Matthews Files

Matthews Minutes 1
top secret

The President asked Mr. Eden to read the report of the meeting of the foreign ministers for today. This was followed by a lengthy discussion with respect to the world organization. Notes on this part of the session are being written by Mr. Hiss.

President: Has Mr. Molotov had time to read the proposal I have made with regard to Poland?

Stalin : I have received it.

President: Just to make it clear let me read it. (President reads the proposal. Copy attached.)2

Stalin : Does this mean that you would withdraw recognition from the London government?

President: Yes.

Prime Minister: (Explains that with the recognition of a new interim government recognition would be transferred from the London government to that regime.)

Stalin : What about the property of the London government?

President: That automatically would go to the new government.

Prime Minister: I had prepared an alternate suggestion but since discussion has already begun on the President’s proposal I would rather continue on that.

Molotov : I should like to make a few remarks on the proposal of the President and the Prime Minister. Our proposal of yesterday came from a concrete foundation. We think it would be useful to have discussions on the Polish question on the basis of the present government being extended. We cannot ignore that fact—that the present government exists at Warsaw. It is now at the head of the Polish people and has great authority. It has been enthusiastically [received] by the Polish people. If we put forward a proposal to ignore this fact we might be placed in a position where the Poles themselves could not agree. If we start on the basis that the present government could be enlarged, the basis of probable success is more secure. Those now in the provisional government are closely connected with great national events taking place in Poland. This is not true of Mikolajczyk, Grabski, Romer and Witos. Those names are not linked with decisive events in Poland. If we wish to reach a practical end we must take as the basis that the present government be enlarged. How many and who should be taken in is the question to be discussed by us. There may be differences but in any event it depends [Page 787] upon the Poles now working in liberated Poland. The President proposes a new thought, namely agreement not only on the government but on a presidential commission. I have some doubts on that. I am afraid instead of one we will then have two difficult problems—that of the government and that of the presidential committee. This will increase our difficulties not decrease them. There is a national council, a representative body of Poland which could also be enlarged. We could discuss how this could be done. It would be better to talk on the basis of the existing situation and then how to improve it. Therefore, my conclusions are how to enlarge and by what basis the national council. The national council and government are temporary and provisional. All three proposals have one end in view, namely to secure as soon as possible free elections. That is the best way to build up stable rule in Poland which we all consider of fundamental importance. On the frontier question with regard to the east, we are in complete agreement. On the west there is no unanimous feeling. But I know that the Poles and the Polish government are definitely in favor of a frontier on the Neisse River. Of course we can ask them but I have not the slightest doubt of their desire. Also about holding negotiations in Moscow between myself, Harriman and Clark Kerr, I think there is full agreement.

The Poles usually select three people, Bierut, Osobka-Morawski and General Yelinski [ Rola-Żymierski? ]. Usually all three take part. Then there are those to be invited from the other side whom the President proposed yesterday. With some people the provisional government would not like to talk at all, for instance Mikolajczyk. Since his visit to Moscow relations have greatly deteriorated. The President proposed to invite two of the five mentioned. I agree that two of the five should be invited. If three of the provisional government, one I have mentioned and two of those mentioned in the President’s letter be invited, negotiations could be started. That is my proposal.

President: I should like to keep the presidential committee and then there is the question of election.

Molotov : It would be better to avoid the presidential committee and to enlarge the national council. I think the two ambassadors and I could discuss how to enlarge the council. Any proposals to be finally adopted by the committee of three would of course be submitted to the three governments. My remarks have been addressed to the American proposal since the Prime Minister agreed to this.

Prime Minister: Of course we are at the crucial point of this great conference. This is the question for which the world is waiting. If we accept that each recognize separate governments this will be interpreted all over the world as a sign of cleavage between the Soviet [Page 788] government on the one hand and the U. S. and British governments on the other. The consequences would be most lamentable in the world and would stamp the conference as a failure. On the other hand, I take a different view about the basic facts on some of them. According to our information, the present Lublin, now Warsaw, government does not commend itself to the vast majority of the Polish people. We feel that it is not accepted abroad as representative. If we were to brush away the London government and lend all our weight to the Lublin government there would be a world outcry. As far as we can see, the Poles outside Poland would make a united protest. We have an army of 150 thousand Poles who are fighting bravely. That army would not be reconciled to Lublin. It would regard our action in transferring recognition as a betrayal. As Molotov and the Marshal know, I do not agree with the London government’s action. They have been very foolish. But the formal act of transfer of recognition to a new government would cause the very Gravest criticism. It would be said that the British government had given away completely on the eastern frontier and had accepted the Soviet view. It would be said that we have broken altogether with the lawful government of Poland which we have recognized during the five years of war. It would be said that we have no knowledge of conditions in Poland. We cannot enter the country and must accept the statements of the Lublin government. Therefore, it would be charged in London that we are forsaking the cause of Poland. Debates would follow in Parliament which would be most painful and embarrassing to unity of the allies if we were to agree. The proposals of Mr. Molotov do not go nearly far enough. If we give up the Poles in London it should be for a new start on both sides, more or less on equal terms. Before His Majesty’s Government could leave its present position on continuing recognition of the London Government we would have to be satisfied that the new government was fairly representative of the Polish nation. I agree that this can be only a view because we do not know the facts. Our doubts would be removed by elections with full secret ballot and free candidacies to be held in Poland. But it is the transfer before then which is causing so much anxiety to us. That is all I have to say.

