Documents on the Grand Alliance

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1944, vol. 4: Europe, pp. 1005-15

October 1944

Letter from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to President Roosevelt (1) (Oct. 10, 1944) | Letter from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to President Roosevelt (2) (Oct. 10, 1944) | Letter from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to President Roosevelt (Oct. 11, 1944) | Letter from the British Prime Minister (Churchill) to President Roosevelt (Oct. 11, 1944) | Letter from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to President Roosevelt (Oct. 12, 1944)

Letter from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to President Roosevelt

October 10, 1944

Personal for the President. Supplementing my 092352z from my talk with the Prime Minister yesterday I believe that the British conversations here are likely to take the following course.

  1. On the Dumbarton Oaks question the Prime Minister although he will of course follow the line outlined in my message yesterday will I believe give Stalin the impression that he is inclined toward the Russian viewpoint.
  2. It is impossible to foresee what will result from the talks with Poland but Stalin’s agreement last night to allow Mikolajczyk to come to Moscow at once augurs well.
  3. On matters in the Balkans, Churchill and Eden will try to work out some sort of spheres of influence with the Russians, the British to have a free hand in Greece and the Russians in Rumania and perhaps other countries. The British will attempt to retrieve a position of equal influence in Yugoslavia. They can probably succeed in the former but I am doubtful about the latter objective.
  4. As to the Far East I am a little concerned that the Prime Minister’s talks with Stalin may minimize the importance of the conferences that have been agreed to between General Deane and the Red Army Staff. We now have a full agreement from Stalin not only to participate in the Pacific War but to enter the war with full effort. The important thing now therefore is to ascertain what are the Russians capabilities in the East. In this the limiting factors are of course the logistics about which we know so little. General talks are no longer needed and full discussions by General Deane are therefore the next essential step. The Prime Minister’s talks therefore with Stalin should emphasize the importance of the detailed Staff conversation. I will try to see that the Prime Minister’s conversations take this line. I have already General Ismay’s agreement.
  5. The Prime Minister yesterday said little about Germany so I cannot report on this subject yet.

It would be helpful to have your reaction to any of the above for my guidance.

Letter from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to President Roosevelt

October 10, 1944

Personal for the President. Stalin gave a lunch today to the Prime Minister lasting in all about 4 hours which combined some enthusiastic speeches at lunch and interesting private discussions afterward. As I sat next to Stalin I had an opportunity to talk with him and to hear his conversations with Churchill. These confirmed my feeling that if we can get the matters in which we are interested direct to him satisfactory agreements can be reached.

He paid sincere tribute to you personally, to the value of the collaboration between our three countries and to the importance of cementing our relations for the future. Churchill and Stalin had agreed last night to send you daily a joint telegram of their talks. Churchill prepared a draft of last night’s discussions which is now being sent you with certain modifications by Stalin. The most important change Stalin made related to the Balkans.

I have not the message before me but after the sentence that tells of their talks regarding the Balkan countries Churchill had included the words “having regard to our varying duty towards them.”

The implication of this phrase was clearly a recognition of a sphere of influence of Russia and Britain in the several countries. Stalin crossed this phrase out and Churchill agreed.

After lunch talking across Churchill I told Stalin that you would be very glad that he had eliminated this phrase as you believed that all questions should be dealt with by the three of us. Stalin said he was glad to hear this and reaching behind Churchill’s back shook my hand.

Molotov confessed to Eden that Tito had recently visited Moscow. Churchill thereupon expressed to Stalin his surprise at Tito’s visit without informing the British and explained that he would have heartily endorsed it if he had known in advance. Stalin replied cryptically that it was “a folly” on Tito’s part but that it was nationally characteristic of the Yugoslavs to be secretive and suspicious.

Stalin gave Churchill no explanation of why the Russians had concealed the visit from the British.

I am dining with Churchill tonight and he has asked me to give him the Chiefs of Staff’s cable to Deane on the Pacific War preparatory to his talk with Stalin on this subject. I am going to try to persuade him not to do anything that would jeopardize the agreement we have reached with Stalin regarding staff talks between Deane and the Red Army Staff.

Letter from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to President Roosevelt

October 11, 1944

Personal for the President. At dinner last night I got for the first time a more definite picture of what the Prime Minister and Eden have in mind working out with the Russians in regard to the Balkan countries and Hungary. In connection with this Churchill has been using the unpopular term “sphere of influence” but as Eden describes his objectives it is to work out a practical agreement on how the problems of each country are going to be dealt with and the relative responsibility of the Russians [and] the British. They stated that they have explained to Stalin and Molotov that they have no authority to commit us and that whatever is worked out will be submitted to us. They consider that on the basis of the armistice terms Russia will have a pretty free hand in Rumania since our representatives on the Control Commission have little or no authority. In connection with the Control Commission for Bulgaria and Hungary, Eden is attempting to get Molotov’s agreement to greater authority for the British and our representatives. As to Yugoslavia he is attempting to obtain Molotov’s agreement that the Russians should not take any independent action but should join with the British and ourselves in bringing the factions together and continue to work with us rather than independently as the Russians have in the past. Eden feels he has made some progress with Molotov.

