The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Wiley) to the Secretary of State

No. 412

Sir: I have the honor to report that the German reply to the Franco-British proposals, which was made public on February 16th,42 has provoked Soviet editorial comment of a more direct and outspoken nature than heretofore. These comments and the official opinion of the Soviet Government which were formulated at the request of the French and British Governments (vide telegram No. 76, of February 21, 7 p.m.,43) have tended to confirm the Embassy’s interpretation of Soviet policy and attitude as reported to the Department during recent months.

The position of the Soviet Government towards the European complex may be briefly summarized as follows:

Fear of German and Polish aggression and eagerness to effect the conclusion of an Eastern Pact, embodying “mutual assistance.”
Uneasiness over the sincerity, stability and consistency of French foreign policy.
Suspicion of the role of English diplomacy vis-à-vis Germany and of her influence on France.

Fear, uneasiness and suspicion constitute the background of the recently formulated thesis of the indivisibility of peace; of the desire to convince France and Great Britain that a war of conquest undertaken by Germany in Eastern Europe could not be localized; or, alternatively, that were Germany given a free hand in the East, France would be reduced to the impotent status of a small power, with, of course, the British position much impaired.

In other words, Soviet activity seems centered both in the effort to persuade Great Britain of the futility of hoping for an enduring [Page 194] understanding with Germany and in prophylaxis against an air agreement being concluded at the expense of the proposed Eastern Pact of mutual assistance.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The German reply and the British attitude thereto have clearly served to intensify Soviet apprehensions over the possible development of the present negotiations in Europe. It is also apparent that England is regarded as the controlling factor in the situation. Hence the Soviet Government is awaiting Sir John Simon’s proposed visit to Berlin with the greatest interest, the rumors of the possibility of his visiting Warsaw, Moscow and Prague after Berlin having been received with satisfaction by the Soviet press as an indication of a more favorable attitude on the part of the British Government to the idea of regional pacts of mutual assistance for Eastern Europe.

However, despite the increase in Soviet uneasiness and the fulminations in the press against the aggressive schemes of Fascist Germany, there is no evidence that the Kremlin fears that foreign attack is imminent. Immediate concern seems to be localized in the possibility, perhaps probability, that Germany will escape from the encirclement that was the original Litvinov–Barthou conception of the Eastern Pact, thus leaving the road open for future attack through failure to establish “preponderance of force” against the Reich.

Mr. Litvinov, in private conversation, professes to be convinced that Germany will await Japanese aggression against the Soviet Union before entering the fray; that Japan will not be prepared to march for another two years and that, in consequence, Soviet diplomacy has a comfortable interim in which to consolidate the Russian position. This may explain in part the dilatory and obstructive tactics Mr. Litvinov has employed in furthering relations with the United States.

Respectfully yours,

John C. Wiley
  1. For text of German reply, see British Cmd. 5143, Misc. No. 3 (1936), p. 17.
  2. Not printed.