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141 Curtin to Forde

Cablegram 12 (extract) LONDON, 9 May 1944, 8.01 p.m.


(Addressed to the Acting Prime Minister, Mr. Forde.) 1. With reference to subparagraph i (IV) of my No. 11 [1] relative to the review of foreign affairs, the Foreign Secretary stated that the main duties of the Foreign Office in time of war were- (i) To give all possible support through the diplomatic channel to the defence forces in the conduct of operations.

(ii) To lay the foundations during the war for a co-operation of forces to keep the peace.

2. A cardinal feature of the conduct of the foreign policy had been to avoid commitments or decisions during war which might at the peace table prove embarrassing for the future of the world. So far that policy had been successfully fulfilled. No commitment or engagement, secret or other, had been contracted with anyone.

3. The Foreign Secretary stated that the principal task which fell to him to discharge was the preservation of harmony between the great Allies and specially between the British Empire, the United States and Russia.

4. The relations with the various United Nations were traversed.

The dominant position of Russia in the Europe of the future and the paramount importance of ensuring the present close collaboration and co-operation in the post-war period was emphasised. The manner in which the Russian Government had recognised the Badoglio [2] Government was mentioned as an illustration of a tendency to separate action though the result was satisfactory because it had effected a complete change of attitude in the Communist elements in that country and had given a broader basis of support to the Badoglio Government.

5. The results of the European Advisory Commission were stated to be disappointing so far and I am cabling a copy of the note by the Foreign Office on its work. [3]

6. There was some discussion on International Communism and I pointed out that if the Communist Party could throw up personalities who would attract public attention and support as the Nazis had done, they might well appeal to oppressed and discontented elements. I had in mind a strong resurgence of Russian Nationalism of which there appeared to be so many signs with the Communist Party in other countries acting as it were as Russian diplomatic agents. We should aim at establishing as early as possible some kind of stable Government in the countries which had been over-run. Clearly all post-war adjustments would primarily depend on how far we could succeed in our arrangements with Russia, and how far Russia in fact sincerely intended to collaborate. We should not be deterred from a world organisation if Russia was ready to collaborate, merely because we disliked a particular form of Government. But the leader whom in various countries we found it wise to support in time of war was not necessarily the leader for times of peace.

7. Mr. Churchill said that the history of the Communist Movement in relation to the war had been a dispiriting one, having before the war pressed France and Britain into war when the war started and Russia did not at once join in they had denounced the war as Imperialist. When Russia had joined the Allies, they had again changed their policy. It was understandable that in these circumstances there should be no relation between the Labour Party in this country and the Communists, and inevitable that the deep- rooted suspicions which the British working class entertained of them should be difficult to eradicate.

8. In regard to France, the Foreign Secretary said that the most important recent development had been the growth in the authority, and on the whole he felt in the sense of responsibility, of the French Committee of National Liberation. The Committee was a definite and useful guarantee against the adoption of any extreme policy by General de Gaulle [4] and had exercised a valuable restraining influence on him at the time of the Lebanon crisis. A feature of the Committee was the importance in it of the resistance groups from France. The Committee had given us a pledge that there would be elections once France was re-occupied and that while Allied Forces were occupying France there should be no executions. France when attacked in 1939 had been a divided country and that was still the position. It remained to be seen whether the various warring factions could even now unite. Our policy would be to give all possible assistance to the elimination of discords or controversies, both on general grounds and because after the war a strong and friendly France would be more important to us than ever.

9. In describing the position of Holland, Belgium and Norway the Foreign Secretary said that all three countries were now in very close relations with the United Kingdom and would welcome even closer relations and, if possible, with France after the war.

10. There was some discussion on China. The Foreign Secretary stated that the internal position in China had much deteriorated in the last nine months and relations between Chiang Kai-shek's [5] party, the Kuomintang, and the Communist Party had also deteriorated. There was now a risk of a clash between the Communist armies and the armies of the Marshal. The situation had also deteriorated economically and the regime had moved towards the right and increasingly towards the Soong Oligarchy. [6]

While the situation was far from stable the United Kingdom Ambassador in Chungking [7] thought that China could be relied on for another year, given the continuance of supplies by air, although he was not prepared to commit himself further. Nor were relations between China and Russia good. A recent incident in Sinkiang had shown that Russia did not want China to have sovereignty over Outer Mongolia and the possible reactions of a decision by Russia to join the Allies against Japan on the position inside China could not be overlooked.

Mr. Churchill emphasised the importance that had to be given to American views.

[matter omitted]


1 Dispatched 8 May. On file AA:A5954, box 659.

2 Italian Prime Minister to 9 June.

3 See cablegram 13, dispatched 10 May. On file AA:A5954, box 656.

4 President of the French Committee of National Liberation.

5 Chinese President and, until 4 December, President of the Executive Yuan.

6 T. V. Soong, Chinese Foreign Minister and, from 4 December, President of the Executive Yuan, was the brother of Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Madame Sun Yat-sen (a State Councillor) and brother-in- law of Dr H. H. Kung, Chinese Finance Minister.

7 Sir Horace Seymour.

[AA:A5954, BOX 662]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History