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Political and External Affairs

CHAPTER 25 — East and West

page 357

East and West

FROM 25 April to 25 June 1945 an oft-repeated drama was re-enacted on the ample stage of San Francisco. The setting was more spacious, if less elegant, than it had been at Vienna and Versailles. Two hundred and eighty-two delegates laboured with the help of 2500 experts while 2636 journalists proclaimed the results to the world.1 Nevertheless, the basic pattern remained that of 1815 and 1919. Men whose minds were imprisoned in the past conceived themselves to be preoccupied with the future. In the effort to transform a temporary wartime co-operation into a permanent basis for peace, the shape of what was to come was only dimly perceived, and men's hopes only gradually adjusted themselves to disagreeable realities. Problems and solutions alike were expressed in formulae which less and less conformed with reality. Out of the San Francisco Conference emerged something which all delegates declared should be at all costs avoided, the possibility of a third world war and the actuality of a vociferously proclaimed ‘cold war’ splitting the world, with localised, undeclared ‘hot wars’ as fierce as those that had devastated Spain and Abyssinia. The most important event during the conference, in fact, was the meeting of Russian and American troops on the Elbe on the day of the formal opening in San Francisco. With the collapse of Germany active co-operation was no longer compulsory, and from that fact strife flowed irresistibly.

On relationships between Russia and the West–the central problem behind the debates at San Francisco on the construction of a world organisation–New Zealand had an attitude with a history and consistency established over several years. Issues comparable with those of 1945 had, in fact, arisen in the first phase of the war and had similarly brought into conflict the Dominion's persistent desire on the one hand for good relations between Russia and the West and, on the other, for the condemnation of aggression from whatever direction it might arise. This twofold attitude had from time to time brought clear divergence between British and New Zealand policies. On certain issues debated at Geneva during the last years of peace, New Zealand's publicly

1 McNeill, p. 592.

page 358 expressed views coincided with those of the USSR: a circumstance remembered in January 1945 in the External Affairs Department as being of possible diplomatic significance. It was then felt that the Soviet Government might even be so mistaken as to have read into the support it had sometimes received at Geneva a general commitment to follow the Russian line, and accordingly a disposition to accept Russian policy in the issues then arising in Poland. New Zealand's position was, however, clear enough. Her policy at Geneva was determined by her view of the issues concerned, not by any particular wish to support or to oppose the Russians. Admittedly her general view of the Soviet Union, though not exactly sympathetic, lacked the axiomatic hostility of western conservatism. It was influenced to some extent by an appreciation of the importance in the community of those elements inclined to give the Russians the benefit of the doubt, and had consistently stressed a realistic desire to have Russian co-operation in a struggle that was becoming global. Moreover, New Zealand was clearly conscious that Russia was a Pacific power and, so long as not in the enemy camp, a counterweight to Japan.1
New Zealand's attitude in these matters was expounded firmly in the early months of 1940. Awkward practical problems had been raised on the one hand by the Russian attack on Finland, and on the other by Allied efforts to deny to Germany supplies of strategic raw materials. Arguments for helping the Finns to resist aggression had a strong appeal, and were actively canvassed in Britain and France. The case was the more attractive to Allied governments because military operations in Scandinavia seemed to offer hope of cutting Germany's access to Swedish iron ore.2 To give effective help to Finland, however, was to run the risk of war with Russia, and would probably involve violation of Norwegian and Swedish neutrality. In this situation the New Zealand Government reacted strongly. Fraser agreed that everything possible should be done to help the Finns, but urged ‘most strongly that every effort should be made to avoid open hostilities with Russia as it would be difficult to foresee the results of such hostilities.’ A policy which conceivably might lead to war with the Soviet Union, he explained, might well lead to opposition from Labour's left wing strong enough seriously to impede New Zealand's war effort unless every exertion had evidently been made to bring the Russians and Finns to terms.3 He feared the same kind of local reaction, and expressed himself in even stronger terms, when it was suggested that in the

