Hopkins Papers

The Executive of the Presidents Soviet Protocol Committee (Burns) to the Presidents Sfecial Assistant (Hopkins)1


Memorandum for Mr. Hopkins

Subject: Russia.

1. A very high level United States military strategic estimate of Russia reads as follows:2

Russia’s Position 2 August, 1943.

“Russia’s position in War II is in marked contrast with that which she occupied in War I. She had collapsed before the termination of [Page 625] War I and had no effect whatsoever in the final defeat of Germany, which was accomplished by the Allies without her assistance. In War II Russia occupies a dominant position and is the decisive factor looking toward the defeat of the Axis in Europe. While in Sicily the forces of Great Britain and the United States are being opposed by 2 German divisions, the Russian front is receiving attention of approximately 200 German divisions. Whenever the Allies open a second front on the Continent, it will be decidedly a secondary front to that of Russia; theirs will continue to be the main effort. Without Russia in the war, the Axis cannot be defeated in Europe, and the position of the United Nations becomes precarious.

“Similarly, Russia’s post-war position in Europe will be a dominant one. With Germany crushed, there is no power in Europe to oppose her tremendous military forces. It is true that Great Britain is building up a position in the Mediterranean vis-a-vis Russia that she may find useful in balancing power in Europe. However, even here she may not be able to oppose Russia unless she is otherwise supported.

“The conclusions from the foregoing are obvious. Since Russia is the decisive factor in the war, she must be given every assistance and every effort must be made to obtain her friendship. Likewise, since without question she will dominate Europe on the defeat of the Axis, it is even more essential to develop and maintain the most friendly relations with Russia.

Finally, the most important factor the United States has to consider in relation to Russia is the prosecution of the war in the Pacific. With. Russia as an ally in the war against Japan, the war can be terminated in less time and at less expense in life and resources than if the reverse were the case. Should the war in the Pacific have to be carried on with an unfriendly or a negative attitude on the part of Russia, the difficulties will be immeasurably increased and operations might become ‘abortive.”

2. The conclusion reached is that Russia is so necessary to victory and peace that we must give her maximum assistance and make every effort to develop and maintain the most friendly relations with her.

3. As you know, we are sending to Russia about the maximum amount of supplies that can be delivered by way of the Pacific and the Persian Gulf routes. Atlantic convoys to North Russia would permit us to send additional supplies. Assistance in the form of military action is in other hands.

4. With reference to the question of friendly relations, the above conclusion apparently conforms to the President’s position for, in his recent speech, and referring to Russia, he stated:

“… This country should always be glad to be a good neighbor and a sincere friend in the world of the future.”3

5. The question is—how can we establish and maintain such friendly relations?

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It is believed they are dependent upon a number of steps, taken from day to day, which will constantly prove to Russia that we are genuinely anxious to be a real and sincere friend, not only in the present conflict but for many years to come.

The task is not too difficult, for the great masses of the Russian people admire and respect America and are instinctively friendly to us. It is believed they will respond generously to generous treatment by us.

Of course, we should neither do nor promise anything that is not in the interests of the United States or that is not in harmony with our principles and policies.


a. We now have a number of United States representatives in contact with Russian representatives who do not trust Russia and who do not follow a national policy of the “good neighbor and a sincere friend” to Russia. They obviously do not develop mutual trust and friendliness. These should either be replaced or they should be required to pledge loyal support to the above policy.

b. The recent public criticism of Russia by our Ambassador in Moscow with reference to her failure to acknowledge lend-lease aid4 and its resultant worldwide publicity had the effect of branding her as an ingrate before the world. The incident is believed to have left a scar because it hurt Russia’s pride. Very little has been done to correct this diplomatic mistake, although in fairness it should be admitted that the results were not all bad. While in Moscow, the Ambassador told me he had written the President to the effect that he did not desire to spend another winter in Russia. It is believed he should be succeeded by a top level civilian Ambassador who advocates the policy of the “good neighbor and sincere friend”.

c. It is suspected that Russia feels England has established a position of such close relationship to America that it is quite difficult for us to treat Russia and England on a basis of equality. It is believed to be important that we maintain a reasonably independent position so that we can treat both of these countries as good neighbors and sincere friends and give fair consideration to the positions, aims and aspirations of both.

d. Speeches are sometimes made by high officials that we are fighting this war to eliminate dictatorships.

Russia is a dictatorship—perhaps the most complete one the world has ever known. Russia is very proud of the achievements of her dictatorship and, in truth, without it Germany would probably have won the war.

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e. Admiral King recently made a simple but effective statement with reference to Russia. He said in substance that Russia, because of her geographical position, is carrying the great part of the war against Germany and we must therefore send to her all of the supplies we can and, in addition, must take military steps that will withdraw from her front the maximum amount of German strength. Such a statement is sure to help establish a feeling of friendship in Russia towards the American Navy.

It is suggested that General Marshall send a telegram to the Red Army Chief of Staff congratulating the Red Army on its many achievements and recent victories and supporting the commitments made by Admiral King. This should tend to establish a friendly feeling towards the American Army.

f. One of the sore points with Russia is North Atlantic convoys. It is believed that heroic efforts should be made to send such convoys. It is realized this is primarily a British problem but Admiral King’s statement indicates he might advocate and even assist such an effort.

g. A frank and thorough discussion between top level United States and U.S.S.R. representatives with reference to war and post war aims should be very helpful, but it is realized that several unsuccessful efforts to arrange such a conference have been made. Perhaps further efforts are justified.

J H Burns

Major General, U.S. Army
  1. According to Sherwood, p. 748, Hopkins had this paper with him at the Quebec Conference.
  2. The primary source for this quotation has not been found in Department of Defense files and appears not to have been a formal official position. See Department of Defense, The Entry of the Soviet Union Into the War Against Japan: Military Plans, 1941–1945 (Washington, 1955), p. 20, fn. 5.
  3. Ellipsis in the source text. The quoted passage is from a “fireside chat” broadcast by Roosevelt on July 28, 1943. See Rosenman, p. 331.
  4. For the text of the remarks on this subject made by Ambassador Standley in a press conference of March 8, 1943, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iii, pp. 631632.