740.00/936: Telegram

The Consul at Geneva ( Bucknell ) to the Secretary of State

85. My No. 82, April 17, 4 p.m. While opinion in general in Geneva continues pessimistic as to the possibility of an Axis acceptance [Page 141] of the President’s proposals, the following view is held in certain quarters: It is thought that the tremendous implications of the President’s message together with the reported continued success of current French-British-Soviet negotiations for a defensive air pact and almost completed negotiations with Turkey must make it apparent to even the most stubborn dictator that the chances of confining hostilities to a short victorious struggle are rapidly dwindling and that further aggression may this time end in a protracted war. It is felt therefore that the Axis must decide, and that quickly, whether (a) in spite of current press attacks upon the President to accept the way out offered or at least to reply with some counter-proposals which will not slam the door and which may make an eventual compromise possible, or (b) to move rapidly to secure further strategic advantages before general hostilities take place.

In support of the first view observers point to the decision to put off an answer to the President’s message until the 28th and the fact that while Axis press comment particularly in Germany still bitterly attacks the President personally some circles in Geneva and France believe that the idea of a conference may gain ground. Those holding the other view say that Hitler always moves between speeches, point to certain predictions regarding possible German action in Danzig, mention the possibility that Hitler is still unconvinced France and Great Britain will not “back down” at the last moment, and feel that in any case Hitler has gone so far that he will not now draw back.

All feel however that the message has brought the final Axis decision for peace or war much nearer and say that events in the immediate future may well prove decisive in this regard.