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155 Note by Dunk on the Paris Peace Conference

Extracts [5 October 1946 [1]]


In thinking of the work of the 1946 Paris Peace Conference, it is
necessary to keep clearly in mind the background against which it
met. The Soviet at all times was opposed to any but the four main
nations, viz., United Kingdom, France, U.S.A. and Soviet Union
drawing up the terms of the Peace for defeated European enemy
countries. When it was decided that other countries who had waged
war with substantial resources against Italy, Germany and other
European enemies should be brought into the consideration of Peace
terms their function was limited to recommendation back to the
Council of Foreign Ministers, who have prepared the drafts and who
will decide final terms.

It is necessary, too, to maintain a careful distinction between
the sections of the treaties which have been agreed to by the
Council of Foreign Ministers, and other sections in which
agreement was not reached. This is important because of the
obligation imposed on the Big Four to support agreed clauses and
the pressure which they were able to exert (in particular Russia)
on other countries, to support them.

The work of the Conference fell naturally into a number of quite
distinct phases. The first was the opening Plenary Session at
which over the course of a week the Heads of Delegations from each
country made their opening speeches to the Conference. The second
phase was the establishment of a Main Committee comprising the
Heads of Delegations from each member country to consider and
recommend to the Plenary the general procedure and rules under
which the Conference would work. The third phase was the hearing
by the Plenary Conference of the views of ex-enemy countries and
allied countries which were not included in the 21 nations given
membership at the Conference. The fourth phase is the working of
the various Commissions which were established by the Main
Committee to consider the various sections of the treaties.

Phase one, two and three occupied the first three weeks of the
Conference and it was not until well into the fourth week that the
real work of review of the draft Treaties was commenced by the
various Commissions.

The fifth and final phase of the work of the Conference will
follow as the various Commissions conclude their work and their
reports and recommendations are conveyed to the Plenary Conference
for drafting of final recommendations to the Council of Foreign

Opening Phase

[matter omitted]

Some of the Big Four (Russia was an exception) seemed conscious of
the limitations imposed by the Council of Foreign Ministers on the
Conference. To cover this, great emphasis was laid on the rights
of every member to advance their views and to suggest
improvements, but few were deluded. The Soviet had given early
indication of her unpreparedness to accept amendment, her
inability to accept other political and economic philosophies or
to align herself with the economic requirements of a modern free
trading world.

[matter omitted]

Second Phase
Main Commission on Procedure
The first step in the practical working of the Conference was to
set up a Main Committee to develop general working plans and
procedure. This brought into the open the Soviet point of view
that they were not accepting any fundamental changes in the
sections of the draft Treaties agreed by the Council of Foreign

The main argument fell on the question of voting power and the
main contestants were Molotov, who advanced the two-thirds
majority rule, and Evatt, who fought strongly and tenaciously for
the simple majority. On the decision hinged the effectiveness of
the Conference in recommending changes in the Treaties.

It was a David and Goliath contest, the honours lay with David; in
fact victory would have lain with him except for the other
important thing which soon became apparent and that was that the
other members of the Big Four were committed to support the
finally drafted clauses of the Treaties.

The Russian move for a two-thirds majority was apparently dictated
by a simple count of numbers. They themselves controlled six votes
from the fact that satellite Soviet and Eastern European countries
under Soviet orders could muster six votes, viz., U.S.S.R.,
Ukraine, Byelorussia, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. To
this they could add U.S., United Kingdom and France, pledged to
support the finally drafted clauses. Thus, to be completely
certain of having their way, they needed a two-thirds majority
rule. Actually, in simple majority it would have been fairly safe
for them to count on China and one or two others, but it was not
sewn up and the Russian mentality requires foregone answers.

Evatt, of course, followed his familiar line of the rights of
smaller powers to equality, in discussion and in voting. He was
forceful in argument and commanded the support of most of the free
members. The British Member, in search of the inevitable
compromise, then rolled up a suggestion that any proposal which
commanded a simple majority would come up for discussion in the
Plenary Conference along with those which commanded a two-thirds

Like all middle course suggestions it was supported by those who
wavered on the dilemma of decision and it shifted the ground of
argument from the straight contest to a three-cornered one. It was
immediately apparent that with the two alternatives before them
the Committee would not agree to a simple majority.

