740.0011 Moscow/10–1843

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Charles E. Bohlen of the American Delegation

Participants: Mr. Molotov, Commissar for Foreign Affairs
The Secretary
Mr. Charles E. Bohlen
Mr. Bereskov

After an exchange of amenities in regard to the Secretary’s health and his impressions of Moscow, the Secretary inquired how Molotov felt about the progress of the Conference. Mr. Molotov replied that he was satisfied with the progress, but that we had not yet completed our very great task.

The Secretary said that he had come to Moscow for the purpose of frank and friendly discussion with the representatives of the two Governments here and that he intended to have no secrets from either of them and for this reason he had sent to the Soviet Delegation the paper in regard to our policies in Italy.52 Mr. Molotov thanked the Secretary, but said that since they had had no representative on the spot it was very difficult to obtain firsthand information; that the Soviet Government had been forced to rely on third, fourth and even tenth-hand reports in regard to developments in Italy, and that this had led to confusion.

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The Secretary replied that one of the purposes of his visit was to examine any existing misunderstandings and to work together to set up machinery which would rule on matters of common interest in order to avoid such misunderstandings in the future, to which Mr. Molotov expressed complete agreement. The Secretary then said that with good will there are no problems that could not be resolved by joint consultation and discussion provided these problems were attacked along broad lines and did not get submerged in details. He said that one of the chief purposes of our meeting here was to get ready for the meeting of the heads of state and that all other deliberations here should bear that constantly in mind and endeavor to present to the heads of state, when they meet, as clear an expression of the positions of the three Governments as was possible. The Secretary added that with this in mind the United States Delegation would have ready for distribution today a paper on Germany.53 He then inquired what the attitude of the Soviet Government was to the economic discussions which were now in progress with the British in Washington,54 to which the Soviet Government had been invited, but that up to the present no reply had been received. He added that he felt that the Soviet Government would have good reason to participate in these discussions since they were progressing and were approaching the stage where certain understandings would be reached.

Mr. Molotov replied that it was rather difficult for him to answer that question because he was not personally acquainted with the problems involved in the discussions with the British in Washington, but he knew the matter was being studied by the appropriate officials of the Soviet Government and that there would be little more delay.

The Secretary went on to say that these discussions were not only financial and economic, but that other problems were being discussed in the whole broad field of commercial policy and he had personally directed our economic experts to make a study as to the best methods of including the Soviet Union in line with our general commercial policy on a mutually profitable basis.

Mr. Molotov observed that from his brief acquaintanceship with the documents which the British and American Governments had communicated to the Soviet Government he received the impression that the question was a very complicated one and that there existed many differences in opinion, some large and some less important between the British and American Governments on these [Page 615] questions. He repeated that these matters were being studied by the Soviet Government.

The Secretary then said that if matters such as these and other problems for carrying on into the post-war period were left until the end of the war it would be very difficult to get the unified support of public opinion in many democratic countries, such as, for example, the Latin American countries. He said that the end of the war would probably be followed by many divisions of opinion among groups in the various countries concerned and that the peoples of the United Nations would not be as united as they are now. He felt that it was very important for us now to take advantage of that unity brought on by the war, in order to apply that unity to the solution of post-war problems. Mr. Molotov agreed. The Secretary continued that at the end of the last war there had been great changes in a number of important countries, and, in his opinion, at the end of the present war there would be from ten to fifteen countries going through the same process, many without adequate food and in no condition to guide themselves along the proper channels. He repeated that he felt there would be many nations without adequate food for their people. He said that he had participated in some of the discussions with President Wilson at the end of the last war and he had seen how catastrophically events had developed and that he had been tempted to convey to the British his belief that this time the United States was prepared to play its part in the post-war world, but had waited until he was reasonably certain that this was true and could be conveyed both to the British and Soviet Governments at this meeting. The Secretary then inquired if it was agreeable to Mr. Molotov to hear these general expressions and views.

Mr. Molotov replied that it was not only agreeable but that he warmly welcomed them. The Secretary then outlined in general terms his views as to the importance of developing the closest relations and confidence between our two countries, since he was convinced that if we could emphasize to both our peoples that they are in fact allies and comrades in the common struggle that nothing could prevent their becoming fast friends. Mr. Molotov entirely agreed.

The Secretary added that he felt that by concerted efforts this situation could be further developed, since our two peoples had many things in common: they shared in large measure the same tastes, the same jokes and in general were very congenial. The Secretary then went on to say that speaking frankly, as must be the case between friends, one of our difficulties had come from the efforts to promote communism in the United States from abroad and also the question of religion in the Soviet Union. He added that happily in recent [Page 616] months steps had been taken to improve this situation. Mr. Molotov smiled and replied that he did not see why the United States had any reason to fear the forcible imposition of communism. In regard to religion he could say that the widespread opinion in regard to religious matters in the Soviet Union was different than actually existed in fact and he was inclined to believe that this opinion was based on prejudice rather than knowledge.

The Secretary stated that certain religious elements in the United States and elsewhere and people with strong religious beliefs may put the wrong interpretation on religious events in the Soviet Union. That was one reason why he felt that the exchange of information in regard to our countries was so important. He went on to say that Mr. Molotov was right in his observations that there was little danger that communism would be established in the United States, but that what he really was referring to was the extreme opposition among the American people to what they regarded as attempts from outside to interfere in the internal affairs of the United States, and that this belief played into the hands of agitators who were attempting to stir up trouble.

Mr. Molotov remarked that he did not quite fully understand what the Secretary had in mind. The Secretary replied that he meant that some communists in the United States frequently sought to give the impression that they were acting under authority from outside and that while he realized that this may not be true now it was difficult to convince the people of this. He added that he knew that this impression had caused difficulties for the Soviet Union since it had been seized upon by mean and trouble-making newspapers in the United States. Mr. Molotov then inquired what papers the Secretary had in mind, and he replied that he meant newspapers interested in fomenting difficulties.

Mr. Molotov then said that he did not think that the opinions of some newspapers were very important and so far as he was concerned they could go ahead and write all they wanted to, that frequently certain sections of the Soviet press replied in kind, but what, was important in his opinion was that the leaders of the two Governments give guidance along broad general lines. The Secretary added that it would be far better if, instead, they were urging friendship.

In conclusion, Mr. Molotov said that he had discussed with Marshal Stalin the proposed declaration regarding German atrocities and that with a few minor changes which should be made, the Marshal was favorably disposed to the proposal.

At this point Mr. Molotov remarked that it was five minutes before four and that they would have to be going to the Conference which was scheduled for four o’clock, but expressed a desire to continue the conversation with the Secretary at the latter’s convenience.

  1. Not found in Department files.
  2. Conference Document No. 20, p. 720.
  3. The informal discussions in Washington between U.S. and British economic experts had in fact ended on October 18. For a report of the topics discussed in the course of these conversations, see the memorandum printed on p. 766.