138 Emergency Program/595: Telegram

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

120. Department’s telegram No. 69, January 31, 7 p.m.62 I am of the opinion that under present conditions it is advisable that passports good for travel in the Soviet Union should not be issued to any category of American citizens other than officers of the Foreign Service and accredited newspaper correspondents. My reasons are: (1) the steadily increasing irritation of the Soviet authorities at the anti-Soviet manifestations in the United States; (2) the known sympathies of Americans with the Finnish cause63 and the outspoken references in the American press to various kinds of assistance to Finland; (3) the possibility that the presence of additional Americans within the Soviet Union may be seized upon by the Soviet authorities to create incidents; (4) the difficulties of travel and living conditions; (5) the difficulties encountered by the Embassy in maintaining contact with American citizens within the Soviet Union; (6) the failure of the Soviet authorities to reply with reasonable promptness to communications and inquiries concerning the welfare or whereabouts of American citizens,64 and the present extreme difficulty of obtaining exit visas and the possibility of a refusal to issue the same or of delay tantamount to refusal.

I do not recommend that any suggestion be made to those American citizens, particularly engineers, now in the Soviet Union that they depart prior to the expiration of their contractual obligations but I suggest that serious consideration be given to declining to grant further passports good for travel here, except for the most urgent and compelling reasons, among which I would not regard business or study as urgent or compelling.

I strongly recommend that whatever decision may be arrived at by the Department should not be made public and that such policy as the Department may decide upon should be kept strictly confidential if for no other reason than to avoid adding to the irritation which already exists among the Soviet authorities.

  1. Not printed.
  2. For correspondence concerning the Winter War carried on by the Soviet Union against Finland, see vol. i, pp. 269 ff.
  3. Regarding the arrest and detention of American citizens by the Soviet Government, see Foreign Relations, The Soviet Union, 1933–1939, pp. 904 ff.