1 PM's notes for secret session, September 1940.

2 Derry, Campaign in Norway, pp. 12–13.

3 UKHC to SSDA, 6 Feb 1940.

page 359 interests of the Finns the neutrality of Norway and Sweden might be forcibly violated.1

This particular group of problems disappeared with the ending of the Soviet-Finnish war on 13 March 1940, but others remained. Hopes that Hitler might be running short of oil, for instance, led the Allies to attach great importance to the supplies which might be provided from Russia. The possibilities of cutting off this source of supply by bombarding the Caucasian oilfields were accordingly studied by British and French experts, and at the end of March the French proposed immediate action.2 Such suggestions fortunately never got beyond the stage of study and discussion; but they indicated possibilities alarming to the New Zealand Government. Fraser made it clear that New Zealand would be opposed to action against Russia except in response to Russian aggression against Britain or one of her close allies. Anything that might appear as British aggression against Russia, he thought, would be undesirable in itself, and in addition likely to rouse uncomfortably strong opposition within the Dominion.3

New Zealand's objections in February, March and April 1940 to policies which might lead to war with Russia were always fortified with clear practical arguments. Nevertheless, these discussions show a persistent trend in Fraser's thinking, a trend which was illustrated again at the time of the German attack on Russia in June 1941. He was in England and with Churchill when the latter made his historic broadcast decision to help the Russians. Fraser at once asked New Zealand to associate herself with Churchill's statement; and this was done, within a few hours, on 23 June.4 A fortnight later he asked New Zealand to approve the British War Cabinet's draft declaration of Anglo-Russian mutual assistance. This too was done, though the New Zealand cabinet raised questions about the status of Finland, about Russian attitudes towards a Japanese drive southward, and about the possible implications of a Japanese attack on Russia. Fraser brushed such questions aside. In his view the only question now was the prosecution of the war against Germany. He took much the same attitude a few months later when a member of the Wellington Trades Council questioned him about trade with Russia: ‘The position is that if Russia wants anything we can supply, she can have it. We are part of a common war front against Hitler5.’ It was shown again at a surprisingly late date by an outburst by Fraser against some speculations by Smuts, at the Prime Ministers'

1 UKHC to SSDA, 3 Mar 1940.

2 SSDA to UKHC, 30 Mar 1940.

3 UKHC to SSDA, 31 Mar 1940 and 23 Apr 1940.

4 SSDA to PM, 23 Jun 1941; Evening Post, 23 and 26 Jun 1941.

5 Standard, 2 Oct 1941.

page 360 Conference of April 1945, on ideological aggression.1 Fraser ‘thought it a mistake to envisage a division in the future between Communist and non-Communist nations, since an ideological split of this kind would be part of the internal problem of each country. If there were in fact such a war, the working classes of all capitalist countries would, in his opinion, rally to the support of Russia.’ This declaration echoed not only memories of the early nineteen-twenties but a constant trend in Labour thought which was no doubt reinforced by current popular enthusiasm for the Russians: ‘Among working classes here,’ cabled Jordan from London in March, ‘enthusiasm for Russia and popularity of Stalin unabated2.’
Desire for good relations with Russia did not muffle the New Zealand Government's impartial disapproval of aggression. In December 1939, following the attack on Finland, New Zealand voted for the expulsion of Russia from the League. In 1940 she was clearly uneasy at a suggested British approach to Russia which involved an offer to extend ‘de facto recognition to the results of Russian aggression against the Baltic States, Poland and Roumania3.’ Similar misgivings were expressed again in April 1942. In response to Russian pressure, the British Government was then contemplating a treaty of alliance which would in effect have recognised Russia's 1940 frontiers save only those with Poland; and it asked whether the Dominions would endorse a treaty, make a similar one or remain silent. The New Zealand reply acknowledged that there were ‘urgent and strong reasons why we would meet Russian desires whenever and wherever they can be met’, but said that the proposed agreement, so far as it concerned the Baltic states, seemed to be ‘so incompatible with the undertakings of the Atlantic Charter and so foreign to the basic principles of right and justice upon which the war is being fought that they cannot believe that it is wise or proper.’ It would, so the New Zealand Government feared, be repugnant to ‘the conscience of the world’ as being ‘a grave injustice to the people of the Baltic States … and a substantial departure from the moral basis upon which we embarked on this struggle.’ They expressed no criticism of the United Kingdom Government's action, which ‘they might themselves have found it necessary to take were they under the same necessity as are His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom directly to answer the Russian request.’ Nevertheless, they said plainly that for their part they ‘would not wish to be a party to the agreement and would therefore much prefer that the Treaty be silent as to Dominion participation.’ The message

