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

Cablegram unnumbered 4 April 1940,


I shall be glad if you will convey the following message to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs [1]- Reference your Circular Z.41 [2], I desire to offer certain criticisms and suggestions regarding resolutions of Supreme War Council. At same time desire to make it clear that while we will from time to time make criticisms or suggestions on matters which appear to us to be of great moment, these must not be taken at any time as exhibiting any weakening in our resolution to stand with Great Britain to our fullest capacity in relation to any war policy that may be adopted.

1. FINLAND I feel reservations about giving any guarantee which it may prove impossible to honour. Are you satisfied that a further attack on Finland would not lead to our standing helplessly by whilst small neutral countries said-'There goes another country which expected help from Great Britain and France'.

As to Norway and Sweden, my instinctive feeling from this distance would be to take no step that would throw them into the arms of Germany. But War Council have no doubt given this factor full weight. Having regard to events in relation to Finland, I now see no objection to take steps reasonably designed to deny to German ships safety in Scandinavian territorial waters.

2. HOLLAND AND BELGIUM I have no comment to offer.

3. PROPOSED ACTION AGAINST RUSSIAN OIL SUPPLIES IN THE CAUCASUS Entirely agree that a dear knowledge as to the probable attitude of Turkey is essential. Would like to go further, however, and say that it is inconceivable that proposed action would not be regarded as an act of aggression against Russia leading to war with Russia. Had it been done at the time of Russia's aggression against Poland or Finland or other Baltic States, the world would have held it justified. But those actions having in effect been condoned, would not this proposed step produce adverse world reaction? Also point out that while French interests are pre- eminently European there are vital British interests in Iraq, Persia, Afghanistan and India, to say nothing of Palestine and Egypt, all of which may be affected by a Russian war, involving the lengthening of our front and the very wide dispersion of our military forces. As this matter affects major British lines of communication and must have some bearing on Far Eastern position, I ask that Australian Government should be provided with an appreciation of the pros and cons of war with Russia so that we may be able to offer a useful opinion upon a problem which plainly has a most intimate significance for us. [3] Broadly, feel that it is one thing to intensify our activity on existing fronts against an existing enemy but quite another to create new fronts and new enemies. This does not mean that we are under all circumstances hostile to war with Russia and, as I have said, if under any circumstances Great Britain becomes involved in war with Russia we will support her loyally. But it does mean that on so great a matter we feel that the fullest consideration of all factors-many of which are too remotely known to us-should be provided for.

4. CONTRABAND CONTROL IN THE FAR EAST I cannot understand how we can make a close contraband control effective in an ocean area in which one country immediately affected, that is, Japan, has a marked naval superiority. As the matter appears to me and to my senior colleagues with whom I have discussed it, this control would tend to be provocative and ineffective in relation to Japan and the United States of America and might well turn out to be enforceable only against smaller countries like the Netherlands East Indies who are our friends.

Having regard to enormous transport problem of taking goods into Russia along Trans-Siberian line, we are strongly of opinion that the contraband steps promised are likely to achieve results incomparably smaller than the risks which they would create.

Perhaps you have some fuller information on these points than has been communicated to us but, having regard to the fact that in despatching forces abroad we have increasingly assumed the neutrality of Japan, there would be considerable uneasiness in Australia at the adopting of any measures in the Far East which are calculated to bring us into conflict with Japan. [4]


1 Anthony Eden.

2 Document 119.

3 No such appreciation was received.

4 The general lines of this cablegram were determined at a meeting of War Cabinet on 4 April 1940 when Menzies undertook to draft it.

The draft was subsequently approved by the meeting (see AA: A2673, vol. 2, Minute 214). Bruce reported on 5 April that he had delivered the message (see unnumbered cablegram on file AA: A1608, A41/1/1, viii).

[FA: A3196, 0.2000]