File No. 657.119/217

The Minister in Norway ( Schmedeman) to the Secretary of State


440. A secret meeting of the Storthing Foreign Affairs Committee took place on December 28. War Trade Board’s proposal of December 201 to Nansen was discussed. According to information which I consider reliable but which I give under reservation, opposition to acceptance of our proposal was led by Minister for Foreign Affairs and by President of Storthing. Konow, supported by two other members of the committee, strongly urged acceptance denouncing dilatory tactics of the Government, which would inevitably lead this country into a most distressing situation in a relatively short time. After long discussion, and against minority opinion, it was decided to make a counter-proposal to our offer of December 20 on the following conditions: Norway to limit fish export to Germany to 4,000 tons monthly pending continuation of negotiations, other exports to Germany to continue as heretofore; foregoing against immediate American license for export to Norway of 10,000 tons grain, 5,000 tons oil, and 5,000 tons phosphates.

I am informed that Nansen has telegraphed Minister for Foreign Affairs that our proposal of December 20 was stated by Jones of War Trade Board to be the best Norway could possibly expect but that Jones had qualified his statement by saying that if our terms entailed [Page 1111] possibility of Norway’s becoming involved in war, they might be mitigated to some extent. If the last statement was actually made, I venture to point out that it is likely to have a most regrettable effect, and will tend to increase difficulty of obtaining agreement.

Prime Minister Knudsen recently stated in a private conversation that our terms would not be acceptable, in any case until spring, when conditions might be such as to make it indispensable to accept them. This provides index of present attitude here which has been considerably modified in the course of past two months, as the result of Russo-German situation. Certain [as] it may be that shortage of essential foodstuffs and raw materials will make itself felt with increasing severity from now on, the moral atmosphere has changed and the present feeling in Government circles seems to be one of expectancy.

Summing up I see no reason whatever at the present time for altering or in any way qualifying our last proposal in its general principles. London informed.

  1. Ante, p. 1087.