864.811/4–1846

Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Clayton) to the Secretary of State

Subject: Danube Negotiations

Problem

The British and French Governments have requested that the Danube problem be placed on the agenda at the Foreign Ministers meeting in Paris41 and that the United States take the initiative in proposing the establishment of a provisional regime for the Danube composed of the USSR, the UK, France, the US and the riparian states. In this approach, the UK and France have recommended that the United States not base its claim for participation on its position as an occupying power as this principle might prejudice British and French participation in a permanent regime.

Discussion

The policy of the State Department with respect to the Danube has been set forth in CC–93a attached hereto as Annex I. The Department’s position with respect to a provisional regime for the Danube is set forth in CC–94 attached as Annex II. The Department’s position with respect to treaty provisions for the Danube is set forth in the Department’s telegram 2760 of March 28 to London for Mr. Dunn attached as Annex III.42

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In these documents the Department’s position has consistently been that:

(1)
US claims participation in a provisional regime for the Danube on the basis of our position as an occupying power.
(2)
US supports the reestablishment of permanent international river commissions to guarantee the general principles of freedom of commerce and navigation for international waterways but does not seek permanent membership on specific river commissions on which the United States is not a riparian country.
(3)
US should seek to implement this long-range policy and support the commercial interest of non-riparian states in general through the United Nations machinery.
(4)
US should state its long-range objectives without prejudice to the Anglo-French claim for participation on European waterways commissions as non-riparian states.

In light of the above policy, this Government has been unwilling to take the initiative with respect to the establishment of any particular river commission although at Potsdam and again at the Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in London last September, the US delegation did propose the acceptance of general principles to govern waterway regimes and proposed the establishment of emergency regimes for European waterways.

It is clear from the above statements and from the positions taken by the British and French that there is a difference in the long-range objectives of the United States on one hand and the British and French on the other with respect to European waterways and also that these positions might vary even with respect to the establishment of provisional regimes which might very well set precedents for permanent regimes.

In light of these fundamental differences between the United States and the Anglo-French positions it would be most unwise for the United States to take the initiative in proposing the solution to either the provisional or the permanent regime questions prior to the establishment of a full and complete agreement with the British and French as to details of the proposed principles to cover both a provisional and a permanent regime. Since the United States does not intend to seek permanent membership on the operating commissions, our taking the initiative on the waterways commissions could easily put this country in the position of being the champion of the British and French position vis-à-vis the Soviets over an issue in which this Government itself is not the directly interested party.

In light of the above considerations, it is believed that the United States should actively advocate the principle of the establishment of international waterway regimes and should indicate its desire to participate in any provisional regimes in which our interests as an [Page 239]occupying power are concerned. It should not take the initiative on behalf of the British and French for proposed specific arrangements. Thus by giving support to the principles and avoiding taking sides on the riparian vs. non-riparian issues, the United States might well be in a position to effectuate a compromise agreeable to both the Soviets and the British and French.

Recommendations

It is recommended that:

(1)
The British and French Governments be informed that we are not in a position to take the initiative on the Danube question in the forthcoming Paris meetings.
(2)
We should carefully explain to the British and French the reasons for this decision and indicate a willingness to discuss with them the fundamental differences in our positions with a view towards endeavoring to reconcile such differences and work out the possible proposals which might be acceptable to all four major powers.

[Annex I] CC–93a

The Policy of the United States Regarding International Regulation of the Danube River

(Approved by the Coordinating Committee on February 18, 1946 with the understanding that no instructions with regard to this policy statement should be sent from the Department without prior approval of the Committee.)

The Problem

The problem of the policy of the United States regarding international regulation of the Danube is three-fold in character:

1)
Should the United States, in conformity with its traditional policy as to international waterways in the Western Hemisphere, seek to re-establish the principle of freedom of commerce and navigation on the Danube River in the satellite peace treaties, relying on its position in UNO to implement the general principle; or,
2)
Should the United States, as a participant in the affairs of Europe after the withdrawal of military forces (assuming this to be the Department’s policy) favor the establishment of a Danube Commission or Commissions with non-riparian as well as riparian representation, implying, as this does, a similar position for the international waterways of the Western Hemisphere;
3)
Should the United States be concerned in the conflict between the policy of the Soviet Union as to riparian control of the Danube River and Anglo-French treaty rights?

