760D.61/1554: Telegram

The Minister in Finland ( Schoenfeld ) to the Secretary of State

38. Department’s 20, February 4, 9 p.m. Minister of Foreign Affairs told me this morning that Soviet press and radio campaign against Finland seems no more intensive at present than it had been for some time. It emphasizes chiefly alleged dissension within Finland between Swedish speaking and Finnish elements and shortage of supplies with resulting threat of internal unrest. The Minister remarked that on first point it should always be remembered that differences disappear immediately under external pressure as often demonstrated in history of Finland and that Swedish elements have historically taken lead in resisting Russian aggression. As to difficulties of supply these are real and serious and unquestionably people here must remain on short commons while war lasts though there is little real hunger. Efforts to exploit distress by Communist agitation would not be successful and somehow the country would get along until next harvest.

Witting made it clear that Finnish Government is fully aware of possibility of renewed Soviet aggression which depends largely upon development of the general war and on whether Russians are preoccupied at other points on their long frontiers. Circumstances may preclude new concentration of Russian power against Finland alone and Minister intimated belief that there would be no attack up to the end of next summer.

Considering fact that in past 900 years Finland and Soviet Union had been at war for a total of 92 years, Finnish opinion was always prepared for new aggression from that quarter. Finnish resistance would be able to deal with it in view of deficient Russian transportation systems provided Russian resources were not concentrated exclusively on Finland.

Answering my query as to situation so far as Sweden is concerned, the Minister said Swedish Army was now largely concentrated in the north. Opinion there had developed rapidly in recent months so that on the whole Swedes now realized that area of their relative unconcern was ended. He would venture no prediction as to Swedish attitude in event of new Russian attacks on Finland except to point to presence of bulk of Swedish military strength in north and to state that Russians considered Finnish territory in that neighborhood merely a corridor for access to mineral wealth of northern Sweden.

The view here is evidently that present situation continues to depend upon arbitrary decisions of Soviet Government following its [Page 11] estimate of its own interests at any given moment. Foreign Minister pointed out that Finnish policy is based upon avoiding provocation while firmly maintaining essential rights and preparing to defend them, adding that if a policy of supine accommodation had been followed after last March, present position of Finland would be the same as that of Baltic States. He reiterated hope of early peace among present belligerents and seemed disappointed by Under Secretary Welles’ recent speech deprecating negotiated peace.29

  1. The reference is to a speech by Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles in New York City on January 30, 1941; for text, see Department of State Bulletin, February 1, 1941, pp. 123, 125.