Memorandum by Mr. Edward Page, Jr., of the Division of European Affairs to the Assistant Secretary of State ( Shaw )

Mr. Shaw: We have given careful consideration to the attached letter from the Navy Department76 regarding the appointment of two Naval Attachés to our Embassy at Moscow. You will note from the attached file77 that this question was thoroughly discussed in 1938 and that at that time Mr. Messersmith78 informed Admiral Holmes of O. N. I.79 that although this Department would not object in principle to a Naval Attaché being sent to Moscow, in practice it would prefer not to have such request presented to the Department as we did not believe a Naval Attaché could perform any really useful service in Moscow and as the appointment of one could only complicate our housing and general problem in that city. The reasons set [Page 879] forth in Mr. Messersmith’s and Mr. Moffat’s80 memoranda, as attached,81 for discouraging the Navy from making such a request are still valid today. At the present time there is an extreme shortage of housing in Moscow and the Soviet Government has thus far not been disposed to grant to our Embassy adequate living and office facilities. Furthermore, the exchange problem is very difficult in view of the ruble rate recently established for diplomatic missions, and the establishment and maintenance of a new office would greatly add to the overhead of our Embassy. It would also burden to a much greater extent the already difficult administrative problems of the Embassy concerning food and other supplies, Customs facilities, visas, et cetera. In addition, it will be recalled that following the termination in 1935 of the unsuccessful negotiations over the settlement of the Russian debts and claims,82 the position of Assistant Naval Attaché to our Embassy in Moscow was abolished on the grounds that such action would be to the public interest.83 It would now be inopportune for us to attempt to enlarge our representation in Moscow by the establishment of an office for a Naval Attaché in view of the present status of American-Soviet relations.84

We believe that it would be advisable to acquaint the Navy orally, as was done in 1938 by Mr. Messersmith, with the reasons why we do not wish a Naval Attaché appointed to Moscow at this time, and to request the Navy to withdraw their letter of April 15. If agreeable to you, we suggest that a conference be arranged through U-L85 between appropriate officers of the State and Navy Departments in order to discuss this question. You may wish to take this matter up personally with Captain Kirk, the present Chief of the O. N. I., or you may desire to request Mr. Welles to discuss the matter with higher officials of the Navy Department.

E. P[age]
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not filed with this memorandum.
  3. George S. Messersmith, at that time Assistant Secretary of State.
  4. Office of Naval Intelligence.
  5. J. Pierrepont Moffat, at that time Chief of the Division of European Affairs.
  6. Not filed with this memorandum.
  7. See Foreign Relations, The Soviet Union, 1933–1939, pp. 166 ff.
  8. See ibid., p. 177.
  9. For correspondence regarding these relations, see pp. 667 ff.
  10. Liaison Office, Under Secretary of State.