Bohlen Collection

Bohlen Minutes
top secret


World Security Organization.
The Polish Question.

World Security Organization

The President inquired whether the committee of Foreign Ministers had anything to report to the Conference.

Mr. Stettinius said it had been decided to insert the word “dismemberment” of Germany into Article 12 of the unconditional surrender terms, but that Mr. Molotov had had some additional phrases which he wished to see put in.

Mr. Molotov replied that he was withdrawing his proposed additional words.

Mr. Stettinius then said that they could report full agreement to insert the word “dismemberment” into Article 12 of the surrender terms but that they would like to have some more time before reporting on reparations and the relationship of the French zone to the control commission.

The Prime Minister said that he had not had an opportunity to obtain the consent of the War Cabinet to the proposed insertion but that he was glad to accept on the behalf of the British Government the decision on this point. He went on to say that in regard to the French zone he felt that the importance of France in the future had been enhanced by the limitation which the President yesterday had placed on the length of time United States forces might stay in Europe. He said that Great Britain would not be strong enough alone to guard the Western approaches to the Channel.

The President said that he had spoken on the basis of present conditions and he felt public opinion in the United States would be prepared to support an international organization along the lines of Dumbarton Oaks and that this might change their attitude in regard [Page 661]to the question of troops. The President then added that he felt the Conference should now proceed to the consideration of the United States proposal in regard to Dumbarton Oaks. He felt strongly that all the nations of the world shared a common desire to see the elimination of war for at least fifty years. He said he was not so optimistic as to believe in eternal peace, but he did believe fifty years of peace were feasible and possible. He said that since neither he, Marshal Stalin, nor the Prime Minister had been present at Dumbarton Oaks he would ask the Secretary of State (Mr. Stettinius) who had been chairman of that conference to explain the United States position on the question of voting in the Security Council.1

Mr. Stettinius then read the following statement of the American position on voting in the Council:2

“1. Review of Status of this Question.

“It was agreed at Dumbarton Oaks that certain matters would remain under consideration for future settlement. Of these, the principal one was that of voting procedure to be followed in the Security Council.

“At Dumbarton Oaks, the three Delegations thoroughly explored the whole question. Since that time the matter has received continuing intensive study by each of the three Governments.

“On December 5, 1944, the President sent to Marshal Stalin and to Prime Minister Churchill a proposal that this matter be settled by making Section C, Chapter VI of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals read substantially as follows:

  • ‘C. Voting
  • ‘1. Each member of the Security Council should have one vote.
  • ‘2. Decisions of the Security Council on procedural matters should be made by an affirmative vote of seven members.
  • ‘3. Decisions of the Security Council on all other matters should be made by an affirmative vote of seven members including the concurring votes of the permanent members: provided that, in decisions under Chapter VIII, Section A and under the second sentence of paragraph 1 of Chapter VIII, Section C, a party to a dispute should abstain from voting.’

“2. Analysis of the American Proposal.

“(a) We believe that our proposal is entirely consistent with the special responsibilities of the great powers for the preservation of the peace of the world. In this respect our proposal calls for unqualified unanimity of the permanent members of the Council on all major decisions relating to the preservation of peace, including all economic and military enforcement measures.

“(b) At the same time our proposal recognizes the desirability of the permanent members frankly stating that the peaceful adjustment of any controversy which may arise is a matter of general world interest in which any sovereign member state involved should have a right to present its case.

“We believe that unless this freedom of discussion in the Council is permitted, the establishment of the World Organization which we [Page 662]all so earnestly desire in order to save the world from the tragedy of another war would be seriously jeopardized. Without full and free discussion in the Council, the Organization, even if it could be established, would be vastly different from the one we have contemplated.

“The paper which we have placed before the other two delegations3 sets forth the text of the provisions which I have read and lists specifically those decisions of the Council which, under our proposals, would require unqualified unanimity and, separately, those matters in the area of discussion and peaceful settlement in which any party to a dispute would abstain from casting a vote.

“3. Reasons for the American Position.

“From the point of view of the United States Government there are two important elements in the matter of voting procedure,

“First, there is the necessity for unanimity among the permanent members for the preservation of the peace of the world.

“Second, it is of particular importance to the people of the United States, that there be provision for a fair hearing for all members of the organization, large and small.

“We believe that the proposals submitted by the President to Marshal Stalin and Prime Minister Churchill on December 5 of last year4 provide a reasonable and just solution and satisfactorily combine these two main considerations.

“It is our earnest hope that our two great Allies will find it possible to accept the President’s proposal.”

