Truman Papers

Cohen Notes

Stalin: The withdrawal of Soviet troops from the north Soviet zones in Vienna has begun, and should be completed in a few days.

Churchill: The British government is pleased to learn of this prompt action.

Truman: So is the American government.

Eden: (reads the report of the Foreign Secretaries).1

The paper of the American delegation on the southeastern European satellite countries2 was presented to the Foreign Secretaries. The British agreed with the paper, but the Soviets were unable to agree with the provisions for the reorganization of the government and the election.

The matter of the press and the control exercised by the control commissions were referred to the subcommittee for discussions.

[Page 261]

The Soviet delegation agreed to submit a memorandum on the improvement of the control commission in Italy.

The Secretaries considered the economic committee’s report on German economic problems. The United States asked postponement of disputed issues for subsequent meeting. Foreign Secretaries agreed to discuss only principles agreed to by the subcommittee. These agreed principles were accepted, except for the wording of paragraph 13.

The discussions on paragraph 18 and annex to paragraph 16 were also reserved.

The Foreign Secretaries also discussed the removal of Allied industrial equipment in Kumania, on the ground that it was booty, but no conclusions were reached.

The agenda for the Big Three Meeting was submitted. It included the western frontier of Poland, trusteeships, the straits, the western frontier of the Soviet Union, and Iran. It was suggested that certain problems be referred by the Big Three to the Foreign Secretaries for discussion, to save the time of the Big Three. These problems included cooperation on European economic problems, Tangier, and the problem of Syria and the Lebanon.

Stalin: I agree that we should submit these problems to the Foreign Secretaries without further discussion here.

Churchill: Syria and Lebanon affect us specially. We want to withdraw from there as soon as possible, but our immediate withdrawal would mean the massacre of the French. I should like to hear more on this here. Possibly we can discuss it here.

Stalin: The government of Syria has asked the Soviet [Government] to intervene. We should like some information on this matter. This might be discussed by the Foreign Secretaries. We do not propose the removal of troops from any country.

Truman: I suggest that this matter be deferred until tomorrow and that the other questions go to the Foreign Secretaries.

(This was agreed).

Truman: We now may discuss the western frontier of Poland. I have already stated my views.

Molotov: (First brought up the question of certain Soviet war prisoners held in Italy. He gave notice that he would like to say a few words on this subject at the close of the meeting.)

Stalin: Have you seen the statement by the Polish government on the frontiers?

Churchill and Truman both indicated that they had.

Stalin: That means all the delegations maintain their existing views, and the question remains in suspense.

Truman: Next subject is trusteeships.

[Page 262]

Churchill: We must hope that the Polish question will become ripe for discussion before we leave. It would be unfortunate to have all these problems discussed in Parliament.

Stalin: Let us accept the Polish proposal.

Churchill: I am sorry we cannot. The matter, of course, is for the peace table, but the Polish problem is not advantageous for Poland. It destroys Germany’s economic integrity, and puts an undue burden on the occupying powers. I have grave moral scruples regarding great movements and transfers of populations. Nine million people are involved. True, there is no agreement on the population data. The Soviets say only a few million are left. We should clear up the facts. I could give other reasons, but I won’t burden you now.

Stalin: I have undertaken [shall not undertake?]3 to oppose Mr. Churchill’s views on all these points, but I will deal here only with two. One, Germany will have resources in the Ruhr and the Rhineland, so there is no great difficulty if Silesian coal basin is taken from Germany. Two, the movement of population does not present the difficulties Mr. Churchill anticipates. There are neither eight nor six nor three million Germans in this area. There have been several call-ups of troops in this area. Few Germans remain. Our data can be checked. Could we not arrange for representatives of the Polish government to come here and be heard?

Churchill: I should hesitate to support that, in view of the strong views of the President regarding hearing the Yugoslavs.

Stalin: Let the Foreign Ministers in London call them and hear them.

Truman: That is satisfactory.

Stalin: The Polish government must be heard in answer to the Crimea decision. I continue to urge the meeting to adopt the decision that the Foreign Ministers in London should hear the Polish government on the western frontier.

Churchill: How can the frontier be discussed that way? I regret that this grave matter should be adjourned to a lesser body.

Stalin: We must not be accused of settling the frontier without hearing the Poles.

Truman: I cannot see the urgency. The question can be settled only by the peace conference.

Churchill: There is urgency, Mr. President. The local situation will be unremedied. The Poles who have been assigned this large area will have digged [sic] themselves in. This process will continue and it will be more difficult to settle or to revise as time passes. So I still hope that some arrangement will be made here. The situation [Page 263] will not be improved by hearing the Poles when the great Allies are not agreed on principles.

The burden falls on us, the British in particular. Our zone has the smallest supply of food and the greatest density of population. Suppose the Foreign Ministers, having heard the Poles, cannot agree. Then there will be indefinite delay, at least until another meeting of the heads of government. I am anxious to meet practical problems due to the march of events which the Marshal referred to. We should be prepared to consider a compromise solution to cover the period between now and the peace settlement. We would be ready to suggest a provisional line. The Poles west of that line would be working for the Soviet occupying authority. I think Marshal Stalin and I agree up to this point, that the new Poland should advance to the Oder. But the difficulty between the Marshal and me is that I do not go quite as far as the Marshal. Is there no use for us to look at anything like this suggested compromise, Mr. President? We should not despair of solutions. We should seek a halfway house. Delay now might make it impossible to alter the consolidated position of the Poles later.

