Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Messersmith)

I have noted with interest the memorandum67 of the conversation which Mr. Henderson had with Mr. Oumansky, Chargé d’Affaires, a. i. of the Soviet Union, with regard to the Department’s recent circular to Chiefs of Mission in Washington requesting information regarding officers and employees of foreign governments residing in, or engaged in activities, in the United States. The information which Mr. Oumansky himself has given with regard to the number of persons [Page 929]which the Soviet Government has in this country for one reason or another, and particularly his statement that practically every Soviet Union citizen in this country is in some way or other an employee of the Soviet Government, indicates to this Government the need for all information concerning their presence here and their arrival and departure. It is just this situation which Mr. Oumansky describes, and from which he desires relief, which we are trying to control.

In view of the existing situation with which we have to deal and of the obvious activities of certain governments, it is necessary for us to have the information called for in our circular instruction to Chiefs of Mission in Washington dated March 30, 1939. I think we must insist upon and require a very prompt and full compliance with this circular by Chiefs of Mission and foreign Consular officers in this country. The failure of any Chief of Mission or Consular establishments to provide the information promptly according to this circular should be reported to the appropriate Chief of the political division in the Department so that steps leading to full compliance may be taken.

With specific reference to Mr. Oumansky’s request, I think he should be informed that we must require full compliance with the circular. He cannot offer any real objection because the Soviet Government is requiring us to give full and prompt information concerning all the officers of our Government stationed in that country, including even domestic servants who may be in the employ of our officers. The fact that the Soviet Government has further categories of persons in this country other than diplomatic and consular officers does not change the situation. They are, as the Chargé d’Affaires states, employees of the Soviet Union. It is therefore proper and necessary that we should be informed when they come, what they do and when they leave, irrespective of whether they may have recognition under international law and practice. It does seem that so far as employees of the Soviet Government are concerned, other than diplomatic and consular officers, it would serve our purpose adequately if the Soviet Embassy will furnish the Department every month with a statement of arrivals, functions, changes in place of duty and departures of persons who are not accorded diplomatic or consular status.

The fact that this may involve a certain amount of routine tasks for the Soviet Embassy or Soviet officials in this country is not a matter of our concern. They did not hesitate to impose a similar burden on us in Russia where we have only diplomatic and consular officers, all recognized representatives of our Government. They must similarly be willing to furnish us this information here for all officers or employees the Soviet Union may have in this country.

G[eorge] S. M[essersmith]
  1. Memorandum of April 14, 1939, not printed.