852.00/3561: Telegram

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

256. Reference my 248, October 17, 2 p.m.

The Soviet press during the early part of the week continued its violent attacks on Germany, Italy and Portugal for their alleged [Page 542] violation of the non-intervention agreement and its demands for decisive action by the Committee. In the middle of the week the violence of these attacks abated to such an extent that observers began to wonder if previous veiled threats had not been in the nature of a bluff.
The statement made yesterday in London by the Soviet Ambassador83 to the effect that “in any case the Soviet Government … is now compelled to declare that … it cannot consider itself bound by the non-intervention agreement in any greater measure than any of the other participants in this agreement” has not assisted materially in disclosing the policy which the Soviet Government intends to adopt with respect to Spain.
The Foreign Office has thus far refused to explain to the American correspondents the Soviet Ambassador’s ambiguous statement. Similarly according to today’s Izvestia, the Soviet Ambassador, in reply to a request from Lord Plymouth regarding the meaning of the statement, pointed out that “there was nothing for him to add to the statement, the sense of which was completely clear”.
An editorial in today’s Izvestia devoted to the statement in question says as follows: “The Soviet Union has defined its position in an absolutely clear form; the solution in this question now depends upon the other participants in the agreement.” The Pravda on the other hand in discussing the same subject states editorially: “So far as the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is concerned it is self-evident that it cannot have obligations in the agreement on non-intervention in Spanish affairs other than those which are in practice being observed by other participants in the agreement.”
A number of foreign competent observers here are of the opinion that since his return to Moscow, Litvinov has been striving to prevent the Kremlin from taking a step which would entirely alienate the Soviet Union from France and Great Britain and has succeeded in persuading it to adopt such an equivocal position at this time that it is free to move in either direction without altogether losing face. This opinion, in so far as I can ascertain, is based entirely upon [conjecture?]; it seems however highly reasonable.
  1. See London Times, October 24, 1936, p. 14d.