870.00/2–1348: Telegram

The Ambassador in Yugoslavia (Cannon) to the Secretary of State


191. Supposing Deptel February 4 to Moscow, repeated Belgrade as 61,1 invited additional comment from here on Balkan federation idea, we still register reserve for reasons given Embtel 78, January 18,2 notwithstanding impressive reports from other sources.

As regards ultimate design we had hitherto accepted without much examination doctrine that Soviet aim was for eventual incorporation south Slav states in USSR. We now feel that even that requires new precision as to tone and redefinition as to substance.

Those who talk of long range absorption in centralized union usually couple it with supposed intention of subsequent decentralization, process which seems somewhat wasteful. Several people here have mentioned Ukraine as example. If it is true that some disciplining has been necessary there it has surely occurred to Moscow that much more difficulty would be encountered in Balkans where there are stubborn economic ideas, particularly among the peasants and advanced political consciousness in all levels of population. Problem of centrifugal forces discussed in last paragraph Embtel 9, January 4,2 would also remain. There is enough latent trouble for Soviets in this region and enough suppressed nationalism to signal caution in promoting absorption idea.

If one means Moscow’s bid for world or half world leadership, however, aim may well be counterfeit or “improved” United Nations under Soviet guidance. That goal could be reached under present system of indirect control of separate states, despite sneaking fondness of present governments for Lake Success. We agree that regional groupings might make a neater pattern.

[Page 298]

Looking at Soviet’s immediate objectives, Balkan federation would hardly help their cause in either Germany or France. Italy can be better played by clandestine operations with Yugoslavia as backstop. Territorial claims against Austrian Carinthia make more sense on grounds Yugoslav nationalism is more elusive concept of broader correlated interests. Moscow is probably not yet ready to declare its claim to Trieste except through Yugoslav agency. In Greek affairs flexibility of present technique with advantages of alternate use of Albania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia as stooges on frontier seems too good to lose.

These tactical considerations should not obscure a basic Soviet objective in this part of Europe, control of the Straits. Though there has been less noise on this recently we think USSR’s long term planning rates Aegean and the vistas beyond higher than Adriatic.

Sent Department 191; repeated Moscow, Paris, London, Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia, Warsaw, Athens.

  1. Telegram 152, February 4, to Moscow, not printed, but see footnote 5, p. 293.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.