The Russians fought to the last, but the British compromise was
carried and recommended to the Plenary Conference. The other rules
of procedure adopted were relatively unimportant; the Commissions
which were set up were logical to the proper examination of the
Treaties and the rest of the business the Committee went through
without much argument or hitch.

The Russians, notwithstanding the decisions of the Committee,
attempted to carry their argument on the voting procedure into the
Plenary Conference, Molotov completely ignoring the decision of
the Committee, which he said was wrong and should not be
confirmed. As the voting in the Plenary followed precisely the
voting in Committee it was a stand which did not prevail. It gave
an indication, however, of rigid Soviet mental processes, which
did not augur well for discussion in Commission.

The rules of procedure having been fixed and adopted, discussion
proceeded to the third and fourth phases, which were respectively
(a) To hear the views of ex-enemy countries on the treaty terms as
well as certain Allied or associated powers which were not members
of the Conference, and
(b) To set up the Working Commission[s] to consider the various
clauses of the Treaties.

Third Phase
The hearing of the views of ex-enemy countries or associated
powers not direct member[s] of the Conference proceeded formally.

As was to be expected, the countries concerned put forward views
which were limited to the effect of the Treaties on themselves.

Italy made the strongest plea, the general tenor of which was to
acknowledge their guilt in entering the war on the Nazi side but
to play up the fact that they had overthrown the Fascist control
and had then rendered the Allies great assistance. They then
proceeded to point out that the loss of Trieste would be a bitter
blow to them from both National and Economic standpoints and that
the economic clauses of the treaty were onerous to a point which
would prevent any sound rehabilitation of the Italian economy.

The other enemy States were inclined to limit any criticism of the
treaties. Being completely enveloped by Russian armies and more or
less completely under Soviet political domination, they were
careful to avoid any criticism of the clauses which directly
affected the Soviet. Rather than comment on any adverse effect of
reparations and other economic provisions of the treaty, they
praised Russian magnanimity in reducing their claims to the treaty
level. It all had a slight ring of that self-condemnation by the
accused which was witnessed at the Soviet Treason Trials in 1936.

Finland was an exception in that she did say that reparations were
too harsh and beyond her capacity to provide. It became obvious in
Commission discussion that this statement was not acceptable to
Russia and the Finns will probably pay for their temerity in the
long run.

The Allied and associated states who gave addresses included
Egypt, Iran, Mexico and Irak. They made no great contribution.

Some of them, particularly Egypt and Mexico, seemed mainly
concerned in creating a background from which they could claim
reparations for damage suffered at the hands of Italy and for use
as precedent when the German treaty is under discussion. Egypt
obviously had her eyes on the very considerable Italian property
located in her territory, which she will probably find some excuse
to appropriate.

Work of the Commission[s]

Nine Commissions were established:

1. Italy Political and Territorial
2. Roumania "

3. Hungary "

4. Bulgaria "

5. Finland "

6. Economic Italy
7. Economic Balkans and Finland
8. Military
9. Legal and Drafting
Representation on these Commissions created difficulty for the
smaller Delegations. Australia was better served than some, but
even so it was a strain on our small Delegation to provide
spokesmen, secretarial assistance and so forth to all of them. A
certain amount of doubling up became essential.

The Soviet made a further offensive on voting on the formation of
the Commissions. Having lost on the straight-out two-thirds
majority rule they then sought to exclude France from voting in
some of the Commissions on the argument that she was not at war
with the Balkan States. She was included in the Commissions as one
of the drafting powers. Further argument occurred on this, but the
issue was left undecided on the general thesis that there was no
need to argue the point at length and obtain decision if in fact
the question of majority did not arise on any particular question.