1 See p. 381.

2 NZHC, London, to Minister of External Affairs, 8 Mar 1945.

3 The quotation is from a draft telegram prepared in the Prime Minister's Department in October 1940. It was not sent.

page 361 concluded with a suggestion that, if it were not too late, a meeting between Churchill and Stalin might be warranted.1

New Zealand's attitudes towards Russia and Poland were made clear in the early years of the war. As regards the Poles, added warmth of interest came both from the energetic work of a capable Polish Consul-General in Wellington and from the presence of a substantial group of refugees–748 children together with 88 adults–who came via Iran in 1944. It was perhaps not surprising, therefore, to find some signs of uneasiness at the Russian failure to assist the Polish rising in Warsaw in August 1944, but the problem arose in a new and intractable form in the following January.

In that month the Russians recognised as the Government of Poland the ‘Polish National Committee’ which they had established in Lublin. This immediately raised the problem as to whether New Zealand should or should not in this context show the same concern for moral principle as in the past by continuing to recognise the government-in-exile. She reacted with some sharpness to the attempted compromise which emerged from discussions between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta shortly afterwards. The Yalta proposals for Poland were based on the Lublin Committee, which had now become the Warsaw government. That government, it was agreed, should be ‘reorganised on a broader democratic basis’, with the help of a joint Russo-British-American Commission, and with the addition of some democratic Polish leaders drawn both from Poland itself and from Poles then in exile. The resulting provisional government would be pledged to hold as soon as possible free elections in which ‘all democratic and Anti-Nazi parties’ were to participate, and would be recognised by Russia, Britain and the United States.2 The Big Three added that the Poles' new eastern frontier should roughly follow the ‘Curzon Line’, that they should gain considerable territory to the north and the west, and that the finalisation of their western frontier should await the Peace Conference.

New Zealand's vigorous criticism of these arrangements showed, in general, a continuing anxiety lest morality in international affairs should be sacrificed to expediency and, in particular, a firm grasp over the essential elements in a complex and remote problem. The establishment of an effective Department of External Affairs had borne fruit in a manifestly increased capacity for relevant and informed comment on world issues. Fraser and his colleagues plainly disliked the proposal to build a new government on the Lublin Committee. From the available evidence, wrote Fraser, it would

1 PM to SSDA, 28 Apr 1942.

2 McNeill, p. 558, quoting Stettinius, pp. 309–10.

page 362 appear that that committee ‘does not in any real sense represent the Polish people and has in fact been imposed upon them. It seems very doubtful whether any governmental body of which that committee remains the effective nucleus will prove capable of winning the democratic allegiance of the Polish nation.’ He asked whether light could be thrown on the conference's failure to adopt Churchill's proposal to construct an entirely new government, and went on to discuss, with a pessimism that was to be amply justified, the task facing the Commission of three. ‘The best that can be said of the arrangement is that it is better than empowering the Lublin Committee to reorganise itself as a Provisional Government. It is however doubtful whether the Commission can hope to obtain effective guarantees for a free election which will truly reflect in accordance with the intentions of the Atlantic Charter the democratic wishes of the Polish people including those serving in the Polish services abroad. As the matter stands I realise that the choice is between this degree of international supervision of the Polish settlement and the complete abstention of the Western Powers. Despite those apprehensions however I trust that no degree of effort will be spared to ensure the establishment of a provisional government of genuinely independent character and that the Western Powers will withhold recognition of the new provisional government until they are satisfied that such is the case. No preparation for the San Francisco discussions seems more important than a solution of the Polish problem on which our minds can rest with some degree of comfort.’

