740.00119 European War 1939/1047

The Ambassador to the Polish Government in Exile (Biddle) to the Secretary of State 20

My Dear Mr. Secretary: In the thought that it might serve as a useful reference, I am sending you the attached indexed survey21 (a) on the reactions of Allied Government circles here to M. Stalin’s reported post-war ideas; and (b) on the views of leading officials of these circles on the shape of things to come.

No sooner had I found that the Polish Government had learned of M. Stalin’s post-war ideas, than I became apprehensive lest the Poles initiate some action which might prove offensive to the Russians. I had not long to wait. On March 31 General Sikorski proposed, at a lunch which he gave for the representatives of the Belgian, Greek [Page 109] and Yugoslav Governments, that a declaration be made by all Allied Governments here, looking towards post-war collaboration. The enthusiastic reception accorded his proposal on this occasion spurred him to further efforts. Unfortunately, his and his associates’ thirst for publicity resulted in a press notice the following day to effect that he had given this luncheon for the purpose of discussing a post-war European reconstruction plan.

This, in turn, drew the attention and suspicion of the Russian Embassies here and served to antagonize his colleagues in Allied governmental circles, who thus suspected Mm of seeking leadership of their circles.

Subsequently, the General and several of his associates asked me what I thought of the proposal for a declaration, stating the envisaged terms thereof, in only the most vague way. I replied that I personally believed that before launching any such move at this time, it should be put to the “acid test”: would it in any way prove offensive to the Russians?—could it be interpreted by the Russians as a move to forma bloc against them? I added that it might be best to consult the Russians themselves in the matter. I subsequently made the same reply to similar questions asked me by representatives of the Norwegian, Czechoslovak, Yugoslav and Belgian Governments.

In response to my observations on this score, the Norwegian Foreign Minister22 said that my remarks had served to convince him that his own first impression was right: he considered that the making of a declaration at this time, such as was proposed by General Sikorski, would only incite Russian suspicions; he would advise Russian authorities of his Government’s invitation to join the declaration, and of his disinclination to accept.

The Yugoslav Foreign Minister,23 in response to my observations, said that he had hitherto been in a quandary, since the Poles had urged him so strongly to join the declaration. My observations, however, had confirmed his own second thoughts in the matter. He believed, therefore, that his Government should do everything possible to dispel Russian suspicion, and, rather, to create an atmosphere of collaboration.

Judging by General Sikorski’s and his associates’ reactions, at this stage, to M. Stalin’s reported post-war intentions, I should look for them to become more and more exercised, the closer the Russians draw to the Polish border.

In this connection, I am aware that Sikorski and his associates consider British public opinion as a whole, “too much at Russia’s feet”, and that by comparison, the attitude of the “United States towards [Page 110] Russia is better balanced”; they have failed to conceal their interest in what they appraise as a “division of American opinion vis-à-vis Russia”. Accordingly, I feel it would be only a wise precaution to keep an eye open for traces of any possible attempt, inspired by Polish circles here, to exploit this aspect to the advantage of Poland’s, interests, and perhaps to the detriment of Russia in the eyes of American public opinion.

In advising this I feel that I should give you my following impressions concerning General Sikorski’s frame of mind: while he is a thoroughly honest, sincere and courageous character, he has gained, during the past few months, an inordinate ambition, and thirst for publicity. He pictures himself on the one hand as the leader of postwar Poland, on the other hand, now that France has disappeared as a dominant influence on the continent, the leader of continental Europe. I mention the foregoing because I feel that his ambitions, his thirst for publicity, and his characteristically Polish suspicions of Russia, might possibly some day cloud his otherwise comparatively clear perspective—and lead him to permit some of his compatriots to launch some form of subtle anti-Russian play amongst the Polish-American community in our country.

I believe you might be interested in reading Dr. Beneš’24 views, pages 7 to 11, and General Sikorski’s views, pages 18 to 20—also my observations as to the differences between their respective opinions, page 30.25

With warmest regards and every good wish, I am

Yours faithfully,

Anthony Biddle, Jr.
  1. Ambassador Biddle sent an identical letter; to the Under Secretary of State on the same date.
  2. This survey was the Ambassador’s Polish Series despatch No. 119 of February 20, 1942; not printed.
  3. Trygve Halvdan Lie.
  4. Momtchilo Nintchitch.
  5. Eduard Beneš, President of the Czechoslovak National Committee in London.
  6. On p. 30 of his despatch under reference, Ambassador Biddle expressed these observations regarding the views held by Beneš and Sikorski:

    “While Beneš and Sikorski share the view that an agreement between the United States and Britain as to a post-war European reconstruction plan is a pre-requisite to an understanding between these two major powers and Russia, they differ as to the methods and timing of procedure. Beneš would like to see early three-cornered conversations after the Americans and British had agreed upon a plan. Sikorski would like to see an early Anglo-American agreement on a European post-war plan, but he considers it would be better to wait and see the turn of events in the spring, before these two powers discussed such a plan with Russia.

    “Sikorski, characteristic of the attitude of his Government as a whole, would like to see built up in the quickest possible order, a great cooperative power with western support. Beneš, on the other hand, wishing to dispel Russian suspicions, tries discreetly to soft-pedal any moves by his colleagues which might prove offensive to the Russians, hoping meanwhile that after the major western powers might have agreed upon a post-war European plan, they would enter into conversations with Russia looking towards a durable peace. Accordingly, he endeavors to exercise a quiet, restraining influence on any discernible tendency on part of the Poles to give vent to their recurrent waves of distrust of Russia. On the other hand, Beneš in his cautiousness, is at times apt to strike Sikorski as being unduly passive.” (740.0011 European War 1939/20193)