390 Commonwealth Government to Mr Clement Attlee, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 168 CANBERRA, 5 March 1942


Your Circular D. 112. [1]

1. Commonwealth Government adheres to view expressed in our telegram 819 of 22nd December [2] that a misunderstanding with Russia at this moment should be avoided by all possible means.

Course of events since that date has emphasised necessity of whole-hearted Russian participation in the war.

2. We regard it as a major and immediate objective to do all that is possible to extend this participation to the war against Japan whose rapidly achieved successes have endangered the whole of Allied strategy.

3. The minimum which could be presented to Stalin in such a connection would be an assurance, subject to proper safeguards, of general support for territorial adjustments in Europe, as was suggested in our telegram 819, and which it is noted is adopted in a modified form in subparagraph (e) 1 and 2 of your D.112.

4. If these questions are raised at a tripartite conference it is doubtful whether any real satisfaction can be given to Stalin in the near future. The whole question might be deferred in an atmosphere of revived suspicion on Russia's part. At the worst it might bring into the open conflicting standpoints.

6. In these circumstances we think a wiser course would be to make a further approach to Stalin, without necessarily awaiting Roosevelt's reply to suggestion of London conversations. Stalin should be informed with complete frankness of position that has arisen and of British readiness to give general support to his frontier adjustments, subject to consent of peoples concerned being obtained in a way which is deemed proper, having regard to Atlantic Charter.

7. If, however, Roosevelt desires tripartite conference, Russia can still be satisfied in accordance with Atlantic Charter Clauses 2 and 3 which embody the general principle of permitting territorial changes if approval obtained from the inhabitants concerned. [3]

8. Above all we urge- 1. That Russia should not be allowed to drift away from us;

2. That while giving Russia's demands bona fide support the Atlantic Charter can still be obeyed;

3. That Russia's entry into the war against Japan may be necessary to our ultimate victory;

4. That time is of the essence of the contract. [4]

1 Dispatched 27 February. On file AA:A2937, Russia (Political:

Secret telegrams).

2 Document 212.

3 For the full terms of the Atlantic Charter see cablegram Z259 of 13 August 1941 on file AA:A1608, N41/1/1. Clause 2 specified that the U.S. and U.K. Govts desired to see 'no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned' and Clause 3 that they respected 'the right of all peoples to choose the form of Government under which they will live 'and wished' to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them'.

4 The Dominions Office replied on 18 March: 'We entirely agree with your view as to importance of getting into and keeping closest possible touch with Russia, but, as you will remember, we have made it clear to Soviet Government from the beginning that we must discuss the matter with the United States and to this course they assented. Moreover, though we are fully alive to the importance of not allowing Russia to drift away from us, it is at any rate of equal if not greater importance to you as well as to us that we should not get at cross purposes with the United States'. See cablegram 323 on the file cited in note 1.

[AA:A2680, 39/1942]