Berlin draws its coal from the Silesian mines, which have long been worked by Polish miners. What is to happen to Berlin’s coal during the winter?

Stalin: Berlin draws her coal from Saxony. Let the Ruhr give her coal. There are different opportunities for supplying Berlin with coal.

Truman: May I re-state my view point. The eastern frontier should follow the Curzon line, with slight digression in favor of Poland. The Allies recognize that Poland must receive substantial compensation in the north and west. They believe the new Polish government should be heard, and the final settlement await the peace conference. That was the agreement of Mr. Roosevelt with the Big Three at Crimea. I am in complete accord with it; but Poland has in fact been assigned a zone of occupation contrary to our agreement. We can agree, if we wish to give the Poles an occupying zone, but I don’t like the way the Poles have taken or been given their zone.

Stalin: I also proceed on the decision of the Crimea Conference cited by the President. After the Government of National Unity has been formed, we are bound to seek its opinion. The Polish government have communicated their views. We have two alternatives: one, to approve the Polish proposal; or, two, to hear the Poles and settle the question.

I think it expedient to settle the question now. As we are not in agreement with the Polish government, the Poles should be summoned [Page 264] here. But the view was expressed by the President that the Poles cannot be heard here, so we must remit the question to the Foreign Ministers.

At Crimea, the President and Mr. Churchill suggested the line should be along the Oder until it joined the Neisse. I insisted on the western Neisse. Under Churchill’s plan, Stettin and Breslau would remain German. The question to be settled is the frontier, and not a temporary line. We can either settle the question or ignore it.

Churchill: Or decide it without the Poles.

Stalin: If we disagree with the Poles we cannot decide it without them. It has been said that a fifth country has been brought into occupied Germany, and in a manner contrary to our agreement. If anyone is to blame, circumstances as well as the Russians are to blame.

Churchill: I withdraw my objection to the Poles coming here and trying to work out arrangements pending the peace conference.

Truman: I have no objection to the Poles coming here, and for the Foreign Secretaries to hear them.

Stalin: The Chairman should invite them.

Truman: The matter of trusteeships is now before us. We will hear the Soviet delegation.

Stalin: Mr. Molotov is our expert.

Molotov: The proposals of the Soviets are submitted in writing. The principal question has been settled by the San Francisco Charter. We have before us specific questions regarding the assignments of territorial trusteeships. It is not possible for us to give detailed answers to these questions, but some progress can be made. First, we can discuss Italian possessions in Africa. We can proceed in one of two ways. We suggest that the matter go to the Foreign Secretaries, or we could consider the questions here tomorrow. There is also the question of the mandated territories.

Eden: Do you want our mandates?

Stalin: There are other mandates. The question deserves the attention of the Big Three. One point more, we could exchange views on Korea.

Churchill: We can exchange views on any subject, but at the end we have had only an interesting discussion. The existing mandates were dealt with at San Francisco.

(Truman reads Articles 77 to 79 of the Charter. He points out that mandated territory cannot be [placed under?] trusteeship without the consent of the mandatory power. He assumes that it is the territory detached from the present enemy powers that the Soviets wish to discuss, and indicates that he is willing to have the matter referred to the Foreign Secretaries.)

Churchill: We have agreed to the San Francisco draft, nothing [Page 265] more. As this matter is in the hands of the world organization, I doubt that this is a matter to be discussed around this table.

Teuman: Article 79 gives you complete protection on your mandated territory.

Stalin: Eden said Italy lost her colonies. Who gets them?

Churchill: The British alone conquered the Italian armies.

Truman: Alone?

Stalin: But Berlin was taken by the Red Army.

Churchill: I meant the Italian colonies, Mr. President, were taken by us.

Stalin: No one denies. It is to the honor and glory of Britain.

Churchill: We do not seek territorial aggrandizement. We have suffered grievous losses, though not so great in human life as has Russia. We come out of the war a great debtor. We have no possibility of regaining naval equality with the United States. Yet, in spite of all these losses, we have made no territorial claims. We have no Koenigsberg, nor Baltic States. We claim nothing. Having acted with rectitude and complete disinterestedness, we approach the question of the Italian colonies with good conscience.

Mr. Eden made the statement in Parliament that Italy had lost her colonies. That meant she had no claim to them as a matter of right. That does not preclude the return of certain colonies to her, if the peace conference so decides. I do not say I favor the return of the colonies, but so far as we are concerned, it is a question open for discussion. I have seen the excellent reclamation work done by the Italians in Libya and Cyrenaica. At present we hold these colonies. Who wants them?

Truman: We do not want them. We do not want a trusteeship for them. We have enough “poor Italians” to feed in the United States [in Italy?].4

Churchill: We considered them for Jewish settlement, but the Jews are not attracted to them. Of course, we have great interest in the Mediterranean.

