Message from Welles to Winant
ww2dbase----- Telegram -----
From: Sumner Welles, Under Secretary of State
Sent: Monday, 14 Jul 1941
To: John G. Winant, US Secretary of State
2600. For Former Naval Person* from the President:
"I know you will not mind my mentioning to you a matter which is not in any way serious at this time but which might cause unpleasant repercussions over here later on. I refer to rumors which of course are nothing more nor less than rumors regarding trades or deals which the British Government is alleged to be making with some of the occupied nations. As for example the stupid story that you have promised to set up Yugoslavia again as it formerly existed and the other story that you had promised Trieste to Yugoslavia.
In certain racial groups in this country there is of course enthusiastic approval for such promises in relation to post-war commitments, but on the other hand there is dissension and argument among other groups such as the Czechs and Slovaks and among the Walloons and Flemish.
You will of course remember that back in early 1919 there was serious trouble over actual and alleged promises to the Italians and to others.
It seems to me that it is much too early for any of us to make any commitments for the very good reason that both Britain and the United States want assurance of future peace by disarming all trouble makers and secondly by considering the possibility of reviving small states in the interest of harmony even if this has to be accomplished through: plebiscite methods.
The plebiscite was on the whole one of the few successful outcomes of the Versailles Treaty and it may be possible for us to extend the idea by suggesting in some cases preliminary plebiscites to be followed a good deal later on by second or even third plebiscites.
For example none of us know at the present time whether it is advisable in the interest of quiet conditions to keep the Croats away from the throats of the Serbs and vice versa.
I am inclined to think that an overall statement on your part would be useful at this time, making it clear that no post war peace commitments as to territories, populations or economies have been given. I could then back up your statement in very strong terms.
There is no hurry about this but you might think it over. Roosevelt."
* Code name for Prime Minister Winston Churchill. ww2dbase
Source: Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Paper; courtesy of Yale Law School Avalon Project
Added By: C. Peter Chen
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945