740.0011 European War 1939/12615: Telegram

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

1244. My 1237, June 27, 7 p.m.46 I saw the British Ambassador yesterday afternoon immediately after he had seen Molotov. Cripps told me that he had presented the members of the British Military and Economic Missions to Molotov whom he described as having been “pale, nervous and obviously shaken”.

Although this was the initial formal contact between the Soviet authorities and the British Missions and was Cripps’ first conversation with Molotov in several months, the latter gave no indication of having anything to say either to Cripps or the members of the Missions [Page 177] with the result that the interview ended without any effort by Molotov to discuss the objectives of the Missions or anything else.

Cripps told me that he was endeavoring to arrange for the Military Mission to confer with the Soviet military authorities but that no appointment had as yet been made. I understand, however, that the Mission is now in contact with the appropriate authorities.

I told Cripps I assumed the Military Mission would impress upon the Russians the necessity of maintaining an eastern front by retreating even to the Urals, if necessary, rather than allow their armies to be encircled and bring about a complete collapse, Cripps remarked, in this connection, “It would be frightful if the Russians should collapse. That would mean an attempt at invasion of Britain in September.”

He said the Russians had been taken by surprise as they had considered the German moves as preparation for negotiations which the Russians felt confident they could prolong sufficiently to cover their final preparations. (One of our Embassy clerks who has just returned from Sochi, a resort on the Black Sea, states that there were several thousand Soviet Army officers there on vacation when the war began.)

Cripps said that he did not contemplate the fall of Moscow under 60 days, to which I replied that it seemed to me by no means impossible that this might occur much earlier, so that the removal of the Government from Moscow might soon be considered, and drew attention to the importance of preparing in advance for such a contingency47 in order that when it took place it should not cause confusion and panic.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Concerning plans for the possible removal of the American Embassy from Moscow, see telegram No. 549, March 20, telegram No. 889, April 30, an unnumbered telegram, June 23, and telegram No. 1231, June 26, from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union, pp. 874, 879, 885 and 886, respectively.