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195 Bruce to Forde and Evatt

Cablegram 87A LONDON, 13 June 1944, 5.30 p.m.


For the Acting Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs.


I went to the Soviet Embassy one afternoon last week and over tea had an informal talk with Ambassador [1] which lasted for nearly two hours. I was glad to find that he proposed to have his Counsellor Zinchenko to act as Interpreter as his English is limited.

The conversation began by Gusev asking how the Prime Minister's Conference had gone. I replied that it was a very great success, not because of any concrete decisions but because meeting had shown there was basic agreement between the Governments of the British Nations on all the great fundamental problems. Broadly the position was that all the Prime Ministers had found themselves in accord on the objectives of pursuing the war to total defeat of the Axis and that there would be no diminution of efforts of any of the British Countries if Hitler were defeated before Japan.

Furthermore, there was complete agreement that every effort should be made to ensure fulfilment of the Moscow Declaration [2] with regard to security and world peace and that all should co-operate with a view to maximum International collaboration for raising standards of living and a greater measure of social security every-where.

Furthermore there had been complete agreement that there should be full consultation among the British Nations in pursuing these objectives although no real alteration had been made in the existing methods for such consultation. It had been left for each Dominion to pursue the method of consultation best adopted to its own particular circumstances. For instance one method might be appropriate for consultation between Canada and the United Kingdom in view of the fact that a Minister could dine in Ottawa and breakfast in London, whereas it would be wholly inapplicable as regards Anglo-Australian consultation seeing that Australia and England were 12,000 miles apart.

We then discussed at length the relationship between British Nations and that between the Republics constituting the Soviet Union. Speaking very frankly I said that the main difference was that the British Dominions were resolute that they would not tolerate any interference from the United Kingdom Government. On the other hand, although autonomous powers had recently been given to various Republics of the Soviet Union, the Central Government had, in fact, intervened and such intervention would not be resented by the Republics.

Gusev interjected with the remark that intervention of the Central Government in U.S.S.R. would always be for the benefit of the Republics.

I replied that if the United Kingdom Government ever attempted to intervene they would no doubt consider their intervention was for the good of the Dominions, but that would not in any way minimise the resentment and hostility that would be felt towards such intervention.

I suggested this difference was perfectly natural seeing U.S.S.R.

was only a product of the last 20 years based on common social ideals and a similar economic policy. The United Kingdom and Dominions, however, had over a long period of years been progressively developing their own social systems and economic policies which often diverged, e.g. all Dominions had their own tariffs on goods from other parts of the Commonwealth as well as Foreign Countries which was unthinkable with regard to U.S.S.R.

I also pointed out that all Russians were prepared to accept directions of the Central Party Organisation which was far from being the position of all British peoples. The only thing which really held us together was our common allegiance to the Crown.

The Ambassador then asked whether post-war organisation had been considered at the Conference. I said it had only been dealt with in its broadest aspects. No decisions of any sort had been taken but the Prime Ministers had re-affirmed the principles of the Moscow Declaration and had made it clear to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom that they were all convinced some world authority had to be established for ensuring world peace. This objective they hoped would be achieved by consultation between the United Kingdom, the U.S.S.R. and the United States of America. I added that the United States of America had also been considering this problem and, from what I had read in the Press, they might possibly have reached more concrete conclusions as to the form of organisation.

I asked what was the position in the U.S.S.R. Gusev replied that they considered it essential that there should be some world organisation but had been so pre-occupied with fighting that only a minor degree of consideration had as yet been given to it.

In reply to this I paid the obvious tribute to Russia's war effort, her great losses and sufferings, adding that the British peoples had also endured much and the measure of their sacrifices was likely to be greatly increased now the invasion of Europe had started. Nevertheless, it had been possible to examine the question of world organisation without interfering with the war effort. I stressed that the present was the crucial moment and everything depended on the U.S.S.R. The United Kingdom were now reinforced in their attitude as to the necessity for a world organisation by the strong support of all the Dominions. American Administration seemed to be ready, if necessary, to make an election issue of the question of America's participation. This opinion might, however, pass, as after the war in Europe was won the Americans might intend to withdraw.

Gusev replied that this was not possible. America must recognise that in her own interests she could not disassociate herself from Europe. I replied that I was afraid Political decisions could be taken in America which would ignore the fact that the Atlantic to- day gave little protection to America. Because of that danger I felt very strongly this was the moment when we should get America committed to some form of future world organisation.

At this stage Gusev proceeded to enumerate a list of grievances the Soviet had with regard to their treatment in the last 20 years-long exclusion from the League, lack of appreciation that after her admission Russia had supported all the principles of the Covenant, scorning of Russia's proposals for disarmament and consistent contempt for Russia by other nations. He ended by saying that Russia persisted in her demands as to her position being recognised and would not tolerate the treatment received in the past.

I listened to the tirade in complete silence, merely waiting for the next outburst-each statement had to be translated. This silence rather encouraged Gusev to become more emphatic with a growing tinge of aggressiveness. When he had finished I replied that I entirely agreed with the greater part of what he had said but entirely disagreed with Russia allowing her future policy to be influenced by her memory of past grievances. My somewhat emphatic reply obviously rather surprised the phlegmatic Gusev.

I then went on to elaborate what I meant. I said I agreed that Russia was quite entitled to have strong feelings about her treatment in connection with the League. I was also prepared to admit that her record at Geneva was beyond reproach and the attitude by many nations towards her between the two wars must have been very galling to a proud people. Nevertheless, I thought Russians were quite wrong now to be nourishing a sense of grievance over the past. They should be taking the attitude of a great people-their feelings should be those of satisfaction that they had proved the whole world wrong and themselves right. They had, I went on, demonstrated the success of their great social experiment so that what they had achieved had to be recognised by all and they had won the admiration of the whole world by their achievements in the war.

I ended by appealing to Gusev as earnestly as I could to realise the force of what I had said, to think in terms of the future and not of the past and to throw Russia's incomparable weight behind creation of world authority in which she would take her proper place as one of the greatest nations in history.

Zinchenko, translated everything very fully and it was quite clear from his manner that what I said was acceptable to him at all events. On the whole I think the interview will be of some value and when we parted Gusev was certainly quite genial for him.



1 F. T. Gusev.

2 i.e. the Four Power Declaration.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History