As to Greece the Prime Minister feels he has already obtained Stalin’s approval to keep hands off and to use Soviet influence to prevent the Greek Communists from being a disruptive influence and to induce them to play a constructive part in a national government. Churchill and Eden both hope that you and Mr. Hull will be satisfied with the agreements that are worked out as they feel that unless something along these lines is done there will be political turmoil in these countries if not civil war, and the British will find most difficult situations to deal with. They put Poland in an entirely different category as the Polish question requires specific solution involving all of us. Mikolajczyk placed conditions on his coming to Moscow but after a firm message from Churchill he is now on his way.

For speed, security, and your convenience I have been using your Navy channel of communication for all reports both political and military of the Prime Minister’s visit here. May I assume that Secretary Hull is being kept informed?

Letter from the British Prime Minister (Churchill) to President Roosevelt

October 11, 1944

795. We have found an extraordinary atmosphere of goodwill here, and we have sent you a joint message. You may be sure we shall handle everything so as not to commit you. The arrangements we have made for Averell [Harriman] are I think satisfactory to him and do not elude necessary intimate contacts which we must have to do any good. Of all these I shall give you a faithful report.

It is absolutely necessary we should try to get a common mind about the Balkans, so that we may prevent civil war breaking out in several countries when probably you and I would be in sympathy with one side and U. J. [“Uncle Joe” Stalin] with the other. I shall keep you informed of all this, and nothing will be settled except preliminary agreements between Britain and Russia, subject to further discussion and melting-down with you. On this basis I am sure you will not mind our trying to have a full meeting of minds with the Russians.

Letter from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to President Roosevelt

October 12, 1944

Personal for the President. In a series of conversations during and after dinner lasting in all 6 hours the following were the principal matters discussed:

  1. Poland. Stalin explained why Warsaw could not have been taken. In the first drive he had hoped that the Red Army could overrun Warsaw by the impetus of their rapid advance. In this they had failed because the Germans put up strong opposition and the Red Army naturally run ahead of their supplies. Warsaw was on higher ground than Praga [an eastern suburb of Warsaw on the other side of the Vistula river] and this made a frontal attack across the Vistula impossible or unjustifiably costly. To outflank the city will require 50 divisions and it thus became necessary to clean the Germans out of the Baltic States to protect the right flank and to release the necessary forces. He showed his resentment of the “scribblers” in England and the United States who had doubted Russia’s good faith. After some remarks of the Prime Minister regarding the aid to Warsaw from the air the question of Mikolajczyk’s visit was discussed. It was agreed that the British and Russians would put the maximum pressure on both Mikolajczyk and the leaders of the Polish Committee to come to an agreement. If however agreement was not reached as the result of discussions between the Poles, the Russians and British should agree between themselves or [on]an equitable solution. Both of them would then attempt to force the Poles to accept this solution.
  2. There was a long discussion about the Balkan countries particularly Yugoslavia. The Prime Minister took Stalin to task for receiving Tito without informing him. The only explanation that Stalin gave was that Tito had asked him to keep his visit secret. Stalin explained that he had never seen Tito before although he had lived in Russia during 1917 and 1918. At Tito’s request he had promised to give him arms principally captured German but also some Russian. It was agreed between Stalin and the Prime Minister that they should work together in attempting to bring the Yugoslav peoples together for the establishment of a strong federation but that if it was found that such a federation was impracticable without continued internal strife Serbia should be established as an independent country. Both agreed that the former was far more desirable and the latter was only the last resort. This led to an interesting statement by Stalin on the subject of Pan-Slavism which he said he considered as an unrealistic conception. What the different Slavic peoples wanted was their independence. Pan-Slavism if pursued meant domination of the Slavic countries by Russia. This was against Russia’s interests and would never satisfy the smaller Slavic nations. He said he felt he would have to make a public statement before long to make this clear. In connection with Yugoslavia, Churchill explained that England had no “sordid interests” but wished to see her moral obligations to the Yugoslavs fulfilled. Stalin brushed this aside saying that he did not consider Britain’s [interests] in Yugoslavia as sordid. They were very real interests, both in mineral concessions but principally because Yugoslavia had a long stretch of Mediterranean coast. Protection of the Mediterranean was vital to Great Britain’s world communications. Stalin recognized and approved these interests. This turned the conversation to Italy and its future. Both men agreed that the Italians should be forced to work out their own existence within the Isthmus [sic].
  1. This is of course a brief report of many hours of conversation. To give an accurate picture I should explain that frequently both men were talking at the same time and not always on the same subject. When you appreciate also that the two interpreters were attempting to translate what was being said you will realize that a conclusion was not always reached on each point. In general I should add that Stalin shows clearly that he is genuinely glad to have the Prime Minister in Moscow and is using the occasion to attempt to come [to] a meeting of minds with Churchill on as many subjects as possible.
  2. During the evening Eden had a good talk with Molotov about the Poles at which time I had an opportunity to explain how important it was in our relations with Russia for the American people to be satisfied that the Russians were being generous to and patient with the Poles in their difficulties and that in the United States the Polish question was looked upon as the first real test of collaboration in dealing with world problems. Eden and I both got the impression that for the first time Molotov was really interested in understanding the public reaction in England and the United States to the Polish question. is a project of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University

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