Molotov : Perhaps the discussions in Moscow will have a useful result. It is difficult to consider the Polish question without the presence of Poles.

Prime Minister: It is frightfully important that this conference separate on a note of agreement. We must struggle precisely for that.

President: From another hemisphere I should like to say that we are agreed on free elections. The only problem is how to govern in the meantime for a relatively few months.

[Page 789]

Stalin : The Prime Minister complains that he has no real information and no means to receive it.

Prime Minister: Certain information but—

Stalin : It does not coincide with ours. I think Great Britain and the United States can have their own sources of information there whenever they like. What is the basis of the popularity of the provisional government? I can assure you that these people are really very popular. Bierut and Osobka-Morawski and General Rola-Zymierski—They are the people who did not leave Poland. They have come from the underground. We should bear in mind the peculiar mentality of those who live under occupation. The Polish people consider these three as those who stayed. It may be that Arczieczeski has in his government clever people but they are not liked in Poland because during the time of stress they did not seek the underground. Perhaps this attitude is a little primitive but it must be taken into consideration. What troubles the Polish people? It is a great consolation that their country has been liberated by the Red Army. This has completely changed their psychology. The Poles for many years have not liked Russia because Russia took part in three partitions of Poland. But the advance of the Soviet Army and the liberation of Poland from Hitler has completely changed that. The old resentment has completely disappeared. Now there is good will toward Russia. It is natural that the Polish people are delighted to see the Germans flee their country and to feel themselves liberated. My impression is that the Polish people consider this a great historic holiday. The population is surprised, even astounded, that the people of the London government do not take any part in this liberation. Members of the provisional government they see there, but where are the London Poles? These two circumstances produce the fact that the members of the Warsaw government, though they may not be great men, enjoy great popularity. Cannot we take account of this fact? We cannot ignore it—the feelings of the Polish people. You are afraid also that we may separate before agreement. We have different information and have reached different conclusions. Perhaps to begin with we should call the Poles of the two different camps to hear them and learn from them. We are agreed to the fact that the Polish government must be democratically elected. It is much better to have a government based on free elections. But until now the war has prevented elections. The day for them is near but until then we must deal with the provisional government. It is like that of de Gaulle who is also not elected. Who is more popular, de Gaulle or Bierut? We have considered it possible to deal with de Gaulle and make treaties with him. Why not deal with an enlarged Polish provisional government? We cannot demand more of Poland [Page 790] than of France. So far the French government has not carried out any reforms to create enthusiasm. The Polish government has carried out a great reform which gives it great popularity. If we approve this government without prejudice we can find a solution. We will not attach too much importance to secondary matters and concentrate on the primary ones. It is better to reconstruct than to create a new government. Molotov is right. We could not talk about a presidential committee without Poles. Perhaps they would agree. But as a result of their amour propre and feelings, the prestige of the provisional government is greatly increased. If we do not talk to them they would accuse us of being occupiers and not liberators.

President: How long before elections could be held?

Stalin : In about one month unless there is a catastrophe on the front and the Germans defeat us. (smiling) I do not think this will happen.

Prime Minister: Free elections would of course settle the worries of the British government at least. That would supersede at a stroke all questions of legality. Of course, we must not ask anything that would impair military operations But if it is possible to learn the opinion of the population in Poland in one or even two months no one could object.

President: That is why it is worth pursuing the subject. I move that we adjourn our talks until tomorrow. I suggest that meanwhile the matter be referred to the three foreign secretaries. They are very effective.

Molotov : The other two will outvote me. (laughing)

Prime Minister: I have one bit of business before we separate. It would be a great advantage if we could set up permanent measures for consultation of the foreign secretaries. I think they should meet every three or four months to clear up difficulties between us.

President: I think the idea is O. K. but my foreign secretary has all South America to take care of too. I think we should make it as often as necessary rather than a specific period.

Prime Minister: I should also like to suggest that the first meeting be held in London. (This was agreed to)

Stalin : I have two small questions to raise. First the fact that the formation of the new united government in Yugoslavia has been delayed. I should like to know why. Also there are all sorts of rumors with regard to Greece. I have no criticism to make but I should like to know what is going on.

Prime Minister: It would take too long to talk about Greece now. I could talk about it for hours. As for Yugoslavia the King has been persuaded, indeed forced, to sign agreement with regard to the regency. Subasic and the other members of the government leave for [Page 791] Belgrade any day now. They are merely held up by weather delays. My policy has never varied as I have stated in the House. If the King makes trouble we must take care of it. But he has signed I understand the regency act and Subasic is going out to Belgrade immediately. I am hopeful that peace will come on the basis of amnesty but they hate each other so much that they cannot keep their hands off each other in Yugoslavia.

Stalin : (Smiling) They are not yet accustomed to discussions. Instead they cut each others throats. I notice that Tito also seems to be very popular in the country.

Prime Minister: I invited Sir Walter Citrine to go out with five trade unionists but I have not yet seen their report. I believe that he had a rather rough time. I thank the Marshal for his help.

Stalin : On Greece I only wanted to know for information. We have no intention of intervening there in any way.

The meeting adjourned.

  1. For citations to pertinent documents, see the preceding Bohlen minutes of this meeting.
  2. Not attached, but see post, pp. 792793.