741.61/672: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State

1071. Bonnet gave me to read this afternoon the note of the Soviet Government containing its latest proposals to the French Government.

The first paragraph contains a mutual promise of the French, British and Soviet Governments to give military assistance to each other in case of a direct attack by any power.

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The next paragraph obliges the three powers to take military action in case of “aggression” against Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Rumania, Turkey, Greece or Belgium.

A later paragraph of the note stipulates that this political agreement shall come into effect only after the signature by Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union of a military accord to be negotiated at some future date.

Bonnet said that both he and Daladier felt that the Russian proposal in its present form was inacceptable for two reasons:

1. The Russians had eliminated the provision in the French-British draft which provided that assistance should be brought to a state only in case that state should have been attacked and should have requested assistance.

At this point he handed me to read a copy of a note which the Soviet Government had sent to the Estonian Government and a copy of the reply which the Estonian Government had sent to the Soviet Government.1 The Soviet note to Estonia stated that it was a vital interest of the Soviet Union to prevent any power obtaining special privileges of either a political, military or economic nature in Estonia and that if either “freely or under duress” the Estonian Government should accord such privileges to any other power the Soviet Government would be obliged to defend Estonia against such “aggression” whether the Estonian Government had asked for such assistance or not.

(The note of the Estonian Government in reply stated that the Government of Estonia insisted on retaining the sole right to judge whether there was any aggression against Estonia.)

Bonnet went on to say that in view of this note of the Soviet Government to Estonia the word “aggression” in the Soviet Government’s proposal to France and Great Britain wore a sinister aspect. It could be interpreted to mean that at any time that the Soviet Government should decide to march troops into Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland or Turkey because of some event which it chose to consider aggression, although the state concerned might not consider it aggression, the French and British Governments would be obliged to support a Soviet invasion of the state that the Soviet Union chose to invade. In other words, the Soviet proposal meant carte blanche for the Soviet Union to invade the states named in the Soviet note with French and British consent and support.

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France and England could certainly not consent to giving the Soviet Union support for an extension of bolshevism in Eastern Europe.

Furthermore, the entire moral position of France and Great Britain was based on their defense of the freedom of peoples. Acceptance of the Soviet proposal would mean consent to the establishment of a Soviet protectorate over the states named in the note.

2. The second objection was that contrary to all diplomatic practice the political accord was subjected to and made dependent upon the signature of a military accord, the terms of which were totally unspecified. If France and England should sign the political accord proposed by the Soviet Union, the Soviet Government might, and doubtless would, make demands for military assistance from France and England of a nature that it would be totally impossible to accord.

To sign the proposed political accord as a document subjected to the conclusion of a future military accord therefore would be to sign a blank check that the Russians could fill in or not fill in as they might choose.

While I was with Bonnet he telephoned to Corbin, the French Ambassador in London, to obtain the British view of the Soviet proposal.

Corbin replied that he had seen Halifax this morning; but that Halifax had not yet shown the Russian proposal to Chamberlain and had only read it hurriedly himself and had not yet received reports from his experts on it and therefore could say nothing of a decisive nature.

Bonnet stated that Daladier had seen Suritz, the Soviet Ambassador in Paris, and had told him that although the French Government was still studying the Soviet note and had not prepared a formal reply to it, France would not agree to make the political accord subject to the conclusion of a future military accord and also would not agree to the paragraph permitting invasion of states by Soviet armies under the guise of protecting them against “aggression”.

Bonnet said that no progress had yet been made in the matter of the political agreement between France, Great Britain and Poland because the Poles had not yet requested the British to discuss the immediate conclusion of a political agreement. He said that he could not understand this and that he was notified today to attempt to clarify this situation and hoped that he could persuade the British to conclude political, military and financial accords with the Poles in the immediate future, which would permit the signature of similar French-Polish accords.

In conclusion Bonnet said that in spite of the present difficulties he still believed that an accord between Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union would be achieved.

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He added that his information from Germany indicated that the Germans had made no progress in their efforts to achieve rapprochement with the Soviet Union.

Further information indicated that the Germans were not contemplating an attack on Poland or any other state this month.

Bullitt
  1. A note of March 28, 1939, to Estonia had stated that the Soviet Union could not remain passive if the independence of Estonia were limited either freely or through outside pressure. In its reply of April 7, 1939, the Estonian Government had declared that it could never consent to any restriction of its sovereignty nor share with any other state the right and duty to care for its neutrality and independence. See telegram No. 13, April 19, from the Chargé in Estonia, Foreign Relations, The Soviet Union, 1933–1939, p. 935.