Forde and Evatt to Chifley

Cablegram E41 SAN FRANCISCO, 4 June 1945, 10.00 p.m.



Further our SFC33 [1] regarding voting procedure in Security Council.

Halifax called a British Commonwealth meeting on Sunday evening 3rd June at which in addition to ourselves there were present Cranborne, Smuts, Fraser and the Canadian and Indian representatives. He said that on the evening of 1st June the Soviet Ambassador presented to meeting of representatives of sponsoring Powers and France a statement of Soviet views based upon a reply from Moscow as to the correct interpretation of the Yalta formula. This statement made it clear that the Soviet held that in decisions under Chapter VIII Section A the veto applied to discussion and consideration of a dispute by the Security Council save that under paragraph 3 of Section C of Chapter VI a party to a dispute was precluded from voting.

This would mean that in spite of views expressed in Commission III Committee 1 by Cadogan, the veto would apply to all matters enumerated in Section A of Chapter VIII. In other words, the interpretation of the Yalta formula advanced by the Soviet Union coincided exactly with the interpretation which Evatt had claimed was the strict meaning of the Yalta formula.

Halifax said that representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, China and France made clear their reactions at a meeting with the Soviet representative on 2nd June. Stettinius indicated that the United States could not sign a Charter founded on this interpretation. Connally [2] said that it was improbable that the United States Senate would agree to such a Charter and Vandenberg [3] added that it would definitely not get through the Senate.

Halifax then told Gromyko that the Soviet proposal was entirely unacceptable to the United Kingdom which attached the greatest importance to free discussion and consideration. Wellington Koo said that on the whole China favoured the Anglo-American rather than the Russian thesis and Paul Boncour [4] added that although he had not been able to study a French translation of the Russian text he nevertheless inclined to the Anglo-American thesis.

Halifax then told us that he had cabled London stating that a crisis had arisen and that a head-on clash with the Russians had now developed. As the Soviet had had a fortnight to consider their answer it seemed unlikely that they would yield to further arguments. If their attitude was to be modified at all an appeal to Stalin would be necessary and perhaps a joint message or identical messages from President Truman and Mr. Churchill might be considered. If this was regarded as undesirable or failed the only remaining hope would be for the question to be discussed at a meeting of the Heads of Governments. In that event perhaps France and China should be present for discussion of this item.

Halifax added that in his message to London he had said that three possible courses were open at the San Francisco Conference- (a) to take the line that the present divergence was so great that unless it could be overcome there was no point in going on with the Conference;

(b) to propose an amendment to the text of Chapter VIII Section A making it clear that the veto did not apply to discussion and consideration of disputes by the Council. This amendment would be carried in Committee but the effect might be that Russia would refuse to sign the Charter even if she did not withdraw from the Conference before that point;

(c) to let the Conference know the present position and take the line that the remaining outstanding questions should now be settled and the Charter provisionally approved or even perhaps signed with the express reservation that it would not come into force until the major question of interpretation of the Yalta formula had been settled to their satisfaction.

Course (a) might mean no organisation, Course (b) an organisation without Russia, and Course (c) an organisation which might or might not be still-born depending upon the five permanent members of the Council reaching agreement regarding the application of the veto. On the whole he had recommended to London adoption of Course (c) although he had given a warning that it was not certain that either the remaining permanent members of the Council or the Conference at large would agree to this course.

During the discussion which ensued at our meeting, it was generally agreed that if it proved impossible to obtain modification of the Soviet view every effort should be made to make quite clear to the Conference and to world opinion the issues involved and the different views of the Soviet Union on the one hand and the remaining members of the Big Five [and] of the Conference as a whole on the other hand. At the same time every effort should also be taken to avoid any Conference action which might result in Russia’s withdrawal from the Conference or refusal to sign or ratify the Charter. Thus instead of insisting on an immediate vote in Committee it might be possible to secure an agreed reply by the Great Powers to the questionnaire on the veto which had been submitted to them. This reply would set out clearly the different interpretations given to the Yalta formula and the matter could then be brought before the Steering Committee or perhaps the Executive Committee for further action instead of being dealt with by Committee 1 of Commission III. No precise procedure was agreed to but Halifax will sound out the United States along these lines to get their reactions and he will report to us again.

While we will all do everything possible to avoid any open breach with the Soviet Union it is evident that a Charter under which any Great Power not a party to a dispute can prevent bare consideration of it by the Security Council under Chapter VIII A in order to discuss the facts with a view to considering means of Pacific settlement would be almost meaningless. Under the League of Nations practice no country was able to prevent a matter being heard and discussed by the Council and any Charter which failed to go as far as this would hardly secure the requisite number of ratifications by members of the United Nations to enable the world organisation to be established.

Another aspect of the matter is that the United Kingdom Government has got itself into some difficulty without adequate prior consultation with the Dominions. At London we were informed by Eden and his legal advisers that the Yalta formula should not preclude mere consideration of a dispute by the Security Council.

Yet in spite of the personal interpretation given in Committee by Cadogan on 17th May the attitude of the United Kingdom at this Conference has remained most uncertain and the Dominions have not yet seen any document setting out official interpretation given to the Yalta formula by the United Kingdom Government and communicated to the other great powers. The United Kingdom did not consult any Dominion before official interpretations of United Kingdom and other great powers were transmitted by the Soviet representative to his Government from San Francisco. Indeed no such consultation on this subject has taken place since. A clearer and more definite stand by the United Kingdom at an earlier stage along the lines taken after receipt of reply from Moscow might have had good effect upon the Soviet attitude. As it is, the situation is very delicate and difficult, but we will assist in finding a solution without either appeasement of the Soviet or playing into the hands of anti-Soviet propaganda.


1 Document 99.

2 Senator Tom Connally, chairman of the U. S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a delegate to the San Francisco Conference.

3 U. S. delegate to the San Francisco Conference.

4 Joseph Paul-Boncour, member of the French delegation to the San Francisco Conference.


[AA : A1066, H45/771/1]