741.61/636: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union ( Grummon ) to the Secretary of State

263. The Embassy is aware, since the delivery of the Soviet counterproposal on May 14 (see my 249, May 15, 9 p.m.86) there have been no diplomatic conversations or negotiations on the subject between the British Ambassador and Molotov. There is no evidence up to the present to justify an opinion that the Soviet Government intends to modify its position in accordance with the views expressed in the Izvestiya editorial of May 11 or to accept anything less than a direct and unequivocal commitment from England and France for the protection of the Soviet western frontier against attack as the price of Soviet association in the Franco-British system of guarantees in Eastern Europe. In the opinion of most neutral diplomatic observers in Moscow the firmness of the Soviet position may be in large part attributed to the following factors:

The increased sense of security felt by the Russian Soviet Government as a result of the prior British and French commitments in respect of Poland and Rumania and the later Anglo-Turkish agreement,87 and the realization on the part of the Soviet Government that under the circumstances the inclusion of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics in an anti-aggression front in Eastern Europe is of vital necessity to England and France.
The fear of the Soviet Government, based on its suspicion of the Chamberlain and Daladier Governments that in the absence of a direct commitment from England and France the Soviet Union might [Page 259] be left to continue alone a war in Eastern Europe in the event that the states guaranteed by England and France were overrun by Germany in the early stages of a conflict in that area. In the opinion of the French Embassy at least, this fear of a “separate peace” on the part of England and France lies at the root of the Soviet insistence on a direct pact of mutual assistance with those countries.

Other points which it is understood have arisen in the negotiations such as the question of the guarantee of the Baltic States and the possible Soviet resentment at Polish and Rumanian reluctance to be bound by any commitments to the Soviet Union are considered here as of secondary importance and as having been advanced by the Soviet Government largely as of possible value in negotiation.

While the effect if any of the somewhat indirect and half-hearted German approach to the Soviet Government, reported in my telegram 258, May 12 [22], 11 a.m.,88 will presumably be confined to strengthening the latter’s insistence on the satisfaction of its demands in the present negotiations with England and France, the possibility, however remote, cannot be completely excluded that it may raise a question in the mind of the Soviet Government as to the advisability of committing itself openly at the present time on the side of the Western democracies.

It is expected here that Molotov during the course of the sessions of the Supreme Soviet which open tomorrow will make an important statement on Soviet foreign policy.89

  1. Not printed; see telegram No. 953, May 16, 8 p.m., from the Ambassador in France, p. 254.
  2. The British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, announced in the House of Commons on May 12, 1939, the Anglo-Turkish agreement on mutual assistance in the event of an act of aggression leading to war in the Mediterranean area; Parliamentary Debates, 5th series, vol. 347, p. 952. The 15-year mutual assistance pact concluded between Great Britain, France, and Turkey was signed at Ankara on October 19, 1939; for text, see League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cc, p. 167, or Department of State Bulletin, November 11, 1939, p. 544.
  3. Post, p. 321.
  4. For a summary of Molotov’s speech of May 31, before the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union, see telegram No. 282, June 1, 1 p.m., from the Chargé in the Soviet Union, Foreign Relations, The Soviet Union, 1933–1939, p. 764.