740.0011 European War 1939/11918: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

2394. For the Secretary and Under Secretary. 1. Mr. Eden sent for me this afternoon. He asked if I had any news from the Ambassador34 about his visit and what he was doing and remarked that no information had been received in the last few days from Lord Halifax which gave any indication of the next American move. I do not think Mr. Eden had anything particularly in mind but merely hoped that I might have some encouraging information to give him. He also indicated that he was reflecting the Prime Minister’s35 desire for additional light on developments in the United States. I suggested to him that the Ambassador on his return would be most likely to bring with him last-minute information on the vital questions of mutual interest to our two countries.

2. Mr. Eden told me that some 10 days ago following a statement broadcast by radio from Rome to the effect that a military alliance had been concluded between Germany and Russia, a report which was subsequently denied in Berlin, he sent for the Russian Ambassador and asked him plainly for a clear statement as to Russia’s relations with Germany and queried him about the Rome broadcast that a military alliance had been concluded between Germany and Russia, stating that denials from Berlin often meant that a thing was true. He also asked Mr. Maisky what Russia’s recent actions in Southeastern Europe meant referring to her precipitate recognition of Rashid Ali in Iraq36 and her political attitude toward Balkan States which had been occupied by Germany.37

He also queried the Ambassador as to meaning of the large German land and air forces known to be concentrated along the entire Russo-German frontier. (At the same time he had instructed the British Ambassador at Moscow to return to London for consultation and he remarked that Sir Stafford Cripps is expected here tonight.) Mr. Eden said that Mr. Maisky did not attempt to answer the questions put to him but said he would telegraph them to his Government and request instructions. Yesterday Mr. Maisky asked to see him and told him that he had received a telegram from Moscow instructing him to inform the British Government that there was no agreement either [Page 169] military or economic between Russia and Germany; that there had been mutual exchanges on certain specific commodities but that there was no general agreement. Mr. Maisky had then said, not on instructions however, but merely as his own remark, that in view of this situation the door seemed open for preliminary Anglo-Russian conversations towards an agreement, but he did not elaborate on this statement. Mr. Eden said that he felt it impossible to take what Mr. Maisky said entirely at its face value as he was often not accurately informed by his own Government; he did know as a fact, however, that Mr. Maisky received precise instructions to give him the statement that no agreement militarily or economic existed between Russia and Germany. Mr. Eden then asked the Ambassador what the reply had been to his query regarding Russia’s policy toward the countries in southeastern Europe. Maisky had nothing to reply but said again that he would telegraph his Government.

Mr. Eden next referred to his original question regarding the German military and air concentrations on the Russian frontier and asked the Ambassador what in his view it meant. The Ambassador replied that the answer to that question was contained in his statement that no military or economic agreement existed between Russia and Germany. The Ambassador did not elaborate this point.

Mr. Eden said that after his talks with Sir Stafford Cripps in the next few days he intends to see the Russian Ambassador again and that he would inform me of the result of these further talks.

The real purpose of the huge German military and air concentrations on the Russian frontier is obscure. For a time, Mr. Eden thought they were designed by Germany to lead up to some huge blackmail of Russia based on the belief that Stalin, if pressed hard enough, would give in to any German demand. Another possibility, which Mr. Eden said he is at the moment more inclined to believe the true one, is that Germany has made up her mind to go into Russia regardless and get what she wants. This explanation might account for the fact that Germany has made no real effort to oppose the British in Syria.38 According to Foreign Office information, considerable German forces—more air than troops—have been very recently moved from southeastern Europe to the Russian frontier and there have likewise been withdrawals, principally of air forces, from the west toward Russia.

In conclusion, Mr. Eden said that he merely wanted to “empty his mind” on the subject of German-Russian relations and that he would be most grateful if any pertinent information which came to us might be passed on.

  1. John G. Winant, American Ambassador to the United Kingdom, temporarily in the United States.
  2. Winston Spencer Churchill.
  3. Diplomatic relations were instituted on May 12, 1941, between the Soviet Union and Iraq.
  4. For correspondence concerning the activities of the Soviet Union and Germany in the Balkan States, see pp. 272 ff.
  5. See vol. iii , section under Syria and Lebanon entitled “Interest of the United States regarding the impact of the European war upon Syria and Lebanon.”