The Chargé in the Soviet Union ( Wiley ) to the Secretary of State

No. 499

Sir: I have the honor, to report that Mr. P. L. Mikhailski, whose pen name is “Lapinski”, a foremost authority of the Soviet press on America, came to my apartment today. In the course of a protracted conversation, he expressed great regret over the unfavorable development of xlmerican-Soviet relations following the return of Ambassador Troyanovski to Washington. He thought that the American Government was pursuing a policy of greatest unwisdom in deliberately casting off Russian friendship which could present incalculable advantages to the United States. I suggested that the shoe might be on the other foot, that it was perhaps the Soviet Government that had followed a course of impolicy. He insisted, however, that the American Government had adopted a provocative attitude. I asked in what way. He stated that the State Department’s announcement that the interview with Mr. Troyanovski had lasted only four and a half minutes and that the Soviet Ambassador had left the Department with a dejected face had been gratuitously designed to wound Soviet sensibilities and prejudice relations. I expressed surprise that anyone who professed to know America and at the same time was a journalist himself could err so grievously. He had confused legitimate American press comments with the press release of the State Department. The latter had been most carefully worded in order not to injure Soviet pride.

Mr. Mikhailski thereupon attacked the attitude of the American Government for “inconsistency”. In Washington Mr. Litvinov had been assured that there would be political collaboration. Since the arrival of the Embassy in Moscow, there had been no sign of political collaboration on the part of the American Government. I replied that the fact that the large Embassy was established in Moscow, at a time when the Soviet Union was apprehensive of Japanese aggression, was in itself effective political collaboration. Moreover, it showed undue optimism on his part to believe that political collaboration would continue on an intimate basis when the Soviet Government had failed to live up to its commitments in respect of debts and claims.

Mr. Mikhailski reiterated that the policy of the American Government towards the Soviet Union had been a mistaken policy from the outset. The American Government had endeavored in every way to exert pressure and to force the Soviet hand. This has provoked a most unhappy reaction in Soviet official circles. Moreover, American policy had been clearly discriminatory. I asked him in what way. [Page 187] He said that there had been no question of having “four and a half minute” interviews with the French or British Ambassadors or of describing them as having “dejected faces” notwithstanding the fact that their debts were enormous compared to the Soviet debt and that they had been most categorically repudiated. I emphatically denied that there had been any discrimination whatsoever.

The foregoing gives but a brief outline of Mr. Mikhailski’s views as expressed to me. What I found of particular interest was that Mr. Mikhailski undoubtedly came to see me under orders and that his attitude, which doubtless reflects that of the highest Soviet quarters, gave evidence of marked uneasiness over the course of American-Soviet relations.

The initial enthusiasm with which the Soviet Government viewed the possibility of establishing friendly intercourse with the United States was, of course, inspired by fear of aggression in the Far East, a fear which was greatly tranquilized during the first half of 1934, with a corresponding decline in interest in furthering relations with the United States. Recently, however, acute fear of aggression from the West has arisen; that Germany was preparing to embark on a policy of conquest at the expense of the Soviet Union. Interest in consolidating foreign relations has in consequence revived. Though this interest is chiefly centered in the development of political relations with France and Great Britain, it is not impossible that the Soviet Government is beginning to regret its intransigent attitude towards the United States.

Mr. Mikhailski in a somewhat minatory tone referred to the reticence of Soviet press comment in respect of the United States and the termination of negotiations, the implication being that at a given moment its fury might be unleashed against the United States. In reply I suggested that it might be helpful rather than harmful if the Soviet press were to give full expression to what it really felt and thought. The American Government might then be able to appraise the situation more precisely.

I have the further honor to report that, from conversation with Dr. Yen, the Chinese Ambassador, who has just returned to Moscow after a prolonged absence, it appears that Mr. Litvinov has discussed American-Soviet relations with him at some length and has attempted to give a distorted view of the reasons for the termination of the negotiations with Mr. Troyanovski. Dr. Yen’s remarks implied that Mr. Litvinov had attributed matters to a deliberate change of policy on the part of the United States. They tend to confirm my impression that Mr. Litvinov feels himself very much on the defensive in respect of his policy towards the United States.

Respectfully yours,

John C. Wiley