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Recommendations

1.
The United States should support the re-establishment of the general principle of freedom of commerce and navigation on the Danube River in the satellite peace treaties.
2.
The United States should use this policy as to the Danube River, in so far as possible, to promote the principles of freedom of commerce and navigation in East-Central Europe and to support the political independence of the peoples of this region.
3.
The United States should not seek permanent membership on a Danube Commission, but should state its position without prejudice to the Anglo-French position, which rests on treaty rights (1856, 1878, 1919, 1921), to which the United States is not a party.
4.
The United States should seek to implement this long-range policy and to support the commercial interests of non-riparian states in general through its position on the Economic and Social Council of UNO, which is to coordinate the specialized agencies of the United Nations, and through UNO itself.
5.
In addition to its long-term interest under Paragraph 1 above, the United States should seek immediately, on an ad hoc basis, freedom of navigation on the Danube River, either through a temporary commission, or through U.S. membership on the Allied Control Council, or through direct government-to-government negotiations, in view of its role as an occupying power in Austria and Germany.

Discussion

A. Implications of the Recommendations

The question now before the United States, essentially, is whether this Government should seek permanent representation on a Danube Commission involving, as this does, the principle of non-riparian membership, to which the Soviet Union is opposed. The question may be considered as a part of the larger issue of the participation of the United States after the withdrawal of the occupational forces, or it may be considered as an aspect of the policy of the United States regarding all international waterways. The two larger policies are not necessarily contradictory. Active participation by the United States in the management of post-occupation Europe might imply our representation on such an important regulatory body as the Danube Commission, although not necessarily so. Such representation, however, would be in direct conflict with the traditional policy of the United States, which has favored riparian representation on the international waterways of this hemisphere.

Would the United States be justified in agreeing to a temporary commission composed of representatives of the riparian states (Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Rumania and the Soviet [Page 241]Union) and one representative each of the United States, Great Britain and France as members of the Allied Control Councils for Germany and Austria? In such a commission Great Britain, France and the United States would have no national representation as such, but would secure protection of their military interests on the Danube for the occupation period.

If Great Britain and France insist on the principle of non-riparian representation, either on the short or long term view, on the basis of their treaty rights, it is probable that the Soviet Government will continue to oppose it and, in fact, to control the Danube River in cooperation with Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, as under the reorganized Danube Commission of 1940. It is in connection with this conflict between Soviet and Anglo-French policy that the United States may be forced to take a position. In the course of negotiations concerning the ownership of Danube ship lines in Austria, for example, this issue may lie implicit throughout, and may become explicit in the final stages. The issue is even more directly involved in the Balkan peace treaties. The Department may wish to formulate what it regards as an equitable and stable resolution of this conflict, if necessary after consultation with the British and French Governments, and be prepared to play a constructive part in its settlement. This may merely be a question of appropriate strategy in presenting the Departments views to the other governments.

B. Arguments in Behalf of Recommendations

The interests of the United States in the promotion of peace and the economic development of the Danube region, in this particular instance, should rest on the re-establishment of the principle of freedom of commerce and navigation not on the permanent participation of the United States in a Danube Commission, insistence on which would merely stimulate difficulties with the Soviet Government, without achieving any desirable objectives.

The historic policy of the United States in the Western Hemisphere, as well-illustrated in the instances of the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Waterway and the Rio Grande, has been to accept international waterway commissions composed only of riparian states. While tradition need not be a determining factor, departure from the historic American policy as to riparian control of international rivers in the Western Hemisphere might logically give some justification for a possible Soviet demand for a quid pro quo in the Western Hemisphere. Although the traditional policy of the United States precludes this government, in principle, from supporting the Anglo-French position, it would not prejudice the case of the United Kingdom or France or [Page 242]prevent the United States from playing a constructive role in resolving the conflict.

There is no fundamental reason, however, why the United States should become a permanent member of a Danube Commission, any more than a member of other European international river commissions, even though it might desire temporary participation as an occupying power. For example, the United States has joined the Central Commission of the Rhine on a temporary basis, although it was not a member of this Commission before the war, and does not expect to be a member after the withdrawal of the occupation forces. The primary interest of the United States in the organization of such a commission at this time is to promote the reestablishment of free navigation and the orderly utilization of the Danube River. In this connection it is well to recall that the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union at the Yalta conference in February 1945 jointly declared “their mutual agreement to concert during the temporary period of instability in liberated Europe the policies of their three governments in assisting the peoples liberated from the domination of Nazi Germany and the peoples of the former Axis satellite states of Europe to solve by democratic means their pressing political and economic problems.”

Withdrawal of direct participation after the period of military occupation and failure to insist on permanent membership in a Danube Commission do not imply in any way withdrawal from the affairs of East-Central Europe or any other part of Europe. The United States can exercise its influence concerning the Danube River through the instrumentality of the United Nations and through the appropriate specialized agencies with which it is assumed the Danube Commission would be affiliated.

