740.00/115: Telegram (part air)

The Minister in Switzerland ( Wilson ) to the Secretary of State

17. In a conversation today Motta34 stated that the last few months had shown in Europe a considerable diminution of danger of war. Danger still existed but there were numerous signs that the situation was less menacing than during the late summer and early autumn.

The Spanish affair, Motta said, seems much less provocative of international complication than formerly. Opinion is growing that the Spaniards themselves will settle this matter and that whichever way they settle it Europe will have to acquiesce.

Everybody knows, Motta added, that France and England are pacific-minded countries. Since the Ethiopian adventure35 Italy has joined the camp of the “haves” as opposed to the “have nots”. As to Russia, while he does not pretend to understand the real springs of its policy, nevertheless reports are persistent of increase of nationalistic local sentiment especially in the Ukraine. The struggle between Left and Right Communism as well is giving the Government preoccupation. Under the circumstances it is difficult to believe that the Soviet Government would risk a war. Therefore it should be classed also as a pacific power. There remains only Germany. The only conceivable war which Germany would wage would be an attack through Czechoslovakia on the Ukraine but an analysis of the situation seems to show that the consequences would be so bitter for Germany that it would not risk it.

Hitler’s speech on Saturday,36 Motta added, had at least a pacific tone and compared favorably in that respect with his former utterances. There was, however, no indication that Germany was ripe for a general discussion and Motta believed the time was not yet opportune for attempting to bring such discussion about. Motta felt that after a further passage of time the leaders in Germany might be in a state of mind to enter general negotiations.

I was struck with Motta’s views as contained in the foregoing paragraph, particularly since the press both from France and England as well as from America bring suggestions that Hitler’s speech might offer an opportunity for entering upon general discussion. I was impressed with Mr. Dodd’s number 11, January 12, 8 p.m.,37 to you from Berlin, but neither in that picture nor in Hitler’s speech do I [Page 39] find evidence that the leaders of Germany are inclined to appraise economic considerations and international cooperation at the same value as the rest of the world. Although Schacht and the German Foreign Office unquestionably recognize such value, when the final word is spoken by the party leaders it is clear that the latter are still swayed primarily by needs of internal autarchy and by political considerations.

I hope that the analysis of British policy in my number 378, January 25, 3 p.m., from Geneva, is correct because I believe that that policy would be sound in respect to Germany. A comparison of Hitler’s speech Saturday with his previous utterances shows, I think, a slow evolution in favor of better understanding with his neighbors. This may eventually make possible a meeting point although I do not believe that the meeting point is yet reached whether in respect to limitation of armaments, economic cooperation, or colonial aspirations. I pass over the so-called “political considerations” inasmuch as the leading article in the London Times of January 29 would seem to show, if it really represents British policy, that those considerations need not be overwhelming and that in the peaceful settlement foreseen by Great Britain the Franco-Russian pact and the Czecho-Russian pact will be superfluous.

Thus I hope that the British and French spokesmen will note favorably the moderation of Hitler’s tone, that they will continue to hold out the prospect of a peaceful settlement and that they will show any sympathy they can for the German point of view. In this way the evolution of Hitler’s thought may continue to such a point that he will recognize the advantages of European collaboration and himself make the offer which can initiate general discussion with real hope of success.

Cipher to Paris, Rome, Berlin, London.

  1. Giuseppe Motta, President of the Swiss Confederation and Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1936, vol. iii, pp. 34 ff.
  3. January 30.
  4. Not printed.