The Ambassador in Poland ( Cudahy ) to the Secretary of State
[Received April 18.]
Sir: I have the honor to report that after the receipt of telegraphic instruction No. 21, March 30, 2 P.M., 1935,66 I called (on April 1) upon Mr. Victor Cadere, Rumanian Minister to Poland, ostensibly for the purpose of discussing with him the background of the conversations that were to be held on April 2 and 3 between members of the Polish Government and Mr. Anthony Eden. Mr. Cadere told me that a week previously he had had a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Józef Beck and had discussed with him, especially as it related to the relations of Rumania and Poland, the situation arising by reason of the announcement in Germany of conscription. The Foreign Minister, the Rumanian Minister told me, felt slighted for the reason that Poland had not been consulted concerning the measures of defensive action to be taken against Germany. Colonel Beck told Mr. Cadere that instead of Russia being considered the focal point of the Eastern European frontier, Poland is the important country and would become the battle ground in case of a conflict involving Eastern and Western Europe. The Foreign Minister’s attitude, Mr. Cadere said, reflected further evidence of the great ambition of Poland to appear as a “Great Power” in Europe, and he added that the Polish Foreign Office considered itself slighted and ignored because Poland had not been invited to join in the Paris or Stresa conferences.[Page 218]
I asked the Minister if he considered a protective pact possible within the near future between Russia and Poland, or between Russia, the Little Entente, and Poland. He replied that he considered such a pact “fantastic”. He said that Rumania was satisfied, as far as any treaty of military assistance is concerned, to have its present alliance with Poland, and that any further pact placing an obligation of military assistance upon Poland was unthinkable. He said that the underlying enmity and distrust between Poland and Russia was too deep-seated to permit contemplation of any such undertaking.
The Minister said that Beck had complained that the Western European nations had failed to consider the geographical position of Poland between Russia and Germany, and that Polish interests were the vital interests at stake when eastern frontiers were to be discussed. He said the Foreign Minister had emphasized that the fundamental international policy of Poland was to keep a free hand vis-à-vis Russia and Germany so that in the event of war by either of these nations Poland would not be committed but would be unhampered in an effort to maintain its neutrality, although eventually it probably would be forced to take sides with one or the other belligerent. Consequently, an obligation to either would present an intolerable situation for Poland.
I returned to the question of a possible pact of assistance or defense between Poland, Russia, and the countries of the Little Entente, or between Poland, Russia, and any one of these countries, and asked the question in several different forms, to all of which the Rumanian Minister replied that it was inconceivable, in his opinion, for Poland to enter into any pact with Russia involving military aid on the part of the Poles. He said there was in his opinion a more profound distrust in Poland of Russia than of Germany, and that in any event Beck had assured him that Poland could not be bound by an international agreement calling for aggressive action on the part of the Poles, but would continue to put reliance upon the non-aggression declaration with Germany and the non-aggression pact with Russia, which the Foreign Minister stated constitute the greatest possible assurance of peace for Poland.
Mr. Cadere said that Beck adversely criticized Great Britain, France, and Italy for their failure to take any concerted, determined action against Germany. The Foreign Minister, he said, believed that an Assistance Pact with military sanctions concluded between these countries would be the only effective measure against Germany, and that if such a proposal were executed the Poles, through the necessity of national protection, might be compelled to join. In answer to the query as to whether he would propose this to Mr. Eden, the Rumanian Minister said that Beck told him he would propose [Page 219] nothing but that if Eden made a suggestion of this kind Beck would tell him the Poles would be receptive to such a suggestion.
I asked Mr. Cadere whether he had ever received an intimation that Poland would align itself with the Little Entente and Russia in the event that it should have to draw away from Germany. He said that he had not received any such intimation.
Directly after my meeting with Minister Cadere I went to the French Embassy and called upon Ambassador Jules Laroche, who told me that Minister Beck was very much disturbed over the international position of Poland since the announcement of conscription by Germany on March 16, 1935,67 and especially over the alignment of the European powers opposing Germany. He said that in his opinion Poland realizes that the pro-German leaning attributed to it is becoming embarrassing and that it would like to move toward a closer rapprochement with France but that it waited upon the French to make the first friendly overture. The development of diplomatic events within the next few weeks, the Ambassador said, might make the German-Polish non-aggression declaration of January 26, 1934, an embarrassing one. He thought that Beck would try to force Germany to appear as the party violating the declaration in the event that Poland entered into any international agreement in conflict with it. As an illustration of the change of heart on the part of the Polish Foreign Office, the Ambassador drew my attention to an account emanating from German journalistic sources to the effect that the Polish Government had advised Laroche that Laval would not be invited to Warsaw. This was emphatically denied by the Polish Foreign Office and this denial was widely circulated.
