740.00112 European War 1939/8426: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Winant ) to the Secretary of State

3281. For Department and Stone, BEW. Opening meeting with Swedes held at noon, May 11, in Foreign Office with Ambassador, Lord Selborne,52 Prytz, representatives of EWD53 and MEW,54 and Swedish delegation including Hägglöf, Wallenberg, and Ståhle present.

Introductory remarks were made by Ambassador and Selborne, text of which will be sent by despatch. Prytz replied extemporaneously stating that in his view Swedish military situation had not fundamentally changed in past 2 years and that she was still surrounded. [Page 765] He further said that Sweden in order to keep Gothenburg traffic open even for 3 to 4 months must abstain from further pressure on Germany.

In afternoon Swedish delegates met with representatives of EWD and MEW in latter’s building with Foot55 presiding. Foot having accepted Embassy’s draft of initial demands based upon memorandum entitled “Forthcoming Negotiations with Sweden” brought back by Fagen in draft form, explained the document. (Initial demands thus presented to Swedes did not contain statistical data or tables of figures.)

Foot also gave to Hägglöf list of basic rations, additions to list A56 and list of commodities for which special licensing and navicerting procedure is required (previously called “inverted list”). Although Foot emphasized final nature of quantities named for basic rations, list presented to Swedes can be revised upwards in case of several important commodities without exceeding limits imposed by Combined Boards.

American delegates made some remarks amplifying Foot’s talk which however was precisely along line previously agreed upon between Embassy and MEW. We will continue to take position that no opinions affecting policy shall be expressed by MEW without our previous agreement to them.

Hägglöf made substantially these comments extemporaneously after hearing summary of initial demands:

That while Swedish exports might be more valuable to Axis at this stage of war than previously, likewise Swedish imports from Axis were greater drain than before.
That Swedish iron ore was of less importance to Germany than at the beginning of war when she had fewer sources of supply.
That Sweden could not have maintained and cannot maintain her industry and rearmament program without important coal, chemicals, machinery, et cetera, from Axis and that therefore limits exist to extent to which our desiderata can be met.
That Gothenburg traffic must be kept open as otherwise basic rations become meaningless. He said that he noted with satisfaction our assurance made in connection with Lionel and Dicto that we did not intend to take any steps which would bring about closing of traffic.
That recent events have proved Swedish prognostications regarding Gothenburg traffic correct and that continuance of traffic hangs on slender thread. Accordingly Swedish problem is extent to which our desiderata can be met without destroying traffic.
In connection with our proposed ceilings that Swedish interpretation of term “Germany” in war trade agreement is that it applies to Germany and occupied countries. He added that British themselves had put forward this interpretation.
That he was surprised at our dissatisfaction over Rumanian agreement which was very favorable only because of Swedish contracts with individuals and private interests in Rumania. He said he would give us all details later.
That Argentine demand was not too difficult from Swedish angle provided Sweden could be assured of adequate imports from that country.
That he expected we would agree at once to furnishing forthwith certain quantities of basic rations so that they could be shipped while Gothenburg traffic remains open.

Foot replied in general terms leaving answers to specific points to next meeting Wednesday.57 Before then we will consult with British.

Two most troublesome points appear to be Hägglöf’s comments numbered 8 and 9.

As to 8, after comparison of value and quantity of 1942 Swedish exports to Argentine of newsprint, wood pulp for paper making and rayon pulp, with Swedish imports from that country, we plan to telegraph you for advice.

As to 9, we feel that concession now on our part might deprive us of valuable card which could be used to obtain quick and acceptable agreement on principal desiderata.

In connection with 4, we will point out to Hägglöf that assurance regarding Gothenburg traffic was merely to effect that negotiations would not involve any matters which might occasion a threat to close traffic. It is obviously important that he should appreciate difference between our agreeing that no threat should be made on our part to close traffic and our making demands which in his opinion might result in Germans closing traffic.

It is our intention and wish to consult you on questions of policy in accordance with Department’s 2567 of April 22 to Embassy.58 However we would point out that in telegrams like above, summarizing meetings, we will report many Swedish arguments slated for subsequent rebuttal. Rebuttals in many cases will not involve a solution or compromise on any particular question; when they do solution or compromise can be postponed when necessary.

  1. British Minister of Economic Warfare.
  2. Economic Warfare Division of the Embassy in London.
  3. British Ministry of Economic Warfare.
  4. Dingle Foot, Parliamentary Secretary, British Ministry of Economic Warfare.
  5. List A was a list of basic rations attached to the Anglo-Swedish War Trade Agreement of 1939; text of the agreement not printed, but for substance, see W. N. Medlicott, The Economic Blockade, vol. i, in the British civil series History of the Second World War (London, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1952), pp. 141–152.
  6. May 12.
  7. Not printed; it stated: “While London negotiators will be given wide discretion, it is expected that agreement on important issues will necessarily be referred to Washington for confirmation.” (740.00112 European War 1939/8206)