501.BB/2–646: Telegram

The United States Representative at the United Nations (Stettinius) to the Secretary of State

us urgent

1465. Delun 249. I will attempt to give below an analysis of the developments in regard to the Greek question now before the Council. This account will not include, except for purposes of convenience, a report of proceedings of the Council itself, which have been reported in the press and in our telegrams Embassy’s No. 1279, DelUN 234, and DelUN 246.47 After the initial meeting on Friday February 1 at which the Soviet charge and the British and Greek answer were heard, the principal question over the week end was whether or not the Soviet Government was determined to press its case in the face of the generally insubstantial nature of the charge and its obvious failure to convince the Council that any threat to the peace existed.

It was our view that since in essence the statements of Great Britain and Greece had effectively cleared England of the Soviet charge there [Page 113] would be no advantage to anyone concerned to have the matter brought to a formal vote or resolution which could only exacerbate the situation.

In order to ascertain the British reaction to this position I saw Bevin on Sunday night. He said he would not demand a formal resolution or vote under the circumstances but would be quite satisfied with some statement from the Chair expressing the sense of the Council that no threat to the peace had been caused by the presence of British troops in Greece or any other informal indication of the Council’s view to that effect. He made it clear, however, that while not pressing for a formal vote he must, in view of the charges levelled against Great Britain, obtain some indication, no matter how informal, of the Council’s opinion exonerating Great Britain from these charges. He said his Government could not accept any solution which would pass over in silence this vital point.

[Here follows a summary of the discussion with Mr. Vyshinsky as recorded in Mr. Bohlen’s memorandum of February 3, page 106.]

I subsequently saw Mr. Bevin and outlined to him the Soviet position as I had understood it. Mr. Bevin repeated that while he would not press for a formal resolution he would insist upon some expression of the Council’s opinion exonerating Great Britain from these serious charges. He was most vehement on this point. He was quite willing, however, to have me make a statement and appeal to the Council not to take any formal action but to dismiss the case on the grounds of my statement.

The next morning the statement which I subsequently made at the Council was drawn up. During the proceedings of the Council meeting on Monday it became apparent that Mr. Vyshinsky had firm instructions from the Soviet Government consisting of 2 main points: (1). That the Council should adopt or informally accept some statement as close to the original Soviet proposal for the quick and unconditional withdrawal of British troops as is possible. (2). To block any ruling or resolution by the Council exonerating Great Britain of the charge that the situation resulting from the presence of British troops constituted a danger to international peace.

This was demonstrated by the resolution which he himself introduced concerning the withdrawal of British troops (later withdrawn in favor of the Polish resolution to the same effect) and by his emphatic objection to the inclusion in the Egyptian proposal of a reference to the absence of any danger to the peace, even carrying his objection to the point of threatening to exercise the veto power.

Mr. Bevin on the other hand was quite prepared to accept the Egyptian proposal including the reference therein to the withdrawal [Page 114] of British troops but could not accept the elimination of the sentence exonerating Great Britain.

As a result of Monday’s meeting the issue had narrowed down to the question whether or not the Council should give some indication that British action in Greece did not constitute a threat to the peace. On this point 8 members of the Council had spoken expressing the opinion that the British action did not constitute a threat to the peace but it was obvious that no motion to that effect could be carried in view of Mr. Vyshinsky’s announcement that he would exercise the veto power to block it.

Prior to the meeting last night Mr. Wellington Koo made several attempts with the Russians and British to find a formula which would reconcile this issue but without any success. As a result when the meeting convened last night there was no basis for agreement and the Chairman had not worked out any procedure for handling the matter. In this connection I am obliged to state that in our opinion and that of other delegations had the Chairman been more decisive and experienced this troublesome and dangerous controversy could have been terminated by an appropriate ruling from the Chair. When it became apparent that no basis for agreement on disposing of the question was present the Chairman suggested a short adjournment and Mr. Bevin and Mr. Lie retired to a private room where, on their own invitation, Vyshinsky, the Pole and I joined them.…

[Here follows a summary of the discussion at the secret session of February 5 as recorded in Mr. Stettinius’ undated memorandum, page 108.]

Mr. Bevin phoned me early this morning to say that he was going to suggest to the Prime Minister within a few minutes that my proposed statement with slight alterations was a satisfactory basis for agreement. He said he thought he had perhaps gone too far in urging his point. He later advised me that the Prime Minister hesitated to accept my proposal and wanted Britain cleared. A Cabinet meeting is being held later today to obtain a final decision.

Mr. Makin also reported that his Government had given him strict instructions not to agree to anything which did not clear Britain fully. He said that if the British did not agree to my proposal he would make a statement at tonight’s meeting that since 8 countries had stated the British troops were not endangering international peace he declared the matter closed. The representative of Brazil has also advised me that he proposes to state before the meeting is closed that Brazil does not believe that the presence of British troops in Greece has endangered peace.

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If Great Britain and the Soviet Union adopt my suggestion I believe the matter will have been closed in the best possible manner under the circumstances.48

  1. None printed. No. 1279 was dated February 2, 1946; DelUN 234 and 246, which also carried Embassy Nos. 1401 and 1451, were dated February 5 and 6, respectively.
  2. The Security Council discussed the Soviet complaint concerning the continued presence of British troops in Greece at its meetings on February 1, 4, 5, and 6. It disposed of the case on February 6 when agreement was reached on a summary statement read by the President of the Council which very closely paralleled the statement offered by Mr. Stettinius (see annex to the undated report by the United States Representative, p. 111.). For the official record of the proceedings of the Security Council at the four meetings, see SC, 1st yr., 1st series, No. 1, pp. 72 ff., 91 ff., 132 ff., and 165 ff. The statement by the President of the Council is printed ibid., p. 171. The United Nations has published an account of the Council’s deliberations in Yearbook of the United Nations, 1946–47, pp. 336–338.