860H.5018/3–1047: Telegram

The Chargé in Yugoslavia (Cabot) to the Secretary of State


240. After investigating the food situation in this country as exhaustively as possible following facts appear to be universally accepted:1 [Page 776]

A serious shortage exists at present and has existed for some months past in certain areas of country notably mountainous regions of Bosnia and Hercegovina. (See Agricultural Attaché’s report of October 16, 1946, No. 96.2 UNRRA reports from special observers say situation even worse than anticipated.)
The government has been taking increasingly severe and unpopular measures to extract grain from peasants. (Government is conducting house to house search, reducing amounts allowed for human and animal consumption, punishing hoarders and giving wide publicity to this, etc.)
Government has grossly mismanaged food situation by (a) maintaining one of highest bread rations in Europe; (b) permitting use of white bread for some months; (c) encouraging hog production and diverting unnecessarily large amounts of grain to this purpose; (d) distributing UNRRA goods; for example, canned meats in food surplus areas rather than in deficit areas; (e) giving 10,000 tons grain to Albania and loaning 20,000 tons to Rumania; (f) unfortunate publicity stating that due to skillful government management there would be no food deficit; (g) failure of collection system; (h) obvious lacunae in statistics and failure to draw obvious conclusions even from those available; (i) diverting farm labor to swollen army.
There are many evidences that some food supplies are still available in country. For example, (a) unrationed hard cheese, canned fish, jams and certain meat products are locally available in good quantities; (b) British Embassy has received letter from economic agency of Croat Republic offering to sell cheese, butter and condensed milk in considerable quantities; (c) recently signed Czech trade treaty provides for Yugoslav exports of high caloric foods; (d) number of hogs in country is still unnecessarily high; (e) army particularly in Macedonia is believed to have substantial reserves.
No reliance can be placed on statistical information furnished by Yugoslav authorities since it is contradictory in itself, contradictory to other information available and has proved unreliable in past. Past secrecy and unwillingness of government to provide information to Embassy has now boomeranged. Current Yugoslav statistics presented Embassy show minimum requirements until next crop year of 232,000 tons although UNRRA estimates needs at only 100,000 tons. Agricultural Attaché is forwarding in separate telegram full summary of inconclusive statistics and statements presented to him by Yugoslav authorities.

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UNRRA officials including all top Americans agree that a definite and serious grain shortage is inevitable. While Embassy is somewhat doubtful regarding shortage it believes UNRRA is sincere although possibly ingenuous.

In discussing situation I have made it clear that Yugoslavs must not only establish clear case but also overcome three handicaps: (1) evidence of gross mismanagement, past and present as well as disastrous newspaper publicity; (2) showing must be made not only that Yugoslavia needs grain, but also that need greater than that of countries which would otherwise receive it; (3) because Yugoslavs had been unfriendly towards US and given US little credit for relief furnished, Embassy and Department must be able to convince American public that any allocation granted is justified by facts.

Above statement makes it clear that case for allocation is not fully proven. It is nevertheless our conviction that without allocation people will go hungry no matter how well local food situation might be managed from now till next harvest. We therefore recommend:

That we agree to allocation of one shipload of grain here immediately as token;
That further allocations up to 100,000 tons be made as need approved by UNRRA and Embassy and Yugoslavia fulfills its own commitments regarding food.
That Yugoslavs be required in securing above benefits to publish prominently in all important newspapers in country statement prepared by UNRRA regarding its operations in which preponderant role played by US in furnishing money and supplies for UNRRA is clearly set forth, as well as fair reports at appropriate intervals regarding grain shipments under this agreement.
That Yugoslavs be required to utilize fully available local food resources mentioned above to help cover gap, compliance to be checked by UNRRA and Embassy.

Department will appreciate that principal danger we see in above recommendations is that Yugoslavs will export food in quantities equal to imports and thereby obtain foreign exchange which may be used directly or indirectly for political or military purposes. By requiring Yugoslavs to use locally goods having relatively high export value attractiveness of such a manoeuvre will be diminished if Yugoslavs insincere. In this connection, I frankly fear that if situation is serious Yugoslavs might like Soviets under similar circumstances let people starve rather than abandon political, military or export programs. In this case refusal to grant relief would accomplish nothing, give Yugoslavs magnificent propaganda opportunity (since we could never prove that they rather than we were responsible for mass starvation) and further sharply embitter relations. On other hand, should Yugoslavs refuse to meet above requirements which they will not like [Page 778] despite their reasonableness, we will have answer to worst propaganda blasts.

UNRRA insists that funds for grain will come out of funds heretofore allocated to machinery, parts, etc., and that agreeing to grain allocation will thus decrease rather than increase this country’s war and economic potentials. Department should perhaps check. I, of course, would not recommend new funds for Yugoslav relief on present showing.

One practical advantage of my recommendations is that once adequate grain supplies are assured hoarding situation for which authorities should not be blamed should be eased, thereby reducing needs from US.

Should Department wish to include unrelated political conditions in any agreement I believe satisfaction of Embassy grievances (Embassy’s telegram 231, March 83) is about all we could hope to get, and I doubt this would be worth objections to such course.

I must emphasize that my recommendations are in considerable part based on political considerations, and that they should, of course, be modified if not in conformity with overall picture.

Kling concurs in above conclusions and recommendations. His help has been invaluable in conducting investigations.

  1. Telegram 213, March 5, from Belgrade, not printed, reported that in conversation with Chargé Cabot on March 5, Assistant Foreign Minister Velebit had spoken of the grave food situation in Yugoslavia and had requested the American Embassy to recommend a grain allocation to help meet urgent Yugoslav needs. At Cabot’s suggestion, Velebit agreed to present the Yugoslav case to the American Agricultural Attaché William Kling in order that the gravity of the situation might be determined (860H.5018/3–547). A month earlier, the UNRRA Mission in Belgrade had recommended that a variety of agricultural goods, including 100,000 tons of corn or grain, be immediately sent to Yugoslavia from the United States; see George Woodbridge, UNRRA : The History of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, vol. ii (New York, Columbia University Press, 1950), p. 156.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed; it reported that repeated informal protests by the Embassy regarding the arrest of two translators had had no favorable result, and it suggested that a formal protest be made to the Yugoslav Government setting forth the numerous Yugoslav violations of the Embassy’s immunities (124.60H3/3–847).