661.6231/308: Telegram

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

114. Department’s 62, January 16, 9 p.m.25 As the Department is aware since the outbreak of the war the Soviet Government has ceased to publish or furnish statistics concerning its industrial or agricultural production, consumption, imports or exports. It is, therefore, not possible and will not be possible to obtain specific information shedding any light on the extent to which the Soviet authorities expect to carry out their obligations to Germany with the aid of imports from the United States or the Western Hemisphere. Certain general but nonetheless inescapable conclusions may, however, be drawn based on the [Page 127] obligations known to have been assumed by the Soviet Government with respect to deliveries to Germany and on such fragmentary data as can be gleaned from Soviet published sources concerning the country’s production, consumption and foreign trade.

As a point of departure I may record my conviction that it is highly improbable the Soviet Government would utilize directly imports from the United States to meet its obligations to Germany as the Soviet authorities are too astute and too alive to the repercussions likely to ensue in the United States under present world conditions to jeopardize their position in the American market by following such a course. On the other hand the Soviet Government could attain the same end by the delivery to Germany of the Soviet commodities contracted for and their replacement by purchases in the United States or the Western Hemisphere for Soviet consumption. Furthermore, this method would afford in many instances the additional attraction of relieving the strain on the already heavily overburdened Soviet transport system to the extent that commodities so imported could be utilized in Eastern and Central Russia when otherwise they might have to be shipped there from Western Russia. In this connection it should also be noted that virtually all of the products to be delivered to Germany are produced west of the Urals. An indication that the Soviet Government is aware of the possibilities inherent in the procedure described above may be found in the negotiations which are being conducted looking toward the delivery for consumption in the Far Eastern provinces of the Soviet Union of American petroleum products to be set off against shipments from the Caucasian fields to Sweden.

It is my considered judgment that attempts on the part of the Soviet Government to purchase in the United States or elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere supplies of any petrolum products, cotton, copper, nickel, mercury or other non-ferrous metals, to list only certain examples, should be scrutinized with the utmost care.

With respect to petroleum products the Department will draw its own conclusions from the fact that the Soviet Union, although now producing approximately 30,000,000 tons a year, is endeavoring to import such products both from the United States and Rumania (see my No. 21, January 7, 3 p.m.26). These efforts, in my opinion, are unlikely to be dissociated from its commitments to Germany. In the case of cotton as I have also reported (see my No. 73, January 14, 6 p.m.) attempts by the Soviet Union to purchase substantial quantities in the United States or other parts of the Western Hemisphere may almost certainly be inferred to constitute an effort to replace shipments to Germany. As regards the non-ferrous metals it is also my opinion that in the event of any attempted sharp increases in Soviet purchases [Page 128] of these in the Western Hemisphere the probability exists that any such increased purchases will be used to offset deliveries to Germany.

Soviet production of commodities such as chromite, manganese, apatite, iron ore and grains have hitherto been sufficiently large to render it unlikely that the Soviet Union will find it necessary to offset its deliveries to Germany by purchases in the Western Hemisphere.

As perhaps throwing further light on Soviet intentions I was recently told by the Swedish Minister27 that in the course of a conversation which he had with Mikoyan, the latter had complained to him of the reluctance of the Johnson Line to charter more vessels to the Soviet Government for the transport from Canada and the United States to Vladivostok of “increased purchases which the Soviet Government expects to make in the United States” and had also referred to his inability to obtain an adequate number of bottoms from the United States Maritime Commission.

My 86, January 15, 8 p.m.28 gives some indication of Soviet imports of key commodities via Vladivostok which may be of use to the Department. If the Department so desires I shall endeavor to obtain similar figures from the same source in the future.

In conclusion all of the foregoing must be viewed in the light of the Soviet policy of close cooperation with Germany which was clearly reaffirmed by the Soviet-German agreements signed on January 10, 1941.29

  1. See footnote 21, p. 125.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Per Vilhelm Gustaf Assarsson.
  4. Not printed.
  5. For a memorandum of January 31, 1941, by the Acting Chief of the Division of European Affairs, Ray Atherton, considering the extent to which purchases made in the United States by the Soviet Union might be facilitating aid given by it to Germany, see p. 600.