IVAN ŠUBAŠIĆ ON HIS NEGOTIATIONS WITH TITO AND STALIN DURING OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER 1944
Edited by IVO OMRČANIN
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Journal of Croatian Studies, XXIV, 1983, – Annual Review of the Croatian Academy of America, Inc. New York, N.Y., Electronic edition by Studia Croatica, by permission. All rights reserved by the Croatian Academy of America.
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Dr. Ivan Šubašić was the last President of the Council of Ministers or Prime Minister of the royal Yugoslav Government in London from June 1, 1944 to March 5, 1945, when a unified Yugoslav government was established in Belgrade under the presidency of Marshal Josip Broz Tito and King Peter II appointed a regency as his representative in Belgrade. Šubašić became foreign minister in the new government.
At the end of October 1944, Šubašić negotiated with Tito in Belgrade the establishment of the regency and of the unified Yugoslav government. The Tito-Šubašić agreement was signed in Belgrade on November 1, 1944. On Stalin's invitation, Šubašić left Belgrade for Moscow on November 13, where he was received by Stalin in the evening of November 22. On December 2, Šubašić returned to Belgrade and reached London on December 10. Bernard Yarrow of the Office of Strategic Services had a four-hour long conversation with Šubašić in London on December 15. The next day, December 16, Yarrow dispatched a lengthy report on his conversation with Šubašić to William J. Donovan, Director of the Office of Strategic Services in Washington. Donovan in turn forwarded the report to Edward R. Stettinius, Secretary of State, on December 23, 1944. Donovan 's letter and Yarrow's report are published hereafter.
Croatian historian and former royal Yugoslav diplomat Dragovan Šepić recently published a monograph on Šubašić's government, Vlada Ivana Šubašića (Government of Ivan Šubašić}. (Zagreb: Globus, 1983, 423 pages). Šepić was the head of Šubašić's office (šet kabineta, i.e chief of the cabinet) during his government. Šepić travelled with him to Belgrade and Moscow but emphasized that Šubašić did not quite trust him. Negotiations in Belgrade and Moscow are discussed in two chapters, pages 316-343, of Šepić's work. He did not have at his disposal either the Yugoslav Communist or American unpublished sources. Therefore Yarrow's report adds additional information to Šepić's writing.
NA, Dept. of State 860H.00/12-2344
William J. Donovan, Director of the Office of Strategic Services, to James C. Dunn, Assistant Secretary of State
Washington, 23 December 1944
I believe the Secretary of State will be interested in the attached report. Will you kindly see that it reaches his desk. Thank you.
Washington, 23 December 1944
I am enclosing a report from our representative Mr. Bernard Yarrow on a conference he had with Prime Minister Subasic. This report supplements data forwarded to you in previous memoranda.
"Yesterday, December 15, I had a long discussion with Prime Minister Subasic. Knowing him as I do for the last two years, I should like to say that I am pretty certain that he spoke his mind to me and was utterly frank in those matters which he related. It is possible, of course, that he held back certain things from me but my distinct impression was that he was truthful to me in accounting as he did yesterday his views, feelings and ideas on those matters which he discussed with me for a period of four hours.
"When Subasic got to Bari on his last trip, he was met by an official of the British Foreign Office, Mr. Philip Broad. Mr. Broad suggested that he accompany the Prime Minister on his trip to Yugoslavia, to which the Prime Minister replied that he appreciated very much the kindness of Mr. Broad to be of assistance to him but he preferred to conduct his negotiations with Tito alone. He amplified his statement by saying that he did not wish it to be said among the National Committee of Liberation that he was traveling around with a British representative of the Foreign Office. Mr. Broad accepted the Prime Minister's explanation in good grace and stated that he would not insist, of course, upon accompanying him. His only wish was to assist the Prime Minister in every way he could.
"The Prime Minister related to me that when he first got to Belgrade after its liberation he knew by that time that he was condemned on an alleged indictment that he was responsible for the death of many communists, whom he interned before the Germans advanced into Yugoslavia, because he did not release them in time. Instead of evading the issue, said the Prime Minister, he delivered a two hour talk before the National Committee of Liberation in the presence of Tito, who brought him into the Assembly. He told me how, after the two hour talk, he convinced them that he was not responsible in any manner for the deaths at the hands of the Germans.