C. Pertinent Data

1.
History of International Regulation of the Danube.—Since 1856 the Danube River has been subject to international regulation in which both riparian and non-riparian powers have participated. A European Commission was established for the purpose of freeing the Danube mouth and adjoining seas from various obstacles as a preliminary to reopening Danube navigation. When the European Commission had finished its work, its duties and powers were to be transferred to the Riparian Commission to be established for the entire navigable Danube. Russia was a party to these arrangements until 1918 when, through the loss of Bessarabia, it ceased to be a Danube riparian power and was excluded. The Treaty of Versailles of June 28, 1919 gave to non-riparian states broad privileges of navigation in the particular rivers recognized as having an international character. However, the acquisition by certain non-riparian European [Page 243]powers of a right to participate in the administrative control of rivers was merely an incident in the attempt of the Principal Allied Powers to re-establish, in essence, the situation which had obtained since 1856, so far as the Danube was concerned. In August 1938, however, Rumania obtained a virtual sovereign control over the maritime Danube and the European Commission, to all intents and purposes, became purely advisory in character. In March 1939 Germany and Italy adhered to the August 1938 arrangement concerning the Danube. In the fall of 1940, following the reacquisition of Bessarabia, the Soviet Union joined with Germany and Italy, and the riparian states, in the abolition of the International Commission of the Danube, which had been established in 1919–21, and in reorganizing the European Commission to the exclusion of Great Britain and France, and the European Commission was restricted, in principle, to the riparian states.
2.
The Position of the Soviet Union.—Like Imperial Russia, the Soviet Union attaches great importance to the Danube River and closely identifies its position concerning the Danube with its policy in the Black Sea and the Turkish Straits. The Soviet Government takes the position that the pre-war International and European Commissions of the Danube, re-establishment of which is advocated by the United Kingdom, were founded upon treaties framed after the defeat of Russia in 1856 or the exclusion of Soviet Russia in 1919. Following a conference of riparian states on September 5, 1940, in Vienna, which did not include a representative of the Soviet Government, Germany announced the abolition of the International Commission of the Danube. The Soviet Government, which had advised the German Government in September 1940 that it must participate in the decision of all Danube questions, on joining the new Danube Commission stated categorically that the Danube Commission should be composed exclusively of riparian states and that neither Great Britain nor France should, therefore, have any place on such a commission. Failure of Germany and the Soviet Union ultimately to agree concerning the nature of Soviet control at the mouth of the Danube in December 1940 brought the first fissure in German-Soviet collaboration based on the nonaggression treaty of August 23, 1939.
The Soviet authorities indicated unpreparedness to discuss the problem of the Danube at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945. At the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in September 1945 at London, Foreign Commissar Molotov presented a proposal that regulation of the Danube (as well as that of the Elbe and Oder) should be lodged with the supreme commander or commanders having jurisdiction over the river during the period of military occupation. A firm stand was taken at this time against a civilian commission which might interfere with military plans.
At the present time the Soviet Union has de facto control over the Danube from Linz to Constanza. There is no reason to believe that the Soviet Union has changed or is inclined to alter its position either as to non-riparian representation on a Danube Commission or as to control at the mouth of the Danube.
3.
The Position of Great Britain and France.—Although France was unable to make its voice heard in the fall of 1940, Great Britain vigorously protested on October 27, 1940, against the organization of a new Danube Commission and advised the Soviet Government that it could not recognize any agreement whatever which might violate existing treaties and that it would reserve all its rights. Both France and Great Britain are now reasserting their rights to participation in the control and administration of the Danube River, based on the treaties of Paris (1856), Berlin (1878) and Versailles (1919) and the Paris Statute of 1921.
4.
The Policy of the United States.—At the Potsdam Conference President Truman expressed the desire to see temporary international commissions established for the Danube and other European international rivers. At the London Council of Foreign Ministers in September 1945 Secretary of State Byrnes proposed establishment of a temporary Danube Commission to provide cooperative action in opening the river for movement of relief supplies. This Commission was to be made up of Danube riparian governments, including the U.S.S.R., and the states participating in the military occupation of Austria—Great Britain, France and the United States. In an address in New York on October 28, 1945, President Truman stated his belief “that all nations should have freedom of the seas and equal rights to the navigation of boundary rivers and waterways and of rivers and waterways which pass through more than one country.” This statement was repeated in the annual message to the Congress on the State of the Union on January 21, 1946. It should be noted that the President has never taken a stand on the issue of riparian or non-riparian representation with regard to the permanent international river regimes in Europe. It is precisely the latter issue which is before the Coordinating Committee for recommendation.
[Annex II] CC–94

Resumption of Navigation on the Danube

On February 18, 1946, the Coordinating Committee approved Document CC–93 [GC–93a] (The Policy of the United States Regarding International Regulation of the Danube River) with the understanding [Page 245]that no instructions with regard to this policy statement should be sent from the Department without prior approval of the Committee. On February 21, 1946 the Secretary’s Staff Committee approved a telegram for Mr. Dunn quoting the policy statement in CC–93a. In accordance with the understanding reached by the Coordinating Committee in approving CC–93 [CC–93a], this document (CC–94) presents for the Committee’s approval a draft reply (Annex II) to a British aide-mémoire (Annex I)43 requesting a joint United States-United Kingdom approach to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the subject of resumption of navigation on the Danube.

