760C.61/1007: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Standley) to the Secretary of State

137. Shortly before my departure from Kuibyshev the Polish Chargé d’Affaires informed Mr. Page61 that the Soviet authorities had resumed their practice of arresting Polish relief agents and in spite of the protests of the Embassy conscription of Polish citizens in the Red army was continuing, in fact increasing. Refusal to be inducted he stated was considered treason and punishable by exile or death. Mr. Page was subsequently informed that the Polish Embassy was experiencing difficulties and annoyances on the part of the internal police and that various members of the Embassy were seriously alarmed over the possibility of a rupture in Soviet-Polish relations and over their personal safety. He was informally asked by a minor official in the Polish Embassy whether the American Embassy would come to the assistance of the Polish Embassy in such an event.

Upon my arrival in Moscow I was informed by the British Ambassador that the Soviet authorities in Kuibyshev had closed down the radio transmitter presumably used by the Polish Embassy to communicate with its relief representatives in the field and that the Polish Chargé fearing additional interference in the internal work of the Embassy had requested the British Embassy to take over the Polish Embassy and Polish interests should eventualities so warrant. I have also been informed by Roullard62 that the Soviet authorities have recently seized all Polish relief supplies stored at Murmansk.

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In response to a question relative to the distribution of relief supplies to Polish citizens in the Soviet Union (Department’s 119, February 24, 8 p.m.63), the Chargé states that although the Polish authorities in the Soviet Union were experiencing increasing difficulties regarding the actual transport and distribution of supplies, relief was still being distributed among Polish nationals whom the Soviet Government considered to be Soviet citizens. He added that such supplies were even being distributed among Polish Jews, Ruthenians, and Ukrainians whom the Soviet Government had considered Soviet citizens for some time. He stated that since the question of the citizenship of Polish nationals in the Soviet Union was not closed and since his Government “supported by Mr. Churchill and the President” still hoped to reach a satisfactory solution of the matter with the Soviet Government he was of the opinion that it would be advisable to continue the shipment of relief supplies from America for the time being. He later requested, however, that no report of his conversation be made to the Department until I had had an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Polish Ambassador in Moscow.

The Polish Ambassador informed me on March 7 of his recent conversation with Stalin. He stated that after Molotov had refused to discuss with him questions relative to Polish citizenship Stalin had summoned him in the middle of the night and in a 3-hour conversation at which Molotov was present had suggested that he initiate negotiations with Molotov concerning (a) the cessation of hostile propaganda and polemic in the Soviet and Polish press, (b) the desirability of coming to an understanding on the citizenship question. In this respect Stalin suggested that only those Poles actually born in the eastern provinces be considered Soviet citizens and those others who happened to be there at the time of Soviet occupation be considered Polish citizens. He intimated that the Soviet Government might favorably entertain a proposal that the Polish citizens concerned should have the right to opt for Polish or Russian citizenship, (c) the frontier question.

The Polish Ambassador described his conversation with Stalin as friendly and satisfactory especially since Stalin did not appear to consider the citizenship question a closed matter. He expressed the belief that the Kremlin did not wish a rift in Soviet-Polish relations or a continuance of exchanges of polemics which would have an unfavorable impression on foreign opinion. He stated that he was remaining in Moscow about 3 weeks in order to carry on his negotiations with Molotov which he expected to initiate this week. He suggested that I discuss the question of Soviet-Polish relations with the British Ambassador and that we bring the influence of our Governments to [Page 346] bear with the view to improving these relations. I stated that I would talk with Clark Kerr and seek the advice of my Government in the premises.

In respect to the question of relief shipments the Ambassador strongly recommended that they be continued for the following reasons: (a) The supplies will cause Molotov to refuse to carry on the important negotiations envisaged or to postpone them since one of the main reasons for the negotiations was the problem of relief shipments.

Clark Kerr who had also been advised of the Romer–Stalin conversation has informed me that the Polish Ambassador advised him that although he departed from the Kremlin with a feeling of encouragement he in no way felt assured that there would be any change in the Soviet attitude toward Poland.

Viewed from here and taking into consideration recent developments in Soviet foreign policy I believe that we should be exceedingly circumspect in formulating our policy with respect to the present issues at stake between the Polish and Soviet Governments. American intercession or even expressed interest on behalf of Poland at this time might well have far-reaching repercussions on Soviet-American relations even if we were to base our actions as we have done in the past on humanitarian grounds or on the expressed belief that a display of a generous attitude on the part of the Soviet Government would further the joint war effort by promoting a greater spirit of confidence between two of the United Nations. Furthermore it is quite possible that any action on our part at this time might cause a worsening of Soviet-Polish relations. From various sources here I am informed that it is precisely because of the fact that Sikorski took his problem[s] to Washington before discussing them with Stalin that Soviet-Polish relations have deteriorated to their present stage. Furthermore the exchange of notes reported in Department’s 88, February 1264 leads me to believe that the present militant Soviet Government has decided to force at this time the issue of the Polish eastern frontiers and that it would not hesitate to use bludgeon tactics to solve this question to its satisfaction. So far as we can judge the Soviet Government has the full support of the Russian people on this issue. In this connection the Embassy has received indications that under certain conditions the Polish Government might be willing to recognize the 1941 frontiers at this time were it not for the fact that it is convinced that the Polish people would not now accept such a move. For this reason it is endeavoring to postpone this question until the peace settlement.

Since there may be considerations in respect to Polish-Soviet relations of which I am not aware, such as matters discussed between the [Page 347] President and Sikorski, I would appreciate receiving any information and instructions the Department may find it possible to send me in the premises.

  1. Edward Page, Jr., Second Secretary of Embassy and Consul in the Soviet Union.
  2. Lt. Comdr. George D. Roullard, Assistant Naval Attaché and Assistant Naval Attaché for Air in the Soviet Union.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed, but see footnote 20, p. 323.