761.62/774: Telegram

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

1516. The announcement of Molotov’s impending visit to Berlin was made on the radio last night44 while the British Ambassador was my guest at dinner. Sir Stafford Cripps frankly stated that he was not only surprised but shocked by the news. In reply to my inquiry as to whether he had not prepared his Government for a continuation of Soviet-German collaboration he admitted that he had persistently hoped that some measure of success might be achieved by him45 and that in consequence he feared his Government was not fully prepared. He then said the possibility could not be excluded that should Molotov’s visit to Berlin result in more extensive collaboration between the Soviet Union and Germany influential circles in Great Britain might begin to press for peace with Germany on an anti-Soviet basis.

The Rumanian Minister46 who was also present was equally depressed and said that in his opinion the psychological effect of Molotov’s [Page 574] visit to Berlin would be bad especially among the smaller nations and particularly Turkey.

The Department will have observed from my telegrams during the past month that the course of events leading up to the announcement of Molotov’s visit to Berlin very closely parallels that which led to the Soviet-German Nonaggression Pact of August 1939, and that British diplomacy has again failed to evaluate properly the basic factors motivating Soviet foreign policy since early in 1939. The decision of the Soviet Government to send Molotov to Berlin at this time and thereby publicly to demonstrate loyalty to its existing relationship with Germany supports the view expressed in my previous telegrams, that so long as the German Army remains intact and unengaged there can be little expectation of a basic alteration in Soviet policy toward Germany. In consequence it should have been apparent that any attempt to change the existing Soviet-German relationship through proposals such as those put forward by the British Government, or by means of unilateral concessions, not only would be futile but would tend to impair in Soviet eyes the prestige of the government making such proposals.

The Soviet Government has shown itself very adroit in exploiting any attempt to bring about a change in its relations with Germany, using such attempts to obtain concessions of practical value to it without the slightest intention of deviating from that relationship. As viewed from Moscow it would appear to be inadvisable for us to make any concessions to the Soviet Government in respect of administrative or commercial matters, or even to put into effect those which are under discussion,47 at least pending the outcome of Molotov’s negotiations in Berlin. The greater economic and political Soviet collaboration with Germany which may be expected to result from the conference at Berlin would materially increase the prospect that the Soviet Union would endeavor to utilize its purchases in the United States for the purpose of defeating the British blockade.

  1. People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Molotov, with a suite of 32 persons, left Moscow by special train at 6:45 p.m., on November 10. They arrived at the Anhalter Bahnhof in Berlin soon after 11:00 a.m., on November 12 and stayed at the Bellevue Palace Hotel.
  2. For correspondence on the relations of the United Kingdom and France with the Soviet Union, see pp. 589 ff.
  3. Grigore Gafencu.
  4. For correspondence on the difficulties affecting relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and the discussions concerning their alleviation, see vol. iii, pp. 244 ff.