266 Evatt to Deschamps for Marshall

Cablegram 69 CANBERRA, 20 April 1947, 9.15 p.m.


Please convey the following personal message to MARSHALL from the Minister. Begins.

While I appreciate your great efforts for wider participation by the middle and smaller nations in the German peace negotiations, there are certain fundamental aspects of the settlement to which I feel it my duty to call your attention.

It would appear from the proposals which both the United States and United Kingdom delegations have put forward for procedure that there has been a misinterpretation of the special responsibilities of the four powers in regard to the German Settlement. Australia always loyally accepted the leadership of the great powers in time of war, and I have often stated that there were important respects in which that leadership would also be loyally accepted in the post-war years. Nevertheless it has never been my understanding that the four powers would carry their insistence on leadership so far as to take upon themselves the final responsibility for making the peace. This was never intended in the Potsdam Agreement. May I respectfully remind you of the statement made by Mr Byrnes on this point in a broadcast of 5th October.

'At Berlin, it certainly was never intended that the three powers present or the five powers constituting the Council should take unto themselves the making of the final peace. The Berlin declaration setting up the council begins with the statement-"The Conference reached the following agreement for the establishment of a Council of Foreign Ministers to do the necessary preparatory work for the peace settlement.' The Council was not to make the peace settlement but to do the necessary preparatory work for the peace settlement.' It is clear, therefore, that any special responsibilities which the four powers may have in regard to the peace settlement refer only to preparation. As you know, we have never accepted as either just or democratic the subsequent procedure laid down for the peace treaties with Italy and the satellite enemies at the Conference of the Foreign Ministers at Moscow in December, 1945.

This was based on a misinterpretation of Potsdam and its failure was fully proved by the experience of the Paris Conference when it was found that a prior agreement by the members of the Council of Foreign Ministers not to accept any amendment to a proposal on which they had previously reached agreement made it impossible for many constructive proposals and amendments to be accepted. It was further proved by the manner in which many of the recommendations of the Paris Conference were altered or rejected by the Council of Foreign Ministers when drawing up the final texts of the treaties.

The need to improve on the methods adopted at Paris has been admitted by all four powers, notably at the deputies' meetings in London last January and February. But the improvements now under consideration in Moscow appear to me to perpetuate the misinterpretation of the true functions of the Council of Foreign Ministers as a preparatory body only. At its best, the procedure under consideration treats the middle and smaller active belligerents as [if they] were subordinates or consultants, a very different role to that which they were repeatedly led to expect when their assistance in the war was required. Moreover the peace conference with Germany is still only to be permitted to make recommendations which the Council of Foreign Ministers is to be free to amend or reject at will.

In view of this I should like to make the following positive suggestions:

i. The United Kingdom and the United States should endeavour to depart from the pattern which the Council of Foreign Ministers meetings have taken, namely preliminary assertions on principle that there will be firmness about rights of active belligerents to participate in peace making but ultimate compromise due to the fact that Russia, largely supported by France, does everything possible to prevent such participation. I am convinced that if Russia was firmly told the procedure which had to be adopted (see para. ii, iii, & iv below) she would ultimately yield. The pattern tends to perpetuate itself because the Russians rely upon representatives of other countries yielding to the pressure of fatigue and particularly to the fear of so-called unsuccessful conference. A compromise reached under such circumstances involves sacrifices of the rights of other belligerents.

ii. The fundamental necessity is an attempt to call an unfettered conference of active belligerents and allow that body to assume final responsibility for the peace settlement. If that were agreed on, the conference could itself give authority to an executive consisting of the major powers and other selected countries to take charge of the preparatory and drafting work. A suitable occasion for the calling of the first meeting of such a conference might be the next meeting of the General Assembly. Having appointed its executive and the necessary committees which would remain in continuous session, the conference could adjourn and then meet again as required.

iii. The Paris conference was largely prejudiced by prior recommendations of the Council of Foreign Ministers in regard to voting procedure. This in turn led to a long struggle at Paris over voting. But voting procedure could be excluded altogether from consideration at a peace conference, because ex hypothesis a peace settlement when made requires unanimity. Unanimity, however, should not be reached at Council of Foreign Ministers level prior to the conference but at the conference itself. In my view there is a danger that the latest United States proposals on voting will merely reproduce the friction and misunderstanding of the Paris Conference.

iv. It is absolutely essential that there should be no agreement amongst the Council of Foreign Ministers that they will adhere to the terms of any draft unless any agree to an alteration. The fact is that no treaty in relation to Germany will be enduring if it is brought about by exclusive and undemocratic methods such as implied at the Paris Conference and which are in danger of being perpetuated in the latest proposals on procedure.


A similar message is being sent to the Secretary of State for the Dominions. [1] You should inform Bevin of the above message immediately as well as your other Dominions colleagues. As this is a matter of great importance to Australia we would like you to be more active than you have been in impressing our point of view.

You will recall that we previously gave you authority, and indeed instructions, to initiate discussions. It is useless merely to act as an emissary on behalf of the United Kingdom Delegation.

With reference to your 124, you should be aware that none of the proposals referred to in para IO is acceptable. [2] The reasons for this will be quite clear from the Minister's message to Marshall.

1 A copy was also sent to Beasley as cablegram 132 of 20 April.

2 Deschamps' cablegram 124 of 15 April, paragraph IO, reported that the United States, France and the Soviet Union were close to an agreement whereby treaty drafting would rest with great powers and that 'deliberation and consultation' in committees could extend to Germany's neighbours and to active belligerents. He expected the United Kingdom to compromise under pressure.

[AA : A1068, E47/15/5/2/6]