The President suggested that the Secretary of State (Mr. Stettinius) might usefully analyze the effect of the United States proposal on the decisions in the Council.

Mr. Stettinius reported as follows:5

  • “II. Analysis of effect of above formula on principal substantive decisions on which the Security Council would have to vote.
  • “Under the above formula the following decisions would require the affirmative votes of seven members of the Security Council including the votes of all the permanent members:
    • “I. Recommendations to the General Assembly on
      • “1. Admission of new members;
      • “2. Suspension of a member;
      • “3. Expulsion of a member;
      • “4. Election of the Secretary General.
    • “II. Restoration of the rights and privileges of a suspended member.
    • “III. Removal of threats to the peace and suppression of breaches of the peace, including the following questions:
      • “1. Whether failure on the part of the parties to a dispute to settle it by means of their own choice or in accordance with the recommendations of the Security Council in fact constitutes a threat to the peace;
      • “2. Whether any other actions on the part of any country constitute a threat to the peace or a breach of the peace;
      • “3. What measures should be taken by the Council to maintain or restore the peace and the manner in which such measures should be carried out;
      • “4. Whether a regional agency should be authorized to take measures of enforcement.
    • “IV. Approval of special agreement or agreements for the provision of armed forces and facilities.
    • “V. Formulation of plans for a general system of regulation of armaments and submission of such plans to the member states.
    • “VI. Determination of whether the nature and the activities of a regional agency or arrangement for the maintenance of peace and security are consistent with the purposes and principles of the general organization.
  • “The following decisions relating to peaceful settlement of disputes would also require the affirmative votes of seven members of the Security Council including the votes of all the permanent members, except that a member of the Council would not cast its vote in any such decisions that concern disputes to which it is a party:
    • “I. Whether a dispute or a situation brought to the Council’s attention is of such a nature that its continuation is likely to threaten the peace;
    • “II. Whether the Council should call on the parties to settle or adjust the dispute or situation by means of their own choice;
    • “III. Whether the Council should make a recommendation to the parties as to methods and procedures of settlement;
    • “IV. Whether the legal aspects of the matter before it should be referred by the Council for advice to the international court of justice;
    • “V. Whether, if there exists a regional agency for peaceful settlement of local disputes, such an agency should be asked to concern itself with the controversy.”

Marshal Stalin inquired what was new in Mr. Stettinius, statement that had not been included in the President’s message of December 5, 1944.

The President replied that there had been no change of any significance.

Mr. Stettinius said that there had been a minor drafting change (this minor change was explained to Mr. Molotov by Mr. Bohlen on the document).

Mr. Molotov said that the Soviet Government attached great importance to the question of voting in the Security Council and, therefore, he wished to study the United States proposal and in particular the effect of the drafting change and would be ready to discuss the question tomorrow.

The Prime Minister stated that the British Government had given the most careful consideration to the United States proposals. [Page 664]He had not agreed with the original proposals made at Dumbarton Oaks since he was anxious that the realities of the situation of the Three Great Powers should be considered, but in studying the President’s latest proposal his anxieties on that score had been removed. He could thus say that on behalf of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the Empire and, he believed, the Self-Governing Dominions the President’s new proposals were entirely satisfactory. He said that in the last resort world peace depended on the friendship and cooperation of the three Governments, but that the British Government would consider that they were committing an injustice if reservation were not made for free statement of then grievances by small countries. The matter looks as though the Three Great Powers were trying to rule the world, whereas, our desires are to save the world and save it from a repetition of the horrors of this war. He said he felt that the Three Major Powers should make a proud submission. He said that he had looked into the whole matter as it would affect British interests and would give an illustration of why the British Government does not think the President’s proposal would bring any harm to British interests. He said, for example, if China should raise the question of the return of Hongkong under the President’s proposal, both China and Great Britain would be precluded from voting in regard to the methods of settlement of this controversy, as listed in the five points of the analysis read by Mr. Stettinius. In the last analysis Great Britain would be protected against any decision adverse to her interests by the exercise of the veto power under paragraph 3 of Mr. Stettinius’ analysis.

Marshal Stalin inquired whether or not Egypt, for example, would be on the assembly.

Mr. Eden replied “yes, but not on the Council unless elected.”

Marshal Stalin then said suppose Egypt raised the question of the return of the Suez Canal.

The Prime Minister replied that he hoped that Marshal Stalin would let him finish his illustration in regard to Hongkong.

