761.94/1210: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Secretary of State

748. Following is paraphrase of memorandum prepared by Ambassador Steinhardt of significant conversation with Soviet Ambassador Smetanin after recent dinner at the Embassy:

On his own initiative and without prompting the Soviet Ambassador expressed the opinion that at the present time there could not be anticipated an improvement of relations between Soviet Russia and Japan. He could see little basis upon which an understanding between the two countries could be reached and he unburdened himself with respect to the vexations and difficulties which confronted him here. Either unaware that the Japanese and other Embassies in Moscow operate under similar conditions or [ignoring] the humorous aspects of his objections, he complained with bitterness of the surveillance which he and his staff [were] subjected to in [Japan]. He gave the general impression that he was discouraged since he had been unable to obtain the slightest satisfaction in his recent discussions with the Japanese Foreign Office and that he either received evasive replies or that his notes remained unanswered. He said that the Japanese were “uncontrollable” because they had had their own way to such an extent.

Informant stated that there would probably be no immediate change in the policy of his Government in reply to my question whether Moscow would continue the modus operandi [with] Chiang Kai-shek. He thought that Chiang Kai-shek might be forced to withdraw to some mountain retreat towards the west as he would not be able to remain at Chungking much longer but that a collapse of Chinese resistance would not necessarily follow. In the Soviet Ambassador’s opinion the difficulties inherent in a permanent conquest of any substantial part of China were beginning to be appreciated by the Japanese and the capacity of the Chinese to resist was greater than most people realized.

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The general impression created by the conversation was that there is likely to be no change in Soviet policy in the immediate future and that it is marked by an unyielding attitude to Japanese demands or penetration.