Fraser went on to comment on the frontier arrangements, again in surprising detail. ‘From the very imperfect knowledge I have of this complicated question,’ he wrote, ‘it does appear that Poland has a just claim for Lwow with or without the neighbouring oilfields and we should continue to give our support to such adjustments in Polish favour.’ He was more concerned, however, regarding the western frontier where, he argued at some length, the case that ‘just as… the British endeavoured to persuade the Poles from accepting the liability of vast areas east of the Curzon line after the last war, so we should endeavour to impress upon them the dangers of making a similar mistake in the west on this occasion.’ Here he felt the alternatives were the transfer of population on an impossibly large scale or the creation of a vast minority problem which would ‘embroil Poland so deeply with Germany as to compel her to depend permanently on the Soviet Union for her security. While I believe that a settlement which requires Poland to maintain good relations with Russia is essential, one that makes her future security almost exclusively dependent upon Russian support is clearly unwise.’ Fraser concluded by remarking on the increasing tendency of the major powers to settle problems piecemeal instead of bring- page 363 ing them to a Peace Conference, ‘which alone will be in a position to examine these problems in all their bearings and effect satisfactory settlements1.’

Churchill replied with customary vigour. He recognised the force of many of Fraser's criticisms, which ‘are indeed inescapable and have throughout been very much in our minds.’ Nevertheless, he went on, ‘Great Britain and the British Commonwealth are very much weaker militarily than Soviet Russia and have no means short of another general war of enforcing their point of view. Nor can we ignore the position of the United States. We cannot go further in helping Poland than the United States is willing or can be persuaded to go. We have therefore to do the best we can.’ He discussed the problem of Poland's western boundaries, offered some defence of the three-power international commission, and then assured Fraser in conclusion that ‘We are only committed on the basis of full execution in good faith of the terms of our published communique. Personally in spite of my anti-communist convictions I have good hopes that Russia or at any rate Stalin desires to work in harmony with the western democracies. The alternative would be despair about the future of the world. We shall not flinch however from our duty as we conceive it to the last scrap of our life and strength.’

Thereafter the matter dragged. It seems that Fraser was still dissatisfied with the Yalta formula, and said so at the Commonwealth Conference held at London in April before the meeting at San Francisco. He also, it would seem, was in touch with the leaders of the Polish government-in-exile and helped to persuade them that they ‘should make a constructive effort and play their part in reaching a settlement instead of maintaining the completely negative attitude adopted since Crimea2.’ It was, however, only after five months of negotiations, which incidentally left little doubt as to Russian intentions in Poland, that a positive move was made. In June, after considerable unsuccessful pressure by Britain on the government-in-exile, and hard negotiating by Harry Hopkins with Stalin, a group of Polish exiles was invited to Moscow. It was then agreed that the Warsaw government should be enlarged by the inclusion of Mikolajczyk–a former prime minister in the government-in-exile–and a few other Poles from abroad.3 The new government was recognised on 5 July by the United Kingdom and the United States.

The New Zealand Government reserved its decision ‘for further consideration in the light of all the facts’;4 but it could only be a

1 Minister of External Affairs to SSDA, 20 Feb 1945.

2 SSDA to Minister of External Affairs, 25 Apr 1945.

3 McNeill, pp. 586 ff.

4 Minister of External Affairs to NZ Minister, Washington, 6 Jul 1945.

page 364 matter of delay. As one of Fraser's advisers cogently remarked, ‘We made no public protest at the time of the Yalta decisions and by our silence then seem precluded from denying recognition to a Government established according to the formula laid down by the Crimea Conference.’ No immediate action followed, though in August the New Zealand Minister in Moscow reported that ‘Australia and New Zealand are practically the only nations represented here which have not formally recognised the present Government’ of Poland. New Zealand certainly continued to be interested in Polish affairs, but did not until December 1945 fall into line by withdrawing recognition from the Polish government-in-exile.1

The Polish problem reached a climax during the San Francisco Conference, and was at once an education for New Zealand in the diplomacy of the newly emerging world, and a demonstration of the limited importance of a small power's policy. Nevertheless, for what it was worth, New Zealand sustained her own consistently held viewpoint in face of a complex problem. Her attitudes were also tested in a brief but tense episode which, at much the same time, illustrated the problems of East-West relationships in another frontier area.

