Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Alexander Schnee of the Division of Controls

Participants: The Soviet Ambassador; Mr. Andrei A. Gromyko, Counselor; Mr. Konstantin Lukashev, President and Chairman of the Board of Amtorg Trading Corp; Mr. Paul Seldiakov, Vice President Amtorg Trading Corp; Mr. Acheson; Mr. Curtis; Mr. Schnee.

The Ambassador called at his request to discuss various questions of secondary importance in connection with the exportation from the [Page 791] United States of articles and materials needed for the defense of the Soviet Union.

1. Technical Assistant Contracts RCA and Wright.

The Ambassador said that it was a matter of considerable annoyance to him that at a time when all the Soviets were putting forth every effort they could in defense of their country that twenty-five technicians assigned to the RCA36 and Wright37 plants should be idle, owing to the fact that the Soviet Government had not as yet been able to enter into contracts with these companies which would furnish the Soviets with technical assistance and would permit the abovementioned technicians to enter the plants of these companies in order that they may learn the technical processes involved. The Ambassador stated that a week has now passed in which no action has been taken. Mr. Acheson replied that while no decision had been transmitted to the Ambassador, action had been taken and that this question was now under consideration and he hoped to have a reply from the Army and Navy soon. In reply to the Ambassador’s statement to the effect that Mr. Welles had informed him that a favorable reply could be anticipated, Mr. Acheson said that while he hoped very much that the reply would be favorable, he could not state definitely at this time that it would be.

2. Machine Tools in Possession of British Purchasing Commission.

Mr. Oumansky said that he was informed that, as a result of having taken over French orders at the time that nation capitulated,38 the British Purchasing Commission had a supply of machine tools which they could not use. He said that his Government would like the opportunity of inspecting these machines in order that they may determine whether they could be fitted into the needs of his Government and that he hoped that arrangements might be made whereby those machines which could be used would be released for shipment to the Soviet Union. The Ambassador said that agents of the Soviet Government had called on Mr. Britton, head of the Machine Tool Division of the Office of Production Management, but that he had refused to reveal the specifications of these machines. Mr. Acheson said that he would have action begun immediately with a view toward determining which of these machines could be released.

3. Tankers.

Mr. Acheson informed the Ambassador that, according to present information, the two tankers Collier and Berg were not available. [Page 792] Mr. Curtis requested information with respect to the number and capacity of Soviet tanks [tankers] which would be available and also inquired as to the way the gasoline would be used in order that it might be determined whether shipments could be made in drums or in bulk.

4. Ultimate Use of Articles or Materials Needed in the Soviet Union.

The Ambassador took advantage of the opportunity presented by Mr. Curtis’ inquiries to request that during these negotiations the question of ultimate use of equipment in the Soviet Union not be raised in advance. Mr. Acheson replied that the question of ultimate use must be raised, in as much as we would be setting aside other vital orders and therefore must be sure that we are making the best use of our productive capacity and stressed the fact that the President requested that emphasis be put on materials which could be speedily delivered. Mr. Acheson said that it did not seem advisable at this time to give consideration to long term projects which would take several years to complete and which were not directly connected with the immediate war effort. Mr. Lukashev said that List 1 had been compiled following the outbreak of hostilities and represented the first list of items which Moscow had requested as being directly connected with the war effort. Mr. Oumansky said that he appreciated the desire of this Government to make the most advantageous use of its materials and productive capacity but that circumstances made it necessary for him to accept the decisions laid down in Moscow with respect to the need and best use of articles and materials requested by his Government. Mr. Acheson pointed out that in the Soviet Union, just as in the United States, decisions had to be made with respect to the allocating of materials to one particular industry or another. Mr. Oumansky said that all information available to the Embassy would be made available to the Department but that he could not institute a practice of telegraphing Moscow for detailed information with respect to all articles ordered, as this would necessitate a tremendous volume of correspondence. Mr. Acheson replied that it would be sufficient for the Ambassador to make available to the Department all the information which was available in the Embassy. Mr. Oumansky said that in special cases he would be willing to cable for detailed information with respect to the ultimate use of the equipment.

The Ambassador stated that Moscow was constantly pressing for all the items on List 2 and especially for the brass strips.

6[sic]. List 1.

Mr. Acheson said that with respect to the items on this list:

No answer had been received from the Soviets with respect to their desire to purchase in the United States one of the four tire factories believed to be available.
That engineers were examining the request for the cracking and toluol plant with a view to determining the possible delivery dates.
Toluol shipments were being scheduled but that purchases would have to be made from the United States Government and not in the market, and
That with respect to machine tools and presses, all the available capacity was taken by the British and United States defense orders and that it was now a question of determining whether it would be possible to divert any of these orders.

Alexander Schnee
  1. Radio Corporation of America.
  2. Wright Aeronautical Corporation, at Paterson, New Jersey.
  3. France signed an armistice on June 22, 1940. For correspondence regarding the military defeat and collapse of France, see Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. i, pp. 217 ff.