File No. 763.72/8291
The Minister in Norway ( Schmedeman) to the Secretary of State
[Received December 26.]
Sir: Pursuant to my despatch No. 593 of November 30, 1917,1 and in confirmation of my telegrams Nos. 405 and 409 of the 1st and 4th instant, respectively,1 I have the honor to enclose herewith copy and translation of the official communiqué of the deliberations of the Scandinavian Kings and Prime and Foreign Ministers in Christiania, which was handed to me by the Royal Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
As stated in my telegrams referred to, it has been extremely difficult to obtain any definite information regarding the actual deliberations of the Royal conference which circumstance in itself would appear to be significant. My Allied colleagues, who are as anxious as I am to obtain information, have encountered similar difficulties in regard to securing it.
While the communiqué has all appearance of being of considerable interest in as far as Scandinavian co-operation and relations are concerned, its international political import seems to be relatively small, the chief point of interest in this respect being the declaration of the three Governments to maintain their friendly relations, no matter what may be the development or the duration of the war, There is no doubt that King Gustaf’s initiative in bringing about this meeting has strengthened the relations of the three countries; it is only reasonable to presume, however, that he came here with a purpose. I have been unable to ascertain the exact nature of any concrete propositions put forward by His Majesty, but I am convinced that notwithstanding the general impression that the Norwegian Government (Liberal) is more willing to co-operate with the present Swedish Liberal Government than with the former Conservative Cabinet, the King of Sweden has found it more difficult than he anticipated to secure the support of Norway in all matters.
I have also been unable to obtain any information regarding the rumors, emanating from Copenhagen, that the main object of the [Page 1097] Danish King in coming to Christiania was to induce the Norwegian Government to refrain from entering into any agreements for the establishment of a naval base in Norway by any foreign power, fearing that in such a contingency Germany would immediately establish a base in Jutland off the Danish coast.
As at all previous official meetings which have taken place in Scandinavia since the outbreak of the war, resolutions were passed to continue joint work for the preservation of neutrality, the safeguarding of the interests of neutral nations within the limits of their power, and the desirability of co-operation in Scandinavia.
The decision to appoint immediately special representatives to draft proposals having for their object an effort to develop the exchange of inter-Scandinavian commodities is undoubtedly due to the existing shortage of practically all commodities since the cessation of imports from the United States and the uncertainty of the Scandinavian countries as to the policy to be adopted by the United States and the Allies. As I have repeatedly informed the Department, an attempt may be made by these countries to manage with their own resources rather than to discontinue all export to Germany. The Minister for Foreign Affairs makes frantic endeavors to impress upon me the possibility of their succeeding in such an attempt; the Norwegian Government likewise is making desperate efforts to lead the public to believe that such a scheme is feasible; but it seems incredible that the Government itself can really imagine that an effort in this direction could meet with any lasting success. I asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, at a recent interview, what commodities Norway could exchange with the other Scandinavian countries; he replied, after meditating for some minutes, that she could furnish them with fish, saltpetre for fertilizing purposes, carbides, and raw copper. It is, of course, quite out of the question that Norway, at any rate, could manage to exist for more than a few months without foreign imports.
When calling on the Minister for Foreign Affairs yesterday, I endeavored to obtain information in regard to the subjects which I had previously been informed from a confidential and reliable source would come up for discussion during the conference.
He denied that the questions of Finland and the Aland Islands were officially discussed and declared that in any case they were purely a Swedish affair and that, under no circumstances, could Norway become a party to the furtherance of Swedish ambitions in connection therewith (see my despatch No. 596 of November 301). In diplomatic circles here, however, it is felt that, even though [Page 1098] these questions may not have been formally discussed at the conference, they must have formed the subject of unofficial conversations.
In regard to the attitude of the three countries towards peace proposals, Mr. Ihlen stated that no action had been taken and that he considered it inexpedient to discuss the question. He also informed me that nothing had been done in regard to the calling of a conference of neutral nations.
Undoubtedly one of the principal topics which came up for discussion at the conference was the question of the Scandinavian attitude in regard to Allied pressure concerning the export and import situation. I have been informed from several reliable resources that it was mutually agreed that a complete cessation of Scandinavian exports to the enemy would be impossible and that if an attempt should be made to bring pressure to bear on any of the three countries in order to enforce such cessation it would be jointly resisted. However, the information of my British colleague on this point differs from the information which I have received; he has been led to believe that it was resolved that if any of the Scandinavian countries concluded agreements to discontinue exports to any of the belligerents, it would not be considered an unneutral act by either of the Scandinavian neighbors. I will investigate this point very carefully and should I find that the British Minister’s information is correct I will immediately telegraph to the Department to that effect.
I endeavored to sound Mr. Ihlen as to whether the question of an alliance had been brought up; he replied in the negative stating that the deliberations of the conference had been confined to informal accords having in view the furtherance of Scandinavian cooperation and amicable relations.
As a matter of fact, given the peculiar situation and the physical conditions of each Scandinavian country, an alliance tending to restrict their individual liberty of action and right of independence in commercial and foreign political relations would seem to be inexpedient at these critical times. On the contrary, I gather from information which I have sought regarding this subject that, in the opinion of the thinking members of the community, solidarity in the North should only imply amity and co-operation in inter-Scandinavian matters for the furtherance of their mutual interests and the preservation of a joint neutrality if possible.
As stated in the communiqué, the Minister for Foreign Affairs confirmed that representatives will be appointed to discuss economic and political problems both during and after the war.
It was also agreed that closer co-operation is necessary to combat against the Scandinavian countries being overrun by spies and that [Page 1099] adequate measures should be adopted in order to render police activities in this respect more effective. It is possibly with this in mind that the question of the amendment of the laws pertaining to aliens came up for consideration.
The belligerent diplomats were not invited to assist at any of the functions during the Royal visit, with the exception of the German Secretary, Prince Wied, and his wife who were present at a reception given for the King of Sweden at the Swedish Legation.
I have [etc.]