740.0011 European War 1939/7712: Telegram

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

49. In a conversation which Benton26 had yesterday with Cretzianu, the Secretary General of the Foreign Office, the latter observed most emphatically that he did not believe a German-Russian war likely either now or in the near future. He could not see what interest Germany would have in starting such a war, and on the other hand Russia was at the moment and probably would remain so for some time, manifestly incapable, from the military point of view, of initiating a conflict with Germany. He said that the British would like nothing better than to see the Germans and Russians embroiled and for that reason, if for no other, he felt that Germany would do everything possible to keep the peace with Russia.

In reply to the question as to the reason for the large German troop concentrations on the Rumanian-Bulgarian frontier Cretzianu said [Page 281] that he did not necessarily consider the presence of German troops on that frontier or elsewhere in Rumania of any particular significance. His view is that German plans are for the moment amorphous and that Germany is merely keeping a large number of troops in Rumania in order to be prepared for all eventualities.

Nevertheless, Benton got the strong impression that Cretzianu feels that if the German troops now in Rumania are going to become active in the near future their activity will take them to the south and not to the east. In this connection Cretzianu pointed to the fact that Bulgaria was maintaining troops both on her Greek and Turkish frontiers but none facing Rumania. This, he said, might either mean that Bulgaria does not fear a German invasion either peaceful or otherwise, or that Bulgaria has already consented to the entrance of German troops and is merely waiting for Germany to decide when to move them in. He added that he had no idea which of these suppositions might eventually prove correct. In parentheses I may say that British Intelligence were given credence to a report reaching it of definite promise of armed support made in the past few days by Russia to Bulgaria.

Cretzianu further expressed the opinion that Germany would not attack Turkey, although he admitted that the Turks might consider a German occupation of Bulgaria a casus belli. He said that in his opinion Germany would have nothing to gain by occupying Istanbul—the closing of the Straits would be to no purpose unless Germany was intent on making war on Russia—and that a German advance through Turkey, Syria and Palestine towards Egypt was obviously out of the question. He seems to feel that if Bulgaria was occupied by German troops the latter might then be expected to proceed against Greece.

The question of General Antonescu’s recent visit to Hitler27 also came up but Cretzianu had little to say on this subject; merely that Fabricius, the German Minister, had also returned and that Von Killinger, his successor, would probably arrive in Bucharest next week.

Cretzianu also said that he had no idea when a new Foreign Minister would be appointed and that General Antonescu was still in charge of the Foreign Office and proving a very exactive chief. He added that the General was interesting himself more than was to be expected in details of the administration of the Foreign Office and that in consequence he, Cretzianu, was spending much of his time supplying him with memoranda on all sorts of trivial matters.

  1. J. Webb Benton, First Secretary of Legation in Rumania.
  2. On the occasion of Rumania’s adherence by special protocol of November 23, 1940, to the Tripartite Pact of September 27, 1940.