The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Davies) to the Secretary of State 72
Sir: Upon the occasion of making my formal parting call upon President Kalinin and Premier Molotov on June 5, 1938, a very interesting situation developed.
When I was in Premier Molotov’s apartment in the Kremlin, and within a very few moments after I had been seated, Mr. Stalin entered the room alone, came forward, greeted me very cordially, and he, Molotov and myself engaged in discussions for two hours and fifteen minutes. Supplementing my telegram No, 143 of June 6, 1:00 p.m., I have the honor to report with reference thereto as follows:
After the usual preliminary amenities incident to the occasion of my call on the Premier by reason of my departure and transfer to Belgium, we entered upon a friendly and interesting talk. Stalin was particularly interested in President Roosevelt and asked many questions [Page 568] about him. He also referred in terms of much admiration to your Washington speech.
We discussed a matter which I am committed to report upon orally only to you and to the President. Stalin also brought up the battleship matter which is now pending in the Department, and finally discussed the possibility of a settlement of the Kerensky debt.
A complete and detailed statement of what occurred is set forth in the memorandum hereto attached and made a part hereof. Subsequent developments with reference thereto are also described therein.
Both this despatch and the memorandum have been dictated under great pressure in the last few hours in Moscow just prior to my departure, and are not at all satisfactory to me as a statement of what occurred, but time presses and I think the memorandum will give you an accurate picture of the situation.
The fact of the conference was announced by the Soviet press and to eliminate the possibility of unwarranted implications I was obliged to issue a short statement to the press, a copy of which I herewith enclose.73
The situation created nothing short of a sensation in the Diplomatic Corps here. It was regarded as a unique occurrence in diplomatic history here. I was overwhelmed with requests for appointments. On the occasion of the dinner which Foreign Minister Litvinov gave on the evening of June 7 in honor of our departure (which was again quite unprecedented) and particularly at the reception to the Diplomatic Corps which followed, I was approached repeatedly and delicately questioned with reference to what had occurred. To all inquiries I answered quite frankly that the meeting had been entirely unexpected and had been a complete surprise to me; that I had enjoyed a very interesting visit; in which we had discussed many matters, of a general nature. I thought it better to say this much rather than to leave the situation clothed in mystery and possibly thereby cause unwarranted implications to be drawn with reference to the significance of the matter in connection with this international situation.
Enclosed herewith and pursuant to the regulations of the Department you will please find a copy of the talk which Mr. Litvinov made upon the occasion of his dinner, and a memorandum which was prepared by the joint secretarial staff of the Embassy setting forth the extemporaneous remarks which I made in reply74 which I asked them to prepare because of the pressure of matters incident to my departure on the afternoon of this day.
- The file copy is a carbon with the notation: “Pres[ident] has original,” The date of receipt is not indicated.↩
- Not attached to the file copy.↩
- Neither enclosure attached to the file copy. For texts, see Joseph E. Davies, Mission to Moscow (New York, 1941), pp. 364–368.↩
- June 5, 1938.↩
- For text of speech, “The Spirit of International Law,” delivered before the Bar Association of Tennessee, June 3, 1938, see Congressional Record, vol. 83, pt. 11 (Appendix), p. A2341.↩
- 1915–16; thereafter Vice Chairman until resignation in February 1918.↩
- Amtorg Trading Corporation, official purchasing and sales agency in the United States of the Soviet Union, 261 Fifth Avenue, N. Y.↩
- Carp Export and Import Corporation, New York, N. Y., Sam Carp, president. Mr. Carp’s sister was married to Premier Molotov.↩
- Memorandum of November 15, 1933, p. 26.↩
- Approved April 13, 1934; 48 Stat. 574.↩
- The Export-Import Bank of Washington was organized pursuant to Executive Order No. 6581, dated February 2, 1934.↩
- The translation of Molotov’s letter of June 9, 1938, is enclosure 2 in Ambassador Davies’ unnumbered despatch from Brussels, January 17, 1939, p. 599.↩
For additional information not in the files of the Department on the reception of this debt settlement proposal within the administration, and for the decision temporarily to defer further discussion of it, see Joseph E. Davies, Mission to Moscow (New York, 1941), pp. 370–374, 430–432. See also the unnumbered despatch of January 17, 1939, from Ambassador Davies, by that time Ambassador in Belgium, p. 594.
In June 1939, Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau expressed an interest “in further action to clear up the Russian debt with a view to extending credits that would assist American exports.” He informed the Secretary of State on June 30, 1939, that he had requested the Soviet Ambassador, Konstantin Alexandrovich Umansky, to call and had told him that “we were ready to take up the question of the Russian debt and I would like to have him inquire of his Government whether they would care to do likewise.” On July 7, 1939, the Secretary of State replied that “Since the debt problem is closely interwoven with other problems affecting American-Soviet relations, I would be grateful if you would keep me fully informed regarding any developments which might follow your talk with the Ambassador.” (800.51W89 U. S. S. R./248)
Meanwhile the Soviet Ambassador had sailed on vacation to the Soviet Union. Upon his return on November 10, 1939, there is no indication that he took up the subject.↩
- See footnote 84, p. 579.↩