92 Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Circular cablegram M341 LONDON, 28 October 1941, 12.55 a.m.

MOST SECRET

Following for the Prime Minister:-

We have recently been considering our relations with Finland, Hungary and Roumania. In a message to Stalin delivered by Sir Stafford Cripps [1] on 6th September the Prime Minister [2] said 'We are willing to put any pressure upon Finland in our power including immediate intimation that we will declare war upon them if they continue beyond the old frontiers'. In reporting on his interview with Stalin after delivery of this message Sir Stafford Cripps said that Stalin would of course like us to declare war on Finland at once.

2. On 17th October the Soviet Ambassador [3] delivered to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs [4] a message from M.

Molotov [5] to the effect that the Soviet Government would appreciate it if we could see our way to declare war on Finland, Roumania and Hungary. He repeated this message with great emphasis on 21St October and pressed very urgently for a favourable reply.

3. It is clear that the Soviet Government attach very great importance to our acceding to this request and we naturally are anxious not to rebuff them or discourage them when at this critical juncture they ask us to make a gesture of this kind. A refusal might arouse their latent suspicions as to our motives.

There are however certain practical considerations which must be taken into account. These can be summarised as follows:4. As regards all three countries a British declaration of war would make it easier for Germany, if she so desires at a later stage, to force those countries to allow their troops to be used in operations against British forces. Moreover, as we have taken all practical measures that are taken on declaration of war except for internment of Finns, Hungarians and Roumanians in this country, a declaration of war would have no practical effect of a beneficial nature.

FINLAND 5. (a) A declaration of war might well drive the Finns, including those who dislike the Germans and do not want open conflict with us, further into Germany's arms. The threat contained in our recent message (see my Circular D.582 of 25th September [6]) to 'treat Finland as an open enemy not only while the war lasts but also when peace comes to be made' is only effective while it remains a threat.

(b) Certain difficulties would arise in regard to shipping viz.- 1. We should forfeit our chances of getting 27 ships now in North and South American waters for the North Atlantic which we are attempting to have taken over by Sweden who would charter them to us. If we declare war we could only expect after long delays that these ships might be employed in trade useful to the Americans;

2. We might cause some dislocation to United States trade, for we have been shepherding these ships into this trade by arrangement with the United States Maritime Commission;

3. We should lose some Finnish crews.

(c) We anticipate that a declaration of war would be distasteful to that body of American opinion which is favourable to the Finns.

Moreover, we should be diverging from American policy of attempting to exploit the difference of opinion which the United States Government believe exists in Finland in regard to continuing aggressive action on Soviet territory (see my Circular D.609 of 9th October). [7]

HUNGARY 6. A declaration of war on Hungary would please the Yugo-Slav Government since Hungary has invaded Yugo-Slav territory and it might cause pleasure in Czecho-Slovak quarters. On the other hand it might be less welcome to Poland who attaches importance to her relations with Hungary after the war.

ROUMANIA 7. Roumania and Hungary must be considered together so that no favouritism is shown to one or the other's claim to Transylvania.

The Yugo-Slavs attach importance to reconstruction of a strong Roumania and would probably prefer us not to go to war with her.

Nor would declaration of war be welcome to Greece or Turkey.

Furthermore, if war were declared on Roumania and Hungary the Greek and Yugo-Slav Governments would press for similar action in regard to Bulgaria who has seized portions of their territory and is massacring the Greek subjects. Unless pressed by the Soviet Government to declare war on Bulgaria (and they have not made this request) His Majesty's Government would not wish to do so principally because it would probably cause the Turkish Government some displeasure. Such a request by the Greek and Yugo-Slav Governments would therefore be refused. The question of Bulgaria need not therefore influence the decision regarding a declaration of war on Roumania and Hungary.

8. Identical action by all British Commonwealth Governments is clearly necessary and we should therefore be glad of the views of your Government at the earliest possible moment. We are also obtaining the views of the United States Government.

1 U.K. Ambassador to the U.S.S.R.

2 Winston Churchill.

3 I. M. Maisky.

4 Anthony Eden.

5 U.S.S.R. Foreign Minister.

6 On file AA : A1608, H41/1/2.

7 On the file cited in note 6.

[AA : A981, WAR 44]