212 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 819 CANBERRA, 22 December 1941



With regard to Dominions Office [M] 447, [M] 448, [M] 469 [3] Eden's visit to Moscow.

(1) We should like draft proposed Treaties Russia to be sent to us in advance. Draft declaration set out in 448 seems unobjectionable. But it takes no special account of altered position having regard to (a) Entry into war of U.S.A., (b) Japan's successes as belligerent, (c) Russia's recent successes.

(2) Attitude we are inclinded to recommend is to accede to Stalin's wishes as far as possible providing he undertakes commence war against Japan in near future. We imagine United States attitude would be much the same, i.e. one of complete realism.

(3) Complete understanding with Russia is essential, and this might be obtained through personal contact yourself or Roosevelt rather than through Foreign Office. Without discussing pros and cons, the objective fact is that matters like delay over declaration of War against Finland, Hungary, Roumania, have apparently made Russia disposed to be doubtful out position. In this connection we note the many reports indicating Soviet suspicion and disappointment (see your D. 647 [4] and M. 371 [5], M. 398 [6]). Would be wise to keep in mind that if Stalin's plans are delayed by Foreign Office, there may be some tendency separate peace.

(4) We think there is very urgent need for specific understandings Russia regarding military, naval and air co-operation. We are not concerned to block Stalin's wish ultimately to gain territory at expense Germany and Japan, so long as we can overthrow those powers.

(5) In any event, in view realisation of unpreparedness for Far East campaign against Japan, Russia's assistance may become one of crucial importance. We believe we should bargain frankly for immediate Russian support against Japan.

(6) In particular, it should be possible (subject to the United States Government being informed) to convey to Stalin that at the peace settlement Russian frontier claims in the west will receive the general support of British countries. As we see it, these frontier claims are no more than we had to recognise de facto in 1939 and 1940, and are of such a nature as would at once be conceded by Hitler without compunction to secure the status quo ante the outbreak of German-Soviet hostilities. We note in this respect that in all the dealings with the Czechoslovak and Polish Governments, the United Kingdom Government has carefully refrained from giving any guarantees of restoration of complete territorial integrity, and we feel that Finland, Roumania and others are not deserving of any special sympathy.

(7) We consider further that such an intimation would be more likely to be acceptable to Stalin if it were accompanied by a similar reference to Russian strategical and territorial requirements in the Far East, (i.e. Northern Korea, Southern Saghalien and possibly the neutralisation of Manchuria) and also to the long-standing Russian objective of an outlet to the Indian Ocean by way of Iran.

(8) The present exchanges with Stalin should be conducted on the broadest possible lines. Otherwise it appears only too likely that by delaying too much as to the question of Russia's European frontiers the opportunity for Anglo-Russian understanding and co- operation in the wider theatres of war may be lost. We press these views most strongly. [7]

1 Winston Churchill, who was then visiting the United States. In cablegram 820 of 22 December (AA:A3196, 1941, 0.22384) Curtin requested that his message be forwarded to Churchill 'at his present location'.

2 The U.K. Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, had discussions with Stalin from 16 to 22 December. Eden's main aim was to secure formal declarations on the questions of mutual military aid in the fight against Germany and diplomatic collaboration on the post-war peace settlement and security in Europe. No formal agreement was concluded, however, because negotiations broke down over Stalin's insistence that the U.K. Govt formally recognise Russian sovereignty over the Baltic States. Eden maintained that the United Kingdom could not accede to Russian demands without prior negotiation with, and approval of, the U.S. and Dominion Govts as these territorial demands conflicted with the Atlantic Charter.

3 Dispatched 10 and 19 December. On file AA:A1608, A41/1/1, xxv.

4 Dispatched 27 October. On file AA:A981, War 44 5 Dispatched 21 November. On file AA:A1608, 0.41/1/2.

6 Dispatched 28 November. On file AA:A981, Germany 72.

7 The U.K. Lord Privy Seal, Clement Attlee, informed Curtin on 23 December that the 'position as regards discussions in Moscow has changed and there is now no question of immediate negotiation of agreements. But we are transmitting what you say regarding the Foreign Secretary's visit to Moscow to the Prime Minister in accordance with your request'. See cablegram 878 (AA:A3195, 1941, 1.29265) from Lord Cranborne, U.K. Dominions Secretary.

[AA:A3196, 1941, 0.22365]