Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Northern European Affairs (Cumming)

Mr. de Kauffmann called on me this afternoon by appointment made at his request. It was the first time I had seen him (except briefly at a social gathering at the Icelandic Legation) since he returned from Denmark two or three weeks ago.

After giving me a brief outline of his views on the domestic political situation in Denmark, Mr. de Kauffmann asked me whether there was anything I could tell him about probable plans of the United States with respect to post-war bases in Greenland. In this connection he remarked that he had heard that the United States had asked Iceland for post-war bases in that country.

I told Mr. de Kauffmann that our Minister in Copenhagen had telegraphed51 that he was today delivering to the Danish Foreign Office a note apprizing the Danish Government of the United States’ approach to Iceland with respect to bases. I handed Mr. de Kauffmann, for his information, a copy of the note which Minister Davis proposed to deliver to the Foreign Office.52

Mr. de Kauffmann read the note very carefully and then remarked that he was especially glad to note the formula which the United States had worked out by which American bases in Iceland could be placed at the disposal of the Security Council in certain contingencies. He said that while he, of course, hoped that the Soviet Government would withdraw its troops from Bornholm,53 he could not help but [Page 580] consider the possibility that the Soviet Union might seek bases in Bornholm, and if such should be the case, it would be most important to Denmark to be able to point to a precedent by which such Soviet bases might be tied into the United Nations Organization.

Mr. de Kauffmann then repeated his question as to whether we proposed to seek bases in Greenland. He said that he had always assumed that we would do so. I replied that while I was not in a position to give him a categorical statement on the subject, I thought that I could say that he should not be surprised if his Government did at some time receive from us a proposal to negotiate on the future of the bases which we now had in Greenland.

Mr. de Kauffmann then asked me whether I could give him any indication as to when such proposals might be made. I said that without committing myself formally as to whether or when such proposals might be made, we had in mind certain differences between the situation with respect to Iceland and the situation with respect to Greenland. For one thing Greenland was definitely within the scope of the Monroe Doctrine and this had been a matter of public knowledge since the publication of the notes which in 1919 [1920?] the United States Government sent to the British Government and to the Danish Government.54 I also said that we had given thought to the fact of the presence of Soviet troops on the island of Bornholm and to the approaching Danish elections. Mr. de Kauffmann said that he thoroughly understood why I could not make a definite reply to his question but that he was glad to note that the approaching Danish elections and the presence of Soviet troops in Bornholm had not been overlooked by the Department in its consideration of Greenland bases.

Hugh S. Cumming, Jr.
  1. Telegram 512, October 20, 1945, 11 a.m., from Copenhagen, not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. For a brief description of the events related to the Soviet occupation of the Danish island of Bornholm, see Forrest C. Pogue, The Supreme Command, in the official Army history United States Army in World War II: The European Theater of Operations (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1954), p. 509
  4. See telegram 590, June 5, 1920, 7 p.m. to London and despatch 491, June 8, 1920, from Copenhagen, Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. ii. pp. 1 and 2, respectively. For further documentation regarding the refusal by the United States to recognize in a third government the right of preemption of Danish interests in Greenland, see ibid., pp. 1 ff.