Our Vital Peace Decision


By JOHN FOSTER DULLES, Chief Adviser to U. S. Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Broadcast over the Columbia Broadcasting System, October 6, 1945

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XII, pp. 7-8

AT LONDON the Council of Foreign Ministers began the task of peace making. This is no easy task. It is not a matter of victors imposing their will upon defeated enemies. When we get to that, it will be easy. Before we get to that, the victors must try to agree on what their joint will shall be. So, we are not now negotiating peace with Italy or Rumania or Germany. We are negotiating peace with the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France and other United Nations. These nations have different interests and different ideals. To reconcile them is not a process of coercion but of reason.

I am under no illusion that that will be an easy task. I was at the peace conference which followed the First World War and there learned, at first hand, how difficult it is for a war coalition to maintain unity after victory has been won. It is possible that, this time also, we shall not agree on the post-war settlement. If that happens, it would lead to different nations' carrying out their will in particular areas. That is not necessarily a permanent disaster, but it would be most unfortunate. It would tend to divide the world into blocs and spheres of influence. That would be a bad heritage for the victors to bequeath the United Nations Organization.

Final Agreement Seen

So far as the United States delegation to London is concerned, we are determined to preserve in peace the unity we had in war and to apply the lesson we have so painfully learned, that peace is indivisible. There will be no bloc of Western powers if the United States can avoid it. Also, I may say, nothing that has happened so far makes me feel that we may not all come to agree.

I realize that it came as a shock to the American people that the Council of Foreign Ministers ended their first session without producing a public statement of unity and accomplishment. That is because for over four years every meeting of representatives of the great powers was followed by a pronouncement which gave the impression that complete harmony had been achieved. That was a war diet of soothing syrup. The reality was that there was unity in so far as it related to joint effort against common enemies. But behind that there have always been the differences which are now coming to light.

It is not healthy, and I am glad that it is no longer necessary, to try to cover up the fact that we have differences. Only if our people realize the magnitude of the task we face will we put forward the effort and achieve the unity needed for success.

I said that in the task upon which we have embarked the permissible tool is reason, not coercion. The American delegation was alive to that. We presented only propositions which seemed to us to be reasonable.

Basic Principles Espoused

The basic principles which we espoused were these:

1. Territorial settlements should, as far as possible, conform to the wishes of the peoples concerned. Strategic and economic considerations ought to be subordinated to human considerations. This principle would call for some territorial readjustments. But it would not give to Yugoslavia the large Italian population of Trieste.

2. The treaties should realize the conception of an international bill of rights. At Moscow in 1943 the Big Three had agreed that they sought for Italy a regime which would assure the Italian people freedom of speech, religious worship, political belief and public meeting. We were determined that the treaties of peace should give reality to that goal and make a practical beginning in the great project of assuring to all the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

3. Colonies should be dealt with primarily from the standpoint of the welfare of the colonial peoples and, as in the case of territorial adjustments, human considerations should prevail over strategic and commercial considerations. We called for independence within a fixed term and we proposed trusteeship by the United Nations Organization, rather than by any single power. That was the only solution which would avoid a disastrous struggle between the great powers for colonial prizes. Without it, there was no way to decide the rival claims for the Italian colonies of North Africa.

Supervision of Armaments

4. Armament of our ex-enemies should be limited and subjected to a system of supervision which would prevent secret rearmament as occurred after the last war in the case of Germany. This supervision is particularly important in

view of the development of modern weapons of vast destructive power. This, we felt, compelled the inauguration of a system, which might later on be extended, whereby the human race would have facilities to protect itself against its own total destruction.

5. Finally we made it clear that we could not negotiate and conclude treaties of peace with governments which, as in Rumania, failed to provide those freedoms which, in con-

junction with the Soviet Union and Great Britain, we had promised to seek for the liberated peoples of Europe.

