760C.61/2047: Telegram

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

497. The Department has given careful consideration to the suggestions contained in your 689, June 18, 1 p.m., for the solution of the Polish-Soviet dispute and appreciates fully your apprehension that the Department’s tentative proposals may not lead to an immediate resolution of the many and complex problems involved.

It is felt, however, that this dispute is so fundamental in connection with bringing, if possible, the full weight of all the United Nations to bear on the prosecution of the war against our common enemies and in solving on a permanent and equitable basis the complex postwar problems that every effort should be made at this time to set forth our conception of the basic problems involved and to try to resolve [Page 435] the fundamental questions at issue, even though initial success might not be achieved.

On the basis of information available to the Department it appears that one of the principal reasons which induced the Soviet Government to break with the Poles may have been the desire to make it clear to all neighboring governments that their continued existence will depend upon the degree of their willingness to accede to Soviet demands upon them and to adopt [adapt?] their foreign policies to those of the Soviet Union.

Because of the far-reaching repercussions which would undoubtedly ensue from any move on our part to bring pressure on the Polish Government to change the composition of its Cabinet, it is felt that we should endeavor to resolve the dispute on a just and equitable basis without attempting to induce the Polish Government to accede to the Soviet request for changes in the Sikorski Cabinet.

While there may be certain members of the Polish Cabinet whose elimination might eventually contribute to a fuller degree of cooperation between the two Governments, the Department feels that any such changes should follow the restoration of relations rather than be brought about under pressure at this time. If this procedure is not followed an unfortunate precedent would be established which should be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, in view of the many factors which led to the break and which for the most part involved unilateral nullification by the Russians of the Polish-Soviet Agreement of 1941, it is believed that it would be difficult to find a representative Polish governing group who could replace the Sikorski Government and who would be as willing as the present Government to try to reach an accord with the Soviet Government.

In the Department’s view the Soviet Government would, in all probability, not consider a changed Polish Cabinet as favorable to the Soviet Union unless it would be prepared either directly or indirectly to acquiesce in Soviet claims to Eastern Poland.

Therefore, considering the Department’s consistently held position that no discussion of frontier problems should take place at this stage of the war, it is felt that in approaching the Soviet-Polish dispute every effort should be made to eliminate therefrom any question involving frontiers.

It was with these fundamental considerations in mind that the Department drew up its proposed approach for the settlement of the dispute.

After a careful analysis of your proposals and those of the Department, we feel that we cannot concur in your suggestion that our proposals are based too strongly on the Polish desiderata. The Department’s approach was not intended as a compromise, but it was [Page 436] considered to oiler a plan for settling the dispute on a basis as just and permanent as the difficult situation permits. It is felt, on the contrary, that our plans call for far-reaching Polish concessions regarding which the Polish Government is certain to make strong objections. For instance, under the Department’s proposal for the distribution of relief the Poles would be compelled to depend on the good faith of the Russians to carry out equitably and effectively this work and not use this lever as a political instrument, with only the limited control of Polish consuls as a possible check. Moreover, the Poles will undoubtedly be reluctant to accept the option proposal for non-racial Poles, since the Soviet Government if it so desires could resort to numerous means of pressure to cause these persons to opt in a manner favorable to it.

The Soviet Government, under the Department’s proposals, is not being asked to make any concessions under the basic Soviet-Polish accord of 1941. By not deviating from our position that no discussion of frontier problems should take place at this time and by refraining from bringing pressure on the Polish Government to make changes in its Cabinet at this moment, we are simply not furthering Soviet demands in these directions.

In regard to your suggestion of a step by step approach to the problem, it is felt that such a plan does not resolve the fundamental question of citizenship. Unless this question, which was brought about by the unilateral action of the Soviet Government, is disposed of satisfactorily it would appear that little of a constructive nature can be accomplished, since according to present Soviet views there are no Poles in the Soviet Union and therefore there is no problem of Polish relief or evacuation. In this connection the Department’s proposal for the settlement of this question has the distinct advantage that it does not involve the frontier dispute.

In further regard to the proposed step by step approach we believe that even though this might result in a limited alleviation of the situation, it cannot lead to a basic rapprochement unless it is conducted in such a manner as to bring about a gradual and complete capitulation of the Polish Government to basic Soviet demands.

While it is realized, as indicated above, that the Department’s proposals may not result in an immediate resumption of relations, it is felt that such an approach to the problem, even if unsuccessful, will at least make clear our position as to the principles upon which we feel that understanding between the United Nations should be based. Furthermore, it would be helpful if the Soviet Government could bring itself to view this matter primarily in the light of its importance in the prosecution of the war and the settlement of the complex postwar problems on a just and equitable basis.

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Please advise the Department whether, in view of the above explanations of the motivating factors underlying the Department’s proposed approach, you still feel that it would be inadvisable for you to take up the question with the Soviet Government along the lines indicated in the Department’s 427, June 12, 9 p.m.

You may, of course, discuss the matter further with your British colleague.

Repeated to Ambassador Winant together with a copy of your telegram92 for his confidential information in the event that the British Government raises the question with him.

  1. Both telegrams quoted in telegram No. 3953 of the same date to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom.