Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

The Soviet Ambassador came in at his own request. He said he had two points to bring up, one relating to a personal matter and the other to the interference of trade between our two countries.

The Ambassador drew out a manuscript of the recent speech of Assistant Secretary of War Louis Johnson on January fifteenth before the New York State Bankers Association in New York City, and proceeded very vigorously to condemn the criticism in the speech of totalitarian countries, and especially the comparison between Finnish soldiers and Soviet soldiers, greatly to the disadvantage of the latter. He made bitter complaint. I then proceeded to say that he must realize that statesmen and officials in his country, and particularly the government-controlled press, including Pravda, have been in the habit of applying almost every sort of epithet to the United States and to our officials and statesmen, but that this action has been passed unnoticed here. The Ambassador must understand, however, that this habit of applying epithets in his country has naturally created a general feeling here that, if persons in the United States should occasionally talk back in similar language, the Soviet Government, having set the example, ought not to think of making complaint. He sought to palliate and in effect to deny my statements about these [Page 251] practices in his country. I adhered to my contention. Furthermore, I said that when the American Minister58 and well-known and trusted American newspaper correspondents in Finland send unequivocal reports back to this Government to the effect that Russian bombers are killing numerous unarmed men, women and children in Finland, the Soviet Government must realize that people in a country like the United States or in most countries will insist on voicing the bitter feeling they entertain in regard to such assassinations and that no one can control them in this respect even if they should so desire. I added that this was another phase of the situation that might well be considered in connection with the utterance of Colonel Johnson, which, by the way, I stated I had not seen. The Ambassador sought to deny any bombing of civilians from the air, but I insisted that the evidence of our Government was beyond any contradiction from such a roundabout way as Moscow.

The Ambassador then took up the alleged breach of the gasoline contract between American citizens and Soviet agencies somewhat like the one pending with Japan. My replies and comments on this subject were similar to those I made to the Japanese Ambassador59 on January thirty-first.60 This included a reminder of how the Soviet Government had violated contracts and agreements with this Government. In particular, I mentioned the agreement entered into at the time of Russian recognition61 by this Government and enumerated a number of very indefensible acts and practices toward this Government and its citizens by the Soviet Government or under its authority. The Ambassador sought to palliate these statements but without any serious attempt. He stated that this country was retaliating with respect to all trade relations between the two countries, even including a refusal to lease American ships to the Soviet Government for commercial transportation.

I again referred to the general state of lawlessness existing in so many parts of the world and unprovoked fighting going on for purposes of conquest, and said that, in the general state of turmoil and violation of all agreements and laws, anything may happen with the result that this country is more or less on a day-to-day basis with regard to many of its methods and practices, until such fighting slows down. At this point I was called in to the press conference and the Ambassador said that he was virtually through and would not remain.

C[ordell] H[ull]
  1. H. F. Arthur Schoenfeld.
  2. Kensuke Horinouchi.
  3. Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. ii, p. 53.
  4. For correspondence concerning the recognition by the United States of the Soviet Union on November 16, 1933, see Foreign Relations, The Soviet Union, 1933–1939, pp. 1 ff.