Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Moffat)

The Soviet Ambassador called on me this morning. He said that he was on the point of sending us a memorandum in reply to the informal [Page 646] aide-mémoire handed him some months ago regarding what he termed “the various small administrative difficulties which were preoccupying the members of the American Embassy at Moscow.” He said that he was quite willing to admit that there had been certain difficulties with regard to the examination of incoming luggage which have by now been corrected; that there were other difficulties involving delay in getting diplomatic luggage out of the country which would be corrected; that a number of other points could be cleared up, but it seemed to him that they were all very small questions. The American Embassy in Moscow, he could assure me, received better treatment than the Embassies of other foreign powers if for no other reason than that there had never been any abuse by American officials of the hospitality of the country as there had been by other diplomats. Furthermore, we must recognize that there had been of late a state of tension in Moscow which was reflected throughout the administrative services. So much by way of explanation.

I replied that there were two points that I wished to emphasize.

The first was that there had been evidences of a feeling in Moscow that our complaints had been made by an official, or a group of officials, who were anxious to “make trouble”. This was far from being the case. We felt that, on the contrary, if the situation complained of could be cleared up, it would be conducive to far smoother and better relations between us. The Ambassador said he was glad to hear this, because the feeling that I mention did in fact exist in Moscow. One reason for this was our mention in the aide-mémoire about consular districts, when this point had been finally settled some four years previously by the creation of a Consular Section in the American Embassy.54 He was glad, however, to take note of what I said.

The second point I wished to raise was the following: Moscow might consider these things trivialities and attempt to answer or explain them one by one; from our point of view, however, it was their cumulative effect which was creating an exceedingly difficult atmosphere and which could not be belittled. We had hoped that before this the general atmosphere would have improved. Unfortunately this was not the case. Without arguing with him I might mention the difficulties recently experienced by one member of the Embassy55 who had spent thirty-three days doing nothing else than getting his effects out of the country, and the case of a Secretary of Embassy56 whose private library was inspected, with the result that he was ordered to export some forty-one volumes within a month or have [Page 647] them confiscated. The Ambassador mentioned the state of tension that had been going on, and I urged that from now on the attitude of the Soviet officials should be more liberal and friendly.

The Ambassador then said that after all the big question between us was the question of the debts; that he had at one time hoped to settle them, but that various factors had arisen, not exclusively in Russia, to make this impossible. He repeated that if Russia were only faced by the American debt it would be easy to solve and not too expensive, but that whatever was done must not create a situation which would obligate Russia to pay the enormous French and British debt claims. I inquired if he thought the present was an opportune time to reopen the debt question. He replied, “Perhaps not just yet, but the time may soon come”. He reverted on two or three occasions to the debt question without ever being more specific, but I could not help wondering if he were not trying to throw out a hint that we might wish to approach this problem again before so very long.57

The Ambassador then told me that he was planning to go back to Russia for two months this summer, and that he would take his boy, aged eighteen, with him. The latter is a Freshman at Swarthmore, interested in literature, but far more American than Russian in language, outlook, and training. He felt that it was about time to take him home to Russify him.

Pierrepont Moffat
  1. For the creation of the Consular Section in the American Embassy in Moscow at the time of the failure of negotiations in regard to claims and credits in 1935, see pp. 177 ff.
  2. Dr. Adolph S. Rumreich.
  3. Charles E. Bohlen.
  4. For the renewed consideration of this subject which started with the interview between Ambassador Davies and Stalin on June 5, 1938, see pp. 567600, passim.