Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

March 30, 1943

(Conferences with Sir Anthony Eden—Postwar problems in maintenance of peace—Foundation for United Nations.)

THE PRESIDENT: Sir Anthony Eden has left, and we decided that it was probably better not to give out one of those formal statements by the two of us. And he asked me to just talk to you all informally about it.

We are in entire agreement. He has had these series of conferences with a lot of people, the Secretary of State and his advisers, and the members of the Senate and the House; and he took a little trip to see some of the camps.

We talked about everything—current military and political affairs, and other questions arising out of the war relating to the present and the future.

I think I can say for both of us that they disclose very close similarity of outlook on the part of the two Governments, and a very fruitful meeting of the minds on all the matters that came under discussion.

We talked about the practical problems that will arise on the surrender of the enemy- problems that will face the Governments of the United States, and United Kingdom, and China, and Russia, and all of the other United Nations, primarily in safeguarding the world from future aggression.

I think I ought to make it clear that these conversations are exploratory. The object of them was not to reach final decisions, which were, of course, impossible at this stage; but to reach a large measure of general agreement on objectives. So as to take time by the forelock, and as a result of these conferences, they will be of great aid in further conferences between all of the United Nations.

I also want to make it very clear that these conferences are by no means confined to the United Kingdom and the United States. They are merely one small part of the long series of conferences between the other United Nations.

We have already talked, for example, rather intimately about these various subjects, with China, and with one or two of the South American Republics. Mr. Eden himself has been to Russia and talked in regard to many of these problems with Mr. Stalin, Mr. Molotov, and other members of the Russian Government.

I hope and expect that we will be continuing discussions along these lines with the Russian Government in the very near future, and with other members of the United Nations. And therefore, you might put it this way: These conversations constitute one method of working toward the unity of the United Nations, which is going along extremely well.

Some people ought to take note of that.

And the other method, of course, is through the more formal gathering, such as we will have next month with the United Nations, in regard to the subject of food, to be followed a little later by a similar one in regard to relief; and possibly a little later by another exploratory conference in regard to finances.

So you see, the thing is progressing in a very satisfactory way.

If some of you go back—some of you can, like myself—go back to 1918, the war came to a rather sudden end in November, 1918. And actually it's a fact that there had been very little work done on the postwar problems before Armistice Day. Well, during Armistice Day and the time that the Nations met in Paris early in 1919, everybody was rushing around trying to dig up things.

And the simile I used to Mr. Eden the other day was that—I was here at the time—the tempo seemed to be that of the lady who is told at noon that she is to accompany her husband on a month's trip on the three o'clock train that afternoon. Well, I have seen ladies trying to pack for a month's trip in three hours, and that was a little bit the situation over here, and everywhere else, in making preparations for the Versailles Conference. Everybody was rushing around grabbing things out of closets and throwing them into suitcases. Some of the large portions of things taken out of the cupboards were not needed at all.

I have forgotten how many experts we took to Versailles at that time, but everybody who had a "happy thought," or who thought he was an expert got a free ride. (Laughter)

And that is why I think that this whole method that is going on now is a very valuable thing, in an exploratory way, and incidentally—as I remarked the other day— in the process of getting to know each other.

If you want to be didactic and put it in terms of figures, I would say that so far, in all of the conferences that we have held with other members of the United Nations—this is not just the British—they come into it too—but we are about 95 percent together. Well, that's an amazing statement. It happens to be true. I wish some people would put that in their pipes and smoke it. (Laughter)So it was a very good conference ....

Q. Could you tell us anything about that 5 percent?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, every additional conversation eliminates a little bit more of the 5 percent.

Q. Mr. President, when you say it applies to the others as well, that includes Russia, does it not?


Q. And China?


Q. Mr. President, you spoke of plans to have conversations with Russia in the near future. Is there anything more specific we can have on that? This summer, do you plan —

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) No—not today. (Laughter)

Q. Is hope still "springing eternal" about Mr. Stalin?


Q. Do you expect a surprise visit-

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) What?

Q. Do you expect to be surprised by somebody arriving?

THE PRESIDENT: You never can tell ....

Q. Mr. President, do these talks you have had look toward the signatures on any agreements smaller than that of the United Nations as a whole?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't like to reduce things to signed documents. A general plan will cover everything pretty well. Get away from the formalities. Let's get on with the work. You know, you can do a lot by gentlemen's agreements, and we have got 31 people who are gentlemen in this particular kind of show.

Q. "Pact" is a bad word to use, isn't it?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Yes. It's a headline word—doesn't mean a thing. . . .

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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