Truman Papers

Cohen Notes

Molotov reads the report of the Foreign Secretaries.

The economic subcommittee was instructed to consider Soviet proposals on reparations.1
Economic principles for Germany were discussed. Russia withdrew her proposed amendment to paragraph 13 thereof. Russia asked the deletion of paragraph 18 for further study by the Allied Control Commission. No agreement was reached, and the question was referred to the Big Three.
Proposal for council of Foreign Ministers was approved with verbal amendments.
Trusteeships were discussed. It was agreed that the disposition of the Italian colonies should be taken up by the council of Foreign Ministers.
It was agreed that all decisions of the conference affecting the work of the Allied commanders in Germany should be communicated to them, and that a committee should be empowered to draft such communication.
The matter of collaboration of the three powers in European economic problems was discussed.
Tangier. It was agreed that Tangier should be returned to its international status, and that the question should be discussed in a conference of the four powers, including France, in the near future. The invitation to China and France to participate in the council of Foreign Ministers was approved, and it was agreed that this should be sent 48 hours before the release of the final communiqué.
The agenda proposed for the Big Three discussion today included Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, and Iran.

Truman: First subject is Turkey.

Churchill: I thought we would renew the discussion of the problem of feeding Germany.

(It was agreed that matters referred to the Foreign Secretaries and agreed to by them could be regarded as accepted by the Big Three, unless some objection was raised.)

Churchill: Before I finished talking yesterday, I made it clear that we could not support Russia’s claim against Turkey for a military base in the Black Sea.

Stalin: Yesterday, Mr. Churchill asserted Russia had frightened Turkey, particularly by concentrating troops in Bulgaria. Mr. Churchill’s information is out of date. Russia has very few troops in Bulgaria, but the British have more in Greece.

Churchill: We have only 40 thousand troops in Greece.

Stalin: Russia has less. The Turks have nothing to be afraid of. The Turks have 23 divisions on the frontier. As to rectification of [Page 313]the frontier, I refer to the two provinces [Kars and Ardahan].2 This question of the rectification of the frontiers would not have come up if the question of an alliance had not come up. If the alliance is dropped, the rectification of the frontiers will lapse.

So far as the Straits are concerned, the position of Russia is deplorable. The Montreux Convention is inimical to Russia. Turkey has a right to block our ships. More than that, Russia has less rights than Japan. Small states controlled by Britain have real control of the Straits. Turkey is not capable of keeping control of the Straits. The Straits must be defended by force, the same as the [Panama Canal is defended by the]3 American navy, the same as the British navy defends the Suez.

Truman: The Montreux Convention should be revised. Most of the wars in the last twenty years have arisen in this area. It should be the business of the peace conference to see that that does not happen again. There must be freedom of intercourse in all that section. I want to see Russia, Britain and the United States have access to all the seas in the world. I will distribute a paper on this subject.

(The President reads the paper. He emphasizes that there should be free and unrestricted traffic on inland waterways, and such waterways should be controlled by the representation of all states concerned. As initial step, there should be international agencies for the Danube and the Rhine. The function of these agencies should be the development of navigation on the rivers in question. The membership of these agencies should include the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the Riparian States. The same procedure should apply in the case of the Kiel Canal, and the Montreux Convention should be similarly revised.)

Truman: I do not want to fight another war in twenty years because of a quarrel on the Danube. We want a prosperous, self-supporting Europe. A bankrupt Europe is of no advantage to any country, or to the peace of the world. The territorial dispute between Russia and Turkey should be settled by themselves, but the waterways are of interest to the whole world.

Churchill: I strongly support Marshal Stalin’s wish for the revision of the Montreux Convention, with the objective of security for Russia, and free and unrestricted navigation of the Straits between the Black Sea and the Aegean by merchant ships and by warships, whether in time of peace or war. I agree with the President that that freedom should be guaranteed by all of us. I earnestly hope [Page 314]that the Marshal will consider that alternative to the establishment of a Russian base in close proximity to Constantinople.

As to the other waterways, we are in full accord with the general lines of the President’s statement. The Kiel Canal should be free and open, and guaranteed by the great powers. We also attach great importance to free navigation of the Danube and the Rhine.

Truman: There is no disagreement on the revision of the Montreux Convention.

Churchill: Nor on the purpose for which it is to be revised.

Stalin: I must read attentively the President’s paper. Perhaps in the meantime we might consider the next question.

Truman: The Koenigsberg area.

Stalin: This was brought up at Yalta.4 We stated it was necessary to have at least one ice-free port at the expense of Germany. Too much blood has been spilled by the Soviet Union not to have some piece of German territory. Neither the President nor the Prime Minister raised any objection at Yalta, so the question was agreed upon. We are anxious to have that agreement confirmed at this conference.

Truman: No objection in principle, but technical and ethnic details must be considered.

Churchill: I spoke in the Commons in 1944, and referred to the Soviets’ wish to have Koenigsberg, which would mean that Poland’s frontier would run to the south of that. I made it clear that the British government sympathized with the Russian desires.

Truman: The next question is Syria and the Lebanon.

Molotov: The Soviet delegation submits a short draft on this question.

