861.24/1325: Telegram

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

145. My 139, March 9, 7 p.m. I called on Molotov last night at my request to inform him of the contents of the Department’s 122, March 8.5 Upon conclusion I asked him whether he had any matter he wished to bring up. Molotov stated he desired to discuss my recent press conference. He said that he did not question my right to make the remarks attributed to me but speaking frankly he did not agree with me.

Molotov then stated that the Soviet press publishes all statements made in America and England on military aid to the Soviet Union; that the Soviet public knows from first hand in form made available by American leaders what aid is coming from America; that both he and Stalin had expressed their gratitude on a number of occasions for the material assistance rendered; and that both the Soviet Government and people did not underestimate the importance and significance of that assistance. He stated that his Government did not consider it advisable to emphasize in the press the importance of the assistance since such a move would attract the attention of the Axis and result in increased pressure on the convoys.

I stated that my press interview was an informal affair in which in discussing the general situation here the question of American relief supplies came up; that I had remarked in passing that I had seen no evidence in the Soviet press concerning the receipt or distribution of American relief supplies not from Lend-Lease aid and that I was somewhat perturbed at this fact since I knew that the American people were digging down into their pockets out of sheer good will and friendship for the Russian people and were getting no recognition therefor. I said that I had made no assertion that the supplies were not being distributed. Molotov reverted to his contention that the Soviet public was aware of the receipt of Lend-Lease aid stating that the man in the street knew by heart the number of tanks and planes received from America. I said unfortunately my enforced isolated position prevented me from having contacts with the Soviet public or from knowing its thoughts.

Molotov then asked me whether I made a distinction between Lend-Lease aid of the value of approximately $2 billion and relief supplies amounting to the insignificant figure of about 10 million. I replied in the affirmative stating that as Lend-Lease was a business transaction between the two governments, relief supplies were a [Page 637]charitable manifestation of good will and friendship on the part of the American people and for this reason assumed considerable importance in my estimation.

In regard to the former I reminded Molotov of my thus far unsuccessful attempts to obtain information on the benefits of Lend-Lease in the Soviet Union, remarking that in so far as I was aware the only definite information we had on the subject was Stalin’s reply to Cassidy last fall.6 Molotov questioned the wisdom of accepting in March the Stalin–Cassidy letter of October since he opined that it had now lost its actual significance. I replied that with nothing else to go on and with the Lend-Lease question now before the American Congress and people I could not believe that it had lost all its importance. I remarked that newspapermen returning from the front, as well as General Hurley,7 have informed me that they had seen no evidence there of American tanks or planes. Molotov expressed surprise and stated that it was probable that Hurley and the press had visited sectors at which American equipment was not being used, that he was sure that such equipment was in use on other sectors.

Throughout the conversation, which was on a very friendly plane and devoid of any spirit of asperity or wrangling, Molotov, while emphasizing that the Soviet public had been kept advised of Lend-Lease aid and was grateful to America therefor, made no claim to the fact that there had been any publicity in the Soviet Union, or that the Soviet public was aware of the extent of American Russian relief or Red Cross supplies coming here. I, on the other hand, pointed out that I was personally interested in that question, since it was a matter of mutual good will and friendship between the Russian and American people and that my remark to the press had been animated by that thought alone. I stated that far more importance was given to my remarks than necessary and that I regretted the misinterpretation that had been placed upon them and the resulting uncalled for publicity.

In conclusion I stated that I hoped that my remarks would not have a detrimental effect on American-Soviet relations. Molotov stated “No, I do not believe so; perhaps they will have a useful effect in America”.

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I can only attribute the meaning of this remark to Molotov’s realization that perhaps public sentiment at that time in America is too emotionally inclined toward the Soviet Union and that possibly a dash of cold water might be beneficial.

I have carefully refused to amplify or further discuss my remarks except with Molotov. If I had realized the repercussions of my comments I certainly would not have stated them without consulting the Department. Once made, however, and after noting the repercussions I am impressed at the conflagration caused by such a small spark and I cannot help feeling that when there is so much inflammable tinder about, it is well to expose it to air before it becomes too late. For this reason from my isolated position here I do not believe that my remarks will have an ill effect in the long run. On the contrary they may well help in placing our relations with Russia on a more realistic basis which in my opinion could contribute to closer understanding and good will now and in the postwar period.

Standley
  1. Not printed.
  2. For Premier Stalin’s reply of October 3, 1942, to Henry Cassidy, the Associated Press correspondent in Moscow, see telegram No. 858, October 6, 1942, from the First Secretary of Embassy at Kuibyshev, Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iii, p. 461.
  3. For report of a conversation between Premier Stalin and Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Hurley, Special Representative of President Roosevelt, see telegram No. 464, November 15, 1942, 7 p.m., from the Charge in the Soviet Union, ibid., p. 655; see also telegram No. 523, December 8, 1942, 8 p.m., from the Second Secretary of Embassy in the Soviet Union, for General Hurley’s report of his visit to the Stalingrad front, and telegram No. 464, December 29, 1942, 6 p.m., from the Minister in Iran, for General Hurley’s report on his inspection of the Caucasus front, ibid., pp. 668 and 679, respectively.