They might be sure, however, that the British would not drive a hard bargain. He added, however, that if you deal with the assets you must deal with debts. The British also did not know the amount of the Polish assets. He could assure his Soviet Allies, however, that the British would act in accordance with the obligation they had undertaken by recognizing the Polish Provisional Government. He thought it was best to drop this paragraph altogether.

Mr. Molotov said that he did not agree that if they mentioned assets they must mention liabilities. He drew the attention of his colleagues to the manner in which the Polish question was being [Page 191] discussed here and the manner in which it had been discussed at the Crimea. Here the question was a one-sided one. At the Crimea the question was whether or not the British and American Governments would recognize the Polish Provisional Government and not whether the Polish Government would recognize the British and American Governments. He hoped that all these questions of liabilities would be discussed by the parties. There was no need to say anything about it here. He pointed out that the question which had been discussed at the Crimea was only that of the transfer of property which was held by the London Polish Government.

Mr. Byrnes said he recalled that Marshal Stalin had raised the question of the transfer of property and that President Roosevelt had said that of course the property of the London Government would be transferred when the new Polish Government was recognized.5 Mr. Byrnes said he could say the same thing of the Soviet Government. When the Soviet Government recognized the Polish Government, he assumed that it transferred the property of the Polish Government. He assumed also that in making such transfer the Soviets were obliged to take account of Soviet laws and of any liabilities against this property. He would not ask for a declaration that the Soviet Government would comply with its own laws. He knew that it would.

Mr. Molotov said that all other questions could be decided by bi-lateral negotiations.

Mr. Byrnes said that so far as the United States is concerned they would be decided at the earliest possible date. He did not think that any statement should be made that pressure had to be brought on the United States Government to transfer to the Polish Government property that belonged to that Government.

Mr. Eden pointed out that they had frozen Polish funds.

Mr. Molotov suggested that the matter be referred to the Big Three.

Mr. Eden suggested that Mr. Molotov study the American draft that had been presented during the meeting.

Mr. Byrnes said he had offered this substitute draft but he would not be frank if he did not make clear that he would tell the President that, in his opinion, the President should not be a party to a statement in the press that the United States Government would give to Poland property which is rightfully the property of the Polish Government, which it has recognized, without coupling such statement by [with?] a statement that the Polish Government had never questioned that the United States would transfer to the Polish Government the property that belongs to it.

[Page 192]

Since Mr. Molotov did not have the Russian text of the new language which had been proposed, the matter was passed over, in order that Mr. Molotov would have time to consider it.

(2) Return of Poles to Poland

Mr. Byrnes pointed out that there were two versions of this proposal: one submitted by the Soviet delegation and one submitted by the British delegation.

Mr. Molotov said he thought the general idea of both versions was essential and that this general idea should be retained. All the rest was unnecessary and might be offensive to the Poles.

Mr. Eden remarked that he did not see what there was that would be offensive to the Poles. Their object was to get Poles home. He was prepared to agree, however, to some change in the drafting.

Mr. Molotov said he did not see why this matter was insisted upon. The Soviet version made clear that the Poles would not be persecuted.

Mr. Eden said that if Mr. Molotov thought the language was offensive, they would accept the Soviet version subject to a minor drafting suggestion.

Mr. Byrnes pointed out that there was a change suggested by the Soviet representative, in the last paragraph on page 2—namely, to substitute for the words “is pledged” the words “in conformity with the Crimea decision has agreed”.6

This was agreed to.

(3) Arrest of Poles by British

Mr. Byrnes said that the next question was the proposed undertaking that the British Government would take steps on British territory and territory under British control not to arrest Poles who wished to return home.

Mr. Eden said he could not accept in a declaration designed to assure the return of Poles to Poland that they would undertake not to do the opposite. He pointed out that the London Polish Government did not now have any power. Power had been transferred to the new Polish Government.

Mr. Molotov said that there would probably be no more such acts and that they could drop the paragraph.

Mr. Eden pointed out that certain governments had been given rights on British territory. The London Polish Government did not now have these rights.

Mr. Molotov said that there had been some recent incidents.

[Page 193]

Mr. Eden replied that there had been none since recognition of the new Polish Government.

(4) Polish Elections

Mr. Byrnes pointed out that the proposed sentence on the free expression of views in the election had not been agreed to.7

Mr. Molotov said that this sentence would be unpleasant for the Polish Government, that all the thoughts had been expressed in the previous sentence. This sentence would give the impression of mistrust.

Mr. Eden offered to leave out the first part of this sentence if Mr. Molotov would agree to include the last sentence of the draft relating to freedom of the press.