Churchill: The burden of maintaining order falls on our shoulders. We are seeking no advantage for ourselves which will not go to all other countries. Both France and Britain have recognized the independence of this area, when a troop settlement was made. In consideration of France’s long, historic connection with Syria and the Lebanon, we agreed not to object to France having a favored position, if that could be satisfactorily arranged with the governments of Syria and the Lebanon. We have told General de Gaulle that as soon as he makes a satisfactory treaty with Syria and the Lebanon, we will withdraw our troops. The withdrawal of our troops now would lead to the massacre of French civilians and French troops there. We should not like to have that happen. It would lead to great excitement throughout the Arab world, and make the maintenance of peace more difficult in Palestine and Iraq. It might affect Egypt, too. We could not have a worse moment for this disturbance. It would endanger [Page 315]lines of communication through the Suez Canal through which both British and American supplies are proceeding for the war against Japan.

General de Gaulle has acted very unwisely in this region, against our advice and entreaty. The outbreak was caused by 500 troops being sent on the ship. They could do nothing but strike a spark. Lately, de Gaulle has agreed to hand over the “Troupes Spéciales” to the Syrian government, and 1 trust we shall be able to reach, if not an agreement then some sort of settlement with him which would guarantee the independence of Syria and the Lebanon, and secure some recognition for the French—their cultural and commercial interests, which they have built up over so many years.

Let me repeat, Britain will not remain there one day longer than necessary. We will be delighted to withdraw from a thankless task, assumed in the interest of our Allies, as well as ourselves. In view of the states interested, we do not welcome the proposal to have a conference in which the United States and the Soviet Union would enter with Great Britain and France. The whole burden has been borne by us.

Eden: (interrupting) Except for the diplomatic approval of the United States.

Churchill: (continuing) If the United States desires to take our place, it might open a new question.

Truman: No thank you, Mr. Churchill. The British reported to us on the disorders in Syria, and advised us that they had troops to protect the situation affecting the lines of communications. The United States told the Prime Minister to go ahead.

We might, however, be in disagreement on one point. We do not think any country entitled to special privilege. We are for equality for all.

Stalin: I may assume that my colleagues do not recognize privileged rights in Syria and the Lebanon?

Truman: Yes.

Churchill: We promised France a favored position when we were very weak. We cannot bind others. If France cannot get them, we would not object.

Stalin: From whom can France obtain these privileges?

Churchill: From the Syrian and Lebanese republics.

Stalin: From them alone?

Churchill: Yes.

Truman: We shall stand for equal rights.

Churchill: Would you prevent the Syrians from giving privileges?

Truman: That will not be necessary.

[Page 316]

Stalin: The Soviet delegation thanks Mr. Churchill for his information, and withdraws their paper on this subject.

Truman: Iran is the next subject on our agenda.

Stalin: The British proposals are based on the assumption that the term for Allied troops in Iran has expired. We proceed on the contrary assumption. The term expires only after the war with Japan. Nevertheless, the Soviets accept the first paragraph of the British proposal, that troops should be immediately withdrawn from Tehran.

Truman: We would be willing to withdraw at any time, but we have vast quantities of supplies to protect.

Stalin: The Russian delegation has no objection to American and British troops in Tehran, but our troops will be withdrawn.

Truman: We have no troops in Tehran.

Stalin: We would not object, but let us withdraw from Tehran.

Churchill: We would like the movement to continue. We promised to go out. We would like the other two phases to proceed.

Stalin: I think we still have time to think. The treaty says six months after all hostilities with Germany and her associates. That implies Japan.

Churchill: Shall we agree to withdraw from Tehran now, and look at the problem again in September, when the council of Foreign Ministers meets?

Truman: We will be out in sixty days. We need the troops and supplies in Japan.

Stalin: Of course, the United States has the right to do so. We promise you that no action will be taken by us against Iran.

(Field Marshal Alexander arrives, and is greeted by Marshal Stalin and President Truman).

Churchill: We are unable to undertake the feeding of the population in our zone in Vienna. We suggest Russia continue to feed this zone until more permanent arrangements can be worked out.

Alexander: There are 500 thousand Viennese to be fed. I have not the food to send from Italy. The reserves available will not last three weeks. So if we undertake to feed, the food must come from the United States.

Truman: There are 375 thousand in our zone.

Stalin: Let me have a talk with Marshal [Konev].5 The situation does not appear to us to be so bad, and I will let you know tonight or tomorrow.

Churchill: I thank the Marshal.

[Page 317]

Stalin: It will be a good thing if the American and British governments would allow the Renner government to extend its authority to their zones. This need not imply recognition. This will facilitate the distribution of food.

Truman: We will be glad to consider this.

Churchill: We also.

Churchill: Field Marshal Alexander will give the figures of our troops in Greece.

Stalin: The Prime Minister has given the figures, and his figures cannot be impugned.

Churchill: My memory may have been bad.

Alexander: 40 thousand.

Stalin: The Prime Minister’s figures cannot be impugned.

Churchill: We must leave Wednesday at lunch-time, and will [be] back in the evening of the 27th; so we would suggest a morning session Wednesday, and we will be back for the Friday session.

I also suggest the Foreign Secretaries continue to meet with Sir Alexander Cadogan, acting as Eden’s Deputy.

Truman: That is satisfactory.

  1. For the documents referred to in these notes, see the footnotes to the minutes, supra.
  2. The Cohen notes read “Quas and Ardhandheim (???)”. The correct place names supplied from the minutes, ante, p. 302.
  3. The words in brackets have been inserted on the basis of the minutes, ante, p. 303.
  4. The minutes say Tehran; cf. ante, p. 305.
  5. Name supplied from the minutes, ante, p. 310.