It was agreed that if it did arise it might be necessary to call
the Main Committee together to give a decision. When I left Paris
the question had not in fact arisen in any of the Commissions

It was necessary for Australia to take a leading part in the work
of nearly all the Commissions for the reason that we had put up a
large number of amendments, more in fact than any other
Delegation. The Australian amendments concerned broadly five
points of important principle:

(a) To provide for machinery to implement the expression of human
rights in the treaties.

(b) To provide for Fact Finding Commissions where, in the opinion
of the Conference, further information was needed. (c) To provide
in all continuing machinery to implement various treaty clauses
for an extension of representations to include three other powers
elected by the Conference in addition to the Big Four.

(d) To provide a Reparations Commission to determine the level of
reparations due and the ability of the paying country to provide

(e) To bring in provision for treaty revision which might prove to
be necessary in the future.

There were other amendments included in our lists, but in the main
they fell within one or the other of the above general principles.

Consideration of the amendments very quickly developed into a
straight out struggle between Australia as proposers and the
Soviet as the main objectors. Any hope which may have been held
that there was any chance of breaking the block of six votes
controlled by the Soviet was soon dispelled. In no single instance
did one of the satellite countries speak even in the slightest way
in opposition to the Soviet view. For example, Poland, which had
firmly indicated its intention to make a claim for reparations
against Roumania, quickly withdrew when the fact that there were
two claimants was used as a reason for establishing a Reparations
Commission to determine the merits of the claims, assess the
amounts of reparations and decide the form it would take.

The Australian amendments were drafted objectively. We had no axe
to grind and no motive except to bring into being a peace which
would endure. Only a very few countries could claim to be equally
detached from any position of beneficiary, New Zealand and Canada
being examples, but no other member took initiative in proposing
amendments of substance.

The Soviet reaction was interesting. They went into immediate and
bitter attack on the Australian proposals. Who was this Delegation
representing a small nation 15,000 kilometres from Europe who
sought to dictate how European Peace would be drawn. Obviously we
were the stalking horse for Capitalist nations in general and
Imperialist Britain in particular. Obviously, too, our primary
objective was to attack Soviet interests. Our motives and
everything else about us were called into question, only our
morals being left out of it, but with a strong inference that we
had none.

We were given the compliment of having Molotov and Vishinski take
up the spearhead of Soviet attack on the Australian amendments in
nearly all Commissions. They spoke vehemently of the suffering of
Russia, the careful discussion of all treaty clauses in Council of
Foreign Ministers, the guilt of our ex-enemies, and the justice of
Allied (in particular Soviet) claims against them. Any attempt to
interfere with the treaties would inevitably undermine lasting
Peace. Who, in short, was this young upstart Nation teaching its
grandmother to suck eggs.

The retort was obvious and promptly given. Australia, from
inherent love of freedom, had spontaneously joined in two European
wars in one generation. We wanted a peace which would prevent
future repetition. We had a full and well earned right to an
effective voice in European Treaty making.

Nothing came of it. The Soviet satellites were marshalled and
spoke their piece in turn. The ex-enemies united in a chorus of
praise for the Russians. No claimant country for reparations dared
raise a voice against Soviet priority because of fear of Soviet
opposition to their own claims.

In the end the Big Four met to discuss slow progress of the
Conference. It is significant that following this meeting U.K.,
U.S., and France came out with prompt support for Russia on all
finally drafted clauses as they came up for discussion. This was
the last ditch so far as Australian amendments were concerned.

Each one was put forward with logical argument but voted out
against the background given in the preceding paragraph.

Clauses not agreed by the Big Four were argued at length and the
full battery of Russian attack turned on U.K., U.S. or anyone
advancing views which the Soviet regarded as contrary to their
interests. It took us out of the firing line, however.

Economic Clauses of the Treaties
These are worth a separate chapter. The draft treaties imposed a
number of economic obligations against the ex-enemy country
concerned, the more important of which were-
(a) To provide reparations
(b) To restore looted property
(c) To compensate United Nations nationals for loss of or damage
to their property situated in the enemy countries.

