740.00119 Council/11–2745

Record of Trans-Atlantic Teletype Conference Between the Secretary of State and the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Bevin)31

[The Secretary of State:] Ernie, I hope that notwithstanding all the problems confronting us that you are all right. I want to talk with you about my message as to meeting in Moscow. Last Friday32 I recalled that the Berlin agreement provided that the Council of Foreign Ministers should not prevent a continuance of the meetings of Foreign Secretaries of the three governments represented there. While in London, I told Molotov that I hoped our next meeting could be held in Moscow. For many reasons I thought it advisable to meet there, therefore I immediately wired him to ascertain whether he would be willing to act as host to us. It was my thought that I could not well invite you to Moscow without knowing whether it would be agreeable to Molotov to have us come there. On Saturday afternoon I had not heard from him that it would be agreeable to have us there but I determined that I should let you know of my suggestion to him. I wanted to telephone you so that I could not only give you this explanation but also discuss the subject. Early Sunday morning I asked Halifax how to reach you but I was not successful and therefore wired you. On Monday I continued to try to reach you by telephone but could not do so. I simply want you to know my failure to send you a message at the same time I wired Molotov was because at that time I thought it proper that I should first ascertain whether he would be willing to act as our host. As I advised you in one of my messages since Saturday, it is my thought, if we can find it possible to reach an agreement as to a meeting and agree upon a date that the joint release should be agreed upon and issued simultaneously. How do you feel about it?

I agree with the views you have expressed as to the necessity for us exchanging views as to the policies to be discussed. As to Molotov [Page 583] being in London in January, it seems to be exceedingly important that before the United Nations Assembly meets you and Molotov and I should have a frank talk on several subjects. First of all I think that you and Mackenzie King33 and I should agree as to the proposal we are going to make to the Assembly with reference to the atomic bomb.33a When we agree I believe it wise that we should advise Molotov of our proposals. If we do not we are going to risk the success of the first meeting of the Assembly. I hope within a week to submit you what our views are and at the same time will submit them to Canada. You can then submit such views as you have on the subject. It is possible you are already prepared to do so. I hope this is true.

As for France and China, I think that it is entirely proper for us to meet in accordance with the agreement at Potsdam. As a matter of fact, it was Eden and Churchill who insisted that the Foreign Ministers Council should not prevent meeting of the Foreign Secretaries of Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union.

As to the Control Council for Japan, the attitude of the United States Government has not changed but we have as a result of communications with Molotov narrowed the issue and we proposed sending to him a statement which will be our last proposal on the subject. 1 will send you a copy.

Our attitude as to the Balkan countries has not changed and nothing has occurred that you have not been advised of.

As to the agenda, just as soon as we agree on the date I will forward to you and to Molotov the subjects we wish to have discussed and ask that you likewise suggest the subjects you desire placed on the agenda. At that time I will forward you a statement of our view on the subjects we suggest for the agenda. I repeat that I think it important that the conference should not be as formal as the London Council of Foreign Ministers Conference. My hope is that the three of us can meet to discuss the subject[s] that are now disturbing our relations and that we may have the opportunity of discussing them with Stalin as well as Molotov. It is important that we confer before the United Nations Assembly meets in January.

Of course I cannot furnish you a complete agenda. I will however wire you the subjects I suggest and our views on such subjects so far as it is possible.

The difficulty in conversing over this teletype shows necessity of our talking across the table. Goodbye.

[Foreign Secretary Bevin:] I regret that I was not consulted before Mr. Byrnes approached Molotov. Had I been, I could have [Page 584] avoided difficulties arising. It is almost impossible for me to attend a conference at the time suggested.

I have consulted Prime Minister Attlee and we both agree that to have another Foreign Secretaries Conference without adequate preparation would only lead to another failure.
Past experience proves this.
I have no idea what is to go on the agenda and what solutions you propose for the items you put on the agenda. Therefore I could not be instructed by my Government before I went and I am not prepared to attend a conference again without knowing what my colleague’s view is. I suggest we ought to make one resolute and definite effort to secure peace. I realise the urgency but [preparatory?] work will contribute. If you will forward your proposed agenda I will examine it immediately and it may well be that far better work would be accomplished if the deputies examined the agenda and drew up the points of difference and narrow our difficulties.
For instance, we are going to start discussing when we meet procedure just where we left it in London, and will we not be there for the eight days proposed in your telegram and just do nothing? There is no indication that Stalin has changed his mind, whereas exchange of views on the agenda first might remove the difficulties.
Has the American attitude changed in any way to the Balkan countries? My Government would like to know before they enter the conference.
Has your Government’s attitude changed with regard to the Control Council for Japan which appears to be the burning point with Russia? You will remember on this point I gave way on my original proposal in order to accommodate and to stand in with you. But where do we stand now? I have no desire to gang up against Russia but in view of the commitments I made to you when in London I think it is only right and proper that I should have now from the United States Government a clear statement as to their policy, and see how far it fits with ours and know exactly what I am expected to decide.
Are France and China to be excluded? China is interested in Japan, and France in Germany.
Molotov will in any case, we hope, be here in London at the beginning of January for the opening of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

If we got to Moscow on 15th or 17th and Russians know that we want to get away before Christmas, it is likely that they will stall till the last moment and then try and force us to come to some agreement before we go so as to avoid another failure. Christmas in Russia isn’t until January 6th so they’ll be in no hurry themselves.

I would urge you to arrange to let me have a complete agenda and your views referred to in your message before determining the date of [Page 585] the meeting. I will then consult the Prime Minister and the Cabinet and let you have a firm reply. Meanwhile I am keeping the matter secret.

I would be grateful if you would let Halifax have a copy of the record of this conversation.

With reference to Japan, in view of the fact that I gave way to meet you in London, I should like to see your last proposal before you forward it to Molotov.

You may be sure I will proceed with the study of the problem continuously, but I am not in a position to give you a reply today.

I trust you are well and that all will go well.

  1. This record is printed as it appears in the transcripts of the conversation, with the statements by Mr. Byrnes and Mr. Bevin recorded separately. The changes in speaking from one to the other are not indicated, except by the numbers on the record of what Mr. Bevin said. The record of Mr. Bevin’s statements also indicates that Ambassador Winant was present with Mr. Bevin in London.
  2. November 23.
  3. W. L. Mackenzie King, Canadian Prime Minister.
  4. For documentation on efforts to develop a system of international control of atomic energy, see pp. 1 ff.