761.62/895: Telegram

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

756. Although a few political observers in 1939 foresaw the German-Soviet alignment, their somewhat hesitant predictions attracted little attention with the result that the actual event came to the general public at least as a distinct shock. In consequence of the unpreparedness of most observers for such a reversal of the ostensible policy of both Germany and the Soviet Union, the alignment has been regarded during the past 18 months as an expedient which not only would not endure but which, inevitably, would terminate in actual hostilities between the two parties. As a result the various moves of each party to the alignment since August 1939 have been repeatedly construed to indicate an impending rupture. This misinterpretation was especially noticeable in connection with the Soviet absorption of the Baltic States, the German infiltration into Rumania and the Soviet seizure of Bessarabia. I have, however, steadfastly adhered to my conception of the basic fact underlying Soviet-German relations, which is that their alignment up to the present time has, as repeatedly asserted by both parties, responded to their major real interests and that consequently despite occasional strain the relationship would prevail until such time as either the Soviet Union no longer had occasion to fear the immediate military might of Germany or Germany might consider it advantageous to direct its activities away from Western Europe and toward the East or until one party took action clearly inimical to the vital interests of the other. I am now of the opinion that the long anticipated change in the relationship between the Soviet Union and Germany is in process of taking place, although this fact need not by any means be interpreted to mean that an immediate clash between the two countries must occur. The first clear indication I believe to have been the statement by the Soviet Foreign Office following the capitulation of Bulgaria (see Embassy’s 428, March 4, 1 p.m.52); the second and more pointed indication was exchange of notes between the Soviet and Turkish Governments (see Embassy’s 588, March 25, 4 p.m.53), and most recent and most striking the Soviet-Yugoslav treaty of friendship and non-aggression concluded by the Soviet Government in the face of unmistakable preparations by the German Government for the military occupation of Yugoslavia, and in fact, a few hours before that event.

  1. Post, p. 296.
  2. Not printed; but see telegram No. 30, March 19, to the Ambassador in Turkey, p. 611.