Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Messersmith)

With reference to Mr. Oumansky raising the question of whether this Government desires the Soviet Government to continue to reserve for the erection of an American Embassy in Moscow the site said to have been selected by Mr. Bullitt and now being held by the Soviet Government for our use, it will be noted from my memoranda of December 30, 1937,35 December 31, 1937,36 and January 24, 1938,37 that in the conversations which I had with the then Ambassador, Mr. Troyanovsky, the Soviet Government was trying to bring gentle pressure to get us to proceed with the building. We explained that at considerable [Page 840]cost for the preparation of plans, et cetera, we had been ready to go ahead with the erection of a building on this site when the unusual difficulties placed in our way by the Soviet Government made it impossible for us to proceed. The project was an inactive one so far as our Government was concerned. The original appropriation was no longer available. We would have to seek new appropriations, make new plans and commence at the beginning. I said to the Ambassador that we considered the site which had originally been made available for our use, and which I understood they were still holding, was one of the best we could have for this purpose in Moscow and, if they so wished, we would be very glad to have them hold it for us for another year, as he had indicated they would be willing to do. I did not give him any assurances whatever that we would proceed.

The fact is that the site which the Soviet Government has been holding is a good one and we could probably not do any better. On the other hand, no funds are available and it is not likely that within the next year any of the funds which will become available will be allocated for a building in Moscow. When we go ahead at Moscow with the erection of a Government building, it will have to be a considerable project and will run into a very considerable amount of money. I do not believe that the Congress will be disposed at this time to make available such a considerable sum of money for a project in Moscow and, in my opinion, it would not be advisable to seek such funds for Moscow. Desirable as it is in some ways for us to proceed there with the erection of a combined office and residence building, I do not see that the time is opportune for us to do so. Under the circumstances, we cannot ask the Soviet Government to continue to hold this ground available. The Soviet Government states that other governments are anxious to have this site and, if I recall correctly, the Ambassador said they would be able to use it themselves. As it may be at least several years before we are in a position to proceed at Moscow with the erection of our own building, we could not properly ask the Soviet Government to hold the site for us.

In my opinion, therefore, we may tell the Soviet Embassy that we appreciate the Soviet Government having held this site for us, that the Commission38 has no money available at the present time for proceeding with this project, which will involve a very considerable expenditure as we wish to do it on a proper scale when we do proceed, and that as they may have other use for the site we will quite understand their not continuing to hold it for us. As it is our intention to proceed with the erection of a building there as soon as we can, we would naturally be glad to have a site continuously available to us and [Page 841]the availability of such a good site as this would undoubtedly somewhat influence the time when we are able actually to go ahead.39

G[eorge] S. M[essersmith]
  1. Ante, p. 453.
  2. Memorandum of December 31, 1937, not printed.
  3. Ante, p. 631.
  4. Foreign Service Buildings Commission.
  5. On March 14, 1939, Mr. Henderson answered the inquiry of the Soviet Chargé in accordance with the views expressed in this memorandum.