Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Henderson)11

Mr. Molotov’s12 remarks to Mr. Steinhardt13 relative to Japan14 are interesting in that it makes it to appear that after one of its periodic analyses of the world situation, Moscow has come to the conclusion that the time is ripe for it again to resort to the game of endeavoring to play off the United States and Japan against each other.

It is fortunate that Mr. Steinhardt is not so gullible as to be deceived by such tactics. If he had in any way indicated that he agreed with Mr. Molotov that we might some day find the American and Soviet navies collaborating against “our common foe”, it is not at all impossible that Soviet officials would have intimated to the Japanese that the United States has made approaches looking forward towards an American-Soviet anti-Japanese front.

For some time the Soviet Union has been trying to persuade Japan that we are doing our best to promote friction between the two countries. Now, while still endeavoring to reach an understanding with Japan, the Russians refer to the Japanese as our “common foe”.

At no time since 1917 has the Soviet Union had such an urgent need for good relations with the United States as now. We are the only source of supply for great quantities of material which it needs for military and industrial purposes. Therefore, regardless of the fact that anti-Soviet feeling in this country is widespread and articulate, even in Governmental circles, the dinner is given to our Ambassador and the old bait of possible Soviet aid against Japan is spread before us. This species of allure has not been used to any extent since it was put away shortly after the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1933.

  1. Noted by the Secretary of State.
  2. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, President (Chairman) of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union (Premier).
  3. Laurence A. Steinhardt, Ambassador in the Soviet Union.
  4. See telegram No. 220, February 28, 7 p.m., from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union, second paragraph, printed in vol. I, section entitled “Activities of the Soviet Union …”, part I.