741.61/3–147: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom ( Gallman ) to the Secretary of State

top secret   u.s. urgent

1396. From Matthews1 for the Secretary and Under Secretary. After discussing with Bevin the Polish-German boundary question (on which he has an open mind and is prepared to support proposed changes justified on economic grounds to move the frontiers farther to the east), British policy with regard to the treatment of Germany, and the Franco-British treaty (mytel 13952) he raised the question of the proposed revision of the Anglo-Soviet treaty. He went over the various steps leading up to his messages to Stalin with which you are familiar including references to his conversation with the new Soviet Ambassador3 [Page 539] on January 27 (a copy of memo was left with you by Inverchapel4) and emphasized the points contained in Inverchapel’s aide-mémoire handed you on February 7.5 He referred to his difficulties domestically of declining to consider any revision of the existing treaty. He insisted however that revision would be limited to excluding the obsolete portions of the treaty and said in no case would he consent to going beyond the new Anglo-French treaty. He would likewise insist that any revised treaty contained a reference to our proposed four-power treaty.

He had on his desk a draft for presentation to Moscow which he had not yet read. I asked whether he proposed to submit this draft prior to the Moscow Conference and suggested that he might wish to wait until he had had a chance to talk to you personally before presenting it. He agreed to wait but said he would feel obligated to discuss the question at Moscow with the Soviet Government.

I said that I had been directed to tell him that while we had full and sympathetic understanding of his domestic problems there were certain observations that you felt could usefully be brought to his attention. I said that the Soviet Government had made it quite clear during the past year through its attacks first on one and then on the other of us of its desire to divide the US and Great Britain. I said that a bitter campaign was in fact being waged against US at this time and read him some excerpts from Moscow’s telegram 487, February 21. This was certainly one factor behind Soviet interest in “revising” the Anglo-Soviet treaty at this time. Bevin then referred to his statement in the House yesterday that he would permit no one to drive a wedge between British and the US and said emphatically that he meant it.6

I said that a further Soviet motive in seeking bilateral treaties of alliance seemed to be to weaken UN though giving it lip service. I believed that he should realize that, whether this is true or not, it could not help but undermine the prestige and standing of the UN in the eyes of the American public and probably that of other countries. The American people, I said, had pinned their faith on the UN to provide the security the world was seeking and to them these bilateral treaties first, the Anglo-French and then a revised Anglo-Soviet treaty, could [Page 540] but seem evidence of a lack of faith in the UN and a reversion to the old outworn system of alliances which had become so discredited and had failed so miserably to give the world peace.

I said furthermore that a revised Anglo-Soviet treaty would likewise give the impression in the United States that Mr. Byrnes’ four-power treaty was superfluous. He had asked me whether we intended to push that treaty and had indicated full support. I said that since Soviet opposition to it was presumably to keep the US influence out of Europe any step which weakened support for that treaty was in our opinion unfortunate. I added that a new bilateral agreement with the USSR might give rise to unfortunate American disillusionment at a time when British opinion seemed moving more in the direction of Russia and opinion of the US in the opposite direction.

A further factor which worried us, I said is the time honored Soviet technic of advancing its aims by little steps none of which seemed of sufficient importance by itself to risk a breakdown of negotiations. We were worried lest the sum total of these little steps in this case might not end with a treaty which went far beyond the original desires of the British and which might only serve to bolster the Soviet thesis of “divide and conquer”.

Mr. Bevin received these observations with no sign of disagreement: in fact he said he had brought these “dangers” to the attention of his Cabinet associates. It seemed clear to me that he is unhappy alt the situation in which he finds himself; it seemed equally clear that he feels compelled to proceed with some treaty revision. He insisted however that if Stalin asks for anything which goes farther than the French treaty he will be in a position (domestically) to break negotiations and intends to do so.7

When we left the room his advisers expressed voluble gratification with the line I had taken. I believe the permanent Foreign Office officials are fully aware of the dangers ahead and regret that domestic politics have forced this course.

  1. H. Freeman Matthews, Director of the Office of European Affairs.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Georgy Nikolayevich Zarubin presented his credentials as Ambassador of the Soviet Union in the United Kingdom on January 23.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Aide-mémoire of February 6, p. 528.
  6. In a speech on foreign affairs on February 27, Foreign Secretary Bevin had declared: “On all questions, our relations with the United States are of the most cordial character, and I can assure the Committee [the House of Commons was sitting as a Committee on Supply] that we, for our part, shall not allow any wedge to be driven between our two countries, and to disturb our friendship.” Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 5th Series, vol. 433, col. 2303.
  7. The Ambassador in the United Kingdom, Lewis W. Douglas, reported in telegram 2017 from London on April 2, 1 p. m., not printed, that British Assistant Under Secretary of State Warner had commented that the talks about the revision of the Anglo-Soviet treaty “do not appear to be pushed by the British in Moscow. This, he said, seems to be in keeping with a suggestion made by Foreign Office. Foreign Office had suggested going slow on these talks until it became apparent whether or not agreement would be reached on a pact based on Byrnes’ treaty.” In telegram 2020 from London at 2 p. m., on the same day, Ambassador Douglas told what Mr. Warner had outlined concerning the subjects which had been covered in the meeting between Foreign Secretary Bevin and Stalin on March 24. Among these, on the “question of the revision of Anglo-Soviet Treaty, Stalin Agreed that the talks should get under way.” (741.61/4–247)