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DOCUMENTS - Part Two: Frontiers of Hungary - Chapter I. : Minutes of the Subcommittee on Territorial Problems

Document 5


Secret T Minutes 19

September 4, 1942


Mr. Isaiah Bowman, presiding
Mr. Hamilton Fish Armstrong
Mr. Adolf A. Berle
Mrs. Anne O'Hare McCormick
Mr. Leo Pasvolsky
Mr. Paul Alling
Mr. Wallace Murray
Mr. Philip Ireland
Mr. Philip Mosely
Mr. Harley Notter
Mr. William Koren, Jr.

The chairman proposed to take up the agenda for the meeting in the following order: first, the question of the Slovak-Hungarian frontier; Frontiers of Hungary 111

second, Rumanian stability, on which Mr. Mosely would speak briefly; and third, the Near Eastern area with particular reference to Syria and the Lebanon; since Mr. Hornbeck could not be present, he proposed that the subcommittee discuss Thailand at a later meeting.

Slorvak-Hungarian Frontier

On the invitation of the chairman, Mr. Armstrong read aloud remarks which he had prepared as a commentary on Mr. Mosely's memorandum on the Hungarian-Slovak frontier.1* Mr. Armstrong raised as a question of practical politics the difficulty of suggesting to an ally of the United States, the victim of aggression, that it transfer a section of its territory to a neighboring aggressor and enemy state. He thought that such transfers could be effected only in the cases and only if the ceding state were offered economic and financial advantages by the Great Powers and some quid pro quo by the state gaining territory.

Mr. Armstrong proposed, therefore, that the subcommittee recom- mend that the United States limit its attempts to bring about changes in this whole area to an effort to persuade the Czechoslovak Govern- ment to negotiate the cession of the six western districts of the southern border tier to Hungary as part of a general settlement of all outstanding Czechoslovak-Hungarian differences. This course would have the following advantages: first, that the ethnic argument for transfer is overwhelming; second, that the return of these districts to Hungary would represent a great psychological as well as racial gain for that country and should, therefore, go far towards mending Czechoslovak- Magyar relations from the Magyar end; third, that the main-line railway from Bratislava to Levice would remain in Czechoslovak hands; fourth, that administrative districts would be transferred in their entirety, in keeping with policy generally recognized by the subcommit- tee as advisable; fifth, that if no other alterations in this frontier were suggested, Czechoslovakia's public might regard this adjustment as the solution of a long-time "problem area" rather than as part of a general frontier change. Mr. Armstrong believed that transfer of the 40,000 Czechoslovaks who would then find themselves in Hungarian territory and of the 265,000 Magyars remaining in Czechoslovakia would not


l Document 48--Hungarian-Slovak Frontier--Alternative Frontier Solutions -- Additional Note.

* Mosely's memorandum and Armstrong's commentaries are presented as Document 4, p. 193 and Document 6, p. 202. resent in insuperable problem given the proper international assis- tance.

The chairman noted that Mr. Armstrong's remarks were in agreement with statistics as presented in Mr. Mosely's memorandum and asked the latter for his comments. Mr. Mosely believed that the subcommittee should consider this problem not merely in its aspect of a relationship between aggressor and victim but as part of a regional problem which required a certain number of internal adjustments in order to minimize friction within the regional political organization which the subcommittee had thus far envisaged. He considered that to leave in Czechoslovakia 265,000 Magyars subject to population transfer might be considered an invitation to future trouble.

The chairman requested that a new map be prepared of the ten districts which Mr. Mosely's previous memorandum had considered might be transferred to Hungary and the surrounding areas. This map should show the administrative boundaries and the number of Magyars and of Czechoslovaks who would be left as minorities if the line as analyzed by Mr. Mosely was approved by the subcomrnittee.