"He told them of his impressions of America and I could gather that he tried to give them the impression that he was very well acquainted with the policy of the American Government, has contacts with officials of that Government and would be in a position to handle Yugoslav affairs more successfully because of his presence in America for two years and the contacts established by him there.
"The attitude of the members of the National Committee of Liberation towards him was, according to Subasic, most cautious and distant. He heard rumors that they were regarding him as a spy and agent for King Peter II and were most uncommunicative with him.
"The Russians, during his stay in Belgrade, were exceedingly cordial to him and showed every sign of consideration and attention. He struck up a friendship with General Kornieff, who was the head of the Russian military mission in Yugoslavia. It was Kornieff who had a large comfortable chair built in the Douglas plane which took him eventually from Belgrade to Rumania. Later on Subasic got to know and became very friendly with Colonel Melnikoff, who, although a colonel in rank, has more authority and power, according to Subasic, than General Kornieff. It was Melnikoff who accompanied the Prime Minister to Russia when he undertook his trip to see Stalin.
"The Prime Minister related to me the following incident: Before his departure from Yugoslavia to Ploesti, General Kornieff asked him whether he would prefer to fly in a Russian or Yugoslav plane, that they were both of the Douglas model built in Russia. Kornieff said he was asking the question because on the Yugoslav plane there was the Red Star emblem. The Prime Minister replied to Kornieff that he did not mind the star as long as the plane was a Yugoslav plane.
"The Prime Minister spoke to me at length about Tito. He told he found Tito to be exceedingly reasonable, that although he is a devoted communist by 'religion' he found no traces of his ideology as far as Yugoslavia is concerned. He regards him primarily as a Croat and a good Yugoslav. Tito became exceedingly friendly to Subasic, according to his report.
"Tito told Subasic that he is surrounded by a bunch of incompetent persons who, although good communists at heart, know very little about how to handle affairs of state. He complained to him time and again the troubles they cause him by their ignorance and incompetence. Said Tito, 'You, Subasic, can be of the greatest assistance to me and Yugoslavia. You can handle delicately and tactfully our relations with the western democracies and America. It is too bad that we are both Croats but we shall manage and make Yugoslavia in the future a happy democratic state'.
"The Prime Minister related to me that when he was brought by Major General Velebit to Yugoslavia, it was to Vršac where Tito's headquarters were located that he was escorted. The General left him in the hall where he waited for fifteen minutes and when Tito came out he turned to Velebit in great rage and said, 'My instructions were not to bring the Prime Minister to me. You always mix things up. You know that I wanted to come and greet the Prime Minister at his villa instead of his coming to me'. The Prime Minister cited to me that incident as an example of the respect with which Tito is treating him. He said that it was at Tito's request that he saw Stalin. He stated that it was exceedingly important for him to meet with Stalin and discuss with him in detail the state of affairs of Yugoslavia and therefore he took the trip at Tito's request.
"Another incident related to me by Subasic as proof of Tito's trust in him was that the Prime Minister suggested to appoint Dr. Ante Pavelic' formerly his secretary in New York, as Consul. General and perhaps Minister in South Africa. Subasic told Tito that of course it was a bit embarrassing to appoint Dr. Pavelic to that post because he bears the very same name as the Croatian quisling. Tito, however, dismissed that obstacle saying, `What difference does it make what his name is. If you find him reliable I shall appoint him as Minister to South Africa when I become Prime Minister.'
"They also discussed Sava Kosanovic. The Prime Minister told Tito that Kosanovic had been after him for many months imploring him to appoint him Ambassador to the United States. The Prime Minister told Tito that he regards Kosanovic as a man who is sick with 'ambitionitis' and that he would not qualify because of the part he played in American politics among Americans of Yugoslav ex-traction. Tito readily agreed with him and accepted the Prime Minister's suggestion.
"Tito told the Prime Minister that he is thinking of appointing Andrić, the well-known Croatian poet who served in various diplomatic posts in various countries as the future Ambassador to the United States.
