740.0011 Pacific War/1065

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

The Ambassador of Soviet Russia called at my request. He stated that earlier today he had conferred with Harry Hopkins34 in regard to our policy of carrying out fully our Lease-Lend allocations to Russia for war purposes. He then said that he came in contact with the President during this visit to Hopkins and that they talked over the situation in regard to cooperation between the United States and Russia and other countries opposing Germany, Japan and Italy in the world war. Without going into detail concerning the conversation between himself and the President, he proceeded to say that he had received the final decision of his Government today and that it was not in a position to cooperate with us at present in the Japanese Far Eastern area; that his Government is fighting on a huge scale against Germany and that to take part with us in the Far East would mean a prompt attack by Japan, which would result in serious fighting on two fronts by Russia. In those circumstances his Government felt that it should obtain better and more secure control of the situation over Germany in Europe and the west. This was the substance of his contention, which was rather positively stated.

I replied that, of course, if his Government has its mind made up about the matter, there is not much more to be said at this time. I stated that during last January information that I considered absolutely reliable came to me to the effect that Hitler would attack Russia sometime around May of this year. I had requested Mr. Welles to convey that fact to the Soviet Government35—a fact, however, that they did not accredit at the time. I added that I now have information I deem equally reliable to the effect that Japan, notwithstanding the terms of the Russo-Japanese neutrality agreement,36 is now under the strictest commitment to Germany to attack Russia and any other country fighting against Germany, whenever Hitler demands that Japan do so, and that this arrangement contemplated that Japan would first attack the United States and Germany and Italy would join, and that at a given time later—at any time demanded by Germany, in fact—Japan would carry out this agreement to attack Russia.

[Page 743]

The Ambassador seemed very much interested in this but still did not seriously attempt to discuss it, although indicating that he did not doubt the truth of it. I said that, of course, this is a world movement in its practical effects and that these international desperadoes, operating together in all mutually desirable respects, will not cease their movements of conquest voluntarily; that somebody must stop them; that they will not be stopped by merely slowing down one phase of this world movement and world combination of invaders; that, therefore, if this world movement and method of resisting and suppressing it is to be dealt with effectively, it must be considered as a whole and the fact must be realized that the movement of resistance must be carried on in each part of the world at the same time. He did not disagree with this.

I then said that if this Government could get two air bases, one on the Kamchatka Peninsula and one around Vladivostok, our heavy bombers could get over Japanese home naval bases and the home fleet, as well as over the cities. The Ambassador did not argue the former but suggested that bombing of cities did not necessarily settle the matter in view of experiences in Moscow, London and other cities.

I emphasized the extreme importance right now and each day hereafter of obtaining these two bases for the purpose of permitting our aircraft to operate over all portions of Japan from the air. I said that we could scarcely do so without them, and that, therefore, it is a matter of very great importance to the present resistance to Japan by us—that, in fact, there is no substitute for effective attacks just now when compared with the injury that we could and would inflict from the air.

The Ambassador then inquired whether Singapore could defend itself successfully in the present circumstances, to which I replied that forces from all of the other countries, from Australia across to Singapore and to the Philippines were unifying themselves and coming to the aid of Singapore and that probably they would be able to hold out successfully. The Ambassador inquired if they had a unified command over there, to which I replied that there was the fullest confidence among staff officers and others in each of the countries interested, which was the next thing to unified command but, of course, is not that in some respects.

I again brought up quite a number of circumstances and conditions illustrating the world nature of this movement of conquest and the extreme dangers of more and more cooperation between Japan and Germany, such as the possibility of the Japanese fleet going across the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf oil fields, to the mouth of the Canal, to the Cape of Good Hope, and, if Germany should be successful in her contemplated African invasion, Japan on the sea would meet her on the African Coast, extending up towards French Africa, [Page 744] and that the effect of this on the whole British European situation would be terrific, with the result that Hitler and Japan would have a new lease on life, the effects of which would be terrible on all of us, including Russia. The Ambassador nodded his head and spoke in the affirmative but did not discuss these views.

Throughout the conversation I constantly came back to the point that if Russia should refrain from cooperation with us in the East while we continue to aid her, there will be a constant flow of criticism about why we are aiding Russia in a world movement involving all alike and Russia in turn is not cooperating with us in the Far East. I said I issued a statement today37 in an effort to allay some of this very kind of rising criticism and that it will become an increasingly serious matter for both governments.

After bringing this up several times, the Ambassador always agreeing, I finally remarked that it is highly important for some kind of formula to be worked out in regard to what each government is doing and should do and that at present I am unable to formulate a statement on this subject, which is a most difficult thing to do.

The Ambassador inquired if I had any suggestions or propositions to offer on this or in a general way. I replied that since he informed me that the President and he have gone over these phases I need not go into them now. I then added that, having just arrived here on Sunday, there has been no time before today for him to get settled and find out something about the general situation from his Government preliminary to a conversation between us touching such matters as cooperation in the war against the Tripartite group, and since his Government has made up its mind on the governing question, there is not much, as far as I can see, for me to take up with him just now. I then invited him to keep this question of cooperation in the East, as well as in the West, especially in mind and lend his cooperation to improve the situation in these respects because it will call for every possible attention as we go along hereafter.

C[ordell] H[ull]
  1. Harry L. Hopkins, Special Assistant to President Roosevelt.
  2. See memorandum of March 20 by Mr. Welles, Department of State, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1981–1941 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1943), p. 638; see also Memoirs of Cordell Hull (New York, The Macmillan Company, 1948), vol. ii, p. 968.
  3. See telegram No. 763, April 13, 11 p.m., from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union, p. 944.
  4. Department of State Bulletin, December 13, 1941, p. 506.