By an odd chance New Zealand was intimately involved in one of the first major incidents which illustrated the dangers of the new power-situation. The decision to leave the Division in Europe till the end of the Italian campaign kept it in the firing line until the Germans surrendered on 2 May 1945. At much the same time the forces of Marshal Tito closed in on Trieste. It was therefore New Zealand troops who happened to share the occupation of a long-disputed territory. Moreover, as Tito frankly explained, his operations had more than a purely military purpose. He was, he said, Prime Minister as well as Commander-in-Chief, and the territories in question had been unjustly annexed by Italy under a former treaty. He intended to rectify the matter in the confusion of a dying war, which meant absorbing into an actively communist Yugoslavia areas in which the towns had a heavily Italian population. New Zealanders were established in the midst of a political crisis of complex causes and character, and with highly explosive possibilities. It was, indeed, the kind of situation which New Zealand had always been anxious to avoid; and her reluctance to permit New Zealand forces to be used for garrison duties after the Armistice had been expressed as recently as August and September 1944, with particular reference to a proposal by General Wilson to include ‘for

1 Though recognition was not thereby extended to the Warsaw government. It was not until April 1947 that the Minister of External Affairs advised the New Zealand Minister in Moscow that ‘While we do not propose by any specific formal act to recognise the Polish Government we shall in future act as if we have extended such recognition.’

page 365 association's sake’, a small New Zealand detachment in the force to be sent to Greece on the German evacuation. In this decision was evident an unwillingness to take sides in Greek politics as well as a desire to get the NZEF home as soon as fighting had ceased.1

Faced by Tito's drastic assertion of his rights, Truman reacted sharply, with Churchill's warm approval. President and Prime Minister agreed that Tito was taking the law into his own hands in a manner ‘all too reminiscent’ of Hitler and Japan, and thereby challenging ‘the fundamental principles of territorial settlement by orderly process against force, intimidation, or blackmail2.’ The tactic adopted was not, they thought, different in principle when adopted by an ally and by an enemy. They would have been less than human if they had not found Tito all the less likeable because of his regime's frankly communist character and because of the methods and success with which he had risen to supreme power in his own country. Nevertheless, the issue as they saw it was one of principle with long-term implications. It was at the same time an urgent practical instance of a problem which had to be faced in the interests of post-war stability, namely, the westward thrust of communist power and the necessity somewhere to draw a firm boundary to its further expansion. In particular, Tito was feared to have designs in southern Austria. Churchill was particularly pleased that the new President should grasp so firmly ‘the moral essentials of the cause for which we have fought’ and be willing ‘to take firm and bold action without fear of being accused of entanglements in Europe.’ A firm stand in Trieste, he added, might ‘lead to a showdown with Russia on questions like the independence and sovereignty of Poland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia…. I feel we are safe as well as right in closing ranks with the United States upon this matter3.’ It seemed, in fact, that Tito's intransigence might be a powerful factor in promoting a development which Churchill ardently desired but dared not count upon: active American participation in post-war Europe in counterpoise to the Russians.

An appeal to moral principle never failed to move Peter Fraser. He was at this time in San Francisco, deeply involved in the basic planning of UNO, and disturbed also by the crucial problem of New Zealand's participation in the Pacific war: a problem in which party, national and world strategy were awkwardly interlocked, and on which a decision was urgently necessary. He responded at once hotly, indeed vehemently, to Churchill's appeal. To condone such unilateral action, he wrote to Freyberg and to Nash, who was