Problem

To reply to a British Aide-Mémoire (see Annex I) requesting a joint United States-United Kingdom approach to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the subject of resumption of navigation on the Danube.

Recommendations

1.
That United States should join with the United Kingdom in instructions to their respective ambassadors at Moscow urging the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to agree to:
a.
The re-establishment of the general principle of freedom of commerce and navigation on the Danube for the nationals, the vessels of commerce, and goods of all members of the United Nations; and
b.
The establishment of a provisional international Commission for the Danube.
2.
Specifically, that the attached proposed reply to the British Aide-Mémoire (see Annex II) be approved and
3.
That the attached proposed instructions to the United States Ambassador to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (see Annex III) be approved.

Discussion

Subsequent to the Coordinating Committee approval of document CC–93 [CC–93a] on February 18, 1946, (“The Policy of the United States for International Regulation of the Danube River”), the Department received the attached Aide-Mémoire, February 22, 1946 from the British Embassy.44 In accordance with the Coordinating Committee’s request that no instructions with regard to this policy statement should be sent from the Department without prior approval of the Committee, the proposed reply to the British Aide-Mémoire is submitted for Coordinating Committee concurrence.

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A paraphrase from General Clark’s (United States representative on the Allied Council for Austria) most recent communication to the Department indicates that local approaches to the solution of this problem through the Allied Council have been exhausted.

Following is paraphrase of the appropriate sections of General Clark’s P–3605, February 26, dealing with the Danube question:45

The Soviets have acquired control of the Danube in Hungary and Rumania through recent agreements concluded with those countries establishing joint shipping interests. Soviet intention to extend this control of the Danube to include Austria is made evident by their recent seizure of the property of the DDSG in their zone in Austria except for the funds deposited in the Vienna bank and the boats and docking facilities in Linz and Passau. The Soviets control the north bank of the Danube between Enns and Passau and have full control of the river in Austria from Enns to the Hungarian border. They have already effectively blocked the river at Enns, but the United States has no way of blocking the river between Enns and Passau. Consequently, the Soviets have nominal control of the Danube from Passau through Austria, Hungary and Rumania to its mouth in the Black Sea.

All efforts to date to bring about any settlement of traffic on the Danube have been blocked by the Soviets. I am convinced that no progress can be made on this subject inasmuch as this waterway is too vital to the economic life of the Danubian countries.

In this telegram General Clark reviews the whole situation existing in Austria and concludes that little can be accomplished toward discharging the responsibility of the United States toward Austria until the four powers represented in the Allied Council adopt a uniform policy to carry out their agreed intentions. At the present time, the efforts of the United States, Great Britain and France are blocked by the Soviet veto power in the Allied Council, and the three states can do nothing to oppose any policy which the Soviet Government chooses to adopt, even though it may be contrary to the policy of the three Western states. General Clark concludes that this does not increase the prestige of the Allied powers, and it certainly does not contribute to the fulfillment of our international objectives.

The government-to-government approach appears to be the next logical step. Inasmuch as the United Kingdom has approached the United States and France for united representations at Moscow, is believed desirable to cooperate.

It is, of course, the Department’s policy not to seek permanent membership on a Danube Commission, and the United States proposed reply stops short of this step which is mentioned in the British Aide-Mémoire

Aide-Mémoire [Page 247]but is not directly tied to the immediate request for joint action.

While it is unrealistic to expect a favorable reply on the part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, it is believed important to continue to press for the principle of freedom of navigation and commerce on rivers of international concern in accordance with point 7 of the President’s Foreign Policy Statement to Congress in his message of January 21, 1946:

“We believe that all nations should have the freedom of the seas and equal rights to the navigation of boundary rivers and waterways and of rivers and waterways which pass through more than one country.”

  1. The Danubian problem was not formally considered at the Second Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers; for documentation on this session see volume ii.
  2. Annex III not attached here, but for text of telegram 2760 of March 28, see p. 232.
  3. Neither annex attached here; but see text of Department’s memorandum of March 15 to the British Embassy, p. 230.
  4. Not printed.
  5. The full text of telegram P–3605 is printed on p. 312.