The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 16—6:43 p.m.]
953. Daladier gave me this evening the text of the Soviet Government’s note rejecting the British proposals.
The Soviet Government took the position that the British proposals could not even serve as the basis for discussion since they offered no reciprocal guarantees whatsoever to the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Government pointed out that owing to this lack of reciprocal guarantees and owing to the limitation of the British and French obligations to Poland and Rumania, German aggression might [Page 255] be turned against the Soviet Union by way of the Baltic States. The Soviet Government proposed as the only basis for agreement: full mutual guarantees between the Soviet Union, England, and France; a guarantee for Finland, Estonia, and Latvia as well as Poland and Rumania, and military conversations and agreements between England, France, and the Soviet Union to make the assistance thus promised a reality.
In commenting on this Russian note, Daladier said that he had ordered Corbin, French Ambassador in London, yesterday (as reported in my No. 948 of May 16, 4 p.m.83) to state at once to Halifax that the French Government must insist on its thoughts being made the basis for discussions between England, France, and the Soviet Union.
Daladier added that he was no longer certain that the Soviet Union would accept the French proposal. The Soviet Union had been ready to accept it and there had been no question of adding the Baltic States to the guarantees for Poland and Rumania. He felt that all the British had accomplished by their dilatory and half-hearted proposals was to make the Russian terms stiffer.
So far as he was concerned he could not see much objection to guaranteeing the Baltic States. It was clear that if Germany should invade the Baltic States Poland would be obliged to go to their assistance. A guarantee of the Baltic States would add therefore little or nothing to the obligations of France. He was inclined to feel that the Russian proposal should be accepted, although he would prefer to obtain Russian acceptance as well as British for the original French proposal.
Daladier went on to say that now that the policy of resistance to German aggression in the east had been adopted it was essential to will the means necessary to make such a line of policy effective and successful. He had as few illusions as I had with regard to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Government had done everything it could to overthrow his Ministry. Nevertheless he believed that it was essential to have Russia in the combination. Only thus could a sufficient combination of force be built up to deter Hitler from risking war.
Daladier added that he had received reports today of disquieting movements of German troops toward the Polish frontier. He did not know whether this might presage an early attack. He was inclined to guess that Germany by threats would attempt to disintegrate Polish morale for at least a few weeks and that there would probably be peace until the end of June; but on the whole he was not optimistic.
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