760d.61/248: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union ( Steinhardt ) to the Secretary of State

734. For the Secretary and Under Secretary. Your 194, October 11, 5 p.m. I saw Molotov at 3 p.m., and handed him the President’s [Page 969] message for immediate delivery to Kalinin. He promised to bring the message to Kalinin’s attention at once and stated that while he could not speak for Kalinin he would be glad to give me his own opinion. He said that he anticipated the “American sentimental interest in Finland.” He proceeded: “It must be borne in mind that Finland exists as an independent nation pursuant to the treaty of 1920 with the Soviet Union under the terms of which the area of Finland was substantially increased as a result of the volunteer action of the Soviet Government.”44

He then pointed out to me on a wall map the territorial benefits which Finland received under this treaty with particular emphasis on the surrender of the Petsamo district45 by the Soviet Government. He continued: “It is not alamode for one country to take territory from another” and asserted that he did not believe that anyone could fairly criticize the recently concluded treaties with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania46 as constituting a seizure of territory inasmuch as these treaties had been negotiated in each instance in the mutual interests of the countries concerned by joint collaboration and that the return of Wilno by the Soviet Union to Lithuania clearly evidenced the Soviet Government’s regard for the right of small countries. He added that the treaties with Latvia and Lithuania had been negotiated on a friendly basis and that in all of them the Soviet Union had evidenced its respect for the independence of the country concerned.

He concluded with the statement that in so far as concerned the negotiations about to be undertaken [with] Finland he was sure that these negotiations would reenforce the friendly relations between the two countries and would be carried on with due regard for the interests of both countries. He specifically stated that the proposed arrangement with Finland [“]will not in the slightest degree affect or impair the independence of Finland” and that if Finland had the same desire as the Soviet Government to arrive at an understanding having regard to the respective interests of the two countries he believed the matter could be arranged without any difficulty, if [Page 970] desired. Kalinin is a mere figurehead and that all of the recent negotiations have been carried on by Stalin and Molotov in violation of Kalinin’s presence. I regard the observations made by Molotov as virtually constituting the reply of the Soviet Government regardless of any formal answer that Kalinin may make.

Steinhardt
  1. A Finnish national government, appointed by a legally elected Finnish Diet, declared the independence of Finland on December 6, 1917. This independence was recognized by the Bolshevik government of Russia on January 4, 1918. The treaty of peace between Finland and the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic was signed at Dorpat on October 14, 1920 (see footnote 24, p. 960). Recognition of Finnish independence, and of the Government of Finland de facto, by the United States occurred on May 7, 1919 ( Foreign Relations, 1919, vol. ii, p. 215). The unqualified “full recognition of Finland as of May 7, 1919” by the United States was accorded in the note of January 12, 1920 ( ibid., p. 226, and footnote 10).
  2. It was the Finnish contention that the cession of the Petsamo district with its ice-free port of Pechenga was the belated fulfillment of a declaration of Alexander II, made in 1864, as compensation for a strip of land ceded by the Duchy of Finland on the Karelian Isthmus.
  3. For correspondence concerning negotiations between the three Baltic States and the Soviet Union for Pacts of Mutual Assistance, see Foreign Relations, The Soviet Union, 1933–1939, pp. 934 ff.