Memorandum of Conversation, by the Political Adviser to the United States Delegation at the United Nations (Bohlen)
USSC 46/13 (Conv.2)
Mr. Stettinius said he was sorry to disturb Mr. Vyshinsky on a Sunday night,34 but since the Greek question would be coining before the Council again on Monday, he had wished to have a private conversation with Mr. Vyshinsky in order to explore various possibilities. He inquired what Mr. Vyshinsky’s views were as to the best way out of the difficulty.
Mr. Vyshinsky said that he had already stated the Soviet position and that he had no other course than to maintain that position. The Soviet Government was acting on a genuine conviction that the situation in Greece was dangerous. In this connection he wished to draw Mr. Stettinius’ attention to the fact that he had not accused Mr. Bevin of the sins which the latter had accused the Soviet Government of. Mr. Bevin’s attitude on the Soviet view was reminiscent of Lord Curzon and Mr. Chamberlain’s toward the Soviet Union.
Mr. Stettinius said that he must state frankly that in our opinion, nothing had been presented at the Council to justify the belief that the presence of British troops in Greece constituted a threat to the peace. He personally could not see any serious justification for this charge.
Mr. Vyshinsky said that their point of view was different. The presence of British troops was being utilized by right-wing and Fascist elements in Greece to continue disorders and to promote a state of affairs which could only lead to trouble later on. He felt sure that if the British withdrew, the situation in Greece would quiet down in a very short time. The British troops had been in Greece for a long time, but no order had resulted. As to the threat to the peace, the Soviet Government considered that the situation in Greece contained the seeds of such a threat. For example, a Greek judge in the trial of a Greek Lacedaemonian patriot had openly stated that the Greeks would not shrink from extirpating all Slavs on their territory. An atmosphere of conditions which permitted of such incidents could not but create the possibility of trouble with the neighbors of Greece and eventually a threat to the peace. The British were supporting the Royalists, and among the Royalists were “strong-arm men” who [Page 107] dreamed of a greater Greece. He pointed out that these were not only his sentiments but those of many people in the world, including some of the Labor members of Parliament. He went on to say that Mr. Stettinius would recall that at Yalta35 Marshal Stalin had approved the presence of British troops in Greece because at that time they were there in connection with the prosecution of the war and the driving out of the German invaders. Since that time, however, the war had ended and the Soviet Government could not see any reason why British troops remained in Greece.
Mr. Stettinius said that he believed that if either Mr. Vyshinsky’s motion or Mr. Bevin’s motion were to be put to a vote, there was a strong likelihood that neither would pass. He said that it would be much better to avoid a vote and to find some formula or statement which would dispose of the matter. For example, there was Mr. Bevin’s statement and that of the Greek Government to the effect that the British troops would be withdrawn as soon as order was restored.
Mr. Vyshinsky replied that every vote could not be successful, but that he must say that if the Council dismissed the matter the Greek question would, before long, come before it again, inasmuch as the logic of the situation and future developments in Greece would make this necessary. He said that the Soviet Government had not created this danger and had no direct interest in Greece. Despite Mr. Bevin’s statement that little Greece could not menace, allegedly, herself or her neighbors, the Soviet Government felt that the existence of chauvinistic sentiments in Greece could lead to future trouble involving a threat to the Greek Government. He pointed out that history shows us that if small matters are not treated in their infancy, they grow to big ones.
Mr. Stettinius repeated that the United States frankly could not see that there were sufficient grounds to justify a determination of a threat to the peace in this situation, which, under the Charter, would have to be the first consideration of the Council. He again expressed doubt as to whether Mr. Vyshinsky’s resolution would be supported by the Council.
Mr. Vyshinsky replied that they had grounds for believing otherwise, but in any event, it was up to the Council to decide.
Mr. Stettinius said that although he had talked with the British since the last Council meeting, there had been no conversations with any other delegations.
Mr. Vyshinsky said that he, personally, could see no other way out than to put the matter to a vote.[Page 108]
After a short discussion of the status of the work of the Assembly in which Mr. Vyshinsky said it would be necessary to agree on a panel of judges, Mr. Stettinius left.
- The conversation began at 10:30 p.m. at the Soviet Embassy.↩
- For documentation on the meeting at Yalta from February 4 to 11, 1945, of President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Churchill and Marshal Stalin, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945.↩