Report by the United States Representative at the United Nations (Stettinius)
Record of Secret Session which took place during the Meeting of the Security Council Tuesday, February 5, 1946, from 9:10 p.m. until 11 p.m.
The Security Council recessed at about 9:10 p.m. at the suggestion of the Chairman, Mr. Makin of Australia, who did not consult others, as it was obvious to him that there was to be no quick agreement on the Greek situation.
Makin opened the meeting by saying he was perfectly sure that the great powers could work this matter out and he thought a private discussion of this kind would be useful. He turned to Vyshinsky and said he understood that Vyshinsky had a proposal to make which he thought would be acceptable to Bevin.
Vyshinsky spoke for approximately five minutes and his proposal was that he would not insist on a statement relative to the removal of troops if Bevin would not insist on saying the Council had not found that a threat to the peace resulted from the presence of British troops in Greece.
Bevin answered him immediately with great force and talked for about ten minutes. He referred to Grymyko’s original letter, saying this had been an attack on the British people and it would have to be withdrawn. He then asked whether Vyshinsky would be willing to withdraw the Gromyko letter. Vyshinsky said he would like to see the letter and Bevin handed it to him. It was discussed back and forth and finally Vyshinsky stated again, “I cannot withdraw the letter, but I wish to make it very clear to everyone that we did [Page 109] not say that the British troops in Greece were a threat to the peace, but we did say that the situation created by the presence of British troops was causing a threat to the peace.” Vyshinsky made quite a distinction on this point.
At about this time Dr. Koo appeared with Bidault.
Vyshinsky all of a sudden stated, “Well, Mr. Bevin, if we can’t agree on this matter, let’s send a commission to Greece to investigate the situation and whatever the commission says we will abide by, and we will even withdraw our letter.” Bevin said, “I will have no commission of any kind go to Greece. I am either a decent citizen, and my people are decent citizens, or we aren’t.”
Vyshinsky then stated, “I resented very much what you said the other day, Mr. Bevin, relative to the fact that you could not sit with me any longer if this matter was not solved immediately.” Bevin made an unsatisfactory explanation of this matter, in which he did not clarify exactly what was said. I broke into the conversation and said, “Gentlemen, I remember exactly what Bevin said and it was if these charges are correct he wasn’t fit to sit with any member of the Security Council. It did not relate at all his sitting with the USSR.” My explanation was concurred in by all present.
Vyshinsky went on to say that it was a great pity that such a discussion had to take place. He said they could not have won the war alone, and Britain could not have won the war alone—they needed each other then as they needed each other now. He then said, “We want to stay friendly with you and we must find a way.” Bevin said something pleasant about his great desire to stay friendly.
Bevin then said, “I am willing to accept any kind of language to settle this. I am willing to say the presence of the troops in Greece do not constitute a breach of the peace, and also, if it would be helpful, I am willing to say it doesn’t violate the Charter. I must have this attack withdrawn—the fact that the presence of our troops there are a threat to international peace.”
Vyshinsky then replied that the British troops lead to complications which are a threat to the peace. He said, “That is what I am talking about.”
Bevin then stated, “Would you mean that the British troops do not endanger the situation?” Vyshinsky did not answer.
Vyshinsky then stated that he would be willing to have the matter settled by the Chairman in an oral statement saying that everybody had been heard, but that he would not withdraw the letter. Bevin replied, “You have raised this matter in Potsdam,43 in London and [Page 110] in Moscow.44 It must be settled here once and for all, or I shall not go on with these discussions.”
Vyshinsky then stated that the elections in Greece could never be free with the British troops there. Bevin referred to the fact that the United States Government did not feel that the elections were going to be free in Bulgaria,45 and that could be discussed pro and con, but of course he could never admit that the presence of British troops would not guarantee a fair election.
Vyshinsky then lost his temper and spoke for five or six minutes, not even pausing for the interpreter. He said this was not propaganda and that he had a deep conviction that the validity of his case was evident. It was very distressing to him that Bevin could not see the situation in the way we [he?] saw it.
Then the Pole spoke up, red in the face, and said some rather unpleasant things relative to lack of understanding among the big powers, etc.
