The British Embassy to the Department of State
Paraphrase of Telegram Received from the Foreign Office, Dated May 10th, 1945
We have received similar approach from Ripka, Czechoslovak Minister left in charge here. The Czechoslovak proposal is that we as well as the United States Government should conclude a civil affairs agreement with the Czechoslovak Government on the lines of the Soviet-Czechoslovak agreement, and that pending conclusion of such an agreement relationship between the liberating forces and the Czechoslovak authorities should be governed by Articles 1, 6, 7, and 8 of the Soviet-Czechoslovak agreement.
In addition we have received from Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force a draft of the civil affairs agreement, which it is proposed should be concluded between the Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force and the Czechoslovak authorities, instead of on an intergovernmental basis as in previous cases. Our comments [Page 452] in detail on terms of SHAEF’s draft agreement will follow in a telegram to Joint Staff Mission.99 We have also seen exchange of telegrams between Combined Chiefs of Staff and SHAEF in Joint Staff Mission series from which it appears that the United States authorities maintain their preference for a proper civil affairs agreement on governmental level.
While we appreciate the United States Government’s wish to follow the precedent of cases of the Western European Allies by concluding a full-dress civil affairs agreement, we firmly prefer the less formal alternative proposed by SHAEF, of military agreement, to be concluded between the Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force as such and a suitable Czechoslovak military representative, covering all forces under SCAEF’s command. The political objections which we saw to agreements on a military level, when proposed in earlier Western European cases, do not apply with the same force in the case of Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovak Government are already back in their own country and resuming their administrative functions; the same importance does not therefore attach to the conclusion of a formal civil affairs agreement as did in former cases where agreements in a sense constituted political charters under which the Allied Governments resumed their authority.
Political and practical arguments in favour of concluding an agreement on the basis proposed by SHAEF are:
- Greater speed through avoidance of intergovernmental consultation and repeated representations to the Czechoslovak Government with whom communications are still poor. The essential is surely to secure a working arrangement at once.
- We doubt whether Ripka’s desire that full dress agreements should be concluded and publicised is in fact in the best interests of Czechoslovakia.
- His Majesty’s Government have no real need for a civil affairs agreement as there are likely to be no British troops or officers in Czechoslovakia except in an individual capacity.
- The Soviet Government consulted His Majesty Government and the United States Government quite correctly regarding their civil affairs agreement with Czechoslovakia and it might be thought necessary therefore to consult the Soviet Government, who might delay reply and might even raise objections.
Possibility of SCAEF concluding a military agreement on the above lines was discussed before receipt of SHAEF’s draft with Ripka who considers it would be quite acceptable to the Czechs at any rate as an interim arrangement. In that case it seems probable that a more formal agreement which would probably take some weeks to negotiate would never in fact become necessary. The necessary authority of the Czechoslovak Government for the suggested military agreement [Page 453] should be obtainable as Ripka has now received various telegrams from them. The agreement should be concluded on the side of the Czechs by any military representative they named.
Please give copy of this telegram which has been concerted with the War Office to Joint Staff Mission for their discussion with the Americans and yourself inform the State Department of our views with which we hope they will agree. The War Office are cabling similarly to Joint Staff Mission.
- The designated representatives of the British Chiefs of Staff on the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington. See Pogue, The Supreme Command, p. 37.↩