The Minister in Norway ( Biddle ) to the Secretary of State

No. 437

Sir: In relation to my despatch No. 428 of April 23, 1937,12 I have the honor to inform the Department that, following the return of Foreign Minister Koht from the April meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the four Northern States at Helsingfors, I took occasion on the 29th instant, to inquire of him as to the basis for rumors current in Oslo to the effect that an attempt was afoot designed to lead to the [Page 81] formation of a bloc consisting of the neutral Scandinavian, and the Baltic countries, with the possible exception of Poland, as a buffer cordon between the Soviet Union and Germany.

Mr. Koht, in reply, and with particular reference to the visit to the Baltic States of his Swedish colleague, Mr. Richard Sandler, voiced the view that there could never be an alliance along military lines between the Scandinavian and Baltic countries. He remarked that the latter have, so far, not succeeded in coming to an agreement among themselves. Besides, the interests of the two groups of States were dissimilar. Indeed, Mr. Koht went so far as to express a belief that the essential purposes of the two groups of lands were so unlike as to make any sort of an alliance highly improbable. About all that could be expected was a closer and more sympathetic understanding than at present existed, based on cultural contacts. Mr. Sandler’s visits could be interpreted as moves toward bringing the States on both sides of the Baltic Sea into a better fellowship, but not as having an accord of any kind as an objective.

Mr. Koht described Finland as being the natural intermediary between the Scandinavian and Baltic countries. Hitherto, despite the similarity between the languages of Finland and Estonia, the Finns had inclined toward the Northern group, at least during the past few years, and this orientation would in all probability continue and might be accentuated.

As for Poland, in Mr. Koht’s opinion, the fondest ambition of Colonel Beck has for some time past been that of seeing Poland assume the leading position in a big Baltic bloc. Despite the evident obstacles in the way of fulfillment of such a dream, Mr. Koht fancied that the Polish Foreign Minister still entertained it.

I append, in the form of an enclosure13 and as of interest, press comment related to the recent Helsingfors meeting, and to questions of Norwegian national defence.

It may be pertinent to add, in the latter connection, that Mr. Koht recently mentioned to me a conversation between a Scandinavian diplomatist and a representative of the Soviet Union during which the former stated that while, in case of European hostilities, the Russian forces could doubtless overrun portions of Norway, it would be unwise for them to attempt long to hold Norwegian territory. The tenacious and combative nature of the Norwegians, joined to the wild and rugged character of their country, would oblige an invader to suffer an endless and destructive guerrilla warfare the burden of which would in all probability outweigh any advantage which might come from territorial occupation. Mr. Koht had heard that the Russian had been considerably impressed with this point of view and had [Page 82] stated that he would bring it to the attention of his Government. I myself feel that any invader of Norway would find himself harrassed by the population which, indeed, has never been subdued by any non-Scandinavian Power.

Respectfully yours,

A. J. Drexel Biddle, Jr.
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not reprinted.