The Prime Minister said that under paragraph 3 of Mr. Stettinius’ analysis Great Britain would in fact have the right by their veto to stop all action against Great Britain by the Council of the World Organization. He, therefore, felt that it would not be necessary for Great Britain to agree to any decision contrary to her own interests and, for example, Great Britain would not be required to return Hongkong unless they felt that this should be done. China should, however, have the right to speak and the same considerations would apply to Egypt if that country had a complaint in regard to the Suez Canal. He concluded that he felt that insofar as the United States was concerned the same considerations would also apply. [Page 665]For example, in the event that Argentina raised a complaint against the United States.

The President then said that he recalled that in the Tehran Declaration the Three Powers had stated:

“We recognize fully the supreme responsibility resting upon us and all the nations to make a peace which will command good will from the overwhelming masses of the peoples of the world. . . .6

The President added that he thought this Declaration was pertinent to the discussion in progress.

The Prime Minister said that since he saw no reason to fear the United States proposals he was glad to associate the British Government with them. He added that because of our great power, which is still protected by the veto if we do not agree, we should allow others to be heard.

Marshal Stalin said that he would like to have this document to study, since only hearing it orally it was impossible to catch all of the implications. He said that the Dumbarton Oaks proposals already give the right of discussion in the assembly, but he did not believe that any nation would be satisfied with expressing its opinion. They would want some decision. He said that if Mr. Churchill thought that China after raising the question of Hongkong would be satisfied with merely expressing her opinion, he was mistaken since China would want a decision. The same was true of Egypt in the possible question of the Suez Canal. He added that it was not a question of one power or three powers desiring to be masters of the world since he felt that the Dumbarton Oaks organization put a brake on that. He said that he would like to ask for further clarification on what powers Mr. Churchill had in mind when he spoke of a desire to rule the world. He said that he was sure Great Britain had no such desire, nor did the United States and that that left only the U. S. S. R.

The Prime Minister replied that he had spoken of the three Great Powers who could collectively place themselves so high over the others that the whole world would say these three desired to rule.

Marshal Stalin then said ironically that it looks as though two Great Powers have already accepted a document which would avoid any such accusation but that the third has not yet signified its assent. He then went on to say that in his opinion there was a more serious question than the voting procedure or the question of the domination of the world. They all knew that as long as the three of them lived none of them would involve their countries in aggressive actions, but after all, ten years from now none of them might be present. A new generation would come into being not knowing the horrors of the [Page 666]present war. He felt that there was, therefore, an obligation to create for the future generation such an organization as would secure peace for at least fifty years. He said the main thing was to prevent quarrels in the future between the three Great Powers and that the task, therefore, was to secure their unity for the future. The covenant of the new World Organization should have this as its primary task. He said the greatest danger was conflict between the three Great Powers represented here, but that if unity could be preserved there was little danger of the renewal of German aggression. He said, therefore, a covenant must be worked out which would prevent conflicts between the three Great Powers. Marshal Stalin apologized for not having had an opportunity for studying in detail the Dumbarton Oaks proposals. He said he had been busy on other matters. He said that as he understood it, there were two categories of disputes involved in Mr. Stettinius’ explanation: (1) conflicts which would require the application of sanctions, economic, political or military, and (2) conflicts which could be settled by peaceful means. He said in regard to the first the permanent members had a right to vote even if they were parties to such disputes. Under the second category, however, in conflicts susceptible to settlement by peaceful means, the parties in dispute would not be allowed to vote. He added that we Russians were being accused of spending too much time on the technique of voting, which he admitted. But they attached great importance to this question since all decisions were made by votes and they were interested in the decisions, not in the discussions. He said, for example, if China or Egypt raised complaints against England they would not be without friends or protectors in the assembly.

Both the Prime Minister and Mr. Stettinius pointed out that under the United States proposal the power of the World Organization could not be directed against any of the permanent members.

Marshal Stalin said that he was afraid that any conflict might break the unity of our united front.

The Prime Minister replied that he saw the force of that argument, but he did not believe that the world organization would eliminate disputes between powers and that would remain the function of diplomacy.

Marshal Stalin said that his colleagues in Moscow could not forget the events of December 1939 during the Finnish war when at the instigation of England and France the League of Nations expelled the Soviet Union from the League and mobilized world opinion against the Soviet Union, even going so far as to speak of a crusade.

The Prime Minister answered that at that time the British and French Governments were very angry at the Soviet Union and in any [Page 667]event any such action was impossible under the Dumbarton Oaks proposals.

Marshal Stalin said he was not thinking of expulsion but of the question of the mobilization of opinion against one country.

The Prime Minister answered that he thought this might happen to any nation, but he doubted very much if either the President or Marshal Stalin would lead a savage attack against Great Britain and he felt this applied also to the other two countries.