In answer to a question by the chairman, Mr. Armstrong repeated his belief that to transfer the ten districts which were located in three separate areas would give the impression of a general frontier change rather than of the adjustment of a problem-area. He, therefore, favored transfer only of the six districts in the westernmost group. The chairman, however, considered that problem areas might be plural in number along a given, frontier.

The chairman proposed that the committee's final recommendations on this problem await presentation of detailed geographic data by the Office of the Geographer. At this meeting, however, he thought that the subcommittee might make a preliminary recommendation to the general committee. Mr. Berle pointed out that if the present approach was followed, the subcommittee was no longer itself making a recommenda- tion as to the transfer of territory, but merely recommending certain agenda for a Czechoslovak-Hungarian conference and providing documentation for those in charge of American policy should the advice of the United States be sought by the two negotiating parties. He pointed out that this new approach on the part of the subcommittee was in accord with the President's policy in April 1939, when he had urged that the interested parties confer directly, under the auspices of the Great Powers in order to guarantee a free and equal discussion. Mr. Armstrong agreed that this new approach as defined by Mr. Berle was the proper one and considered that it strengthened his previous remarks. The chairman returned to the question of whether the subcommittee should recommend that direct negotiations between Czechoslovakia and Hungary concern themselves with the six districts in the west or with the three groups of six districts, three districts and one district, which he denominated respectively by the Roman numerals I, II and III.

Mr. Mosely outlined these areas on the map and indicated that the territory which should be under discussion for transfer to Hungary might include in addition a narrow border strip connecting these areas and certain parts of northern tier of districts contiguous to area I. If this latter adjustment were agreed upon, the main railway line of Bratislava to Levice would pass in part through Hungarian territory; this would alter the strategic picture to some extent but would not be a serious commercial handicap to Czechoslovakia since that country had constructed a parallel line to the north which would remain in its territory. The town of Nové Zámky, which would thereby be transferred to Hungary, had a slight majority of Magyars over Slovaks; the number of Czechoslovaks included a rather large proportion of officials and their families. In Galanta province, on the other hand, the Magyars out- numbered the Czechs almost two to one. In reply of these districts, Mr. Mosely informed the subcommittee that in the southern tier, which might be called the plains districts, the population was largely agricultural but that in the northern tier where the foothills began there was a more diversified economy, including extraction and metal- working industries. Nové Zámky itself included large railway shops and a number of small industries.

The chairman then put before the subcommittee the question of whether it was prepared to recommend that Area I, together with certain adjustments to the north, for final determination of which more data from the geographer's office was required, might be placed on the agenda for negotiation between Czechoslovakia and Hungary. The chairman pointed out that an affirmative vote meant that the subcom- mittee was merely formulating a recommendation to the President in respect to post-war policy. He supposed that the President would then pass the recommendation on to the organization established to deal with post-war problems. In this case the proposition before the committee as clarified by Mr. Berle was not that such and such a transfer of territory be made, but that negotiations on certain areas would be in order. Mr. Berle and Mr. Armstrong voted "aye". Mr. MacMurray thought it difficult to go farther than a mere suggestion, rather than a recommen- dation, that this solution of Czechoslovak-Hungarian friction be discussed. Mr. Pasvolsky agreed that the problem of Area I should be submitted to the interested parties for discussion but thought that the subcommittee could not yet recommend a policy to the American Government, should its advice be asked, since the subcommittee possessed only the arguments for transfer and not the Czech arguments for retention of these districts. The chairman agreed to the strength of this objection but pointed out that the American Govermnent would not be bound by the subcommittee's recommendations. He and Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Berle believed that even before the Czech case was in hand, the subcommittee should take a stand on the basis of the information available to it. This was particularly necessary since the American Government might be presented with the necessity for making a sudden decision on this question and should not be left entirely without guidance by the subcommittee.

