June 5, 2018

Telegram from Anthony Eden to Winston Churchill informing him of the results of a discussion with President Roosevelt regarding post war Europe

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This telegram sent by Antony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary, to Churchill in March 1943 recounts Eden’s discussion with President Roosevelt during a visit to Washington, D.C. Days later, Churchill made a key broadcast speech in which he laid out his ‘Four Years’ Plan’ for Britain and Europe after the war. Although the war was ongoing, Churchill began to look forward to victory and proposed his ideas for how to restore ‘the true greatness of Europe’. One such idea was to establish a Council of Europe – an international organisation to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe – which was eventually founded in 1949.

Eden’s fascinating telegram outlining Roosevelt’s views on post-war Europe undoubtedly fed into Churchill’s radio broadcast. Eden’s discussion with Roosevelt covered many complex issues – as Eden says in his telegram, ‘[t]his brief account is an inadequate record of a conversation which ranged so widely’ – including armaments, Russia and the future of occupied Poland, the possible dismemberment of Germany, and the Balkan states. Roosevelt was also preoccupied with American-Soviet relations, and worried that his country’s diplomatic ties with Russia were not as strong as Britain’s.

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A primary concern to Eden and Roosevelt was the issue of how smaller states in Europe should be governed after the war, and how to respect their individual rights and interests while preventing the outbreak of another conflict. This is a key theme of Churchill’s speech, in which he emphasizes the need for harmony across Europe – something he hoped to promote through his idea for a Council of Europe.

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