740.0011 European War 1939/12959

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

Lord Halifax called to see me this morning at his request.

The Ambassador discussed the developments between Germany and Russia at some length. The possibilities involved therein which he foresaw were more or less the same as those which we here have in mind.

I took occasion to express to him my hope that in whatever arrangements Great Britain might make with the Soviet Union, anything in the nature of a formal alliance would be avoided because of the Japanese angle of the problem. I said that it was my own belief that Japan sooner or later would attack Russia in view of the German attack upon her, and that if anything in the nature of a formal alliance were concluded between the Soviet Union and Great Britain, if Japan attacked Russia, it would automatically bring Japan into conflict with Great Britain. I said it seemed to me that the wise policy for both the United States and Great Britain to pursue was a policy of expediency based upon a mere recognition of the fact that both Great Britain and the Soviet Union were at war with Germany, but that anything more far-reaching than that, unless subsequent developments made us change our mind, would seem to me ill-advised at this stage, particularly until we saw far more clearly than we now do what the Japanese course of policy may be.

Lord Halifax said he agreed most emphatically with this line of reasoning and that he assumed that his Government would adopt that course. He seemed confident that the development would be of benefit to Great Britain, although he envisaged the probability that if [Page 276] and when Germany defeated Russia, Hitler would then present a plausible peace proposal based upon the fact that he had defeated communism and established a new order in Europe and was no longer anxious to continue hostilities against Great Britain, or undertake them with the United States.