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

No. 2028

Sir: With reference to the Embassy’s telegram 443 of December 28, 1938,2 regarding the Soviet attitude to alleged German designs in the Ukraine, I have the honor to enclose herewith the full text of the editorial2 which appeared in the Journal de Moscou for December 27, on which the above-mentioned telegram was based. The substance of this editorial was reproduced in the Moscow News for January 2, 1939. A subsequent reference to the Ukrainian question was contained, as reported in telegram 14, January 12, 10 a.m.,2 in an editorial in the Journal de Moscou for January 10, 1939, devoted to the visit of the British Prime Minister to Rome.3

In connection with an assertion that the proponents in the Western European countries of the policy of capitulation entertain hopes of satisfying the “appetites of the aggressors” at the expense of third powers in Eastern Europe, the editorial referred to the Ukrainian question in the following words:

“In this connection the uproar which has been raised in the European press around what is called the ‘Ukrainian problem’ is very significant. It may be noted that in regard to this question certain French and English newspapers are making more noise than even the fascist aggressors themselves. It is not difficult to guess the reasons therefor: they are suggesting to Hitler to leave Western Europe in peace and to go in search of his prey to the west [east].

“But how naive those dreams and insinuations, despite their provocative character. How can it be imagined that Hitler would abandon all of a sudden the line of least resistance, cease his pressure on the states of western Europe, where up to the present he has seized [Page 732] without fighting the prey desired, and would do this in order to venture along the route of the greatest resistance, where fascist power in Germany—and probably elsewhere, also—will inevitably break its neck.”

As was indicated in the Embassy telegram under last reference, in response to a query from an American correspondent in Moscow, an official of the Soviet Foreign Office reiterated the views set forth in the enclosed editorial and in the excerpt given above.

In so far as the Embassy is aware, however, there has been no mention in the Russian-language newspapers in the Soviet Union of the increased publicity given to the Ukrainian problem in the European press. In view of the publicity which the Soviet Government has given in the past to alleged German designs on the Ukraine, the silence in the Russian-language press may be in itself an indication that the Kremlin considers this question too delicate to be exploited at the present for internal propaganda. The Soviet Government in the present instance appears to have confined the expression of views to those contained in the Journal de Moscou, which, it may be assumed, have been presented for purposes of foreign consumption, and, in this connection, Litvinov himself is quoted in diplomatic circles here as conveying, in informal conversations, the impression of unconcern on the part of the Soviet Government in the face of a Nazi threat to the Ukraine, which is reflected in the above-mentioned newspaper. Whether this impression has been deliberately created in order to conceal the real concern of the Soviet Government over the possibility of Nazi aggression in the Ukraine or whether it is based on reassuring statements which he may have received from Berlin direct or via Warsaw as to Hitler’s immediate intent in regard to the Ukrainian question is a matter for conjecture. In this as in other questions, however, involving Soviet foreign relations, it should be emphasized that under present circumstances, in regard to European problems at least, initiative in action does not lie primarily with the Soviet Union, and whatever its attitude or aims may be any positive move by the Kremlin in foreign affairs will, it is believed, depend on the development of events abroad.

Respectfully yours,

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Neville Chamberlain visited in Rome, January 11–13, 1939. Earlier he had signed an Anglo-Italian agreement at Rome on April 16, 1938; for text, see League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cxcv, p. 77.