"Tito begged the Prime Minister to accept the portfolio of Minister of Foreign Affairs. According to the Prime Minister, Tito assured him that he will give him complete freedom of action and will be guided entirely in the field of foreign policy by Subasic's suggestions and ideas. Tito told the Prime Minister that he is contemplating to cultivate the close cooperation of the western democracies and America.
"The Prime Minister told me that he is determined to take a trip to Washington as soon as he assumes the portfolio of Minister of Foreign Affairs. He will see the President and Secretary of State and try to convince them that Yugoslavia is determined to follow a policy of a free and independent democratic state, that he will bring with him a group of specialists of industry and commerce of Yugoslavia with the thought of making arrangements for a comprehensive trade treaty. 'We are,' said the Prime Minister, `looking towards Americas as the only country who can put Yugoslavia on her feet. We shall attempt to attract American capital by giving concessions because we know the American Government has no imperialistic designs on Yugoslavia.'
"He told me that Tito informed him that the Germans discovered in Yugoslavia huge untapped mines of a metal which hardens steel and makes it elastic. He did not know the equivalent of the name in the English language. He told me that the Germans had developed it to a great extent during their occupation and he is planning to attract American capital to develop these mines to their utmost capacity.
"Prime Minister related to me further that Tito, although he will never pursue a policy against the interest of Russia, will nevertheless attempt his utmost to build up a closer economic and diplomatic relationship between Yugoslavia and Great Britain and the United States.
"The Prime Minister told me that Tito was distressed a couple of weeks ago when he received a letter from Churchill, couched in the sharpest language he has ever received from Churchill. Subasic told me that he personally saw that letter and gave me the following account of same:
"It seems that Churchill recently sent a request to Tito for permission to land several divisions of Anglo-American troops in western Croatia along the Dalmatia coast. Tito refused categorically to permit! 1 Anglo-American troops to land in Croatia. Thereafter Churchill sent his famous letter to Tito in which he upbraided Tito in no uncertain terms and told him that Allied troops can land wherever they wish if the military operations require it.
"Another point mentioned to me by Subasic was that Šutej, the present Minister of Finance, is not included in the present list of members of the future Cabinet because of Šutej's request not to name him as a Cabinet Minister. Šutej requested to be sent as Ambassador to Switzerland and Tito indicated his approval.
"Subasic discussed in detail the attacks of the National Committee of Liberation upon Maček and he requested Tito to promise him that when they liberate Maček he, Subasic, will be the first person to speak to Maček. Subasic promised in return to Tito that he would exert every effort to keep Macek in line with Subasic's policy and that if necessary he would request Macek to appoint him as his successor.
"Subasic further told me that he received a request from the Queen Mother, Marie, to see her for she had a letter for him from the Princess of Montenegro. Subasic told me that he is going to see her and have a good talk with her and try to impress upon her to stop quarreling with King Peter because that situation is a bad ex-ample for the country. He will also tell her not to undermine the authority of King Peter by intrigues with various politicians in an attempt to persuade them to place Prince Tomislav on the throne instead of Peter. He will tell her, said Subasic, that by agitating against her own son she is undermining the whole monarchy.
"Subasic told me as a deep secret that there are several Partisan divisions at the Dalmatian coastline and that if the British troops should land in Yugoslavia along the Dalmatian coast they will meet with a formidable resistance on the part of the Partisans. He said that he hopes Churchill will not repeat the mistake in Yugoslavia that he made in Athens.
Finally, Subasic told me he prepared a report for the British and handed it to Mr. Sargent of the Foreign Office. The British were not quite satisfied with it and sent him a questionnaire of 14 questions. He told me that he finished answering the questions and that he forwarded them to Mr. Sargent. He expressed willingness to let me examine them this weekend and I shall try to avail myself of his offer.
"He told me of his contemplated meeting with Churchill on Friday, December 16th, and that it was postponed until Monday, December 18th.
"This I believe is a fairly accurate resume of my talk with Dr. Subasic which lasted for four hours."
Wiliam J. Donovan