I then became quite aroused for we had gone on for an hour and forty-five minutes already and I felt that a great mistake had been made for Makin to adjourn for five minutes and allow us to be out for almost two hours, and I made a three- or four-minute statement.
I said that the eyes of the world were on us at this meeting. None of us were other than average men, but that the world had supreme hopes for the success of the United Nations and more than that the success of the five permanent members learning to work in harmony and understanding. The exchanges which had taken place this evening had been very disturbing. Civilization as we knew it depended upon not only the success of the United Nations but specifically the success of the five countries here represented finding a solution to their problems. I was convinced that with good will, understanding and tolerance we could find a solution, and I appealed to Vyshinsky and Bevin to look at this situation in a broad way.
I then stated that I felt personally that they should both be satisfied with having the Chairman make a statement something along the following lines—that we should take note of the declarations of the representatives of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and Greece, and we should also take note of the views expressed by France, China, the United States of America, (and anyone else who talked, in order that their statements may be in the official record) with regard to the situation in Greece which had come about as a result of the presence of British troops, and all of these declarations and statements should be published in the official records and that the matter should be [Page 111] closed. I said something of that kind certainly should satisfy the situation particularly in view of the fact that the day before yesterday we had a vote46 and the vote was nine to two stating that a threat to the peace did not exist.
I then said that I now wished to make very clear to Mr. Vyshinsky in making this proposal that I link what I said to the declaration of the United States made the day before yesterday in which I stated it was the position of the United States that we did not believe a threat to the peace existed as a result of the presence of British troops in Greece, and moreover I placed great emphasis on the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Council had already publicly so stated.
Vyshinsky spoke up and said, “This is very interesting but I must consult my Government.” Bevin stated, “I will have to discuss this with the Cabinet.”
I then stated that we had kept the Council, the press and the public waiting for almost two hours, and had recessed for five minutes, and I said it was going to make a very bad impression and I felt we must adjourn and continue it in public or decide to meet tomorrow. Makin said he thought we should meet tomorrow. Vyshinsky suggested ten p.m. tomorrow night. Somebody said that was too late and we should meet at eight. We agreed to meet at nine.
After Vyshinsky had asked me for the text of what I said, Jebb came up along side of me and wrote it up in long hand. He did not get it correctly and I re-stated it slowly. Vyshinsky took it down in Russian and Bailey took it down in English. (Copy attached)
We then walked back to the Council meeting. Bevin was uncertain as to the whole situation. He said he thought that serious charges had been made and that the United Kingdom had been charged by Russia of this serious situation and he was not at all sure he could accept any compromise of any kind other than a clear vote regardless of what the circumstances were—even to wrecking the UNO—to clear the charges made by the USSR against the United Kingdom.
I then went back to the Council, and Makin said he would adjourn until tomorrow night at 9 and meet at 10:30 a.m. to elect the judges.
- Sir Alexander Cadogan, British Representative at the United Nations.↩
- Trygve H. Lie, Secretary General of the United Nations.↩
- Hubert Miles Gladwyn Jebb, Executive Secretary of the United Nations.↩
- Norman J. O. Makin, Australian Representative at the United Nations; at this time, also President of the Security Council.↩
- Zygmunt Modzelewski, Polish Representative at the United Nations.↩
- V. K. Wellington Koo, Chinese Representative at the United Nations.↩
- Georges Bidault, French Representative at the United Nations.↩
- For documentation on the meeting at Potsdam from July 17 to August 2, 1945, of President Truman, British Prime Minister Churchill (succeeded during the meeting by Clement R. Attlee), and Marshal Stalin, see Foreign Relations, The Conference of Berlin (The Potsdam Conference), 1945, 2 vols.↩
- The Council of Foreign Ministers met at London from September 11 to October 2, 1945, and at Moscow from December 16 to 26, 1945: for documentation on these meetings, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. ii, pp. 99 ff., and 560 ff.↩
- For documentation regarding the political situation in Bulgaria, see vol. vi, pp. 46 ff.↩
- The vote actually took place on February 4.↩