740.0011 Mutual Guarantee (Eastern Locarno)/30

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State

No. 105

Sir: As the Department is aware, the attitude of the Soviet press towards Great Britain has been one of traditional hostility. I now have the honor to report that Monsieur Barthou’s visit to London has been the signal for a marked change in tone.

At the beginning of June, Karl Radek defined the fundamental lines of British foreign policy as shaped to avoid commitments, either direct or indirect, which might encourage a conflict with the United States and, simultaneously, to encourage the anti-Soviet policy of Japan and Germany. Subsequently, deeply impressed by British utterances, particularly those of Winston Churchill and other diehards exhibiting sympathy for Soviet policy and approval of the proposed Eastern Locarno, Radek explained on July 15 (Pravda) that England was beginning to realize that the menace of invasion by air from Germany was more real than the menace of Soviet penetration into India. The German air menace, he said, was the cause of the recent meetings between members of the French and British general staffs. In exchange for the French support which England had obtained, French diplomacy had demanded that Great Britain show a benevolent neutrality towards an Eastern Locarno. England’s favorable decision in the matter had, of course, been facilitated by recent events in Germany.

The conditions imposed by England, before acquiescing in the proposed Eastern pact, namely, that Germany be invited to participate and that the guarantees given by France, Germany, and the U. S. S. R., [Page 503] be strictly mutual, were not criticized adversely by Karl Radek or any of the Soviet editorial writers.

The entire range of the Soviet press has taken pride in pointing to the British change of attitude as evidence that the sincere efforts of Soviet diplomacy in the interest of peace had been recognized. And, irrespective of the motives prompting this change, England’s new attitude was to be approved and encouraged.

A brief announcement has recently appeared in the press, that an agreement has been concluded between the Soviet and English Governments for an exchange of military attachés. This, too, is accepted as evidence of improved relations between the two countries.

The leading editorial of the Pravda of July 16 declared, on the general subject of the Anglo-French conversations, that the proposed Eastern Locarno would “play an important role in the consolidation of peace, not only in Europe but outside of Europe as well”. The proposal made in London that France and the U. S. S. R. would mutually guarantee their eastern and western frontiers was described therein as “a new and powerful guarantee of peace in Europe”.

Germany’s attitude towards the proposed Eastern pact has been attributed to the imperialistic aims of the National Socialist Government. The present strained relations between the U. S. S. R. and Germany, according to Karl Radek, could not respond solely to differences in the forms of Government. This had not prevented friendly relations between the U. S. S. R. and Italy. He thought the real reason was in Germany’s thirst for expansion eastward. Only formal obligations assumed by Germany could dispel this impression before the world.

A leading editorial of the Izvestia of July 16 replied to the argumentation of the Deutsche Diplomatisch-Politische Korrespondenz which denounced an Eastern Locarno as an attempt to encircle Germany. Izvestia contended that there could only be one eventuality in which one of the signatories of the pact would be confronted by all the rest; namely, when the signatory in question was the aggressor. A German refusal to sign would have the motive force of water on the mill wheel of an Anglo-French military alliance, a development which Germany greatly feared. The same article treated also of the attitude of Poland. A similarity was seen between the attitudes of both Poland and Germany and the cause was attributed to the influence of Germany. Izvestia argued that Poland was the only country whose frontiers had been seriously questioned. Germany, in the Polish-German pact, had assumed only the obligation, bereft of international significance, not to raise the question of the Corridor for ten years. An Eastern Locarno was, in fact, the best guarantee that [Page 504] Poland could have. In conclusion, it was hoped that the gravity of the situation as well as the political common sense of Colonel Beck would prevent Poland from procrastination and from imposing impossible conditions which would be equivalent to a negative reply.

The general impression which seems to prevail in well informed Soviet circles is that the most delicate point in the consummation of an Eastern Locarno is Poland. It is generally conceded that the prestige and authority of Marshal Pilsudski have not diminished in Poland; that it is he who still shapes Polish policy. The consensus seems to be that the Marshal is still inspired by towering ambitions and the dream of restoring the past grandeur of Poland. It is suggested that he foresees a conflict between the U. S. S. R. and Japan in the relatively near future; that he considered such an eventuality a rare chance for Poland to regain her past glory and that he was, in consequence, reluctant to tie his hands in any way in order to be able to take full advantage of the situation at the opportune moment.

If Germany refused to enter an Eastern Locarno, it would not be fatal to the project, but if Poland, too, refused, an Eastern Locarno would be made impossible. In this event, as previously reported to the Department, it seems entirely clear that France, the U. S. S. R. and Czechoslovakia will negotiate a pact of mutual assistance.

The next point of preoccupation is Lithuania. Since both the Corridor and Bessarabia have disappeared for the present from the limelight, the difficulties in respect of Vilna and Memel are more prominent in the international complex. While Mr. Litvinov manifests unconcern in respect of the Lithuanian attitude toward an Eastern Locarno, it has been learned that Soviet diplomacy has been very active in currying Lithuanian favor. Substantial purchases were recently made in Lithuania at a time when German trade reprisals had provoked an acute economic crisis there. Great cordiality marked the recent flight to Moscow of Lithuanian aviators and there are many indications that the Soviet Union attaches real importance to the task of inducting Lithuania into an Eastern Locarno.

Soviet-Baltic relations will be the subject of a subsequent despatch following the approaching visit to Moscow of the Estonian and Lithuanian foreign ministers. The fact that their Latvian colleague is not coming to Moscow for the present to join in signing the protocols extending the non-aggression pacts with the Soviet Union,31 is explained by the fact that the portfolio of foreign affairs has been temporarily [Page 505] taken over in Latvia by the Prime Minister32 and that it has been deemed more practical, for reasons of ceremonial, to wait until a foreign minister à titre is appointed, an appointment which is expected in the near future.

Reverting to the subject of Anglo-Soviet relations, I have the further honor to report that the Soviet Government is reliably reported to be convinced that a far-reaching agreement has been concluded between Great Britain and Holland whereby Great Britain is free to establish lines of defence in Holland against air attack. In return for this, Great Britain has guaranteed the security of the Dutch East Indies. I am informed that the Soviet authorities view this development complacently and that their attitude towards Great Britain has, indeed, grown so benign that even British activities in Southern Chinese Turkistan no longer arouse Soviet misgivings.

Respectfully yours,

William C. Bullitt
  1. Protocol renewing Treaty of Non-Aggression of September 28, 1926, with Lithuania is in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. clxxxvi, p. 267; protocol modifying Treaty of Non-Aggression of February 5, 1932, with Latvia is in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cxlviii, p. 113; protocol renewing Treaty of Non-Aggression of May 4, 1932, with Estonia is in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cl, p. 87.
  2. Karl Ulmanis.