Hull Papers

The Adviser on Political Relations (Hornbeck) to the Secretary of State

Mr. Secretary: Herewith a memorandum prepared by FE, in consultation with officers of Eu and of PA/H, in response to a question which you put to me a few days ago and to which I made at the moment a tentative oral reply: “What do the Russians want in the Far East?”.

S[tanley] K H[ornbeck]

Memorandum by Messrs. Joseph W. Ballantine and Max W. Bishop, of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs

strictly confidential

U.S.S.R. Aims in the Far East


The fundamental aims in the Far East of the Soviet Union do not differ from its aims in Europe, in the Near East, or in other areas [Page 628] adjacent to or near the U.S.S.R. The perhaps primary motivating factor in Soviet policy is a natural desire to promote national security.

The Soviet Government has as one of its paramount political objectives the creation of well disposed and ideologically sympathetic governments in nearby areas. As outstanding examples we have the Soviet Union’s infiltration into Outer Mongolia (where a Soviet Government has been created) and its influence in Sinkiang and among the so-called Chinese Communists in northwest China. It is believed that Korean guerrillas operating in Manchuria have close Soviet connections.

The Soviet Government has a deep organic suspicion of any and all non-Soviet governments. This suspicion gives rise to determined efforts to bring neighboring governments and peoples into Soviet Russia’s orbit, to exercise control over them, and to influence and gain control of radical social and economic movements.

The Soviet Government still has a strong desire for warm water ports. It is to be expected, therefore, that one of its basic objectives in the Far East is to obtain access to the Pacific through a port or ports in north China or in Korea. The Soviet Union would probably be satisfied if such port or ports were under a government subservient to the Soviet Union. As a corollary to this objective, we may also expect Soviet Russia to desire transit privileges via the railways across Manchuria to a warm water port or ports and to Vladivostok.


So long as the military situation in Europe is such as to require the concentration of practically all of the offensive strength of the U.S.S.R. against Germany, it is probable that the implementation of Soviet policies in the Far East will be confined for the most part to political measures—including especially propaganda and intrigue. In the meantime the Soviet Government will take full advantage of every possible opportunity to prepare for more positive action in the future.

It is likely that the Soviet Union will at some time in the future depart from its present policy of not offering material assistance in substantial amounts to the Chinese Communists and of not openly opposing the Japanese. It is notable that while the Soviet Union remains engaged in Europe on the present scale it will continue to follow a policy of expedient stability in its relations with Japan and of maintaining at least openly a neutral attitude between the Chinese Communists and the Kuomintang.

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One effect of peace in Europe will be to strengthen Soviet Russia’s hand in the Far East.

Areas in the Far East where there exist social unrest and political instability, conducive to radical political and social movements, are likely to furnish fertile fields for the extension of Soviet influence. Such a development might take the form not of a positive move on the part of the Soviet Government with the objective of territorial aggrandizement but of gravitation by the peoples of those areas toward the Soviet Union in consequence of their dissatisfaction with their condition under the governments to which they have been and are subject. There will of course be a natural tendency on the part of the authorities in the areas concerned, such as in China, to blame those developments on Moscow rather than on their own failure to deal effectively with social unrest.

It is to be expected that the Soviet Union will seek to have an important voice in any conference in relation to the settlement of Far Eastern affairs and to influence post-war settlements relating to the Far East in a way favorable to the realization of fundamental Soviet desiderata. The Soviet Union will probably seek to gain control of or to create Sovietized governments among the peoples of Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Korea and possibly other areas in the Western Pacific; in the matter of influence, Soviet desires would include substantial influence in and over Japan.

Should the Soviet Union, as is likely, enter the war against Japan in its later stages, she would probably endeavor to send troops into Manchuria, southern Sakhalin and Korea. Were she to achieve this, she would probably make demands for some territorial and/or administrative advantages in those areas for Soviet account; but this is problematical.

Should the Soviet Union not actively enter the war against Japan, it still probably would wish to move into areas, if any, in north China and possibly Korea, where a political vacuum might have been created by the defeat of Japan.

(The foregoing estimate takes no account of the possibility of a separate peace between Germany and the U.S.S.R. Should a separate peace be made between these two countries more active Soviet interference in China might well be forthcoming, as well as efforts to bring about peace between Japan and China in order for obvious reasons to prolong Japan’s war with the United States and Great Britain.)

Existing conditions in China and the probable conditions throughout the Far East at the end of the war make it likely that the Soviet Union will be in a strong position toward achieving its fundamental aims in regard to those areas.