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Historical documents

389 Watt to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 95 MOSCOW, 14 March 1948, 6.50 p.m.



1. On March 13th I had an 80 minute interview with Zorin, the last
twenty minutes of which was taken up by discussion of the question
of status of missions which is dealt with in separate telegram.

2. I began by expressing appreciation of the recent Soviet action
with regard to trade, status of missions and the Legation's rouble
limit. I suggested that negotiations on these matters demonstrated
the practicability of amicable arrangements which I hoped could be
extended to our mutual advantage into the field of high political

3. I then restated briefly the basic Australian attitude towards
peace settlements (particularly the Japanese settlement) and
reviewed proposals put forward during earlier interview on January
29th. These proposals had been put forward as a practical approach
to the problem. They were not exhaustive and there might be other
effective lines of approach. It had occurred to the Australian
Government that substantial progress might be made by establishing
an informal committee of officials charged with the duty of
drafting a tentative Peace Treaty without committing their
Governments. I then implemented the material contained in your
telegrams 49 and 56 [1] emphasizing that in putting forward the
new suggestion we in no sense withdrew earlier suggestions.

4. Zorin, on this occasion, took no notes, and spoke more freely
though he chose his words carefully. He said that he would of
course transmit the new suggestion to his Government. Speaking
personally, however, he doubted the value of establishing such a
committee. Experience had clearly shown that in the absence of
prior agreement at high level on basic political principles,
committees of 'experts' had little chance of achieving useful
results. They merely discussed matters at great length, failed to
agree and matters had to be referred back for further

5. I then said that I did not think Australia had in mind a
committee of 'experts' in the narrow sense. The proposed
officials, I presumed, would be men with 'political' experience
thoroughly conversant with their Governments' political views.

They would explore the chance of agreement and if they found
sufficient common ground their work would be most valuable as
concrete evidence of the practicability of formal discussions. I
added that Australia would appreciate early intimation of Soviet
reactions to all proposals and mentioned in passing my own
impending departure. [2]

6. Zorin's reply was rather obscure. He said again, speaking
personally, it might be rather difficult for the U.S.S.R. to give
its reactions. Proposals of this character seemed a little unreal
in the absence of basic agreement on these matters among the
powers most directly concerned (in the context he meant great
powers). The Soviet Government had already made its contribution
by stating its position based on past international agreement. It
was now rather for other Governments to make their contributions
based also on such past agreements. Real advance was difficult in
the absence of underlying great power unanimity.

7. This is my best interpretation of Zorin's meaning but the
actual words I have used should not be attributed to him
literally. He was not inviting some great power approach; he was
not rejecting or minimising the value of our own approach though
he may have felt that we should approach other great powers as
well or instead. Rather was he indicating his view of the
difficulty of any real progress or of any i[mmedi]ate Soviet
reactions to our proposals in the absence of great power agreement
perhaps not only with regard to Japan but also Europe.

8. I concluded by saying that nothing would give the Australian
Government greater satisfaction than great power agreement on
vital international problems. But it was largely because [of]
continued absence of such agreement that Australia felt bound to
contribute what it could. Our proposals were put forward in good
faith in the belief that they were reasonably practical means to
an end, urgent attainment of which was generally agreed to be

1 For cablegram 49 see Document 388 Cablegram 56, dispatched 11
March 1948, elaborated on the Australian proposal.

2 Watt was leader of the Australian delegation to the United
Nations Conference on Freedom of Information at Geneva from 23
March to 21 April 1948.

[AA:A1838/283, 69/1/3, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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