The chairman next posed the question of including Areas II and III in the agenda to be recommended to the Czechs and Hungarians. Mr. Armstrong was opposed to such inclusion. He and Mr. MacMurray were fearful lest it so incense the Czechoslovaks that they would refuse to discuss adjustments with respect to Area I. Mrs. McCormick felt that the subcommittee needed more specific information on Areas II and III before deciding on their inclusion on the agenda for direct negotiations. On the other hand, Mr. Berle felt that these two areas should be included on the agenda if only for their "trading-value". He pointed out that, conversely, even after Hungary and its associates had been defeated in the war, the Hungarian army might for some time remain the strongest force on the spot.

Mr. Pasvolsky was emphatic that the mere inclusion of Areas II and III on the agenda recommended by the United States would be regarded by Czechoslovakia and Hungary as an American commitment that this Government regarded their transfer as justified. The selection of negotiable questions was therefore one of the most important recommen- dations which the subcommittee could make. He did not agree with Mr. Berle that the inclusion of Areas II and III on the conference agenda was a commitment only that this Government believed that state of affairs existed in those areas which created friction. Furthermore, he felt that to inject discussion of these areas into a conference might create additional friction rather than eliminate it. He had approved the inclusion of Area I on the agenda for the hypothetical conference on the grounds that to discuss it would eliminate more friction than it would create. His view on the agenda question did not mean, however, that areas II and III should not receive the same detailed study as Area I. Mr. Armstrong welcomed the hesitation of Mr. MacMurray and Mr. Pasvolsky. He noted that Czechoslovakia had announced its intention of securing its pre-Munich frontiers before opening any negotiations with neighboring states. In his opinion there was one chance in three that the Czechs would negotiate over Area I and that there would be an even smaller chance of such negotiation if they were asked to discuss with the Magyars the future the status of Areas II and III.

The chairman concluded the discussion of this frontier with the statement that it was his understanding that in the light of its present knowledge the subcommittee would recommend the inclusion of Area I on the conference agenda but at the present time would reserve judgment on the inclusion of Areas II and III. (...)

x x x

Slovak-Hungarian Frontier

The subcommittee discussed the proper disposition of three frontier areas on the Hungarian border of Slovakia. A formal proposal was made that the subcommittee recommend that the United States encourage, as part of a general settlement of differences between these states, the negotiation of the transfer by Czechoslovakia to Hungary of the first or westernmost area, comprising six administrative districts. It was agreed in this proposal that, as a question of practical politics, the United States could ask no more concessions from an ally and victim state in favor of a late enemy and aggressor; this country, therefore, should no favor the transfer, or even the discussion of transfer, of the other two areas.

Subsequent discussion concerned four issues involved in this proposal: whether the United States should favor negotiations concern- ing the first area between Czechoslovakia and Hungary; whether the United States should favor such negotiation concerning the second and third areas; whether the United States should be ready to recommend the cession of the first area; and whether this Government should be ready to recommend the cession of the other two areas.

In part because the Czechs had in the past expressed a readiness to negotiate with Hungary over the first area, the subcommittee recom- mended that, in the light of its present knowledge, discussion of this area should be included on the agenda for a Czechoslovak-Magyar conference .

The subcommittee reserved judgment on whether the conference agenda should include discussion of Areas II and III. On the one hand, it was felt that the regional political institutions envisaged by the subcommittee would endure only if an attempt had been made to settle intra-regional causes of friction. Objection to such inclusion was raised on the ground that it would lessen the chances of the cession of Area I by Czechoslovakia, and that it would be regarded as a commitment by the United States that this country favored the cession of these areas. The subcommittee postponed decision on the proper policy for the United States with regard to the ultimate disposition of all three areas until further material should have been prepared by the Office of the Geographer. An objection was raised against coming to any decision until the Czech case could be formally presented. It was felt, however, that the subcommittee would have to formulate a recommendation when the additional material requested was at hand, since the Governrnent might be called upon suddenly to present its policy. The subcommittee would be free to alter its recommendation in the light of later informa- tion and developments.

Box 59

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