Stalin: Our proposals are submitted in writing, and we would like the conference to consider them.

Churchill: Does the Marshal wish to put forward a claim to these colonies, or to a trusteeship for them?

Stalin: Do we consider it necessary for Italy to lose these colonies? If so, to what states do we propose to entrust the trusteeships? If it is premature to deal with this question, we can wait, but we will have to deal with it sooner or later.

Churchill: I am frank to say I have not considered the possibility of Russia claiming territory in the Mediterranean.

[Page 266]

Stalin: The Soviet delegation stated at San Francisco that we were anxious to receive mandates for certain territories.

Truman: I have a copy of the statement that Mr. Molotov gave Mr. Stettinius.

Churchill: We have the right to take the colonies from Italy, but to whom shall we give them? That belongs to the discussion of the peace treaty. The administration of trusteeships is for the world organization.

Stalin: Is it your position that the present conference is qualified to settle the question?

Churchill: Of course, if we three agree, it facilitates settlement.

Stalin: Of course the conference is qualified to consider.

Churchill: I make no objection. I am prepared to hear the Marshal’s views.

Stalin: The question has been submitted in writing.

Truman: Let the Foreign Secretaries consider it.

Churchill: I have no objection, but we are over-burdening the Foreign Secretaries. There are more urgent problems. We are agreed that the Italian treaty should have priority when the council of Foreign Ministers meets in September.

Stalin: Let us submit the question to the Ministers.

Churchill: Yes, if they have time after considering more urgent questions.

Stalin: There should be no reservation.

Truman: Let us turn to the British paper regarding Turkey.

Churchill: This comes up because of the need to modify the Montreux Conference [Convention]. At Yalta, I told the Marshal we would favor the revision of the Convention, but that can be done only with the consent of the signatories, except Japan, with whom we are at war. I have also expressed our readiness to welcome the free movement of Russian ships, whether war or merchant ships, in or out of the Black Sea in time of peace or war. So we start on a friendly basis.

Still, I wish to impress on the Marshal the importance of not alarming Turkey. Undoubtedly Turkey is much alarmed, because of the concentration of Russian and Bulgarian troops on her borders, by the attacks on her by the Russian radio, and the course of the conversation between the Turkish Ambassador and Mr. Molotov, at which a modification of the Turkish eastern frontiers was mentioned. Also, a base in the Straits. This led Turkey to fear for the integrity of her empire, and the power to defend Constantinople. I understand that these were not demands made on the Turkish government, but were stated as conditions of alliance proposed by the Turks. I can see that in the consideration of such alliance, the Russians [Page 267] would state what improvements they desired in the Turkish situation. But the Turks were under alarm. What I should like to know is, what is the present Russian position on this subject?

Molotov: I have now circulated the views of the Soviet government as set forth in writing.

I should like to explain the origin of the question. This was brought up by the Turkish government with our Ambassador, and later by the Turkish Ambassador with me. Early in June I had two conversations with the Turkish Ambassador. In reply to the Turkish proposal for an alliance, I stated Russia had no objection, subject to certain conditions. We should first settle mutual claims. I mentioned two questions on our side. The treaty of alliance means we jointly undertake to defend the frontiers of two states. I pointed out that we could not undertake to defend certain sections of the frontier which we considered unjust. In 1921 part of this territory was torn from the Soviet Union—part of Armenia and part of Soviet Georgia. I pointed out that these territories should be restored. We should also have an alteration of our rights in the Straits. And a base.

On behalf of the Soviets, I have put forward our claims in the paper circulated. I pointed out to the Turks that if they were prepared to settle the two questions, we were prepared to make an alliance and settle any questions they wished to have settled. If the Turkish government was not prepared, the Soviets were prepared to make an agreement regarding the Straits only.

Churchill: May we have a moment to read your statement?

Molotov: Yes.

Churchill: This is a very important document. It goes far beyond any of our discussions. I presume “regular procedure” in paragraph one means consultation with all signatories but Japan. Quite a different question is raised when Russia asks for a military base and asks that no powers be permitted to participate in control of the Straits but Russia and Turkey. I am quite certain Turkey will never agree to this.

Stalin: Similar treaties existed between Turkey and Russia at other times.

Churchill: What times do you refer to?

Stalin: In 1805 and 1833.

Churchill: These suggestions are wholly different from our previous talks. I stand by my talk with the Marshal when I promised to support revision of the Montreux Convention, but I feel quite free as to these new proposals.

Stalin: You are quite free.

Churchill: I thank you.

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Molotov: May we submit our proposals on Koenigsberg to the President and the Prime Minister?

Truman: Certainly, and the invitation to the Poles to appear before the Foreign Secretaries has gone out.

Should we discuss the communiqué before it leaks out?

Stalin: Yes.

Churchill: It is breaking the principle we have followed.

Stalin: It is agreeable to me one way or the other.

Truman: We will drop it.

  1. Ante, pp. 244246.
  2. For the documents referred to in these notes, see the footnotes to the Thompson minutes, supra.
  3. Cf. the Thompson minutes, ante, p. 248.
  4. Cf. the Thompson minutes, ante, p. 254.