The first ten days of the conference were devoted to considering the application of such principles to Italy, Finland, Rumania and Bulgaria. During the course of these discussions it became increasingly evident that the Soviet Union was dissatisfied with the trend of the conference. The American proposals, which in the main were supported by Great Britain, France and China, cut across certain political ends which the Soviet Union sought. For example, the Soviet Union was disposed to support the claim of Yugoslavia to Trieste. It wanted for itself trusteeship of Italy's most valuable colonial area in North Africa in order that it might develop for itself a great warm-water port in the Mediterranean comparable to what it had obtained in the Far East at Port Arthur and Dairen. Above all, the Soviet delegation objected to the refusal of the United States, under existing conditions, to conclude peace treaties with Rumania and Bulgaria.

Soviet Seeks a Test

It was discussion about Rumania on Sept. 21 which led the Soviet Union on Sept. 22 to move to test out the determination of the United States. The means chosen was to insist on a change of procedure. The underlying and understood purpose was to make it appear that the Soviet Union could and would interrupt any procedure which did not lead to results more satisfactory to it.

A great deal has been said, and much more doubtless will be said, as to whether the procedure under which the Conference was operating was in strict conformity with the Berlin agreement, which established the Council. I do not intend tonight to discuss that highly technical matter. It is not really very important. It is enough to say that the procedure which permitted France and China to be present at all Council meetings, though with no power of vote in certain cases, was agreed to by the Soviet Union on Sept. 11 and had been followed for ten days without question. Certainly the Soviet Union would not have accepted and followed a procedure which it believed to be violative of the Berlin agreement. Only when the procedure failed to produce results satisfactory to the Soviet Union did it demand a change which would have eliminated France and China. That change was demanded as a means of indicating Soviet displeasure with the course the negotiations were taking and as a means of finding out whether or not the United States was really determined to hold the basic principles I have described.

U. S. Unwilling to Sacrifice

The Soviet delegation believed, and rightly believed, that the United States attached great importance to preserving the appearance of unity among the Big Three. They also knew that we were anxious quickly to conclude peace with Italy. They wanted to find out how much of our principle we would sacrifice to attain these goals. They did find out. They found out that the United States was not willing to sacrifice its principles or its historic friendship with China and France.

That American decision vitally concerned the future of our nation. As Secretary Byrnes said last night, I participated with him in the making of that decision. I unqualifiedly concurred in it. However, he, as the Secretary of State, had to assume the primary responsibility, and he is entitled to the support of the American people, without regard to party, in standing for principle rather than expediency, in keeping with the best American tradition.

Let me hasten to say that I have no feeling that the Soviet delegation, in forcing that decision upon us, did anything that was not within their rights. In every important negotiation, public or private, there comes a moment when the negotiators test each other out. It was inevitable that a time should come when the Soviet Union would want to test us out. It is a good thing that that has happened and that it is now behind us.

The American people should see what has happened in its true proportions. We are at the beginning of a long and difficult negotiation which will involve the structure of the post-war world. The Soviet Union wants to know what our political attitude will be toward the states which border them, particularly in the Balkans. They want to know what our attitude is toward sharing with them the control of defeated Japan. They want to know what our attitude will be toward giving them economic aid. These and other matters must, in due course, be explored, and it may be that until that whole area has been explored, progress will be slow.

Good Beginning Made

Let us be calm and be mature. We have made not a bad, but a good, beginning. That beginning has not created difficulties. It has merely revealed difficulties of long standing, which war has obscured. It is healthy that we now know the facts. Furthermore, we have at the beginning shown that we stand firm for basic principles. That is of transcendent importance.

We are emerging from six years of war, during which morality and principle have increasingly been put aside in favor of military expediency. The war has now ended and with that ending principle and morality must be re-established in the world. The United States ought to take a lead in that. We are the only great nation whose people have not been drained, physically and spiritually. It devolves upon us to give leadership in restoring principle as a guide to conduct. If we do not do that, the world will not be worth living in. Indeed, it probably will be a world in which human beings cannot live. For we now know that this planet will, like others, become uninhabitable unless men subject their physical power to the restraints of moral law.