Memorandum by the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Bingham)16

I renewed my conversation with the Foreign Secretary this morning and referred to Mr. Chamberlain’s statement which appears in my No. 256, April 30, 6 p.m.,17

“When I scan the international horizon today it seems to me that, in spite of certain still threatening clouds, there is a very definite and perceptible lightening of the tension.

I seem to see some indication of more general recognition that we cannot go on as we are doing now, and that we have got to turn our minds to find some new method of approach to these hitherto insoluble problems.

And if the political knots are still so hard that it seems impossible to unravel them, may we perhaps not find an easier and more fruitful approach on the economic side?”

and asked him if this meant any change in the attitude of the British Government towards the German Government. He said it did not; that his Government, of course as it always had, desired to see Germany returned to the comity of nations and was willing now as it always had been to bring this about, but that so far the only progress [Page 87] which had been made in his opinion had been made through British rearmament; and that this had had an effect upon the utterances of Hitler, which were more restrained; that he felt on the whole that Germany was definitely getting weaker as a result of their failure to secure substitutes for their necessary raw materials, the reports his Government received being that they found some of these substitutes unsatisfactory and others too costly to make. He felt on the other hand that France on the whole was stronger than it had been and, viewing the whole situation, he was less anxious than he had been six months ago, despite the fact that some unexpected event might precipitate grave consequences.

I called his attention to a report this morning that the French were disturbed over the conversations progressing between Poland and Rumania. He said he felt there was no real ground for disturbance on this score and that Beck had told him several times and also comparatively recently that it was his purpose to maintain Poland in an independent position and together with Rumania to form a buffer between Germany and Russia. At the same time, while his main reliance was on France, he meant to promote satisfactory relations with Germany so far as that was possible.

He asked me to say in the utmost confidence that tomorrow he proposed to take up before the Non-intervention Committee18 the question of aerial bombardment of open towns; that he had felt out the Ambassadors and, while the German Ambassador showed the greatest reluctance to go into this question, he felt that no one of them could afford to refuse at least to discuss it. He stressed the confidential nature of this communication because the matter would not be taken up until tomorrow and no advance information had been given about his purpose to do so.

He reiterated Italy’s weakened position as a result of their intervention in Spain and the drain upon them through their Abyssinian venture and said that there was no basis for real cooperation between Italy and Germany because there was a necessary antagonism on the part of Italy against Germany’s control of Austria and moreover because the Germans maintained an attitude of contempt towards the Italians.

He returned to the effect both on Germany and elsewhere of the rearmament program in Great Britain and said that the rearmament program in the United States was also having its effect, especially upon the Japanese, who had recently made overtures towards an understanding vis-à-vis China; that while this was yet in an indefinite [Page 88] state, he felt that there had been a change in the Japanese attitude and this was evidenced by the fact that his Government had definite information that the Japanese were behaving much better in North China and even now going to the extent of helping to prevent smuggling at the border. In addition, he stated that he was sure the move made by the Japanese Government towards a form of entente with the German Government was very unpopular in Japan and that this had had its effect upon the Japanese militarists.

I told him that George Lansbury had come to see me on Friday and had told me of his talk with Hitler and of his report made to the Foreign Secretary himself. In this connection, Eden, stating his high personal regard for Lansbury, said that he felt that he was mistaken in his conclusions and repeated to me what he had said on another occasion—that he was convinced that the time was not ripe for any attempt towards a peace conference, although he hoped that the progress of rearmament in Great Britain and in the United States as well, and the stronger position of France might lead Germany to the conclusion that it had more to gain by cooperating and collaborating with other powers than it could possibly hope to acquire through war.

He ended by assuring me that he would keep me fully and definitely informed at all times.

R. W. B[ingham]
  1. Transmitted to the Department by the Ambasador in his despatch No. 3050, May 3; received May 12.
  2. Not printed.
  3. This Committee consisted of representatives, meeting at London, of the 27 European countries which had accepted the Non-intervention Agreement renouncing intervention in the Spanish Civil War. See Foreign Relations, 1936, vol. ii, pp. 437 ff., and post, pp. 215 ff.