(d) To surrender external property in hands of Allied countries
(up to limit of claims by those countries).

The emphasis on reparations was to the Soviet and were to be pro-
vided by-
Finland - $300,000,000
Roumania - $300,000,000
Bulgaria - $200,000,000
Hungary - $200,000,000
Italy - $100,000,000
[-plus other claimants not final in the draft] [2]

Payment was to be made in produce and assets of the paying country
and types of goods and schedules of deliveries was left for
bilateral agreement between the Soviet and the paying country.

U.S.S.R. had the field to itself except in the case of Hungary
(where Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia also claimed) and Italy where
there were a large number of claimants (but with priority of 100
million dollars for the Soviet). They would accept no interference
of any authority such as our proposed Reparations Commission to
decide either on their claims or the capacity of the paying
countries to provide.

Would the Australian Delegation, thundered Vishinski, say that
Soviet Russia had not suffered, that her claim was not just, that
it was not right that the guilty countries should pay in part for
the damage they had inflicted. Had not their generosity in
reducing claims to treaty levels been acknowledged by the enemy
countries themselves. Did we want to delay the rehabilitation of
war-torn Russia. Were we more solicitous of our enemies than our
Allies, and so on and on.

There was nothing in all these statements which could not be
readily answered. A creditor's debt in bankruptcy is just but we
have advanced beyond the dark days when a debtor's body is
enslaved for debt. Pursuit of abstract justice, to a point of
economic slavery, would retard the attainment of higher living
standards on which the future prosperity of the world depends. We
did not dispute the justice of reparations claims nor the
principle of reparations payments. We did, however, want an
ordered procedure for determining both the level of claims and the
ability of the paying nation to provide. We wanted, too, to leave
the enemy countries with the means and the hope for working to
stable economic conditions which was, in our opinion, the most
potent factor in establishing stable European peace.

Actually there is not even equity in the reparations clauses as
drafted. For example, the United Kingdom withdrew any claim to
reparations and in doing so withdrew the claim for Malta. No one
could argue in justice or equity that the people of Malta, who
were constantly under aerial bombardment by the Italian Air Force,
did not have an equivalent claim on Italy for reparations as did
people of Kiev or Odessa. Britain had no desire to impose
impossible burdens on Italy and so withdrew the full claim. it is
doubtful, however, whether their action will in fact benefit

It is an open secret that the Russian claim for reparations
against Italy was conceded by U.K. and U.S.A. in exchange for
U.S.S.R. agreement on an International Trieste.

The Soviet attitude on reparations in the Balkan countries must be
considered in relation to their economic activities there. In
Roumania, Bulgaria, Hungary [3] special trading corporations have
been formed under State monopoly with 50% Russian capital to
handle the main products of those countries. The honesty of the
provision of Soviet capital may be open to some doubt. For
example, a substantial part of capital contribution to the
Roumanian Oil Corporation is in the form of German oil plant
located in Roumania and the Roumanian Government would hardly be
in a position to question the value which the Soviet place on such
plant. There is no doubt, however, of the intention to provide
complete State monopoly to these corporations and the extent of
Russian economic dominance through them will undoubtedly be
substantial. Particularly so when considered in relation to
provision of production as reparations to the Soviet over seven or
eight year period.

The more important of the remaining economic clauses concern
seizure by holding countries of external assets of the ex-enemy
countries and compensation for property of United Nations
nationals situated in ex-enemy territories. Italy probably suffers
most from the seizure of external assets and the effect of this on
rehabilitation of Italian foreign trade will be obvious. The
compensation provision has an internal effect since it is arranged
by the return of the property in question or compensation where it
has been destroyed or damaged. Payments in the latter case will be
made in local currency and exchange control laws will apply. The
Soviet has objected to full compensation being paid on the general
grounds that as reparations a-re met only in part, compensation
should not be paid in full and they have suggested payment up to
one-third. This point was still being debated in the Economic
Commissions when I left Paris.

