Cranborne to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram D44 LONDON, 10 January 1945, 10.30 p.m.


My telegram 31st August, 1944, D No. 1237. [1] World Organisation and Soviet Constituent Republics.

1. When the Soviet Representative at Dumbarton Oaks proposed that the 16 Soviet Constituent Republics should be founder members of World Organisation, he agreed, at instance of United States Representative, not to pursue it at the time. Although the Soviet Representative did not at first raise objection to recommending inclusion of ‘Associated Nations’ (i.e. Chile, Equador, Egypt, Iceland, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela) he did so later.

No definite conclusion was reached on this point and the eventual recommendation was (chapter 3) that ‘membership of the Organisation should be open to all peace-loving states’.

2. We are now considering what attitude we should adopt on the question of membership in any further international discussions.

3. Soviet Constituent Republics. In this connection we have referred to views expressed by other British Commonwealth Governments in July, 1944, in reply to my telegram 29th June, 1944, D No. 947. [2] It seems to us that if the Soviet claim is accepted in the case of World Organisation it would have to be accepted in all other cases and recognition of Constituent Republics as independent sovereign states and exchange of diplomatic representatives would follow as a matter of course. If, however, the Soviet Government could be persuaded to withdraw their claim in this case, other cases should be dealt with separately later. In any event we feel that whatever the exact constitutional position of Constituent Republics the issue will have to be dealt with as a political and not as a constitutional question.

4. From the point of view of purely British interests, it would clearly be better that World Organisation machinery should include only one Soviet vote and not sixteen (or seventeen if the Soviet Union had a vote as well and the sixteen republics). If, as would probably be the case, Union of Social Soviet Republics could rely on support both of Constituent Republics and certain neighbouring states it might command a bloc of twenty-two or twenty-four votes which might represent more than one-third of total votes in Assembly at any rate of early years. If it were the rule that a two-thirds majority would be needed for important decisions Soviet voting strength would not suffice to carry the day without the support of a large number of other states but it could block decisions of which the Soviet Government disapproved.

5. The immediate practical consideration which carries much weight with us is that it could be argued that on paper Constituent Republics have more autonomy in Foreign Affairs than India e.g.

their own Foreign Ministers, their own Armed Forces, right to enter into agreements with other countries and right to exchange diplomatic and consular representatives even though the Soviet Government retains ‘Representation of Union in International relations, conclusion and ratification of treaties and establishment of general character of relations between Union Republic and Foreign States’. Whatever the facts may be it would be invidious for us to enter into detailed argument with Soviet Government as to the precise practical significance of the theoretical constitutional position.

6. Nevertheless, we feel that inclusion of 16 Republics with votes might, in practice, so undermine the authority of the World Organisation as to render it unworkable. The Soviet Union would in effect be in a position to cast nearly one-third of the total votes in elections for non-permanent members of the Security Council, members of Economic and Social Council and Judges of the Permanent Court of International Justice. We have not overlooked the Latin-American Bloc of some twenty votes. But these are not under the absolute control of a single Government in the same way as the Soviet votes would almost certainly be. We feel grave doubts whether other countries would accept the Soviet claim and some such as China, France and Brazil might claim additional votes for parts of their territory. In particular, it seems highly unlikely that the United States Government would accept membership in a World Organisation in which they had only one vote and the Soviet Government controlled sixteen or seventeen and United States membership is a fundamental assumption.

7. We consider that our aim should be- (A) To make the World Organisation work effectively and (B) To avoid friction with either the Soviet Government or the United States Government.

As their views are so far apart the following courses seem open to us:-

(1) To agree to the Soviet claim. This would put us in an embarrassing position vis-a-vis the United States Government and might easily wreck the whole organisation;

(2) To adopt an attitude of flat opposition. The constitutional position of India makes this difficult and the Soviet Government might attribute opposition to purely political grounds;

(3) To let the United States Government take the initiative in opposing the views of the Soviet Government, it would then be open to us to accept some compromise acceptable to both the Soviet and United States Governments provided that it would not exclude India. If a deadlock were reached, we could declare our support for the United States Government.

8. Associated Nations. We consider that we should support inclusion as initial members of countries named in paragraph 1 above plus Turkey.

9. We should be glad of the views of other British Commonwealth Governments.


1 Dispatched 31 August 1944, on file AA:A816, 146/301/1. It advised that the Soviet delegation had indicated privately that it would not pursue, during the present talks, the question of foundation membership for the Soviet constituent republics.

2 Documents on Australian Foreign policy 1937-49, vol. VII, Document 207.


[AA:A1066, H45/765]