319 Australian Legation in Moscow to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 44, MOSCOW, 10 February 1948, 8.08 p.m.


1. The House of Commons debate of 22nd and 23rd January (full text just available here) seems to require re-assessment of the general situation from this post.

2. Bevin's bold public challenge to Russia is surprising. It contrasts with his marked restraint immediately after the breakdown of the London Conference[1]; goes further than any official American or Russian statement known to me; and seems hardly consistent with the severe reductions in British operational forces on land and sea.

3. In the circumstances I cannot help wondering whether the decision to make the statement in this clear bold form at this time was not influenced substantially by the need to facilitate United States Congressional approval of the Marshall plan.

4. In the absence of full information at this post it is difficult to find any underlying unity in the present British foreign policy; instead there seems to be many contradictions. For instance it is difficult to reconcile British dependence on the United States with British pro-Arab policy in the Middle East[2], which in its effects on Palestine may yet bring the United Kingdom into serious dispute with the United States particularly as Jewish financial influence on the Presidential election is increasingly felt. Secondly British policy, especially in the Middle East, seems to have little relationship to the policy on basic support for U.N.O. Thirdly, maintenance of the closest British Commonwealth ties seems in some respects inconsistent with necessary[3] out of the Far East and Indian Ocean and tendency to concentrate on Africa, Europe and perhaps the Middle East. Fourthly the United Kingdom's grave economic difficulties scarcely seem a good background for bold lead by United Kingdom in making public and official challenge to Russia whatever the provocation.

[matter omitted][4]

9. My conclusions are as follows:-

(a) Neither a short term nor long term war with Russia is inevitable though there is a real risk of both.

(b) Statements regarding the risk of war should always be accompanied by statements that war is not inevitable, that the utmost efforts will be taken to prevent war and that every reasonable initiative will be taken with a view to resolving differences and avoiding war.

(c) Between now and the next U.N.O. Assembly all possible direct and indirect means should be exhausted of breaking the present deadlocks on the Peace Settlements and of solving particular problems like Greece, Korea and Palestine. Otherwise there seems a real danger of Eastern Europe leaving or being expelled from U.N.O. Pearson's remarks in Toronto on 26th January suggest that in some quarters (probably including Washington) preliminary consideration is already being given to possible agreement of U.N.O. without Eastern Europe. If this happened, the last real contact between Eastern and Western Europe would be endangered as cessation of Membership of U.N.O. may well be followed by severance of diplomatic relations with Member countries.

[1] The Council of Foreign Ministers met in London during November-December 1947.

[2] For Australian comment on British Middle East policy, see Document 15.

[3] A sign and a gap in the text here indicates 'word and portion mutilated'.

[4] The omitted material comprises an analysis of Soviet policy.

[AA : A1838, TS69/1/1]