740.0011 European War 1939/8164: Telegram

The Minister in Rumania ( Gunther ) to the Secretary of State

114. Please communicate also to the President. Inasmuch as war between Germany and Russia is being increasingly discussed in this part of the world I have endeavored to analyze from this angle the chances for and against such a conflict breaking out in the near future. Inter alia, the reasons and imponderables which seem to me might influence Hitler to start an early war against Russia are the following:

(1)
Hitler is personally irritated by the restraint imposed upon him by perpetually having to take Russia into account in his plans.
(2)
Russia is daily getting stronger militarily and economically and according to some good military opinion will be fairly well organized in 2 years, whereas in that time even the Fuehrer must realize that Germany will have become considerably weakened and that the German people will have become somewhat war weary, although the United States has floundered up to now in its armament program—just as England did in the beginning—and in spite of loud speaker prognostics is still seemingly far behind schedule. There are signs that this program may at long last get really going. It would therefore be well from an economic point of view for Germany to conquer and organize at least the Ukraine and the Russian oil fields as soon as possible. Furthermore peace talks involving cession of western conquests may become serious at a later date.
(3)
Incidentally, if the war lasts a long time it might be feasible for Germany to transfer some of its most vulnerable industrial plants to Russia so as to be out of reach of British air attacks.
(4)
Communism is too much like National Socialism and it is irksome to see a distorted image of oneself so near. Hitler knows that the responsibility of having brought Russia back into Europe is his and consequently for his own prestige he must rectify this by driving that country back into Asia where it belongs. There is at work adroit pressure from General Antonescu33 and his Government to the end [Page 130] that Hitler should not play second fiddle to Stalin34 in Russian-occupied Rumania or condone the latter’s continued threats even to the mouths of the Danube. The skillful maneuvers of these subtle Rumanians towards war with Russia should not be underestimated. As far as is known General Antonescu has no intention, if he can possibly help it, of permitting Rumania to become the vulnerable line of communications in a southward thrust against Rumania’s erstwhile allies.
(5)
War against Russia would be popular with the German people and would also go far to undermine the hatred and distrust of Hitler in Western Europe.

On the other hand, some of the reasons and imponderables which would seem to be working against an early German-Russian war are the following:

(1)
Hitler has succeeded up to now in obstructing Russian plans of conquest, albeit they have exceeded what he had from time to time assented to in the first instance.
(2)
Germany is receiving substantial economic aid from Russia, both direct and indirect, and although Russia has the whip hand in this respect there is a prospect that by adroit methods even more supplies of food, oil and manufactures may be juggled.
(3)
It would probably be better for Germany to obtain control of the Straits before attacking Russia, thereby precluding the possibility of British aid through the Black Sea.
(4)
Pressure politics may not succeed and it may later for various reasons become imperative for Germany to move through the Balkans southwards in spite of Hitler’s self-interest that relative tranquility be preserved in this sphere and the obvious danger of long lines of communications which would be particularly vulnerable, in which case it might be the part of wisdom to propitiate Russia, making even further territorial concessions at the temporary expense of Rumania while at the same time maintaining an encouraging show of strength against Russia upon the German flank. Russia, gleeful over further extension of the areas of conflict, might not have to be propitiated unless reverses should occur and weaknesses become apparent.

When the above considerations—and they should be read in opposing columns—are placed in a mental scale it would seem that the balance tips in favor of an early war between Germany and Russia. Whether Germany would undertake such a war before attempting to invade England is, of course, problematical and I for one am in no position to form an opinion. Obviously Germany is preparing both here and elsewhere against all eventualities. Should the attack on England be definitely abandoned or fail, the chances of an early German-Russian war would, I should think, be greatly increased as [Page 131] would even those of an occupation move southwards, partly for a better bargaining position in peace talks and partly for the worrying of the British in the Mediterranean. Should Germany attempt to invade England and succeed which [apparent omission] Germany would perhaps be in no immediate hurry to attack Russia or move southward in the Balkans inasmuch as power politics could then be expected to accomplish Germany’s purpose.

Gunther
  1. Gen. Ion Antonescu, Chief of State of Rumania after September 4, 1940.
  2. Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, Secretary General of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks); member of the Politburo and Orgburo of the Party; and, after May 6, 1941, President (Chairman) of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union (Prime Minister).