The President then said that he felt that the unity of the Great Powers was one of our first aims and that the United States policy promoted rather than impaired this aim. He said that should there unfortunately be any differences between the Great Powers, and there might well be, this fact would become fully known to the world no matter what voting procedure was adopted. In any event, there was no method of preventing discussions of differences in the assembly. He said that full and friendly discussions in the Council would in no sense promote disunity, but on the contrary, would serve to demonstrate the confidence which the Great Powers had in each other and in the justice of their own policies.

The Polish Question

The President inquired whether the Polish question should be taken up now or postponed until the next meeting.

The Prime Minister said that he hoped that at least a start could be made today.

The President said that the United States was farther away from Poland than anyone else here, and that there were times when a long distance point of view was useful. He said that at Tehran he had stated that he believed the American people were in general favorably inclined to the Curzon Line as the eastern frontier of Poland, but he felt that if the Soviet Government would consider a concession in regard to Lwow and the oil deposits in the Province of Lwow that would have a very salutary effect. He said that he was merely putting forth this suggestion for consideration and would not insist on it. He said that in regard to the government he wished to see the creation of a representative government which could have the support of all the great powers and which could be composed of representatives of the principal parties of Poland. He said one possibility which had been suggested was the creation of a Presidential Council composed of Polish leaders which could then create a government composed of the chiefs of the five political parties—Workers Party, Peasant Party, Socialist Party, etc. He said that one thing must be made certain and that was that Poland should maintain the most friendly and cooperative relations with the Soviet Union.

[Page 668]

Marshal Stalin replied that Poland should maintain friendly relations not only with the Soviet Union but with the other Allies.

The President said he had merely put forth a suggestion but he thought if we could solve the Polish question it would be a great help to all of us. He added he didn’t know personally any members of the London government or Lublin government, but he had met Mr. Mikolajczyk who had made a deep impression on him as a sincere and an honest man.

The Prime Minister said that he had consistently declared in Parliament and elsewhere that the British Government would support the Curzon Line, even leaving Lwow to the Soviet Union. He had been criticized for this and so had Mr. Eden, but he felt that after the burdens which Russia had borne in this war the Curzon Line was not a decision of force but one of right. He said he remained in that position. Of course, he added, if the mighty Soviet Union could make some gesture to the much weaker country, such as the relinquishment of Lwow, this act of magnanimity would be acclaimed and admired. He said he was much more interested in sovereignty and independence of Poland than in the frontier line—he wanted to see the Poles have a home where they could organize their lives as they wished. That was an objective that he had often heard Marshal Stalin proclaim most firmly, and he put his trust in those declarations. He said that he therefore had not considered the question of the frontier as a question of vital importance. It must not be forgotten, however, that Great Britain had gone to war to protect Poland against German aggression at a time when that decision was most risky, and it had almost cost them their life in the world. He said Great Britain had no material interest in Poland, but the question was one of honor and that his government would therefore never be content with a solution which did not leave Poland a free and independent state. The freedom of Poland, however, did not cover any hostile designs or intrigue against the U. S. S. R., and none of us should permit this. It is the earnest desire of the British Government that Poland be mistress in her own house and captain of her soul. He said that the British Government recognized the present Polish government in London but did not have intimate contact with it. He said he had known Mr. Mikolajczyk, Mr. Grabski and Mr. Romer and had found them good and honest men. He inquired whether there might be some possibility of forming a government here for Poland which would utilize these men. If this could be done all the great powers could then recognize it as an interim government until such time as the Poland government [Polish people?] by free vote could select and form their own government. He concluded by saying he was interested in the President’s suggestion.

[Page 669]

At the suggestion of Marshal Stalin, there was a ten-minute intermission.

Marshal Stalin then gave the following summary of his views on the Polish question: Mr. Churchill had said that for Great Britain the Polish question was one of honor and that he understood, but for the Russians it was a question both of honor and security. It was one of honor because Russia had many past grievances against Poland and desired to see them eliminated. It was a question of strategic security not only because Poland was a bordering country but because throughout history Poland had been the corridor for attack on Russia. We have to mention that during the last thirty years Germany twice has passed through this corridor. The reason for this was that Poland was weak. Russia wants a strong, independent and democratic Poland. Since it was impossible by the force of Russian armies alone to close from the outside this corridor, it could be done only by Poland’s own forces. It was very important, therefore, to have Poland independent, strong and democratic. It is not only a question of honor for Russia, but one of life and death. It was for this reason that there had been a great change from the policies of the Czars who had wished to suppress and assimilate Poland. In regard to the questions raised here on which we have different opinions, the following might be said:

