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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]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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