The Assistant Secretary of State (Dunn) to the Director, Office of European Affairs (Matthews)
Dear Doc: You have no doubt realized from the reports we have been sending in recently that we are not making very rapid progress here nor are we even coming to grips with any of the important questions involved in the drafting of the treaties for Italy and the Balkan States. Of course, you realize that we have not even started discussing the Balkan treaties yet nor has there been any discussion among us as to when we might get started with them. I have raised the question with the other Delegations. The British are ready to discuss the Balkan treaties at any time and the French to stand aside for the purpose, but we have had no reaction from the queries I have put to Gusev.
In the first place we all here want it distinctly understood that we are not by any means giving up the ship, or will we admit either to ourselves, or to the press, or to the Department at this stage that we cannot come up with completed drafts for all four treaties by the first of May. Unfortunately, of course, that does not depend upon our industry or willingness, but depends almost entirely on the willingness of the Soviet Government to go ahead with the discussions to completion, and it really comes down to the fundamental fact of whether the Soviet Government really wants at the present time, from the point of view of policy, even to provide for the conclusion of treaties with Italy or the Balkan States. We must all remember, we here and you in Washington, that our objective is to arrive at settlements in the cases of Italy and the Balkan States which will permit the restoration of stability both economically and politically and will permit the evolution of government within those countries independent of outside aid and influence. I don’t suppose for a minute that the Soviet Government shares those objectives. I am beginning to feel convinced their objectives are entirely to the contrary and that they have no interest whatever in helping to provide for the return of stability, certainly in Italy, and, of course, as far as the three Balkan Governments are concerned they seem to have [Page 17] every intention of having nothing but puppet stooge governments in those countries. The Soviets may also have in mind their desire to maintain Red Army forces in the Balkan countries, and particularly we agree with reports from other Missions that the U.S.S.R. is not anxious to change the situation in Bulgaria as regards the presence of their troops until something is done about the Straits and the Eastern Mediterranean.
It may be, however, that they are deliberately postponing all agreements until the eleventh hour anticipating that our wish to hold the Conference will force us to accept compromises at the last moment so that it can be held. Also we cannot exclude the possibility that following the meeting of the Supreme Soviet, which Gusev is presumably returning to Moscow to attend, Soviet policy respecting the drafting of the treaties may radically change.
Now, outside of the fact that we are willing to work and devote ourselves to the completion of our task here, I think you in Washington must begin to think of what the U. S. Government is going to do in the case of certain contingencies arising which will prevent the carrying out of the concept upon which the work of the Council of Foreign Ministers was based. There are several things that might happen and we might list them as follows:
- That we produce completed drafts of the treaties for Italy and the Balkan States in time for the Peace Conference in Paris, which, under the decision of the Council of Foreign Ministers, is to be no later than May 1st, next.
- That we have partial drafts and have not completed agreement on all of the principal points for the treaties.
- That we have not reached agreement on any substantial number of points for the treaties but we have alternative positions to present to the Conference for discussion and decision.
There is not much to say about the first possibility except that, of course, it would be advisable to have our completed drafts ready at least by April 15 and they really should be ready by the 1st of April in order to give time to the participating governments to examine them and determine upon the position they would take with respect to many of the points which might have particular interest for them.
As to the second possibility, the Secretary will no doubt have to make up his mind whether we are going to propose to the other three governments (U.K., U.S.S.R., and France) that we proceed with the Conference even though completed drafts will not be ready for presentation at that time. My own view of that problem is that we should take that position, as to my mind it is not realistic to keep on postponing the Conference until we have arrived at completed drafts here. We would have had ample and sufficient time to have come up with [Page 18] draft treaties if all of those participating in the Deputies’ discussions had really applied themselves to the matters at hand and had been ready to work out agreed positions by discussion and adjustment of their positions as we went along. It seems to me, therefore, that it would be much better to insist on having the Conference at the stated time and proceed to have the Conference deal with the problem of the treaties on the basis of whatever stage of drafting we had arrived at, at that time. If we do not insist upon this as a program, I am afraid that we will be only fooling ourselves if we expected to have any results from a further drafting stage in less than a year or so. This, of course, is only an opinion based upon the impressions I have from the way the Soviets are dealing with this matter, but I think we should be very careful before we put ourselves in the position of continuing the kind of shadow boxing we are carrying on during the discussions here. We have spent literally days of consecutive sessions of talk about the same subject in the same form, restating our same positions without making any advance whatever toward arriving at a real development of the subject at hand.
As for as the third possibility, I think all I have said with respect to the second applies to this same contingency.
Of course, another thing to be kept in mind is the fact that the Secretary and the President must have definite assurance that there will be a Conference on a certain date and that it will be held in a certain form, at least a month before the actual date of the opening of the Conference. They will need this time for the selection of Delegates, the formation of the group which will assist the Delegation, and the actual preparing and briefing of the Delegates for the responsibilities they will assume. I feel, therefore, that with all of these various possibilities in mind, it will be necessary for the Secretary and the Department to come to some conclusion during the next month as to whether there will be a Conference in May and the form which it will take.
As to the form, I would like to say again that I think it is very important for us to press for the holding of a Conference, even if the Deputies have not come up with completed drafts, as the Conference itself has been set for a certain time. Any postponement of it would be a great disillusionment to the people of Italy certainly and also to the people in the Balkans who are hoping that some measure of satisfactory arrangement might be worked out for them. I don’t know what explanation could be made which would be satisfactory if it were decided to postpone the holding of the Conference, certainly if the postponement were to entail more than a matter of a few days or a few weeks.[Page 19]
It may be that the Soviet Government will refuse to approve of having a Conference until the Deputies have arrived at agreed drafts. In this case I think we ought to very seriously consider whether the restoration of stability in Europe, and particularly the restoration of the normal status of Italy, can be postponed indefinitely without great injury to the political and economic evolution and restoration of that country and its effect upon the whole western group in Europe. I think consideration should be given in that case to Congress declaring peace with Italy and the negotiation by ourselves of a separate treaty providing for the restoration of commercial and economic relationship and such other matters that might be necessary to the reestablishment of normal relations with that country. Such a move would have to be considered in relation to our over-all policy of relationship with the Soviet Union, on which from here I am not able to express judgment. But I do think that we have to begin somewhere, sometime to carry out a policy of dealing with questions of importance to us in Europe on the basis of our own policy without waiting to be dragged around by the hair by some other nation and winding up by stultifying our own actions and finding that we are only carrying out the dictates of someone else’s policy.
I have set out at length the things which all of us here on this work have been thinking of recently, as we thought it was a good thing at least to lay them before you and suggest that early consideration be given to the various contingencies which might arise and the solutions which might be applied in various eventualities. I have thought it well particularly to call your attention to these possibilities because as you noted from our telegrams, Gusev is going off to Moscow for ten days or possibly two weeks, leaving here the 9th or 10th of March, and that will bog down our work for at least that much time during the month of March.35 Although there are committees at work, the Soviet representatives on those committees do not seem to be able to exercise much judgment or take very much part in the work without continually being subject to the direction of Gusev himself, and the dragging of feet which goes on in the committees is an ample reflection of the same process adopted by their chief himself in the discussions of the Deputies.
We are all here to work. We have not given up the ship, nor will we, and we will keep right on pounding up to the very last minute, but I do think that you people in Washington will want to have some provision made for the event that the Deputies are unable to complete their task.
- Gusev did not leave London but continued without interruption to participate in the meetings of the Deputies.↩