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

Cablegram 186 LONDON, 20 May 1939


Reference our telephone conversation-following confirmation of points. I suggested:-

(1) The probability that any arrangement with the U.S.S.R. will have the same effect in Germany because the Nazis will use any arrangement with public to suit their own ends. Therefore if the object is to prevent action by Germany through fear of encirclement the question is agreement or no agreement, not what kind of an agreement.

(2) Failure to arrive at an agreement with the U.S.S.R. might have the effect-see third (mutilated group) of your telegram of 19th May. [1]

(3) Therefore whether success or failure to arrive at an agreement with the U.S.S.R., action by Germany must be visualised.

(4) In such event, if agreement, we would have support of the U.S.S.R., if no agreement, we would be without that support.

(5) Suggested that the U.S.S.R. not serious and simply leading the United Kingdom into a trap. If considered that agreement or nonagreement might equally lead to war, this suggestion immaterial, because in either case the U.S.S.R. can look on and watch the capitalistic countries destroy themselves. If, however, no U.S.S.R. agreement a great volume of public opinion here France Australia and other countries including the United States would consider war due to such failure and bad atmosphere would be created. If, on the other hand the U.S.S.R. betrayed us, public opinion would be consolidated and more sympathy and support forthcoming.

(6) Present indications are that the suggestion that agreement would be distasteful to Poland and Rumania is greatly exaggerated. On the other hand, in my view no agreement might affect Turkey seriously and to lose Turkey as well as no Russian agreement would be disastrous.

(7) Most serious objection is possible effect on Japan. In view of other considerations this I feel has to be risked particularly bearing in mind doubt as to whether an agreement limited to Europe would result in Japan agreeing to military alliance and the fact that if Japan did so, the United States would immediately be vitally concerned and in the event of serious action by Japan in the Pacific would intervene.

(8) In my view public opinion here substantially in favour of agreement with the U.S.S.R.

After carefully weighing the whole position, I feel the wisest course is agreement with the U.S.S.R. upon the best basis possible but under no circumstances save demand to extend agreement to the Far East should negotiations be allowed to fail. Imperative that views of Australian Government should be conveyed not later than Monday next. [2]


1 Document 90.

2 See Document 93.

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