Memorandum by the Secretary of State of a Conversation With the Ambassador of the Soviet Union (Troyanovsky)
The Soviet Ambassador called by appointment at his request. He was slow to mention the pending debt and other negotiations between this Government and his. I thereupon inquired as to what impressions he gathered on his trip through the Orient. He said that he had a very interesting trip; that he did not visit China but only Japan, where he had a much better acquaintance and background, including numerous personal friends, than the resident Soviet Ambassador;2 that he found that among his army and navy friends there was an attitude of decided coolness because of the fact that he is now Ambassador to the United States. He stated that he had a conference with the Emperor and members of the Emperor’s Court, all of whom are friends of peace and indicated every disposition to promote and preserve peace; that the army and navy people, however, are in complete control and they have the opposite disposition within certain limitations. He added that the Japanese in control have about the same unfriendly attitude towards Russia and the United States alike. The Ambassador said that he was asked by numbers of Japanese persons, some of whom were his friends, why Soviet Russia was arming to the extent she was reported to be arming, and that he replied that they were afraid of war with Japan; that Japan had refused to enter into a non-aggression treaty with Russia and was otherwise indulging in actions and utterances that suggested military preparations by Russia.[Page 167]
The Ambassador then said to me that these are times when important countries should be prepared so far as Japan is concerned. I remarked that the Japanese were very curious to know the size of Russian armaments. He promptly stated that they had about 900 aeroplanes, between three and four hundred thousand troops and some submarines in the Siberian-Vladivostok region or locality. I do not know whether the Ambassador was telling me this for effect to be passed on or whether he intended to be accurate. In view of his promptness in volunteering the information, I suspected the latter.
The Ambassador referred to Japanese movements down near the caravan route, across from the Peiping section, through Outer Mongolia, and into Soviet Russia. He seemed not to underestimate the full significance of these threatened activities of Japan. He also stated that the Japanese are very much disappointed in the expected fruits of their Manchurian adventure from an economic and trade standpoint; that the returns are nothing like what they had expected or hoped for; that the Chinese in that locality are still embittered against them; and that the Japanese are expending more than they are getting out of it in return.
The Ambassador also stated that the peacefully-inclined statesmen of Japan are frequently threatened with assassination by the opposition in control, or rather by its supporters; that those advocating peace are still hoping that the pendulum will later swing back, although the Ambassador said that he sees no signs at present, and that therefore it is important to be prepared. He said that if the United States, Great Britain and Russia, without any alliance whatever, should speak or act simultaneously along similar lines on appropriate occasions, it would be more calculated to quiet and restrain than any other steps the wild movements of conquest on the part of the army and navy people now in control of Japan.
Finally, after I inquired about business in his country and we had commented generally on business in this country, the Ambassador said that he called today just to pay his respects, but that soon we should have a talk about our negotiation affairs which are still pending. He then stated that the British and French are watching these negotiations very closely on account of their debt situation, and that it is very difficult to make progress in these circumstances. I then said that I had gone to the outside limit in making the last proposal for debt settlement, which I made to him before his departure last fall;3 that I knew I would be more or less criticized, but that I felt it was better [Page 168] in the long run for both countries to get the matter closed up and settled once and for all, and that I would make an offer that his Government could not well turn down if it was in any position at all or in any state of mind disposed to make a settlement. I said that we are being criticized in this country on the theory that neither he nor we have the capacity to settle a comparatively minor business relationship between our two Governments after more than twelve months of conversations and negotiations, and that this is having a very bad effect on both the situation of his country here, as well as the situation of the Roosevelt Administration before the American people; that therefore we must have an early meeting this week and agree on some sort of final disposition of the matter, either one way or another; and that I desire this meeting to be held before the end of the week in order that Ambassador Bullitt may be present. The Soviet Ambassador promptly agreed, with the result that he will call for a final conference on Thursday next at 11:00 A.M.4
As he was leaving and in reply to a casual inquiry of mine as to whether there is anything new from the Soviet standpoint with respect to this settlement of the debt due us, the Ambassador stated that there is little or nothing new.