The background of the Balkan countries in relation to the Soviet
provided little prospect at any time of giving Roumania, Bulgaria,
Hungary and Finland any substantial degree of economic
independence and the most that looked possible of achievement was
to keep Italy as free as possible. Unfortunately, however, the
Soviet reparations from Italy which had been agreed by the Council
of Foreign Ministers and was confirmed by the Italian Economic
Mission against the Australian proposal for a Reparations
Commission, gives to the Soviet the right of bilateral
negotiations for the supply of goods from current Italian
production over a period of eight years and up to a limit of 100
million U.S. dollars in value. It goes further and permits the
supply by the Soviet of raw materials necessary for the production
of reparations goods and for bilateral agreement on the types of
goods and schedules of delivery. No outside agency has any right
to interfere and the Soviet is, therefore, placed in a very strong
position to exert influence on the Italian economy. I would be
surprised if the fifty-fifty corporation already a feature in the
Balkan countries, is not extended to Italy also in connection with
the provision of reparations. If this happens it is hardly to be
expected that the activities of the corporations will end when
reparations payments to the Soviet are complete.

Other claimants for reparations against Italy, including
Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania, Ethiopia, France and Egypt, have
registered heavy claims and the method of collection has not been
decided in the draft treaty. The confusion which would result from
having six or more countries individually negotiate bilateral
agreement with Italy on reparations is apparent and there is, I
think, good prospect that the Italian Economic Commission will
agree to the setting up of some form of Commission to handle
reparations for these claimant countries. Nothing that is done in
this direction, however, will affect the provisions for
reparations from Italy to the Soviet.

Personalities of the Conference
The Conference did not produce much in the way of colorful
personalities. Two exceptions to this general rule were Vishinski
and Evatt. Bevin might have been a third but he was out of action
through illness during the early stages and only a background
figure latterly.

Molotov was rugged and a strong force who had always to be
reckoned with but did not reach any great heights in oratory.

Easily the best master of language was Vishinski and even with the
disadvantage of not being able to follow him directly, one at all
times felt his complete mastery of language, his grip of subject
and his strength in debate. The only Delegate who could match him,
and as a result they became natural opponents, was Evatt, whose
energy, consistency, logic in summing up, was outstanding.

[matter omitted]

Soviet Attitude
The Soviet position in relation to any major change in the drafted
treaties has already been touched upon. Their general attitude,
however, was worth special study. My own impression was that they
spoke with full conviction in the rightness of their attitude,
notwithstanding that from a more liberal Western standpoint they
appeared often enough to be intransigent. I should think that they
found our point of view as difficult of understanding as we found
theirs. Their intense suspicion of all liberal Western methods and
philosophies was constantly apparent but there seemed to be no way
in which this gap of understanding could be bridged. Pure logic
could not prevail against any real or imaginary danger to what
they considered to be their direct interests. Their stubborn
tenacity was quite unmovable but it still had the ring of deep

I have thought for some time that the Soviet insistence on having
a finger in every pie and allowing no trick to pass them was
dictated not so much by any fixed policy as by absence of it. They
want an assured position when a firm international policy emerges.

This comment does not, of course, apply to those adjoining
countries where their policy is already well determined.

Possible Effects of the Treaty
It would be a courageous man who would attempt at this point,
before the Treaties are really made, to forecast their eventual
effect. Certainly, however, few of the mistakes of Versailles have
been corrected and many have been repeated. It is difficult to see
a satisfactory rehabilitation of European economies arising as a
result of the Treaties. It could happen in spite of them but
seemingly this happy result would depend on how quickly Russia
loses her distrust of a capitalistic world, relaxes on the
strategic bunkers with which she is surrounding herself and
becomes more adaptable to a free exchange of trade and the ideals
which go with it. It will greatly assist balancing of European
economy if Italy can be kept reasonably free, and a great deal
depends on how the Soviet uses the economic advantages given to
her in the Italian Peace Treaty.

