740.0011 European War 1939/20193

Memorandum by the Acting Chief of the Division of European Affairs ( Atherton ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Welles )

Mr. Welles: In his despatch no. 119 of February 2046 Ambassador Biddle has furnished us with the clearest and most detailed picture which we have thus far been able to obtain regarding the current activities of the Governments in exile in London.

It would appear from this report that the demands made by Stalin upon Eden and the lack of firmness with which the British Government has met these demands have added to the tenseness of the atmosphere in exiled government circles and have tended to turn the minds of the leaders of the exiled Governments from the task of contributing to the winning of the war to matters pertaining more directly to their own peculiar national interests.

The Ambassador’s letter to you,47 as well as his despatch, assists in portraying the almost abject fear which United Nations circles in London have of doing anything which in their opinion might give offense to the Soviet Union. Apparently the only responsible government official in London who dares to do anything which might be displeasing [Page 121] to Stalin is General Sikorski whose temerity unfortunately appears to be combined with a singular lack of astuteness and tact.

Although everyone seems to agree that the General is possessed of personal courage and integrity there seems to be little doubt that he has surrounded himself with second rate advisers, the honesty and disinterestedness of some of whom are open to question. Aroused apparently by the fact that those around him in England seemed almost paralyzed when facing the maneuvers of Stalin and apparently were unwilling to take any action to combat Stalin’s machinations, which in his opinion were designed to obtain Soviet control of Eastern Europe and to reduce Poland to the status of a Soviet dependancy, he has ill-advisedly attempted to take poorly-timed action without apparently giving sufficient consideration to what the consequences might be. His efforts to lay at this particular moment the groundwork for a European confederation free from Soviet influence are obviously doomed to failure since the leaders of the other Governments in exile do not dare to take any action which might displease the Soviet Union at a time when one of the major objectives of the British Government is to keep Stalin in good humor.

The Ambassador’s report makes it clear that Beneš continues to be one of the most astute and devious politicians of Europe. His game at the present time of course is to obtain an immediate guarantee of certain Czechoslovak frontiers by all the great anti-Axis Powers. In gaining such recognition he has the support of the Soviet Government and in return is supporting certain Soviet foreign policies. He is working for an agreement between the Soviet Union, the United States, and Great Britain for an immediate definition of European frontiers because he feels that now is the proper time to obtain the most generous terms for Czechoslovakia. In connection with these activities he tries to play on both the hopes and fears of the British and American Governments. He points out that unless the British and American Governments come to a complete agreement regarding the future frontiers of Europe the Soviet Union will be the only great Power which will have a clearly defined plan of its own, and as a result will have a distinct advantage in the drawing up of the outlines of the future Europe. He apparently argues that therefore the British and American Governments must work out a plan for Europe—which it is understood has already given guarantees so far as Czechoslovakia is concerned. He takes the position that in case an agreement should be reached at once by Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union with regard to Europe, there can be a durable peace. He hints that on the other hand, if the Soviet Union should be displeased, it might proceed to carry out its own plans with regard to Europe, including an increase in the activities of the Communist International [Page 122] and a resurgence of Bolshevik revolutionary activity throughout the continent.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

From the penultimate paragraph of Mr. Biddle’s letter, it would appear that he is not in close touch with Polish circles in the United States. In this paragraph he expresses the fear that Sikorski may “launch some form of subtle anti-Russian play among the Polish-American communities in our country”. It is believed that Polish-American circles in this country are inclined in general to be much more suspicious of the Russians than Sikorski, himself, and that they have been disposed to criticize him for entering into an agreement with the Soviet Union which did not contain adequate safeguards for Poland. In fact, Sikorski in the past has been compelled to defend his actions before Polish circles in this country. For him to launch an anti-Soviet campaign in the United States just now among the Poles would enable his political enemies to enlarge upon their contention that he made a mistake in signing the Polish-Soviet Agreement

From various sources we have indications that the British are, however, somewhat disturbed lest the General, while in this country, make certain statements which will tend to cause dissatisfaction among Polish and other Eastern European groups in this country with recent trends in British Foreign policies.

R[ay] A[therton]
  1. Not printed, but see footnote 21, p. 108.
  2. Ante, p. 108.