Mr. Vyshinski drew Mr. Eden’s attention to the fact that in the Subcommittee the British representatives had made just the opposite proposal.

Mr. Eden said that he had not known this.

Mr. Byrnes said that at the meeting yesterday Marshal Stalin [ Molotov ] expressed agreement in principle with the thought that the press should be allowed to report freely on what went on in these countries.8 Hostilities had ceased and the situation was changed. It would be of great importance in the future relations of the Polish Provisional Government that there be no question in regard to the freedom of the press.

Mr. Molotov inquired if there were any complaints that the Allied press could not work in Poland now.

Mr. Eden said it was one thing to let the press in but that it was another as to whether they could say what they wished.

Mr. Molotov inquired whether the correspondents who had visited Poland had complained.

Mr. Byrnes said that his information was that for a long while no press representatives had been permitted to visit in Poland.

Mr. Molotov pointed out that there had been no government of national unity at that time.

Mr. Byrnes continued that a group of correspondents did visit Poland and that they were not restricted. We did not, however, have any regularly appointed press representatives in Poland.

Mr. Molotov inquired if there were any applications pending for American correspondents to go to Poland.

Mr. Byrnes said we did not know how these correspondents would be treated if they went to Poland and we only wished to express the hope that they would have freedom.

[Page 194]

Mr. Molotov said that this would make a bad impression.

Mr. Byrnes then proposed that the question be submitted to the Big Three along with the other difficulties that had arisen.

This was agreed to.

Yalta Declaration on Liberated Europe

Mr. Molotov said that they had not had time to have the document on this question9 translated into Russian.

At his request it was agreed to pass over this question until he could study the document.

Italian Declaration

Mr. Molotov observed that two papers had been submitted on this matter—one on Italy and one on the other satellites.10 Marshal Stalin had suggested at the meeting yesterday that they simultaneously settle these two questions,11 and it was Mr. Molotov’s proposal that they consider merging the two drafts.

Mr. Byrnes pointed out that at the meeting yesterday it had been recognized that there was a difference between the situation of Italy and that of the other satellites. Italy had signed more severe armistice terms12 than had the other countries. He preferred two separate declarations rather than one.

Mr. Molotov suggested that they could be merged in the drafting committee.

Mr. Byrnes suggested that the reason for separate texts was that the United States had not recognized the Rumanian and Bulgarian Governments. Also, the United States was not at war with Finland. If it was merely a question of drafting, he urged Mr. Molotov to let them take up the matter in two separate papers.

Mr. Molotov said that he was proceeding from the suggestion made yesterday by Marshal Stalin. Both of these papers dealt with armistice terms signed by these countries. He was fully aware of and understood the difference between them. The subject of both documents was the same. He could not give a final opinion as he had only had time to read them once. The drafts contained good working material.

Mr. Byrnes said that the question was whether there should be one draft or two, and he proposed to refer the matter to the Big Three.

This was agreed to.

[Page 195]

Agenda for the Big Three Meeting

Mr. Molotov observed that the Soviet delegation stuck to its suggestion for the resumption of diplomatic relations with Rumania, Bulgaria, Finland, and Hungary.

Mr. Eden said that he was circulating a paper on Persia,13 but he did not ask that it be taken up today.

Mr. Byrnes said that he wished to submit a paper which he thought should go to the economic subcommittee. This paper dealt with the necessity of making available increased supplies of oil from Rumania and the use of about 200 tankers to transport this oil.14

It was agreed to refer this question to the economic subcommittee.

The agenda of the Big Three meeting was drawn up as follows:

The Polish question—Implementation of the Yalta Agreement and transfer of the Property of the London Polish Government.
Declaration on Italy and Satellite States.
The Western Frontiers of Poland.

The meeting adjourned.

  1. See documents Nos. 863 and 902, post.
  2. Document No. 1129, post.
  3. For the British draft of July 19, see document No. 1121, post. The British redraft referred to has not been found as a separate paper but can be largely reconstructed from document No. 1129, post. For the “Soviet amended draft” referred to, see document No. 1421, post.
  4. The English text of the decision referred to read: “This Polish Provisional Government of National Unity shall be pledged to the holding of free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot.” See document No. 1417, post, section vi.
  5. See ante, p. 104.
  6. See Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 776.
  7. Cf. paragraph 4 of document No. 1121, post, and the fourth paragraph of document No. 1131, post.
  8. See paragraph 4 of document No. 1121, post.
  9. See ante, pp. 151153.
  10. Document No. 748, post.
  11. Documents Nos. 1092 and 805, post, respectively.
  12. See ante, pp. 169, 175.
  13. See Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 1604; 61 Stat. (3) 2740.
  14. Document No. 1330, post.
  15. Document No. 1320, post.