762.9411/81: Telegram

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

1262. The British Ambassador called on me this afternoon by appointment to discuss the possible consequences of the German-Italian-Japanese alliance.24 He said that he feared that the Soviet Government would shortly be compelled to join the alliance or take a position inconsistent with the Soviet-German pact.25 He said he was convinced that a drive would shortly be made by Germany to bring about a Soviet-Japanese rapprochement and that it was in his opinion essential that a counterdrive be instituted by Great Britain which would be more effective if supported by the United States. He then elaborated his point of view by saying that as he saw it the main contribution that Great Britain could make at the present time would be the reopening of the Burma Road. He said that during the past two months he had been urging his Government to reopen the Burma Road and also to authorize him to discuss this subject with the Soviet authorities but that his Foreign Office up to the present had refused to sanction any such course. He now anticipated, however, that he would shortly receive instructions to discuss this subject with the Soviet authorities and he felt that it would be highly desirable for the United States to lend its assistance in effect to dissuade the Soviet Union from entering into any alliance with Japan.

He added, however, that it was his intention to discuss the matter in the course of the next day or two with the Chinese Ambassador26 and that he was hopeful that simultaneous approaches by the United States, Great Britain and China might have the effect desired on the Soviet Government.

From the nature of the Ambassador’s remarks and his statement that he had sent copies of his recent telegrams to the British Ambassador in Washington, I judge that the Department will shortly hear from the British Ambassador on this general subject.27 I refrained from expressing any opinion concerning the Ambassador’s suggestion and made it clear to him that I could do no more than report his observations to my Government, pointing out to him that I was not competent to take any action of [the] kind suggested, however informal, [Page 615] without specific instructions from the Department. A separate telegram28 will follow this one in which I am undertaking to summarize the present position here and in so doing comment on the British Ambassador’s suggestion.

  1. The three power pact of assistance signed at Berlin on September 27, 1940, League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cciv, p. 386.
  2. Treaty of nonaggression signed at Moscow on August 23, 1939; for text, with secret additional protocol, see Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918–1945, series D, vol. vii, pp. 245–247.
  3. Shao Li-tzu.
  4. See memorandum by the Secretary of State, September 30, vol. iv, p. 159.
  5. Infra.