The Secretary of State to Senator William E. Borah 2

My Dear Senator: When your letter of August twenty-fifth3 arrived, I was away on a short vacation from which I have only just returned.

I am very much obliged to you for writing me on the subject you mention. It has already been giving me grave concern and I am now giving it close attention. When I returned from Geneva last spring, where the subject of recognition of Russia was brought up to me indirectly by conversations which had taken place between Russian representatives and some other members of the American Delegation, I requested the Far Eastern Division of the Department to make me a memorandum of the pros and cons of such a step as they saw it. I am sending you in confidence a copy of their memorandum.3 When you have read it, will you be good enough to return it to me? That memorandum, as you see, reached conclusions which were dependent upon the situation as it then existed.

My own conclusions at that time were roughly as follows:

In the Far Eastern situation the United States was making a fight of world-wide importance for the integrity of international obligations. We were trying to buttress the great peace treaties which had been negotiated since the end of the war by developing in behalf of them an international sentiment throughout the world in support of good faith and the sacredness of keeping international promises.4 We were doing this solely by pacific means, endeavoring to enlist behind our movement the support of a world opinion and avoiding anything which approached force or political alliances.

If under these circumstances and in this emergency we recognized Russia in disregard of her very bad reputation respecting international obligations and in disregard of our previous emphasis upon that aspect [Page 779] of her history, the whole world, and particularly Japan, would jump to the conclusion that our action had been dictated solely by political expedience and as a maneuver to bring forceful pressure upon Japan. We should thereby lose the moral standing which we had theretofore held in the controversy with Japan. She would regard us as merely an opportunist nation, seeking to enforce a selfish anti-Japanese policy against her by the usual maneuvers of international policies. I felt that this loss of moral standing would be so important that we could not afford to take the risk of it. However innocent our own motives might be, they would certainly be misunderstood by the world at large and particularly by Japan, and that misunderstanding would destroy much of the influence of the moral pressure which we have been endeavoring to exert.

I have heard rumors much to the effect of those you mention in your letter as to possible negotiations between Japan and Russia. Very likely some temporary understanding is being attempted, but I believe it must be very transitory. The rivalry between those two nations in respect to Manchuria is so keen and the lack of confidence of each in the promises of the other so real, that it is very unlikely that they have entered into any substantial or permanent relation of mutual support and assistance. Their interests are too antagonistic for that.

The foregoing are the best conclusions that I can reach on the information at hand and under the present pressure. I should be very happy if you would give me your criticism of them in case you have any time to do so. You know with what respect I always receive your views.

May I say also that I have read recent press despatches with very great interest which indicate that you are going to continue your speeches of education in respect to the foreign debts. I believe you have already performed in that respect one of the greatest of your many great public services by the speech which you made here, and I shall look forward with great interest to any further steps which you may take in that direction.

With kindest personal regards to Mrs. Borah and yourself, I am,

Very sincerely yours,

Henry L. Stimson
  1. Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Cf. Secretary Stimson’s letter to Senator Borah quoted in telegram No. 50, February 24, 1932, 2 p.m., to the Consul General at Shanghai, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 83.