The Acting Secretary of State to President Roosevelt

My Dear Mr. President: I have received your memorandum of August 1521 asking that we make recommendations to you in regard to the advisability of requesting the closing of certain Soviet consulates in this country and of placing additional restrictions on those which remain, in view of the fact that we are being compelled to close our consulates in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

There is no doubt that the Soviet Government, in taking over additional territories in Eastern Europe, has not shown consideration for nationals and interests of the United States which might be expected of a Government which maintains friendly relations with the Government of the United States. The request that we liquidate within a period of two weeks our diplomatic and consular offices in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia is an illustration of the attitude which the Soviet Government has assumed.

Although the Soviet Government has been successful in overthrowing the Governments of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, and in obtaining full control of the territories of those countries, the diplomatic missions of Lithuania and Latvia and consular offices of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia continue to function in the United States and to protect the nationals and interests which they represent. So long as this Government continues to refuse to recognize the legality of the seizure by the Soviet Government of the Baltic States and so long as it continues to recognize the diplomatic missions and consulates of those States in the United States, the Soviet Embassy and consular offices here will, it is believed, not be successful in their efforts to obtain possession of the property of these States in the United States.

At the present time there are Soviet consular offices in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, as well as a consular section in the Soviet Embassy in Washington. We have in the Soviet Union only [Page 425] a consular section in the Embassy at Moscow. We are therefore in a position, on the basis of reciprocity, to demand that several Soviet consulates be closed or that we be permitted to open consular offices in the Soviet Union. We have suggested to the Soviet Government some time ago the advisability of a consular office of the United States being established at Vladivostok,22 and in reply to the request that we close our offices in the Baltic States we have already suggested, as a matter of comity, that consular officers of the United States be given facilities which would permit them to continue to perform consular services in Riga. We are still awaiting answers to these suggestions.

After giving the matter careful consideration, I am inclined to believe that no useful purpose would be served at the present time by requesting the Soviet Government to close certain of its consular offices in the United States and by placing additional restrictions on those offices which remain. The closing of these offices would be of no aid to the nationals or property interests of the Baltic States since such nationals and interests are being protected by the diplomatic missions and consulates of those States at the present time. Such a request furthermore would probably result in the rejection of our suggestions with respect to the maintenance of American consular offices in Riga and Vladivostok and might well lead to a series of retaliatory measures which would render futile the efforts which we are making just now in a continuing series of negotiations that are going on with the Soviet Ambassador to remove some of the obstacles that might permit an improvement of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Faithfully yours,

Sumner Welles
  1. Not printed.
  2. For correspondence concerning the opening of an American Consulate General at Vladivostok, see vol. iii, pp. 460 ff.