740.0011 European War 1939/366: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Kennedy ) to the Secretary of State

1688. Responsible Foreign Office officials discussing their personal views of the Russian attack on Poland say that they have been expecting [Page 431] it at any moment, particularly since it has become apparent that the Poles have badly miscalculated the length of time they would be able to hold the Germans. The Russian intervention is regarded as sinister through having enlarged the field of military operations, but open to more than one interpretation of motive. Russia may well have taken alarm at the rapidity of the German advance and by her own action today warned Germany to keep out of Rumania. Whatever secret agreement may have been annexed to the German-Russian pact46 with a view to partition of Poland and possibly a military alliance, it is considered unlikely that Russia could view a German advance in the Balkans with anything but serious concern. It is felt that one almost certain thing about the Russian invasion of Poland will be that country’s complete collapse within the next 2 or 3 days instead of within a week or possibly two.

According to the view of these officials three possible courses of action are now open to Germany: (1) to decide, now that Poland is practically destroyed, as a military factor, to conduct the war according to recognized international standards, respecting as scrupulously as possible the rights of the small neutral states that are physically at her mercy and utilizing to the fullest the advantages of trade with them to strengthen her own economic structure, already fortified through the collapse of Poland, by a degree of access to Russian supplies; or (2) to continue the military drive straight through to occupation of Rumania and still remain on the defensive in the west. This course would give Germany the manifest advantage of command of Rumania’s material resources, but might cause serious conflict with Russia. It would gravely affect the policy of Turkey and Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, perhaps to the detriment of Great Britain and France; or (3) leave Rumania alone, turn with a huge concentration, all German forces to the west, invade Holland and Belgium and strike at Great Britain and France as hard as possible. It is not thought that the Germans will adopt alternative (1) above; the Foreign Office officials state that they know course (3) has been considered.

While the foregoing is purely speculative as there is no pretense of knowledge as to the exact meaning of the Russian attack on Poland nor as to what the next move of Germany will be, it represents an informed Foreign Office view as to probable early developments—and without prejudice to the possibility that Hitler may make either directly or through intermediaries, some specious offer of peace, based on the fait accompli in Poland.

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It was suggested that the Polish Ambassador at Moscow, as late as yesterday maintained to Sir William Seeds47 the view that Russia had no intention of attacking Poland.

  1. Signed August 23, 1939; Nazi-Soviet Relations, 1989–1941, p. 76. For correspondence, see pp. 312 ff.
  2. British Ambassador in the Soviet Union.