711.4027/10–148: Telegram

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

secret   urgent

4340. Following verbatim text Foreign Office reply aide-mémoire re satellite civil aviation policy:

  • “1. His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs1 present his compliments to the United States Chargé d’Affaires and with reference to the aide-mémoire left at the Foreign Office on the 19th July last,2 regarding new civil aviation policy towards the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its satellities, has the honour to inform him that the competent authorities of His Majesty’s Government have given the proposals of the United States Government their most careful consideration.
  • 2. With regard to the proposal that all operations by the airlines of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its satellites into non-Curtain territory should be prohibited until the Soviet Government grant truly reciprocal rights in Soviet territory, His Majesty’s Government fully share the United States Government’s desire for the ultimate objective of securing ingress into the USSR itself. They find it difficult, however, to believe that the restrictions proposed would achieve this result in view of the determined opposition of the Soviet Government to the flights of foreign aircraft over Soviet territory (including those of their own satellites) and of their highly restrictive policy with regard to internal civil aviation.
  • 3. His Majesty’s Government have carefully studied the arguments of the United States Government regarding the advantages of adopting the proposed policy on political and security grounds even if it failed to achieve the ultimate objective of ingress into the USSR, but they regret that they do not share the United States Government’s assessment of the relative importance of these factors. If this policy were adopted, the United Kingdom would have to withdraw their present service to Prague and almost certainly their courier service to Warsaw, to the continuance of which they attach very considerable importance on political grounds. They are anxious to take all possible measures to penetrate into satellite territory, and feel that it would have a most depressing effect on the better disposed elements in both Czechoslovakia and Poland if they deliberately embarked on a policy of cutting down the opportunities for intercourse which these services give. They consider that at a time when the USSR is having difficulty with the satellites in its orbit, it would be politic to maintain, and wherever possible to improve, such lines of contact as exist between Western Europe and the satellite countries.
  • 4. The rights of the occupying powers to operate services to Berlin by government-owned or controlled aircraft depend on agreements of a special kind which lie outside the scope of a policy designed exclusively to restrict commercial flying, but the Soviet authorities might be prone to disregard these distinctions and treat the application of the proposed policy as a pretext for closing or further interfering with the Berlin air corridors to the three Western Powers.
  • 5. As regards security considerations, His Majesty’s Government feel that so long as the USSR and its satellites maintain their present large diplomatic and other staffs in Western Europe, no great improvement in general security would result from the prohibition of Soviet controlled flights outside the Iron Curtain, while from a purely military point of view, they consider that the advantages to be gained would be of secondary importance.
  • 6. As will be seen from the above, His Majesty’s Government are hesitant to endorse the proposed policy on its own merits, and, if it were approved, they feel that the policy might be extremely difficult to coordinate with the other countries whose cooperation would be required. While agreeing with the United States Government that a measure of effectiveness might be secured without the cooperation of all the countries whose participation might be desirable, they feel that it would be essential to secure the whole-hearted cooperation of at least the main operators of commercial air services to Eastern Europe, namely, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries, and probably also certain of the countries of the Middle East. They believe that several of these countries attach a degree of importance to the continued operation of these services which would preclude their agreeing to adopt this policy, but they recognize that this must remain a matter of opinion until put to the test by consultation.
  • 7. His Majesty’s Government are most anxious to concert their policy with the United States Government in a matter of this nature involving relations with the USSR and its satellites, and would therefore prefer not to discuss it in a wider forum until their respective standpoints have been reconciled. They would be ready to have a further [Page 469] exchange of views should the United States Government consider this to be advantageous.
  • 8. His Majesty’s Government wish, however, to emphasize that they continue to attach the highest importance to restricting the operation of Soviet and satellite airlines to the maximum extent which takes the foregoing factors into account. Their policy has been to grant to the USSR and its satellites only the minimum concessions necessary to secure their own requirements, and they have been successful in persuading other countries outside the Soviet orbit to follow the same course: in this they attach particular importance to the prevention of flights by Soviet and satellite aircraft to the Middle and Far East.
  • 9. His Majesty’s Government are in full agreement with the United States Government regarding the desirability of concertino; action with the governments of countries outside the Iron Curtain in order to prohibit the sale and export to the USSR and its satellites, either directly or indirectly, of aircraft and associated equipment and to prevent the use by their aircraft of facilities for overhaul, refitting and maintenance. They would welcome further consultation with the United States Government on means to be employed to achieve these ends.”

  1. Ernest Bevin.
  2. Ante, p. 457.