123 Davies, Joseph E./37

Memorandum by the Chargé in the Soviet Union (Henderson)84

A Soviet official85 who is generally considered to have been chosen to act as a direct intermediary between the Kremlin and the American Embassy in Moscow asked if he could have lunch with me on January 15, 1937, to discuss certain matters of importance. During the lunch he stated somewhat as follows:

“The Kremlin has issued a directive to Mr. Litvinov to the effect that the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs shall treat Mr. Davies, the new Ambassador, with the utmost consideration and courtesy and that it shall endeavor to see that he receives similar treatment from Soviet officials with whom he may come in contact who are not in that Commissariat. Any irritations which may have arisen during the past three years are to be forgotten and anew book in the relations between the Embassy and the Soviet Government is to be opened.

“The Soviet Government is glad that the American Government has named as Ambassador to the Soviet Union someone who, it is understood, [Page 441]will approach his work in an objective spirit. It is difficult to say which is worse—an Ambassador who comes to the Soviet Union with a feeling of antagonism or one who does so full of sentimental friendliness. Probably the former is better since he will not be expecting exceptional treatment or personal favors and can be dealt with on a strictly business basis. Almost without an exception Ambassadors or Ministers who have come to the Soviet Union with an attitude of sentimental friendliness have in the end become embittered when they have discovered that such an attitude is embarrassing to the Soviet authorities who can not afford to treat them in a manner markedly different from the manner in which it treats other Chiefs of Mission.

“I hope that you will make two suggestions to the new Ambassador:

That he will not take seriously the critical remarks which the members of the Diplomatic Corps are certain to make to him regarding the Soviet Union; and
That he approach his tasks in a quiet and unobtrusive manner and not permit small irritations to influence him against the Soviet Union until he may have had time to form balanced opinions for himself.”

I assured the Soviet official in question that I appreciated the spirit in which he made the suggestions to me and would bear them in mind during the course of my conversations with the Ambassador. At the same time, I told him that Mr. Davies had had a wide and varied experience and I was sure that his instinctive judgement and balance were such that he would not be inclined to be unfriendly in his approach to the Soviet Government or to be sentimental in his dealings with Soviet officials or institutions.

  1. Transmitted to the Department by the Chargé in his despatch No. 2200, January 16, 1937; received February 9.
  2. Boris Sergeyevich Steiger, whose official status was somewhat indefinite, although he was consultant to the Committee for the Affairs of Art. He was arrested during the night of April 17–18, 1937, and executed with six other officials on December 20, 1937.