1 Documents, II, pp. 354–5, 398–400.

2 Ibid., p. 415, note 1.

3 Churchill to Fraser, 13 May 1945

page 366 acting Prime Minister, would nullify ‘everything for which we have fought and are still fighting’, and tend to promote similar ‘situations which can be met only by further disastrous concessions on our part or with another war1.’ Aggression must therefore be halted at the earliest possible moment, if necessary by force, and if necessary, since they were on the spot, by New Zealanders. He told Churchill that action should only be taken if it had been ‘demonstrated clearly and beyond dispute to the world’ that only ‘the obstinate and definitely aggressive attitude of Yugoslavia’ had frustrated earnest efforts to reach a solution in strict accordance with the principles for which the United Nations stood, and even then only with a firm assurance that there would be ho interference in Yugoslavia's affairs. Subject to such assurances, he thought that the New Zealand Government should allow its Division to be used, if the need arose.2

Freyberg in Trieste reached the same conclusion. He was on good personal terms with the Yugoslav commanders, but saw the possibility of serious trouble ahead. ‘I do not see how you can do otherwise than authorise the use of the Division,’ he wrote to Fraser,3 ‘nor would any of the force wish you to do otherwise.’ He went on to explain how the course of military operations had carried the Division into a situation where its every action–or abstinence from action–was charged with grave political importance. In Trieste, he wrote,4 the New Zealanders were inevitably offending both sides. Tito's men disliked having outsiders established in what they claimed as their territory and necessarily observing, even if not checking, the actions of the new regime. Italians and conservatives generally resented the Division ‘standing by while … a revolution to bring the country under a Communist Yugoslavia is carried out around us.’ Freyberg's view was, he wrote, that vigorous political–rather than military–action was needed. He agreed in general with Fraser's opinions, but added soberly: ‘I am only a little uncertain when it comes to the application of any ideal or principle in Balkan countries, where terrible things have happened and are still happening.’ A firm stand might produce the desired results; but those who took it must be prepared to fight.

It was a grim situation. By any military reckoning, the Division was due to be withdrawn from the fighting. Yet it stood on the very edge of conflict with erstwhile allies on an issue in which the great powers had taken sides; confronting Tito was an Anglo-American army, and behind him were the Russians. On 16 and 17 May an anxious New Zealand cabinet weighed the problem. It

1 Documents, II, p. 418, 16 May 1945.

2 Fraser to Nash, 14 May 1945.–Documents, II, pp. 415–16.

3 Documents, II, p. 418.

4 Freyberg to Fraser and Nash, 16 May 1945.–Documents, II, pp. 419–21.

page 367 had before it the strongly expressed views of Truman, Churchill and Fraser on this particular issue, and also the formidable volume of information on the general situation supplied according to routine by the British Government. Among those present there was a natural reluctance to become entangled in further fighting, and some ministers felt that Truman and Churchill had gone too far and had made inadequate allowances for the pent-up feelings of peoples who had long suffered Fascist and Nazi oppression. A violent reaction was only too likely. Would it not be better met, it was argued, by quietly playing for time till passion had abated and reason could be heard, than by the threat of immediate force? New Zealanders remembered, too, as did Churchill, that behind Yugoslavia was Russia, but from this circumstance they drew a different conclusion. Perhaps they rated higher than he did the possibility that the Russians would underwrite Tito's position. The possibility, even as some saw it the probability, that the proposed action might lead to war with Russia was clearly repugnant to cabinet. Its reaction was reminiscent of that in 1940 when it had been suggested that the Allies should fight Russia on behalf of the Finns. Moreover, it was reflected, a major military crisis in Europe meant delay in the defeat of Japan.

Viewed from Wellington, in short, the issue lacked the clear-cut certainties of Fraser's assessment. Three or four men, including the acting Prime Minister, agreed that the actions proposed by Fraser should be taken, ‘after every road of compromise has been fully explored.’ At the other extreme, some thought that the Division should be promptly withdrawn from the area of crisis and New Zealand thus relieved of responsibility. Others pointed out the difficulties of withdrawal, and suggested possible ways of compromise between Tito and the West. The debate was warm but in good temper, and was summarised for Fraser with the conclusion that ‘there is a very strong feeling that we ought not to commit our Division to further fighting unless attacked, and that we should take every step to avoid the possibility of attack.’ Without expressly denying the use of the Division, it was a cable which showed Fraser that the majority of his colleagues and lifelong friends in the Labour movement were uneasy on the issue. They evidently did not think that his prior condition had been fulfilled–it had not been demonstrated to the world clearly and beyond dispute that the only obstacle to just settlement was ‘the obstinate and definitely aggressive attitude of Yugoslavia …’–and they recoiled from the thought that the Division should be too hurriedly pledged to action against gallant allies who had fought so bravely under cruel difficulties.