I asked the Ambassador if he had any information concerning Ambassador Lipski’s instructions to the German Foreign Office (Embassy’s despatch No. 648, March 26, 193568). He said that Count Szembek, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had shown him the memorandum of these instructions agreed upon by the Foreign Office and the Council of Ministers, and that the instructions charged Lipski to state to the German Foreign Office that its action in announcing military conscription was fraught “with grave consequences” which would further complicate the international situation in Europe and make the position of Germany a “difficult” one before the League of Nations. I asked the Ambassador if he considered this instruction in the nature of a warning. He replied that it was not a warning or a protest but a word of friendly counsel. He said that Lipski’s announcement was not regarded as friendly in [Page 220] Berlin, however, but as a gesture in opposition to Germany. (This confirms information given me by Mr. Tolischus, correspondent of the New York Times in Berlin, who on April 1 told me that he was one of the foreign newspaper correspondents who called at the Polish Embassy in Berlin following publication of Lipski’s announcement. He obtained the impression from this call that Poland had opposed the announcement of conscription in Germany and that it would oppose Germany before the League of Nations on April 15.)
Mr. Laroche said, in answer to my question, that in his opinion, based upon conversations with Beck, Poland would not enter into any pact which would obligate the country to military assistance. He said that Beck had declared that the fundamental policy of Poland, dictated by its geographical position, was to maintain peace with Russia and Germany, and that it could not enter into any international commitment which would involve aggressive action against either one or the other. He said that he was satisfied, despite seeming sympathy for Germany on the part of Poland during the past 18 months, that no understanding or agreement other than the declaration of January 26, 1934, exists between the two countries or was ever seriously contemplated or proposed. As far as Russia is concerned, he said that the dislike and distrust of the Poles for Russia is even more deep-seated and violent than their dislike and distrust for Germany. Asked if he considered a pact between Russia and the Little Entente and Poland likely, the Ambassador said such a combination was entirely too improbable even to consider. He said that he knew Marshal Pilsudski well and that the Marshal to his knowledge had a deep antipathy toward Russia and a violent prejudice against its good faith in the execution of any international obligation.
On April 4 I talked with the Czechoslovak Minister in Warsaw, Dr. Václav Girsa, who, replying to my inquiry concerning the possibility, in his opinion, of a defensive pact or pact of mutual assistance between the Little Entente, Russia and Poland, or between the Little Entente and Poland, said that any such pact is impossible. He said that Poland never regards the Little Entente as an entity; in its foreign relations it deals with Rumania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia as separate nations. He said that when the Eastern European Pact for Mutual Assistance was first proposed to Poland, Beck opposed it on the ground that Poland could not enter with Lithuania and Czechoslovakia into such a commitment. Beneš69 then countered with the proposal that Poland sign the proposed treaty with the reservation that it undertook no obligation to give military assistance to Czechoslovakia or Lithuania, but Poland refused to do this. He said that [Page 221] the relations between Czechoslovakia and Poland are so unsatisfactory that no treaty involving military cooperation is conceivable between the two countries at the present time. This unsatisfactory relationship was brought about largely by the unfriendly feeling of Marshal Pilsudski and Foreign Minister Beck toward Foreign Minister Beneš of Czechoslovakia, he stated.
I also talked with Mr. Jacques Davtian, Ambassador of the U. S. S. R. in Warsaw, who told me that a pact of mutual assistance to which Russia, Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, and Germany would be the signatories had been proposed by his Government, but that Poland was opposed to this treaty as was Germany. He stated that in his opinion the situation that has arisen by reason of active military preparation on the part of Germany, which he said is now requiring great industrial effort by that country, is so critical that the Soviet Union would enter into a defensive agreement backed by sanctions with France, and probably with Czechoslovakia. He was certain that an agreement of some kind would result after Laval’s visit to Moscow had taken place, and that if Poland and Germany refused to become parties to such an agreement the invitation to them to execute the agreement would be left open. He said that he had reliable information that the German military effort is proceeding at an incredible rate and that the discontinuance of munitions-making would so imperil the Hitler Government through the great increase of unemployment that would result therefrom that he feared nothing could stop this intense military preparation.
The statements made by the four chiefs of mission whom I have quoted may, in my opinion, be accepted as entirely frank and accurate. My personal relations with these colleagues are most friendly and they spoke to me with the utmost candor. Their opinions regarding Poland’s attitude toward Russia and the impossibility of a Pact of Assistance obligating Poland to give military aid to Russia in time of war are in accord with the opinion of this Embassy at the present time. As I reported in telegram No. 30, April 2, 12 noon, 1935,70 the Embassy does not consider that the position of Poland is as yet clearly defined. The decision of Poland will depend in part at least upon the action that is taken at the Stresa conference. This action may compel Poland in the interests of self-protection to become a party to measures agreed upon by the Powers represented at the conference. This may put a strain upon Poland’s obligations under the German-Polish declaration of January 26, 1934. But if no achievement other than non-aggression pacts results from the Stresa [Page 222] meeting, Poland will probably continue its present relations with Germany, and these relations then will more and more be subject to the construction that they indicate a Polish-German alignment as opposed to the policy of the Western European Powers and Russia. But this seeming Polish-German alignment will result only from the circumstance that the policy of the two Governments in this matter happens to be identical; not from any accord between them or any agreement to unite in a common front.