740.00119 Council/8–2346

Memorandum by Mr. Samuel Reber, Political Adviser, United States Delegation


Memorandum for the Secretary

There is enclosed a secret memorandum prepared by the British Delegation in respect of Trieste which Mr. Bevin has asked be brought to your attention as he would like to talk to you on this subject some time in the near future.

Our experiences in the Commissions dealing with this subject have paralleled those of the British, and we can therefore agree with many of the observations contained in their memorandum.

With the completion of reports on the Permanent Statute and the Free Port regime, which are now before the Conference, the Special Commission for Trieste is ready to commence its study of a provisional regime to provide a government for the Free Territory during any [Page 841] possible hiatus between the coming into force of the Treaty, which establishes the Territory, and the Security Council’s approval of a statute to govern it.31

As you are aware, there has been no agreement upon the form that the Permanent Statute should take, and four drafts have been circulated in the Commission’s report. In brief the principal differences between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. drafts are that the U.S. proposal gives extensive powers to the Governor and envisages Security Council approval of the Constitution whereas the Soviet proposal vests virtually all executive power in the Council of Government and limits the role of the Security Council to mere approval of the terms of the Statute and a general guarantee. Unlike the U.S. draft which is silent on the subject the U.S.S.R. draft provides for close ties between Yugoslavia and the Free Territory.

As I understand our position, the United States Government is committed to insuring that Free Territory of Trieste will have a sound independent existence (and will in fact be a separate territory) guaranteed by the Security Council. The British, and to a lesser degree the French, take the same position.

But it has unfortunately been made clear that the Soviet and Yugoslav Delegations through their emphasis on the prompt transfer of authority, by means of elections, to the local inhabitants and through strict limitations of the Governor’s powers, plan to take advantage of the present political turmoil and of the very efficient Yugoslav political organization already established in the area, in order to gain effective control for Yugoslavia. Given the present Yugoslav infiltration into Trieste and their methods of “persuasion” amounting to terrorization, elections under these conditions could not constitute a true reflection of the will of the people. We are of course convinced of the importance and necessity of granting the inhabitants full voice in their own administration, but we nevertheless feel that full realization of democratic processes must in this stage remain secondary to the necessity for a firm and unified rule. Otherwise such democratic processes become a sham and a cloak for Yugoslav domination.

The essential feature of any administration as we see it is the Governor. We shall have to rely upon the international character of his office and upon his personal objectivity and to give him full powers [Page 842] during the provisional period and, later, adequate reserve powers under the Permanent Statute. In advocating these we shall of course be attacked for endeavoring to set up a dictatorship. We must however stand firm on this point as the results of any other course are too obvious.

To provide for the interim period referred to above (between the establishment of the Free Territory and the entry into force of its Permanent Statute) we must have agreement upon an instrument setting up a sound provisional government. Covering as it will the establishment of the first government including determination of conditions for elections, this instrument is at least as vital as the Permanent Statute, and like it should be approved by the Security Council. Such approval is needed as an international guarantee for the security of this area during the interim period. We plan to include this instrument as part of the Treaty and can only hope the Security Council will accept it before the Treaty is ratified. Failing this there is real doubt that the provisions of the Treaty in this respect can enter into force.

We do not however see how the Yugoslavs during the interim regime can be prevented from carrying out their obvious intent to seize control of the Territory through any means unless there is a clear-cut understanding authorizing the retention within the Territory of U.S.-U.K. troops and of Allied Military Government at least until such a time as the Provisional Governor can constitute an administration including the internal security forces requisite for the preservation of order in the Free Territory. On this point we will undoubtedly meet active opposition not only from the Yugoslavs but from the Soviet group as well, one of whose methods will be to attack AMG as a reactionary force and sharply to criticize the full authority which must be granted the Governor.

The economic outlook ahead for this Free Territory is moreover exceedingly precarious, and it must be assured of United Nations’ financial support. For example, its budgetary deficit alone may well, as far as we can estimate, approximate $5 to $6 million per annum. In order to find funds for this purpose we have only the United Nations to turn to; and it is difficult to see how the latter can underwrite a deficit unless approved by the Assembly in the annual budget. Furthermore the Yugoslavs have openly contended that the new Territory cannot live without their backing and cooperation and that therefore both the Triestini and the Anglo-Saxon powers must come to terms with them. They insist that the independence of the Territory is not practical either politically or economically and there are indications that they will exert pressure both within and outside the Free Territory to prove their point.

[Page 843]

None of these problems would be insoluble if we could feel that the U.S.S.R. sincerely supported the idea that a real international Free Territory was the best possible solution. They have not yet openly admitted the contrary, but the suggestions they have put forward merely disguise their intention of making Trieste an appendage of Yugoslavia.

For the present, however, we must at least go forward with negotiations for the Permanent Statute and for the Provisional Government. Nevertheless I am confident in the course of these negotiations either that the Slav Bloc will insist upon a Statute and a Provisional Government of such a character as to make it impossible to insure the international control necessary to guarantee the Territory’s independence and the enjoyment of civil rights by its citizens or else they will attack our insistence upon a strong international administration as blocking any agreement. Having made this point, they may then seek to regain their freedom from the Ministers’ decision of July 3.32 If this should be the result of our discussions, it should be made clear upon whom the responsibility for reversing the decision rests. Of course in this event we too should feel free to revert to the original U.S. position.

