The Secretary of State to President Roosevelt 15a

My Dear Mr. President: I requested Judge Walton Moore and William Bullitt each to prepare a memorandum on the more important conditions and understandings that might be considered significant in connection with the development of plans for the recognition of the Russian Government. These two memoranda are attached hereto for whatever the information may be worth.

Faithfully yours,

Cordell Hull
[Enclosure 1]

Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Moore)

Mr. Secretary: Impressions relative to the recognition of the Russian Government derived from the data furnished me by the Secretary and other data available at this moment:

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(1) It seems clear that there should and must be recognition eventually and without undue delay, provided there is assurance that the Russian Government will not directly or indirectly make any effort to affect the political institutions or integrity of the United States and that certain other major matters can be satisfactorily disposed of.

(2) According to the statements contained in Mr. Atherton’s communication,15b as illustrated by the experience of Great Britain, Russia is (a) inclined to a more reasonable attitude towards nations that have not accorded the recognition she seeks than towards those that have, and (b) after eagerly seeking and obtaining recognition she becomes more indifferent to her obligations than theretofore.

(3) If what is said in the last paragraph can be assumed as a correct premise, it may be thought best in advance of actual recognition to take the time necessary to explore the entire situation and endeavor to reach a full agreement between the two governments to be embodied in a treaty, pertaining to all or most of the very large number of important questions that sooner or later will call for consideration, e.g. as to the alleged desire of Russia to undermine our system of government; as to the personal, religious and property status and rights of our nationals in Russia and the ports of that country; as to the claims of Americans for the repayment of loans or for damages, and the claims that may be asserted against our Government by the Russian Government in its own behalf or in behalf of its subjects; as to the basis and character in various aspects of the commercial dealings between the two nations, etc., etc.

(4) An act of recognition is not revocable and it is certainly retroactive unless otherwise limited.* Should the President extend recognition without the situation being dealt with in advance as suggested, then for the purpose of eliminating disputable questions as far as possible it might be accompanied by such conditions as may be agreed upon. The general effect of conditions attached to recognition is stated as follows by a leading authority, it being noticed, however, that in cases where such conditions are violated there is really no practical method of enforcing their observance:

“Recognition will, as a rule, be given without any conditions whatever, provided the new State is safely and permanently established. Since, however, the granting of recognition is a matter of policy, and not of law, nothing prevents an old State from making the recognition of a new State dependent upon the latter fulfilling certain conditions. Thus the Powers assembled at the Berlin Congress in 1878 recognised Bulgaria, Montenegro, Serbia, and Roumania under the condition only that these States should not impose any religious disabilities on any of their subjects. [Page 793] The meaning of such conditional recognition is not that recognition can be withdrawn in case the condition is not complied with. The nature of the thing makes recognition, if once given, incapable of withdrawal. But conditional recognition, if accepted by the new State, imposes the internationally legal duty upon such State of complying with the condition; failing which a right of intervention is given to the other party for the purpose of making the recognised State comply with the imposed condition.” (Oppenheim, International Law, page 136, Volume I)

A restricted representation of each country, in the other until otherwise mutually determined, might well be specified and in such manner as to encourage the performance of the conditions accompanying recognition.

(4) [(5)] It would seem that immediate and unconditional recognition would not be of any special moral or material advantage and on the other hand, might be attended by very widespread adverse criticism

[Enclosure 2]

Memorandum by the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State (Bullitt)15c

Dear Mr. Secretary: Pursuant to our conversation of this afternoon:

Whatever method may be used to enter into negotiations with the Soviet Government, it seems essential that formal recognition should not be accorded except as the final act of an agreement covering a number of questions in dispute. Before recognition and before loans, we shall find the Soviet Government relatively amenable. After recognition or loans, we should find the Soviet Government adamant. Among the chief agreements which, in my opinion, must be reached before recognition are the following:

Prohibition of communist propaganda in the United States by the Soviet Government and by the Comintern.
Protection of the civil and religious rights of Americans in Russia which are inadequately protected under current Russian practice (e.g. “economic espionage”).
Agreement by the Soviet Government that the act of recognition shall not be retroactive to the foundation of that government (which is the usual practice), but shall take effect only from the day on which it may be accorded. This is essential to protect both our Government and many citizens and corporations from suits for damages.

By negotiation before recognition, we should also attempt to obtain an agreement in regard to the repayment of the loans of the Government of the United States to the Kerensky Government, a waiver of [Page 794] Russian counter claims based upon our Vladivostock, Archangel and Murmansk expeditions;15d also some sort of provision for the settlement of claims of American nationals and corporations for property, goods and cash seized by the Soviet Government.

There are of course scores of other questions involved in resuming normal relations with Russia. Our position would be strongest, I believe, if all these questions, whether of a legal, economic or financial nature, should be handled as a unit in one global negotiation, the end of which would be signature of the agreements and simultaneous recognition.

Yours very respectfully,

William C. Bullitt

  1. Photostatic copy obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y.
  2. Ray Atherton, Counselor of Embassy at London. No such communication from him found in Department files.
  3. Oetgen vs Central Leather Co. 246 U. S. 297. [Footnote in the original.]
  4. Filed separately under 711.61/289⅔.
  5. For account of these American expeditions, see Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, vol. ii, pp. 1 ff.; ibid., 1919, Russia, pp. 195 ff.