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THIS DOCUMENT IS THE PROPERTY OF HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTY'8

GOVERNMENT

Printed

for the War Cabinet.

June, 1944. It is issued

The circulation of t h i s paper has been strictly lirni ted. for the personal use of TOP SECRET. W . P . (44) 304. 7th June, 1944. WAR CABINET. \

Copy-No.

SOVIET

POLICY IN

THE

BALKANS.

MEMORANDUM BY SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN A F F A I R S .

I N recent months I have become disturbed by developments which seem to indicate the Soviet Governments intention to acquire a dominating influence in the Balkans. I accordingly asked my Department to assemble for me the evidence in their possession of this Soviet intention, and the manner in which the Soviet Government appeared to be Carrying it out. I also asked them for their views as to whether Soviet policy in this direction should influence our own policy and our military plans in the later phases of the war and if so in what manner. 2. My Department accordingly prepared the attached note on the subject which I now circulate for the consideration of my colleagues in the W a r Cabinet. 3. I n reading it, we should of course guard ourselves against the assumption that it is inevitable that, in the Balkans, there should be a direct clash of interests and sooner or later a conflict. If we make it clear t h a t we think there is an irreconcilable clash of interests between the two Powers in the Balkans, the Russians, who hold so many cards there, will work on the same assumption. We should not hesitate to make our special interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and therefore in Greece and Turkey, and indeed our interests elsewhere in the Balkans, clear to the Russians : but in any steps we take to build up our influence, we must be most careful to avoid giving t h e impression of a direct challenge.
A.

E.

Foreign

Office, 7th June,

1944.

ANNEX. I n discussing Soviet policy in the Balkans a clear distinction should be made at the outset between what is meant by '' the Communisation of the Balkans '' and the spread of Russian influence in those countries. I t is doubtful whether in actual fact there is any deliberate ' ' communising '' of the Balkans at the present moment. I t is true that the leaders of the Partisans, E.A.M. and L.N.C. (Albania) are Communists, and as such spread their ideological theories in the districts under their control; but this is very different from a systematic attempt on the p a r t of some central organisation to " communise " the whole peninsula. Nor can any accusation be levelled against the Russians of organising the spread of communism in the Balkans. The spread of Russian influences, however, is a very different thing, a n d one which concerns us much closer. The Russians are, generally speaking, out for a predominant position in South-East Europe, and, are using the Communist-led movements in Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece as a means to an end, but not necessarily as an end in itself. The Soviet Government's [27609]

