The Department of State to the British Embassy



As suggested by Mr. Eden in his telegram to Lord Halifax dated December 19, 1944,1 a copy of which has been handed to the Department, instructions have been sent to Mr. Patterson, the American Ambassador to Yugoslavia, authorizing him to inform King Peter of certain observations which the Department has made regarding the proposed agreement between Dr. Subasic and Marshal Tito looking toward the formation of a new Yugoslav Government.

Mr. Patterson has been requested to inform King Peter that the Department has examined with attention the series of documents embodying the new proposals, and that the principles enunciated in these documents, taken as a whole, are in general accord with those to which this Government subscribes both in its dealings with other governments and in the particular relations connected with the conduct of the war. At the same time he should indicate that since so much will depend on the good will, mutual respect, and cooperation with which the personalities who may be designated to conduct the affairs of the new Government approach their admittedly difficult problems, this Government would not undertake to express an opinion as to the prospects for securing an effective and loyal implementation of the principles set forth in the agreements. As regards the general American attitude he has been authorized to say that his Government has consistently defended the rights of the various peoples of Yugoslavia to work out their forms of government without the exercise of foreign influences or the imposition of the rule of any one national or political group within the country over other elements.

Mr. Patterson has also been informed that the Department feels that he should not enter into discussion concerning the particulars of the agreement and its supplementary texts, both because of the general nature of the language used and the technicalities of Yugoslav law which may be involved as, for example, in the project for a Regency and the provisions for elections. In the Department’s opinion it would not be appropriate to discuss these matters since they involve a decision to be made by the King and the Yugoslav authorities themselves, taking into account the realities of the situation in Yugoslavia, the good will of the parties involved, and the King’s conception of his responsibilities to his people.

Since Mr. Eden has expressed an interest in the Department’s reaction to the proposed basis of settlement, in view of the conversations [Page 256] which Mr. Churchill and Mr. Eden intend to have with King Peter, the following additional observations may be useful in outlining the attitude of this Government toward the questions now in discussion.

As for the terms of the proposed agreement, it may be said in amplification of the observations communicated to Mr. Patterson as set forth above, that the language of the texts is so vague that the real test would seem to be an evaluation of the good will of the parties to the agreement. Stripped of its generalities the agreement provides for a thoroughgoing recording of administrative, legislative, electoral and institutional procedures, in which one group, even though it may be the strongest in the country, would have practically complete and exclusive power. The gesture toward the Government in exile, in the person of Dr. Subasic, seems hardly more than a concession considered sufficient to acquire recognition by other Governments, on grounds of an apparent continuity.

While provision is made for the representation of various parties and national groups, there is no indication of any change in Tito’s present requirement that all must belong to the Liberation Front. Arrangements for the elections for the proposed Constituent Assembly will be made in accordance with a law “which will be enacted in good time”; meanwhile the anti-Fascist Council will exercise legislative powers and the Government, composed almost entirely of Partisan representatives, will organize the executive powers and the judiciary. Considerable significance attaches also to the provisions concerning the right of suffrage, or to hold office. A misuse of the broad authority implicit in these provisions might well serve to circumvent democratic processes of government.

Account must be taken of course of the actualities of the situation. The Partisan organization appears in fact to be in effective control of the liberated parts of Yugoslavia. Its present armed strength, the presence of Soviet armies under a formal agreement with Marshal Tito, and the political support of the British and Soviet Governments, over a period of many months, have created a situation in which the Partisan leaders have taken advantage of their achievements in guerrilla warfare for the creation of a powerful political organization. It is comprehensible that among a ravaged and demoralized people who have lost faith in their leadership abroad this movement should have found at least temporary popular acceptance, and its opponents for the time being are reduced to sullen impotence. Thus, the Partisan political program, including such radical innovations as the reorganization of the State as composed of “six nations”, with perhaps even the eventual addition of Bulgaria, appears to be taken as a matter of course, though the implications are of fundamental importance to the political organization of Southeastern Europe.

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This Government has consistently defended the rights of the various peoples of Yugoslavia to work out their own forms of Government without the exercise of any foreign influence or the imposition of the rule of any one national or political group within the country, even though claiming majority support, over other elements. It has favored the extension of military aid to those resistance forces actively engaged against the Germans, without political distinction, and has avoided giving political support to either the nationalists or the Partisans. It deplores the cleavages and controversies which have taken place within Yugoslavia amounting at times to active civil war, and between the Yugoslavs at home and their representatives abroad. It thinks that many of these problems are an outgrowth of the diverse national and social elements, and exposure to the stress and hardships of war conditions, and that the desire for democratic government is today general in the country, and not the monopoly of any one group or party.

As forces within the country assume a greater share of responsibility in the Government it is the hope of this Government that genuine efforts will be made to assemble representatives with sound claim to speak for the broad masses of the population, to consider, without other influence, the relations among various elements in Yugoslavia and their respective projects of governmental reform.

In evaluating the problems now present the Department has given some thought to the fact that the Soviet and British Governments have acted as advisers in the negotiations between Prime Minister Subasic and Marshal Tito. It is not clear to what extent these discussions may be related to understandings between the British and Soviet Governments with regard to their respective interests or operations in Southeastern Europe. At the time the British Embassy informed the Department of the joint messages sent by Mr. Eden and Mr. Molotov to Dr. Subasic and Marshal Tito, and requested an indication of this Government’s approval of the projected arrangements, Mr. Hull replied that since this Government had not been informed of the nature of the proposed solutions of the Yugoslav problems then in discussion it could hardly undertake to become associated with recommendations regarding the negotiations. At the stage to which the matter has meanwhile advanced, as indicated by the arrangements for the forthcoming conversations of the British Prime Minister and Mr. Eden with King Peter to bring about a definitive solution, the Department therefore feels that the exercise of its influence, except as set forth above, would involve responsibilities which this Government considers it should not take in the circumstances, as regards decisions by which the future of Yugoslavia may be so vitally affected.

E. R. Stettinius, Jr.
  1. Not printed.