413 Mr S.M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram 710 LONDON, 8 December 1939

MOST SECRET FOR PRIME MINISTER

[During November 1939 a majority of members of the League of Nations (including Australia) decided that circumstances were inopportune for a meeting of the Twentieth Assembly and that instead the Fourth Committee (finance) of the Nineteenth (1938) Assembly should reconvene to consider the League budget for 1940.

On 3 December 1939, however, Finland appealed to the League to take measures against U.S.S.R. aggression and a meeting of the League Assembly was called for 11 December 1939.]

League of Nations Council and Assembly. Prior to Finnish request efforts of United Kingdom and France have been directed towards avoiding meeting as nothing could be accomplished and meeting would only further demonstrate weakness of League. In face of Soviet aggression and Finnish request meeting unavoidable.

Alternatives in regard to meeting. (a) Send important delegates, i.e. Foreign Minister, stage demonstration denouncing Soviet action and aggression generally and pass strong resolution of condemnation.

Objection to this course is that only United Kingdom and France apart from South American countries would be prepared to take strong line and even United Kingdom and France hesitant of saying anything likely to drive Soviet into German arms; that European small States through fear would take no part in debate and probably abstain voting, and that no effective action would follow with result that League of Nations would be further discounted and the prestige of nations participating impaired.

(b) Send delegates of secondary importance, i.e. Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, endeavour obtain unanimous agreement to as satisfactory a resolution as can be obtained without too many abstentions.

Alternative (b) has been adopted and I am not going to Geneva but leaving representation to McDougall [1] who is already there.

Regarding his credentials Foreign Office advise procedure is for you to telegraph Avenol [2] stating you have appointed McDougall as delegate and that full powers will be sent in due course.

1 F.L. McDougall, economic adviser to the High Commissioner in London.

2 Joseph L.A. Avenol, Secretary-General of the League of Nations.

[AA: A1608, A41/1/1, vi]