support of the Communist elements in these countries is not so much based on ideological grounds as on the fact that such elements are most responsive to their own influence and are the most vigorous in resisting the Axis. 2. Furthermore, if anyone is to blame for the present situation in which the Communist-led movements are the most powerful elements in Yugoslavia and Greece it is we ourselves. The Russians have merely sat back and watched us doing their work for them. A n d it is only when we have shown signs of p u t t i n g a brake on these movements (such as our continued recognition of K i n g Peter and Mihailovic, and more recently the strong line taken against E.A.M. a n d the mutineers in the Greek forces) t h a t they have come more into the open and shown where their interests lay. 3. I t must be remembered that in the days when the Yugoslav P a r t i s a n s and E.A.M. first made their appearance the Foreign Office frequently drew attention to the clash between our short- and long-term interests. I t was clear that support for the Yugoslav P a r t i s a n s would give us the best military dividend, and t h a t E.A.M. appeared to be the most promising resistance material in Greece. But it was pointed out that by supporting these movements we should inevitably produce the very situation with which we are now faced. I n Yugoslavia at least we have obtained a military dividend; but E.A.M. in Greece has given us nothing but trouble and annoyance. 4. A s regards our own policy for the future of South-East Europe our only constructive suggestion has been the formation of a confederation of these States. The Russians have made it clear, however, t h a t they will have nothing to do with such a solution, basing their objection on the grounds t h a t such a confederation would constitute a cordon sanitaire against them. 5. Russia's historical interest in the Balkans has always manifested itself in a determination t h a t no other Great Power shall dominate them as this would constitute a strategical threat to Russia. For instance, throughout the latter p a r t of the nineteenth century, when the Ottoman Empire was in dissolution, the previous alliance between Russia and A u s t r i a - H u n g a r y turned into open rivalry in which each Power aimed at obtaining control in the Balkans. I n particular, Russia's scheme in 1878 for a " big Bulgaria " with access to the iEgean led to Great B r i t a i n and A u s t r i a combining to checkmate Russia's extended influence in South-East Europe. Subsequent events, such as A u s t r i a - H u n g a r y ' s annexa tion of Bosnia a n d Herzogovina and the Balkan W a r s of 1912-13, were all moves in the game in which Russia and the Central Powers were playing power politics in the Balkans. Now that, under influence of victory, the Soviet Government are reviving Russians traditional policy, it is only n a t u r a l t h a t they should start again to strive for a predominant influence in the Balkans'and they are no doubt still hoping to achieve it by the same means, i.e., by working for the formation of Governments who will be subservient to Russia. W h a t is different is that, whereas in the nineteenth century we had A u s t r i a - H u n g a r y as an ally to counter these Russian measures, there is no one on whom we can count to support us this time. 6. The following, as far as we can judge, are the Soviet Government^ desiderata in the various JbJalkan countries. 7. I n Roumania, after annexing the portions of territory t h a t they desire, they will require a friendly Government over which they will have a considerable measure of control. Communism in Roumania is to all intents and purposes non existent and anti-Russian feeling is predominant, but if the Roumanians refuse the present Soviet surrender terms, the result in the end will be harder terms for them and they will have to produce a Government subservient to the Soviet Government. 8. I n Yugoslavia, Tito, by his own efforts and our own support, will probably emerge as the governing force whether or not as the result of civil war against Serbia. The probability is that the Red Army will eventually gain contact with the P a r t i s a n s and this will ensure Tito's position. 9. Soviet intentions towards Bulgaria are not clear; but no doubt they wish to establish a dominating moral position even if they do not want more than this, i.e., air base facilities. A s in the case of Roumania, the Russians will expect a friendly Government over whom they would have, control, 10. Albania is only of interest to the Russians in so far that through the local Albanian Communist resistance movement they can connect the ring between Tito and E.A.M. in Greece.

11. A s regards Greece the Russians a t first showed little interest in events in t h a t country. Then about two months ago they began coming out openly in support of E.A.M. and being critical of our policy. This caused us some concern, not only on account of the short-term difficulties which open Russian support for E.A.M. would cause us in pur Greek policy, but also on account of the long-term danger of a linking up.of the pro-Russian movements in Yugoslavia, Albania a n d Greece. A s a result of our approach to the Soviet Government, however, the latter have now agreed to let us take the lead in Greece, and we may hope t h a t they will not hinder us in any way or openly give their support to E.A.M. The situation has also been improved by the recent agreement reached at the Lebanon Conference, whereby the E.A.M. and the Communist p a r t y are to be absorbed into an all party Government and thus, it is hoped, rendered innocuous, while at the same time a national Greek Army is.to be formed in Which are to be embodied all resistance units, including E.L.A.S.-E.A.M.'s military counterpart. B u t we should not be lulled into a state of false optimism by these satisfactory developments. The national army may not materialise, E.A.M. may break loose again a n d the Soviet Government may yet fish in troubled waters. W e should therefore make the most of the present favourable atmosphere to organise some counterweight to the force of attraction which, no matter what happens to E.A.M., Russia is still likely to exercise in post-war Greece. 12. A p a r t from w h a t has been done in the case of Greece, are there any general measures which we could take to prevent the spread of Russian influence in the Balkans ? The following seem to be the alternative policies which it is open to us to adopt subject always to the caveat that we must not on present showing exaggerate the extent of the threat to our interests and ought not therefore to resort prematurely to measures which might precipitate a head-on conflict with the Soviet Government: A . To drop our own support of the " Communist "-led movements in SouthEast Europe and build up the more moderate elements.The suggestion that we should drop our support of T i t o now or a t any foreseeable future date is but of the question. I n Albania, we could, it is true, drop support of the Communist movement but again it is the only element of resistance which is causing any trouble to the Germans in Albania. Nor as things now are can we contemplate any longer in Greece the boycotting of E.A.M. and E.L.A.S., for to do so in present circumstances would be to repudiate the agreement reached after so many efforts whereby E.A.M. and E.L.A.S, have been reconciled with the Greek Government, and would force them once more into opposition and isolation before the sincerity of their present submission had been put to the test. B. To aive hill suvwort ourselves to all the " Communist " elements in order to influence them in our direction and take the wind out of the Russian.sails. This would mean withdrawal of our support of the Yugoslav and Greek K i n g s and Governments. This might be- possible but extremely difficult in the case of Yugoslavia but wholly distasteful in respect of Greece; The advantage of giving full support to Tito would be that we should be backing a probable winner a n d make it less necessary for him to look to Russia for support. But the disadvantages are obvious. Nor would it be possible in-present circumstances to give exclusive support to E.A.M. now t h a t the Greek P r i m e Minister has agreed to receive its representatives into the government and to incorporate E.L.A.S. in a National Army. C. To approach the Soviet Government with the idea of reaching a mutual agreement not to dabble in Balkan politics.Such a self-denying ordinance would not be easy from our point of view as we ourselves are taking a pretty active p a r t in Yugoslav and Greek internal politics and would be reluctant to give it u p . Also we shall wish no doubt to have our say as regards Bulgaria when the time comes. A s for the bargain we hope to strike w i t h the Soviet Government whereby we follow the Russian lead in Roumania and they follow ours in Greece, this is only intended to apply to war conditions, and it is hardly likely t h a t either of us will wish to continue it when it comes to the Peace Settlement and post w a r period or to extend it to other Balkan countries in view of the important interests both of us will have in the shaping of the future of the Balkans as a whole. D.(i) To focus our influence in the Balkans by consolidating our position in Greece and Turkey and to bring about and utilise Tur co-Greek friendship as a fundamental factor in South-East Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean; and (ii) while avoiding any direct challenge to Russian influence in Yugoslavia,

