893.24/1481: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Dooman) to the Secretary of State

5. Embassy’s 1152, December 29, 1 p.m.4

Mr. Gifford of the British Embassy now states that:
(Reference paragraph 2–e) Soviet supply officials in Iran some time ago informed British that they would prefer that the British take supplies consigned to Russia (these supplies are not connected with China) through Iranian ports all the way to Ashkhabad in order to avoid transfer at Meshed. The British agreed and requested visas for a party to survey the road between the Soviet frontier and Ashkhabad. No reply has as yet been received to this request. Embarrassed comments made by Soviet supply officials make it appear that the Commissariat for Internal Affairs has thus far not given consent to the British servicing the stretch within the Soviet Union.
(Reference paragraph 5) Information from British in Iran indicates that there would be little difficulty in making available sufficient trucks and equipment to carry up to 4,000 tons monthly from Zahidan to Ashkhabad. The Karachi–Zahidan railroad is again working. The main problem therefore is that of trucks for the Russians to service the stretch through Sinkiang and for the Chinese to service the Chinese interior.
He has received a telegram from his Government stating that it understands that the Chinese Government is requesting 4,000 trucks from the American Government to service points between eastern Sinkiang and the Chinese interior. The telegram points out that the British cannot promise at present to receive trucks in addition to those already planned for at Karachi since the Commander-in-Chief of India must have prior operational claims upon assembly facilities there and also upon ports and transport facilities. It adds that although the Chinese seem to have available no other port than Karachi for bringing in trucks for China the Russians have other routes open for supplying their needs (obviously a reference to Vladivostok).
In a subsequent telegram just received by the British Embassy the British Government states that the United States authorities are holding up the 4,000 trucks for China because they have been unable to assure themselves that a definite agreement has been concluded between Russia and China.
The situation from here appears to be somewhat as follows:
In the absence of the necessary trucks the conversations between the British and the Russians and the Chinese and the Russians have [Page 592] become rather theoretical and the whole scheme of sending supplies to China via the Near East and southern Russia is [in] danger of dying of inanition.
The difficulty with regard to trucks appears to be four-fold: (1) the inability of the Chinese to obtain an allotment from the United States authorities until definite Soviet-Chinese transit agreement has been concluded; (2) the shortage of vessels to transport them if allotted; (3) the lack of port facilities for unloading and assembling them; and (4) the lack of facilities for sending them overland to Alma Ata.
We feel strongly that if the United Nations are to send any appreciable amount of supplies to China along the route contemplated in the near future it will be necessary for them to display an amount of determination, resourcefulness and energy at least equal to that being shown at present in sending supplies to the Soviet Union. The necessary trucks should be allotted at once both to the Russians and Chinese without waiting the conclusion of formal agreements; the shipping space should be allocated; and steps should be taken immediately to begin sending them through the Near East. Although we are not acquainted with the condition of the various Iranian ports east of those now used for Russian transit traffic or with the condition of land communication between such ports and Zahidan we are wondering if United Nations ingenuity if backed by determination would not be able to land the 5,200 trucks, spare parts, assembling equipment, gasoline and so forth at one or several of these ports, to assemble these trucks at point of landing and to send them under their own power overland to Zahidan where they can be loaded with goods for China. From Zahidan they could proceed with their loads to Ashkhabad whence the Russians could transport them and their contents as fast as their railway facilities would permit to the railhead near Alma Ata. From Alma Ata they could go to China under their own power and thereafter be used either by the Russians in Sinkiang or by the Chinese in the interior of China. In referring to Iranian ports we have in mind such points as Chahbar, Jask, or Bandar Abbas.
With regard to the discussion in the preceding paragraph there are two considerations which we wish to emphasize:
If the Soviet Government were pressed to transport to Vladivostok and thence over its railways the trucks consigned to the Chinese Government it might well emphasize the importance of diverting the trucks to the European front thus defeating the objective in view.
It will be observed that the British are proceeding shortly to transport to Meshed by rail and road from Karachi goods for China on the assumption that such goods will be sent forward by the Russians in China. Until and unless the necessary conditions for maintaining the route to China can be fulfilled these goods will accumulate at Meshed thus providing the Russians with ground for urging the cessation at least temporarily of the transport of supplies for China [Page 593] and an increase of supplies to Russia. If this proposal were perforce accepted the capacity of the road between Zahidan and Meshed to carry goods for China might well be compromised. This consideration especially calls for early action on our part toward making available the necessary trucks to both the Soviet and Chinese Governments.

Repeated Chungking.