Courtesy Reuters

Diplomacy on the Danube

IN THE summer of 1948 a conference to work out a new international régime for the Danube was held in Belgrade. Out of it came a new Danube Convention, drafted in Moscow, accepted without change by the Communist Governments of the Danubian states, and passed in the conference by a majority vote. The three western Powers -- the United States, the United Kingdom and France -- were an impotent minority at Belgrade. Mr. Vyshinsky did most of the talking. His manner was overbearing and offensive. And he had the votes. The western Powers had no influence on conference decisions. The final convention, which they refused to sign, was the document which Mr. Vyshinsky brought with him from Moscow.

Was this conference a defeat for western diplomacy? Should the United States have sent a delegation to Belgrade in the first place? What are American interests in the Danube area, specifically in trade and navigation on the river, and how well have we promoted and defended those interests? These questions have been asked repeatedly during and since the Danube Conference. They are answered in part by the statements of the American delegation at Belgrade and by the Department of State's press releases and articles on the subject. The present article will attempt to put in its historical setting this most recent phase of the long controversy over the Danube; to clarify the circumstances under which the conference was called; to describe the main issues as they were presented at Belgrade; to evaluate the results of the conference; and to look ahead to the next phase of the problem.


Since the Crimean War the Danube has been legally subject to regulation as an international river. The Treaty of Paris (1856) reaffirmed the principle of freedom of navigation by the ships of all nations on a basis of equality, and established the European Commission of the Danube to regulate navigation and technical work on the lower or "maritime" Danube (from Braila to the Black Sea).

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