I do not think that Russia is blind to economic thought and
economic development throughout the world. For the present,
however, she is not prepared to look beyond the necessity for
improving conditions in Russia with a very great improvement in
the availability of consumer goods to the Russian people. When
this disadvantage is overcome, and not before, will she be
prepared to consider economic betterment in adjoining countries
under Soviet influence.

Probably the greatest change will come over world trading when the
Soviet has mastered its own internal problems and becomes
interested in turning her potentially great productive power into
supply of world, rather than Soviet, needs. If this change comes
suddenly it could have a bad effect and the conditions from which
wars incubate could develop.

There is always a tendency for any commentator to emphasize the
thing he knows best and perhaps I have concentrated too much on
the economic sides of these treaties. I believe them to be more
important than the political sections. 'Bread before Borders',
pleaded Evatt, but the fact still stands that the economic freedom
of Italy was bargained away against a political compromise on

The advice of military strategists has an important influence on
British Foreign Policy. One cannot but wonder whether their advice
is always based on up to date concepts and not on outmoded text
books. In any case measurement of strategy and politics against
economic advantages is a matter of statesmanship, a rare commodity
in any generation, and particularly lacking at the Paris

The important fact that the present Treaties for the German
satellites lay a pattern for the German peace must always be kept
prominently in mind. Both Germany and Italy, the former more
particularly, are highly developed industrially. Their populations
can only be supported by industry. Germany has lost
proportionately a higher percentage of her working population than
has Italy and in spite of the Nazi philosophy the population curve
was tending to decline. This is not the case with Italy, who,
without the same intensive industrialization had still a rising
curve of population which will probably persist for a quarter of a
century at least. These populations must be provided for and if
they are not then in that fact alone lies the genesis of a future

There seems to be little hope of any magical change in the Russian
point of view and I would think that the hope of the more liberal
democratic countries (the capitalistic countries from the Russian
point of view) must lie in much improved living standards in their
own countries and the countries under their influence. If this
fails, the way is open for extension of communistic philosophy
with very far reaching results.

In short, we believe in our method of life and fought strenuously
for it. The war itself is only the first round in the struggle for
its preservation and we must be prepared to continue the fight and
the sacrifices.

Australian Contribution to the Peace Making
The Australian Delegation enjoyed the distinction (a very doubtful
one from the point of view of some of our friends and definitely
so from our opponents) of placing more amendments on the Agenda
than any other member country represented. These amendments were
drafted quite objectively. [4] The inherent dangers in the
Treaties as drafted were clear and the underlying logic of the
Australian amendments was generally admitted, although for a
variety of reasons, mainly the commitment entered into by the
major powers in the Council of Foreign Ministers, they could not
be supported. The logic remains, however, and the fact that
notwithstanding the early indications that support would be
lacking, the amendments were pressed with vigor, is to the credit
of a country young in diplomacy but staunch in a love of freedom
and a testimony to the brilliant thinking of the leader of the

If, as I believe will be the case, history shows the general
principles which underlay the Australian amendments to have been
right, it will be sad, but at least we will have the somewhat
mournful satisfaction of being able to say 'I told you so'.

Unfortunately, this may not exclude future generations from
suffering the tragedy of war.

The key to the situation lies in the attitude of the United
States. if that country accepts continuing responsibilities which
go with the full international status of a great power and turns
part of its great wealth and production to the rebuilding of
Europe, there is hope despite the Treaties. If, on the other hand,
the United States withdraws behind the barrier of its out-moded
isolationist policy European recovery will be so retarded that
human hopelessness may give a reaction of the most far reaching

[matter omitted]


1 The document is undated but the internal evidence of it suggests
that it was written close to 5 October and before the resumption
of the plenary session.

2 Words in square brackets were added in what appears to be Dunk's

3 The words 'and Finland' here were deleted by hand.

4 Amended by hand. The passage originally read: 'These amendments
were drafted quite objectively under the brilliant leadership of
Dr. H. V. Evatt, Australian Minister for External Affairs. He
could see quite clearly the inherent dangers in the Treaties as
drafted. The underlying logic was generally admitted, . . .'

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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