The Ambassador in Poland ( Biddle ) to the Secretary of State

No. 297


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My confidential talks with Polish Government officials reveal in substance the following: Although the French press had heralded a drastic parliamentarian questioning of M. Delbos upon the results of his recent voyage through Eastern and Central Europe, M. Delbos was in a position to offer adequate defense. Subsequent to the London Anglo-French conversations, in light of the previous Halifax–Hitler discussions, Polish official circles had gained the impression that the French Government had agreed with the British Government that the purpose of the Delbos tour would envisage soundings on the broader issues looking to a general appeasement and pacification settlement rather than looking to any specific questions. Hence, realistically appraised, the value of the Delbos tour consisted of (a) an enlightening realistic and useful inventory of the attitudes of each of France’s allies in Eastern and Central Europe, whereby France had learned that her allies were not to be expected to carry on as in the past five or six years. The inventory should also show France that her allies individually had become more powerful during the past several years, and that not only had they less faith in the collective system of security, but also that circumstances due to the turn of events during the past two years throughout Europe had changed the political complexion both of Eastern and Central Europe.

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Moreover, Delbos had found out that reliance on the Little Entente was like relying on the wind, except perhaps for Czechoslovakia. Realistically viewed however, Czechoslovakia could not be regarded as an element of strength, but rather as an element requiring protection. On the other hand, Delbos’ inventory had brought to light certain current swings, such as Rumania’s present apparent swing to more of an “on-the-fence-position” as indicated by her political change-over, and the Yugoslav apparent swing away from the dominance of French influence. On the other hand, the inventory would show Poland continuing her practice of “active neutrality” according to her established policy.

Moreover, according to my informants’ views, French friendship, as well as Polish loyalty to the Franco-Polish alliance in terms of Poland’s direct obligations, could be depended upon. That is to say, Poland would march if France were directly attacked by Germany. However, France had ascertained that Poland refused to deviate from her established stand in respect to a possible German-Soviet conflict. That is to say, France could not look for Poland to maintain other than a neutral position in the event of a conflict between Germany and Russia.

It is, moreover, my own opinion that M. Delbos undoubtedly came to the conclusion that Poland might not be expected to march on Germany in the event France attacked the latter as a result of a German thrust against Czechoslovakia. I personally am still of the opinion that in such event, Poland would “sit tight”.

Besides, in considering this question, one should bear in mind Poland’s foreign policy as directed by Colonel Beck, in pursuance of the late Marshal Pilsudski’s precepts: a determination to prevent the passage of foreign troops over Polish territory. To my mind, this determination has an important bearing on Poland’s past and present attitude in respect to Czechoslovakia.

On the one hand, Minister Beck has been aware of Germany’s growing appetite for Sudeten Deutsch; on the other, he is apprehensive lest in the event of a conflict, France might march, and Russia might be called upon to discharge her obligations under her pact with the Czechs. By constantly building up a record of misunderstanding, despite correct official Polish-Czech relations, Poland envisages the establishment of a moral defense against future League or other foreign pressure towards urging her either to lend Czechoslovakia military assistance or by permitting passage of a Soviet punitive expedition over Polish territory in event of a German attack on Czechoslovakia.

France had found in fact that Poland would not and could not, according to her established policy, play any part in a scheme envisaging [Page 5] the encirclement of Germany. Indeed, Delbos’ inventory would show that France could no longer go forward with her previously entertained illusion that she could maintain Germany’s encirclement. Hence, France undoubtedly would have awakened to the fact, that her position in relation to her allies in this part of Europe was not as secure, in terms of a policy which France wished to impose, as she had previously allowed herself to believe. In light of these revelations, therefore, France was expected to become more desirous of joint action with Britain towards bringing about a general appeasement and pacification settlement.

In the eyes of my informants, moreover, the foregoing disclosures might be expected to contribute to France’s making strenuous efforts to “do business” directly with Germany—in other words, to do all possible to improve Franco-German relations.

I suggest that the foregoing be read in connection with my despatch No. 29810 on the subject of “Poland’s position in respect to the League”, which will go forward by next week’s pouch.

Respectfully yours,

A. J. Drexel Biddle, Jr.
  1. January 8; not printed.