740.62114/9–-2945: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of State, at London

8641. Secdel34 147. Your unnumbered telegram September 28, 11 p.m.35 Question of use of force in repatriating Soviet citizens, both civilian and military, has been raised by USFET36 and [Page 1107] SACMED indicating reluctance of commanders to use force in repatriation. Paper has been prepared for consideration SWNCC37 committee on this question, proposing following two solutions: (a) Interpret the Yalta agreement as meaning that all Soviet citizens should be repatriated by force if necessary; (b) Since the Yalta agreement contains no provision whatsoever for the use of force in the repatriation of Soviet citizens and was in fact an agreement to facilitate the return of the citizens of each signatory on desire to return, there is no obligation on either signatory to use force to bring about repatriation of the citizens of the other party.38 Therefore, it might be held that the US Gov will have fulfilled the agreement if it facilitates the return of all liberated Soviet citizens who desire to return. Admittedly this interpretation has no specific justification in the text of the agreement. It is envisaged that this interpretation of the agreement would not apply to Soviet citizens who joined the forces of the enemy and are therefore considered to be traitors of an ally of the US who should be returned to their native land as traitors, using force if necessary. Other categories of Soviet citizens would not be repatriated against their will.

Articles have already appeared in the press reporting the reluctance of American and British troops to force the repatriation of Soviet citizens against their will and suggesting that the Yalta agreement may have to be revised or abrogated. We are thus placed in the dilemma of going against our traditional policy of political asylum or not accepting the interpretation of the Yalta agreement calling for use of force in repatriating all liberated Soviet citizens. It is realized, of course, that if we insist upon interpretation (b) the Soviet authorities may accuse us of not living up to the agreement and they might even take counter measures.

Action has not been taken on the requests for instructions from the two theater commanders regarding the use of force to repatriate Soviet citizens who are not traitors, or by our Chiefs of Staff on the question raised in your message under reference, since it was felt advisable to await your return in order that you could give consideration to the entire question on the basis of the discussions which have taken place in London.

Concerning the 500 Cossacks from Vlassov’s army, it is felt that in view of the action we have already taken in forcibly repatriating [Page 1108] as traitors Soviet citizens captured in German uniform, such as those returned from Fort Dix, we have no choice but to concur in the repatriation of this group, using force if necessary.

In regard to the other categories of Soviet citizens you may care to postpone a decision in this matter until your return.

  1. Series indicator for telegrams to London concerned with matters before the Council of Foreign Ministers.
  2. London’s telegram 10125, supra.
  3. United States Forces, European Theater. General Eisenhower, Commanding General, United States Forces, European Theater, in a message dated September 4, 1945, reviewed the policy in effect with respect to the repatriation of liberated Soviet citizens and requested that the subject be examined in its entirety and he be instructed whether or not United States troops would be used forcibly to collect and repatriate Soviet citizens. At the request of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on September 6, 1945, the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee took cognizance of General Eisenhower’s request, referring it on September 7 to the State–War–Navy Coordinating Subcommittee for Europe for study, report, and preparation of a reply, as a matter of urgency.
  4. State–War–Navy Coordinating Committee.
  5. Paper summarized in this paragraph not found in Department files, nor is there any record that such a paper was submitted to the State–War–Navy Coordinating Committee.