740.0011 European War 1939/1489: Telegram

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


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80. Léger25 went on to say that although the probable attack on the Netherlands and Belgium dominated the situation at the moment, the French Government had by no means forgotten the power of the Finns. He was happy to say that the first 30 planes sent to Finland (see my No. 3062, December 30, 6 p.m.26) had already arrived and had taken the air today.

The question of aid to Finland was becoming more and more complicated. The French Government had offered to send an army to Finland either by way of Norway and Sweden or by way of Petsamo. The Norwegians and the Swedes had refused to permit the passage of a French army to Finland and the British had refused to permit any expedition against Petsamo.

The French had gone so far as to propose that if the British would release the three Polish destroyers which are now with the British fleet they would add sufficient French cruisers to them to make a strong Polish fleet and the Polish fleet would cover the landing of the French Army at Petsamo.

The British first had stated that the Poles were absolutely opposed to any such action. General Sikorski, Polish Prime Minister, in the [Page 277] presence of himself and Daladier27 had stated flatly that he would be delighted to have a Polish fleet attack Petsamo and cover the landing of the French Army. Confronted with this statement of General Sikorski’s the British had finally taken refuge in a simple negative stating that they controlled the Allied effort at sea; that the Polish fleet would have to be based on British ports and that they would not do anything which could be construed by the Bolsheviks as a hostile British act against the Soviet Union.

Léger expressed the opinion that the British were entirely idiotic in believing that they could detach the Russians from the Germans and that they could finally obtain the support of the Soviet Union against Germany.28

He went on to say that the French Government had proposed to the British Government that the British and French fleets both should enter the Black Sea and bombard Batum and send airplanes to bomb Baku and thus cut off both Germany and the Soviet Union from supplies of oil. The British Government had replied that no British ship would be fitted for any action in the Black Sea hostile to the Soviet Union. Léger added that the Turkish Government also was opposed to permitting the passage of the French and British fleets to the Black Sea and a bombardment of the Russian coast.

Léger said that he really could not understand the attitude of the British with regard to support to Finland and hostility to the Soviet Union at the present time. He asked me if I had any information on this subject and I replied that I had none. I should be grateful if you have anything of interest that you may care to communicate to me.

The French position is that France will not break diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union or declare war on the Soviet Union but will if possible destroy the Soviet Union—using cannon if necessary.


[The Minister in Finland reported in telegram No. 27, January 14, 1940, 10 a.m., that on the preceding afternoon the first air bombing occurred at Helsinki since December 25, 1939 (760D.61/971). Two statements released to the press on January 15, 1940, describing the loss of civilian life and destruction of property caused by Soviet airplanes, are printed in Department of State Bulletin, January 20, 1940, page 56.]

  1. Alexis Léger, Secretary General of the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Édouard Daladier, President of the French Council of Ministers.
  4. For correspondence regarding the attempts of the United Kingdom and France to obtain closer relations with the Soviet Union, see pp. 589 ff.