In regard to the Curzon Line, concessions in regard to Lwow and the Lwow Province, and Mr. Churchill’s reference to a magnanimous act on our part, it is necessary to remind you that not Russians but Curzon and Clemenceau fixed this line. The Russians had not been invited and the line was established against their will. Lenin had opposed giving Bialystok Province to the Poles but the Curzon Line gives it to Poland. We have already retreated from Lenin’s position in regard to this province. Should we then be less Russian than Curzon and Clemenceau? We could not then return to Moscow and face the people who would say Stalin and Molotov have been less sure defenders of Russian interest than Curzon and Clemenceau. It is, therefore, impossible to agree with the proposed modification of the line. I would prefer to have the war go on although it will cost us blood in order to compensate for Poland from Germany. When he was in Moscow Mr. Mikolajczyk was delighted to hear that Poland’s frontier would extend to the West Neisse River and I favor the Polish frontier on the West Neisse and ask the conference to support this proposal.

As to the question of the Polish government, Mr. Churchill has said it would be good to create a Polish government here. I am afraid that was a slip of the tongue, for without participation of the Poles it is impossible to create a Polish government. I am called a dictator and not a democrat, but I have enough democratic feeling to refuse [Page 670]to create a Polish government without the Poles being consulted— the question can only be settled with the consent of the Poles. Last autumn in Moscow there was a good chance for a fusion of the various Polish elements and in the meeting between Mikolajczyk, Grabski and Lublin Poles various points of agreement were reached as Mr. Churchill will remember. Mikolajczyk left for London but did not return since he was expelled from office precisely because he wanted agreement. Artieszewski [ Arciszewski ] and Raskiewiycz [ Raczkiewicz ] are not only against agreement but are hostile to any idea of an agreement. Artieszewski has characterized the Lublin Poles as bandits and criminals and they naturally pay him back in the same coin. It will be difficult to bring them together. The Warsaw Poles, Bierut and Osubka Morawski, do not even want to talk about any fusion with the London government. I asked them what concessions they might make in this respect and they said they could tolerate Jelikowski [ Zeligowski ] or Grabski but they do not even want to hear about Mikolajczyk being prime minister. I am prepared to support any attempt to reach a solution that would offer some [chance] of success. Should we ask the Warsaw Poles to come here or perhaps come to Moscow? I must say that the Warsaw government has a democratic base equal at least to that of de Gaulle.

As a military man I demand from a country liberated by the Red Army that there be no civil war in the rear. The men in the Red Army are indifferent to the type of government as long as it will maintain order and they will not be shot in the back. The Warsaw, or Lublin, government has not badly fulfilled this task. There are, however, agents of the London government who claim to be agents of the underground forces of resistance. I must say that no good and much evil comes from these forces. Up to the present time they have killed 212 of our military men. They attack our supply bases to obtain arms. Although it has been proclaimed that all radio stations must be registered and obtain permission to operate, agents of the London government are violating these regulations. We have arrested some of them and if they continue to disturb our rear we will shoot them as military law requires. When I compare what the agents of the Lublin government have done and what the agents of the London government have done I see the first are good and the second bad. We want tranquility in our rear. We will support the government which gives us peace in the rear, and as a military man I could not do otherwise. Without a secure rear there can be no more victories for the Red Army. Any military man and even the non-military man will understand this situation.7

[Page 671]

The Prime Minister said that he must put on record the fact that the British and Soviet Governments have different sources of information in Poland and therefore they obtain different views of the situation there. He said it is possible that their reports are mistaken as it is not always possible to believe everything that anyone tells you. He believed, he added, that with the best of all their information he could not feel that the Lublin government represents more than one third of the people and would be maintained in power if the people were free to express their opinion. One of the reasons why the British have so earnestly sought a solution had been the fear that the Polish underground army would come into collision with the Lublin government, which would lead to great bloodshed, arrests and deportations which could not fail to have a bad effect on the whole Polish question. The Prime Minister said he agreed that anyone who attacks the Red Army should be punished, but he repeated that the British Government could not agree to recognizing the Lublin government of Poland.

The Conference then adjourned until four o’clock tomorrow.

  1. For two post-Yalta statements regarding this portion of the minutes, see post, pp. 994996.
  2. A copy of the document from which Stettinius read is printed post, pp. 682683.
  3. Post, pp. 684686.
  4. Ante, pp. 5859.
  5. A copy of the document from which Stettinius read at this point is printed post, pp. 684686.
  6. Points appear in the original.
  7. It appears that the note of Hopkins, post, p. 686, was passed to the President at some point during the foregoing statement by Stalin.