The British Embassy to the Department of State


Mr. Bevin has expressed his earnest desire to discuss with Mr. Byrnes on his arrival at the Foreign Secretaries Conference the general situation throughout the Danubian and Balkan area.

[Page 102]
Mr. Bevin is of the opinion that the time has come to consider the problem created by the political and economic situation in Austria, Czechoslovakia, the ex-satellite countries and Yugoslavia as a whole rather than piecemeal, as has hitherto tended to be the case owing to the course of events. The political situation obtaining in all these countries except Czechoslovakia is in every respect similar, inasmuch as governments with totalitarian leanings subservient to the Soviet Union have been manoeuvered into power and are being kept there with the help of or intimidation by the Soviet authorities. There are moreover prospects of early elections in the satellite countries and Yugoslavia, from which will no doubt emerge governments equally unrepresentative and equally under Soviet influence if not control, which may well develop into totalitarian regimes, if the present tendencies are allowed to continue. Thus it would seem evident that the time has come to decide whether or not to acquiesce in this block of countries remaining indefinitely in the Soviet sphere of influence. It is therefore important to consider the objectives it is desired to achieve in this arena, the steps to be taken to effect them and the lengths to which action to such end might go. For instance, in the political sphere it must be recognised that some of these countries may not be sufficiently advanced to make a success of democratic government on lines which the United States Government and His Majesty’s Government could approve. In the economic and agricultural field it is desirable to consider what assistance can be offered to these countries by the United States and the United Kingdom to induce them to look to the West rather than to the East. Having thus obtained a clearer picture of the situation, the two Governments would then be in a more advantageous position to invite frank discussions with the Soviet Government.
It does not seem open to question that unless the United States Government and His Majesty’s Government can come to some agreement with the Soviet Government over long-term policy in the whole of the Danubian and Balkan area, they run the grave risk that their general relations with that Government will be at the continual mercy of recurring disagreement and conflict in that part of the world.
As Mr. Byrnes is aware, the British and American Delegations made various attempts to raise these matters at Potsdam, but without success, since the Russians made counter charges about conditions in other spheres. As a result, the various papers put forward by the United States and United Kingdom Delegations were withdrawn. The general line of policy of both the United States and His Majesty’s Governments has remained fluid and, as stated above, both countries have been forced into dealing piecemeal with sudden developments [Page 103] in one or other of these countries as they arise. There is a danger that uncoordinated methods of handling this very delicate and important problem may lead to the two Governments failing to combine their policies to the greatest advantage.
As an example in point, the United States Government took a separate initiative in Roumania against the Groza Government.13 In Bulgaria, although a joint policy was in essentials agreed upon, the United States political representative acted somewhat in advance of His Majesty’s Government in regard to the coming elections. It seems clear that in challenging, as the American and British Governments have done, the predominant position which the Soviet Government has built up for itself in these two countries, the two Governments are embarking upon a course which will call for the most careful navigation.
The situation in the other countries is also far from satisfactory. With regard to Yugoslavia,14 it may be argued that it is still too early to accuse Marshal Tito15 of having deliberately ignored the terms of the Tito-Subasic Agreement,16 which was negotiated under Anglo-American auspices. There is no doubt, however, that the spirit of the Agreement has been consistently broken by Marshal Tito and that a new form of dictatorship has been set up. Hopes for anything approaching free elections in Yugoslavia are not bright. The same is true of Albania.17
In Austria, the United States Government and His Majesty’s Government are admittedly on firmer ground than in any of the other countries under consideration, since United States, British and French troops between them occupy three quarters of the country. But here too a Government set up unilaterally by Soviet occupation forces still claims to be the Government of Austria as a whole. Moreover it contains more Communists (all in key positions and all imported from Moscow) than the strength of that Party in Austria warrants.
In Czechoslovakia,18 a country of vital industrial importance to the economy of Central Europe, the political position looks more promising, but the country is still very much isolated from the West and subject to constant Soviet propaganda.
In Hungary, no less important from the agricultural point of view, it is to be expected that Soviet tactics will be the same as in Roumania, although so far they have not taken definite shape.
Mr. Bevin is deeply impressed by the fact that the whole of this region represents a single economic unit, which could be largely self-supporting if the various countries were to pool their resources and eliminate the tariff barriers which at present isolate each of them in its own separate poverty. Although the Soviet Government would no doubt view with suspicion any attempt to induce these countries to cooperate in the economic field, he feels that every effort ought nevertheless to be made to overcome the Soviet objections, if it is in the interest of Europe as a whole to do so. The situation has been rendered all the more dangerous by crushing trade agreements which have been imposed on Roumania and Bulgaria by the Soviets. There are moreover indications that the Hungarians will soon be obliged to sign a similar agreement.
Mr. Bevin earnestly hopes that Mr. Byrnes will be prepared to discuss these matters as soon as he arrives in London.
  1. Petru Groza was Prime Minister of Rumania from March 6, 1945.
  2. For documentation regarding the interest of the United States in the establishment of a united provisional government for Yugoslavia, see vol. v, pp. 1174 ff.
  3. Marshal Josip Broz Tito, Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense in the Provisional Government of Yugoslavia.
  4. For the text of the agreement between Marshal Tito, then President of the National Committee of Liberation of Yugoslavia, and Ivan Subasic, then Prime Minister of the Yugoslav Government in Exile at London, signed November 1, 1944, regarding the formation of a new Yugoslav government, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, pp. 251253. For documentation regarding the concern of the United States over the internal conditions within Yugoslavia in 1944, including the events leading to the Tito–Subasic agreement, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. iv, pp. 1330 ff.
  5. For documentation regarding possible American recognition of the Albanian regime, see vol. iv, pp. 1 ff.
  6. For documentation regarding the interest of the United States in the reestablishment of democratic government in Czechoslovakia, see vol. iv, pp. 420 ff.