Nash's report was received by Fraser with stunned silence followed page 368 by three long, closely typed pages of vehement disagreement. The moral issues still seemed to him crystal clear and of great practical importance. ‘It is more important that the methods adopted and practised by the Yugoslav government should be stopped finally and completely than it is for the San Francisco Conference to prove a complete constructive success, which thanks to the decisions of the three great powers now appears impossible of attainment.’ To withdraw the Division at the height of the crisis would be interpreted as a blow struck at the United Kingdom and the United States at the very moment when they ‘were firmly upholding the principles for which the war was fought.’ He admitted the possibility that a policy of firm resistance to Tito might be ‘misunderstood and misconstrued by large sections of the community’–there was a vocal pro–Tito section among New Zealand Yugoslavs–but, he added, ‘in a crisis public opinion must not be feared, it must be met.’

There was, then, disagreement between Fraser in San Francisco and cabinet in New Zealand on the right reading of the Trieste crisis. All agreed in principle that the fate of the territories in question should be decided as part of a general settlement and not by unilateral action. There were differences of judgment, however, on the moral justification for Tito's haste and on the possibilities of a compromise decision. There were evidently differences of opinion also on the underlying problem of relations between the West and Russia. The problem so vividly seen by Churchill, that of the establishment of Russian power and Russian satellites in the heart of Europe was, it seems, only dimly perceived by some New Zealanders. There was perhaps lack of conviction on the need to draw a firm line on which the West could stand and a plain lack of eagerness that New Zealand should assume practical responsibilities in guaranteeing this part of the post-war security system.

The debate, if forced to a decision, would have thrown light on the workings of the Labour Party, on the extent of Fraser's personal dominance, and on New Zealand political attitudes. Before a formal answer was sent to Churchill, however, Tito made an offer which, in cabinet's view, opened the way to peaceful settlement. Answering in these terms on 23 May, the New Zealand Government could avoid the whole question of the use of the Division. On the same day, 23 May, Freyberg reported from Trieste that tension which had looked dangerous had greatly relaxed, and that he could look forward to the Division's release from its operational role.1 Discussion continued on details, and so far as New Zealand was concerned Fraser consoled himself that cabinet, in its cable to Churchill, did

1 Nash to Churchill and Freyberg to Nash, 23 May 1945.–Documents, II, pp. 423–4.

page 369 not expressly object to the use of the Division if it had been required.1 Moreover, it remained in the danger area, not without minor difficulties, till the end of July.2 But Trieste soon ceased to torment the New Zealand cabinet, and the solution of outstanding problems between Italy and Yugoslavia became a matter of world politics.

It may be said that New Zealand's brief involvement with the Yugoslavs had a happy ending. The New Zealand Division was, at leisure and legitimately, withdrawn from the danger area; and a few months afterwards, at the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, Fraser by a graceful withdrawal assured to Yugoslavia a seat on the Social and Economic Council. ‘We have endeavoured to understand the position of Yugoslavia,’ he said, ‘and we have nothing but friendship for that country’; moreover, the public interest demanded a quick ending to the deadlock.3 Nevertheless, the tense incident of Trieste demonstrated, in fact, a most unhappy conclusion. The world had passed from one war to the next without interval: even if the character of the warfare had changed. There is no moment of which it can confidently be said, here the war ended, and the belligerents (New Zealand among them) laid down the tasks of war and took up those of peace.

1 Fraser to Jordan, 25 May 1945. His interpretation of the text seems strained.

2 Documents, II, pp. 424–7.

3 Thorn, Fraser, p. 237.