Albania, Roumania and Bulgaria, to avail ourselves of every opportunity in order to spread British influence in these countries.-This latter process might from time to time mean a combination of A and B according to circumstances prevailing in these particular countries. 13. Of these courses, D seems the only feasible one in present circumstances and those likely to prevail after the war. D (ii) would need careful handling, especially by P.W.E., in order to avoid an open contest with the Russians, and would not produce immediate results, but in the long r u n it ought to be effective inasmuch as there are elements in all these countries which will be frightened of Russian domination and anxious to reinsure with Great Britain. This, indeed, probably applies to General Tito himself. D (i), which involves building up an Anglo-Greek-Turkish Association, raises more difficult issues of a directly political character. 14. Such an association might be regarded with suspicion by the Soviet Government, though we should try to allay t h a t and justify ourselves by invoking our own interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. 15. A s regards.Greece, we should have to set about now building up a regime which after the war would definitely look to Great Britain for support against Russian influence. This ought not to be too difficult and, indeed, ought to be rendered easier if the new all-party National Government, which owes its existence largely to our efforts and encouragement, establishes itself so securely as to be able to take over the administration of the country on the liberation of Greece. 16. A s regards Turkey, we should have to abandon our present policy of trying to force Turkey into the war under the implied threat that, if she does not come in, we shall leave her " to stew in her own juice " after the war. Instead, we should have to acquiesce in her maintaining her neutrality during the w a r as long as she wishes to do so if by this means she will be better able, on the with drawal of the Germans from the Balkans, to play her p a r t there in collaboration with Greece as an effective counter-weight to Russian influence and penetration. Although the Soviet Government now. take the line t h a t they are not interested in whether Turkey comes into the w a r or not, they have probably never liked the Anglo-Turkish alliance, and the present deadlock in our relations with Turkey suits them very well. They cannot be expected to relish the prospect of a renewed Anglo-Turkish " g e t together," more especially when they appreciated, as they soon would, the policy behind it. 17. A reorientation in the sense necessary to bring about an Anglo-GreekTurkish association is therefore bound to involve us in various difficulties, but it seems to represent the only feasible and constructive method by which we can hope to counter the spread of Russian influence in the Balkans, if we really think it necessary t h a t we should take special measures to do so. A. E. Foreign Office, 4:th June, 1944.