If, as I see it, a long wrangle occurs at the Conference regarding the Statute, the provisional regime, or the status of the Governor, all of which are very complicated issues, we may be forced to consider that the immediate creation of the Free Territory is an unworkable hypothesis in the present political situation and evolve some formula which, while preserving the Ministers’ decision, would give the Security Council time to elaborate the Statute and solve some of these questions which I have listed above. After all, it took many months to prepare the Constitution of Danzig, which was not approved by the League until May 1922 and even then was not satisfactory. The basic Statute for a new territory, such as Trieste, not only requires most careful preparation but can best be affected in an atmosphere divorced from the political maneuverings and tactics of the Soviet bloc at the present Conference. In other words thought might well be given at this time to the possibility of another solution which while preserving the principle of the Ministers’ decision of July 3 would postpone its entry into force, following the analogy of the colonial settlement. This differs from de Gasperi’s suggestion33 in that we should agree in the [Page 844] treaty to the principle of the Free Territory, establish its frontier, but the renunciation of Italian sovereignty would not go into effect until such a time as the Security Council could prepare and approve the new regime. This would be satisfactory from our point of view only if our present Military regime were allowed to continue to bridge this gap; without this the Yugoslavs would almost surely take over. As you can appreciate, this again would subject us to considerable attack from the Slav block, but in my opinion it makes little difference whether these attacks are faced over this issue or over the issue of the Provisional Government which in any case, as indicated above, will require the temporary maintenance of AMG.

As we expect such Slav attacks on AMG administration there, we are now preparing the material to have it ready for tabling in answer to any such criticism.


Memorandum by the Representative of the United Kingdom on the Special Commission on the Statute of the Free Territory of Trieste (Waldock)

top secret
Brief No. 10

Viability of the Free Territory of Trieste

The problem of Trieste and the Italo-Yugoslav boundary has become more, rather than less, complex and dangerous since its settlement by the Council on the 3rd July. As the position may become exceedingly delicate even during the Conference and before the Four Power stage, I think it desirable to try and sum up the present position.

2. The Council last September set out to draw a boundary which would leave a minimum under alien rule. Meeting an impassable rock in Trieste, it devised the Free Territory, a solution in harmony with the principle of leaving a minimum under alien rule. It is true that by extending the Free Territory further to the south along the British line, and perhaps a little more to the north towards Gorizia, even fewer persons would have been left under alien rule. Nevertheless, the essential principle was carried into effect to the greatest extent that seemed negotiable.

3. The compromise was, however, justifiable only if each one of the Four Powers intended to co-operate loyally in implementing the decision. My experience of the past five weeks shows that the Russians neither have, nor ever had any genuine intention to carry out the Council’s decision. The question therefore is whether the settlement of the 3rd July and in particular the proposal concerning the Free [Page 845] Territory is viable at all and, if not, what is to be the outcome. De Gasperi pertinently asked whether it was really intended “to enclose in the fragile cage of the Statute with meagre rations and abundant political rights the two adversaries”. I, myself, am anxious not merely about the fragility of the structure that we have undertaken to create but the difficult, long drawn-out negotiations which must still precede its creation.

4. The Free Territory is terrifyingly fragile—

Racial animosities already present have been Artifically stimulated to a high pitch during the past fifteen months. The Yugoslavs are determined to get Trieste and will go to great lengths. They possess a widespread organisation of efficient agents trained to take over political control in the classic Slav manner. The Italians, who are in the majority, are less well organised, but have now lost their supineness of nine months ago. Today civil war is averted only by the presence of Anglo-U.S. Military Government and troops.
The economic outlook is almost equally precarious. The Free Territory is an unnatural economic unit. It was indeed subsidised by Italy before the war, and its separation from the economy of Italy, which largely absorbed its products, will create currency and fiscal difficulties the solution of which will be greatly hindered by the political jealousies of Italy and Yugoslavia. Even at the best we must apparently look forward to a budgetary deficit of not less than 2½ millions per annum for some years. Moreover, this insolvent territory requires at the outset a reconstruction loan. Admittedly these economic difficulties might be overcome in time with real goodwill and a peaceful stable territory. The general instability in the territory is, however, likely to increase the economic instability and vice versa.

5. Accordingly, even if we might expect some co-operation from the Russians, a peaceful and stable regime in the Free Territory could be achieved only by the strongest and most skilful measures within the territory and by some degree of forbearance by Italy and Yugoslavia. In fact the Russians and the Yugoslavs are co-conspirators to prevent the creation of a truly international neutralised territory and to make it at almost any cost an appendage of Yugoslavia. If it is necessary to their plans, the Slavs will probably not shrink from fostering civil strife and economic collapse within the Free Territory.

6. The establishment of the Free Territory in a form capable of weathering the dangers described in the preceding paragraph requires the successful negotiation of numerous points, any one of which may involve prolonged controversies with the Russians; e.g.

