861.51 U.S. Credits/174

Memorandum by Mr. Edward Page, Jr., of the Division of European Affairs

Mr. Sayre called me this morning and stated that a Mr. G. G. Serkau,* [Page 813]a Russian by birth and Canadian by nationality, who was the president of the Platinum Corporation of the United States, had approached the Department of Agriculture and had stated that (1) The Soviet Government had expressed to him its desire to purchase 1,000,000 bales of cotton in the United States but was unable to pay for the same at the present time. It wished to establish a ten-year credit in the United States at 3% to finance the purchase. (2) The Soviet Government might also be prevailed upon to purchase 50,000,000 to 100,000,000 pounds of lard and 5,000,000 to 10,000,000 bushels of wheat.

Mr. Sayre stated that such a transaction could not be culminated without legislative action. However, although the Government was obviously interested, it did not wish to show such interest until it was certain whether the proposition had in fact come from the Soviet Government and whether Mr. Serkau was qualified to speak for that Government. Mr. Sayre said that in some respects the proposition seemed suspicious and that it might be possible that Serkau was primarily interested in the commission end. I informed Mr. Sayre that the Soviet Government had in recent years been an exporter of cotton and that its imports of American cotton had dwindled to practically nothing. Furthermore, the Soviet Government, generally speaking, conducted such transactions through Government agencies and did not desire to deal through intermediaries. I said that I could quite understand the desire to purchase wheat in as much as there threatened to be a, shortage of grain in the Soviet Union this year.

Mr. Sayre requested that Mr. Henderson or I take the matter up in an informal and disinterested way with the Soviet Embassy with the object in view of finding out whether the proposition had in fact come from the Soviet Government and to endeavor to establish Mr. Serkau’s true connections with that Government. I stated that although Mr. Henderson would be back tomorrow, it would be doubtful whether any informal inquiries could be made until the return of Mr. Oumansky. Mr. Sayre said that he would rather not have the matter discussed with the Ambassador, as this might give it too much importance and might tend to emphasize the interest of the United States Government in the matter. I stated that to all intents and purposes the Soviet Embassy was run by Mr. Oumansky and Mr. Oumansky alone, and that he would probably be the only person in that Embassy who would be conversant with the matter or qualified [Page 814]to speak. However, on an appropriate occasion the subject could be brought up when Mr. Oumansky called on another matter or when we had something else to discuss with the Embassy in such a way as not to give it too great importance. Mr. Sayre agreed to this course. I stated that Mr. Henderson or I would keep in touch with him regarding the matter.

  1. A Mr. Arundel is the assistant to Mr. Serkau, and Mr. Prew Savoy is his Washington attorney. [Footnote in the original.]