760D.61/957: Telegram

The Minister in Finland ( Schoenfeld ) to the Secretary of State

20. My telegram No. 10, January 5, and No. 18, yesterday. At the request of the Prime Minister I called upon him this afternoon. He said he had now formulated his ideas regarding possible procedure to bring about cessation of hostilities with Russia but he emphasized the same thought as the Minister for Foreign Affairs did yesterday, that choice of time for taking such action was left to you and he hoped you would watch developments with this in mind.

He had a statement in Finnish from which he spoke in English and at my request handed it to me, then dictating the following English version which I wrote down:

“That the United States, together with the other neutral great power Italy, would approach Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Finland offering their good offices for the purpose of bringing about armistice and peace negotiations and that the United States would invite Italy and Sweden to try to bring pressure to bear on Germany at the same time and for the same purpose.”

The Prime Minister said the point was important that the “approach” be made both to the U. S. S. R. and Finland and not only to the former. He volunteered no reference to the report he had mentioned on January 3rd [4th] as being expected from the Finnish Minister at Berlin but I assume that Tanner’s statement to me yesterday regarding German policy was based on that report. The Prime Minister said he now agreed with your view that proposed démarche would serve no useful purpose at this time. He did feel, however, that it is in the interest of Germany that the war should not spread [Page 275] in this area and hence he considered German cooperation quite possible. The Prime Minister in response to my inquiry expressed opinion that Italy would be willing to exert its influence with Germany to end Finnish-Russian hostilities and that Sweden would do likewise. Although he was primarily interested in peace for his own country he was also hopeful that a peace between the other European belligerents could come about and as to this it was his frank opinion as he said that France might not be indisposed to make peace but despite a certain peace party’s views Britain was insistent on removal of Hitler19 from power in Germany and it was impossible to know when that condition would be met.

While I was with the Prime Minister he received what he said was a bulletin of the day’s military activities which he stated had been unimportant. He told me that the latest surrender of Russians mentioned in my telegram 17 yesterday20 had been especially significant because it was the first time in present hostilities that surrender had been negotiated by Russian officers. Ryti said quantity of planes now coming forward from various sources was becoming appreciable, being not far from 200, and that there would be no shortage of competent pilots for them. The Germans were still holding 6 Italian airplanes intended for Finland but had released a carload of accessories while remaining Italian planes exceeding 20 were on the way by another route. Italy was also supplying 76 mm. antiaircraft guns obtainable only with great difficulty in other countries or unobtainable as in the United States.

The Minister expressed great concern regarding economic and social disintegration of Europe if the war should last a year or two saying that some new “ism” would doubtless arise with disastrous consequences. Hence while he was especially anxious to see the end of the hostilities with the Russians whom he said the Finns did not hate but who were the same backward people they had always been, he was almost equally desirous of a general peace. He referred to resignation of Hore-Belisha21 from British Cabinet saying that late Secretary for War was not in favor of helping Finland. Neither was Churchill22 on the alleged ground that Britain must concentrate her strength against Germany and this country was too inaccessible. This he said had also accounted for unwillingness of British Admiralty to send naval forces to Arctic coast of Finland last month.

  1. Adolf Hitler, Führer and Chancellor of the German Reich from January 30, 1933; Chief of State from August 2, 1934.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Leslie Hore-Belisha was Secretary of State for War until January 5, 1940.
  4. Winston S. Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty until May 10, 1940; then Prime Minister and Minister of Defence.