A permanent statute providing for adequate supervision by the Security Council and an impartial Governor with adequate powers;
A satisfactory Provisional Regime preventing manipulation by the Slovenes of the machinery for establishing the Permanent Regime;
Elections free from fear;
Following from (b) and (c), the retention of A.M.G. and Anglo-U.S. military forces at least until the first elections;
Economic clauses both for the Provisional and Permanent regime covering such questions as currency, the budgetary deficit and a reconstruction loan and clauses in the Peace Treaty giving the Territory special treatment in such matters as property, public debt and reparations;
Guarantees by Yugoslavia and Italy concerning electricity and water supply;
A satisfactory regime for the Free Port, including guarantees by Yugoslavia and Italy concerning transit facilities for the Free Port;
The rejection of numerous proposals designed to give Yugoslavia a special position within the Free Territory.

Some of the above are moreover mere chapter headings comprising several detailed points all calling for arduous negotiation.

7. The conclusions which I draw from the above are that unless there is a complete change of heart forced on the Russians in the Peace Conference or in the Four Powers—

The setting up of the Free Territory in a form to give it the slightest chance of survival will involve protracted and acrimonious negotiations.
The Free Territory even if set up will probably collapse within a very much shorter period than Danzig and Memel thereby bringing grave discredit on the Four Powers and U.N.O.

8. If these conclusions are correct, very serious questions of high policy arise which are beyond my competence. I venture, however, to make the following observations on the assumption that we are not prepared to see the question of Trieste solved by fraud and chicane.

9. Even if we should be brought to decide that Russian Chauvinism renders it impossible to proceed with the decision to establish the Free Territory we shall have to be very wary about the way in which the decision is overturned. On the record we are committed to support the Free Territory and the French Line. It seems to me that we might be absolved from this commitment in the following ways:

The majority opinion in the Peace Conference might express such grave doubts about the viability of the Free Territory that the Council’s decision was necessarily re-opened at the Four Power stage.
A deadlock might be reached either during the Conference or at the Four Power Stage concerning the permanent regime or provisional arrangements for the Free Territory.
The economic unsoundness of the Free Territory might either during the Conference or at the Four Power stage by itself cause a re-opening of the decision.
The insincerity of the Slav proposals for the Free Territory might even become so manifest that it could not be overlooked.

10. In any of these cases it will plainly be desirable so to manoeuvre [Page 847] that the responsibility for the overturning of the decision of the Council of Foreign Ministers appears to impartial opinion to vest on the shoulders of the Slavs.

11. Although I think Russia’s present Chauvinistic intentions to be beyond doubt, it does not yet seem necessary to take final decisions. Our immediate policy would seem to be to go forward with the present negotiations for establishing the Free Territory, yielding on no point which seems to us essential for the creation of a sound regime. We should stand absolutely firm on such points jointly with the Americans until deadlock occurs, seeking to persuade impartial opinion in the Conference of the Tightness of our views. It is even conceivable that a firm Anglo-U.S. front supported by majority opinion might shake the Slav Camp into accepting the fact that a real international Free Territory is the best that they can obtain.

12. Nevertheless I suggest that we should begin to think of the course that we should follow in the event of the establishment of the Free Territory becoming impossible. The wider implications of this event may be very delicate but the course to be adopted on the particular issue of Trieste and the Boundary seems fairly obvious. We should return to our former standpoint of Trieste for the Italians and a boundary fixed at the French Line. Other possibilities might emerge from the discussions at the Conference. Thus, if Italy’s title to Gorizia were weakened in the Conference the possibility of a bargain might be opened up. But generally speaking we should adhere to the French Line already accepted by three of the Four Powers.

13. My impression is that the Americans—and indeed the French—at the official level have also reached the conclusions in para. 7 above. You may think it worth asking Mr. Byrnes, on a convenient occasion, what impression he has formed from the Soviet attitude in the Special Commission for the Free Territory.

C. H. M. Waldock
  1. The body under reference is the Special Commission on the Statute of the Free Territory of Trieste, a subsidiary of the Council of Foreign Ministers. Its report on the Permanent Statute, submitted to the Peace Conference as C.F.M.(46)253 on August 9, and also circulated as C.P.(IT/P)Doc.40 of September 13, is printed ante, p. 592. The Commission’s report on a draft instrument for the Free Port of Trieste, C.F.M.(46)254 of August 20, is not printed. Regarding the work of the Special Commission, see the following documents in vol. iii: Telegram 3554 (Delsec 727), July 19, from Paris, p. 3; and telegram 3653 (Delsec 740), July 26, from Paris, p. 19.
  2. The Council of Foreign Ministers agreed upon the internationalization of Trieste at the 33rd Meeting of their second session at Paris, July 3. The United States Delegation Record and Record of Decisions of that meeting are printed in vol. ii, pp. 730 ff.
  3. In his address to the 11th Plenary Meeting, August 10, Italian Prime Minister de Gasperi suggested that the Trieste question be deferred for one year as was being done regarding the question of Italian colonies. For the Verbatim Record of that meeting, see vol. iii, p. 175.