740.0011 European War 1939/734: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Steinhardt) to the Secretary of State

704. The French Chargé came to see me this afternoon and stated that, as I knew, at the time of the Soviet invasion of Poland he had opposed a declaration of war or rupture of diplomatic relations on the part of the French Government by reason of the Soviet action. Since that time however the development of Soviet-German collaboration and in particular the agreements and the declaration signed by Ribbentrop and Molotov on September 28 and other developments had caused him to modify his previous opinion. He said that he was gradually approaching the point of view that from a psychological point of view it would be a mistake for England and France to continue to [Page 463] remain passive in the future in the face of what appears to be increasing Soviet alignment with Germany and that he was considering recommending to his Government the necessity of the adoption of a much firmer attitude toward the Soviet Union including if necessary a rupture of diplomatic relations.

He then inquired of me whether I believe that the American neutrality law would be amended and if so when as he felt that any gesture on the part of the English and French Governments would be immeasurably strengthened if it came immediately after a change in the neutrality bill. I replied that although I had no information from official sources on the subject it was my personal opinion based on reports appearing in the American press and my judgment of American political values that the existing neutrality laws would be amended along the lines of the bill proposed by the President and that I anticipated action on this bill would be taken by Congress within 2 or 3 weeks.94

The French Chargé d’Affaires then asked what information I had in regard to the possibility of a Soviet-Japanese rapprochement, as he felt that the position of Japan vis-à-vis the Soviet Union might be a factor in determining the French and British decision. I told him in reply in strict confidence that my information was to the effect that the Japanese Government up to the present at least has not shown any pronounced disposition to enter into a general political understanding with the Soviet Union.

In conclusion the Chargé d’Affaires inquired as to the procedure which should be followed in sounding out the American Government as to its willingness to represent French interests in Moscow in the event of a rupture of diplomatic relations. He emphasized that while he did not think his Government was considering taking immediate action along these lines and that his inquiry was purely anticipatory, he contemplated recommending to his Government that it inform itself in the premises. I replied that in my opinion the proper procedure would be for the French Ambassador in Washington to approach the Department.

  1. See pp. 656 ff.