740.00112 European War 1939/7931: Telegram

The Minister in Sweden ( Johnson ) to the Secretary of State

688. I went with Canfield this afternoon when he called on Boheman immediately before his departure for London to say goodbye and to thank him for hospitality and courtesies extended to him and his mission while in Sweden. Boheman asked Canfield if he was satisfied with what Swedish statisticians had been able to give him. Canfield replied that he felt they had been given very full information and were grateful for Swedish help and for what must have been very considerable labor.

Boheman then made a brief statement regarding Swedish position with respect to forthcoming London negotiations. Line he took was similar to that which Canfield reported from his talk with Hägglöf21 (see my 687 of March 2, 7 p.m.22) but was stated with greater precision. [Page 752] Boheman said that whole basis of Swedish Government’s policy was to survive present world conflict; that mainspring of their dealings with Germany had been entirely on a basis of hard bargaining; that if United States and Great Britain should present demands, in connection with London negotiations for basic rations for Sweden, which it would be impossible for Swedes to perform, there was no need their sending a delegation to London. He said that Sweden was compelled to keep her industries going in order to provide employment for her people; that certain commodities especially coal were an absolute necessity for this program and could only be received from Germany as Great Britain and United States were in no position to take Germany’s place. From Swedish point of view he does not think we have any adequate reply for this.

If Swedish exports to Germany were made without necessary quid pro quo of imports from Germany then Great Britain and United States might have a basis on which to talk. But such is not the case. If Sweden should accede to an American-British demand for drastic curtailment of, for example, iron ore shipments, Germany would immediately stop shipments of coal which are now being given as a quid pro quo for iron ore, as well as close permanently Göteborg traffic, and any offsetting advantage which might be conceded by United States and Great Britain would thus be completely nullified. He emphasized that all imports into Sweden must go through double blockade. He said he fully realized that Swedish exports to Germany could not be pleasing to United States and Great Britain but that if Sweden was to survive as a going concern she could not upset her hard-won trade agreement with Germany, which has already been fixed for 1943, without completely disrupting her economy and producing a situation which no decision, however generous, taken by United States and Great Britain at London negotiations, could offset. He reiterated Hägglöf’s request that before Swedish delegation leaves for London some statement of basic American requirements as a starting point for negotiations be telegraphed me for communication to the Foreign Office. He expressed hope that both United States and Great Britain would realize realities of Swedish position and not force an issue at London which would compel Sweden to get on by herself as well as she can. Sweden he said would have no other alternative.

While both Canfield and I feel that Boheman was sincere in his remarks, even if he overstated difficulty of Sweden’s position, there is no doubt in my mind that he was accurately stating view of Swedish Government. They genuinely feel here that whatever concessions on basic rations we may be willing to make to them in London will be useless if in return their bargaining position is so upset that Germany will enforce the sea blockade against this country and cut off coal. [Page 753] Swedes no longer seriously fear a German armed attack. Boheman admitted this but said that if Sweden is forced back on her own resources her position will steadily deteriorate and she might become so weak that it would take not a major but a very minor military attack on Germany’s part to subjugate country. With Sweden in such a reduced state it might be sufficiently tempting for even a greatly weakened Germany. He reiterated that the Government did not seriously apprehend this but that it could not be dismissed as a possibility; that Sweden’s only insurance was to keep herself as strong as possible, that this could be done only by obtaining certain necessary imports from overseas which in turn Sweden could not receive unless she is in some degree able to maintain her bargaining position with Germany.

Repeated to London for Riefler23 and Canfield.

  1. Gunnar R. Hägglöf, Chief of the Commercial Division. Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Winfield W. Riefler, Special Assistant to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom.