The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Standley) to the Secretary of State 14
[Received March 27—4:26 a.m.]
212. Department’s 414, December 15.15 I have received a letter dated January 27 from Admiral Land stating in effect that the British Shipping Mission in Washington has protested the action of the War [Page 642]Shipping Administration in accepting the offer of the Soviet Government on the ground that British and American seamen should be treated on a common basis and that the British are unwilling to accept the offer16 because of: (1) Objection in principle to payments of gratuities by a foreign Government (2) the fact that the Soviet proposal makes no provision for British crane ship crews in north Russia or for survivors of lost ships.
Land states that British suggest that the British Ambassador and myself jointly refuse the offer and at the same time urge the Soviet Government to extend the diplomatic exchange rate to British and American crews. He requested my views on “whether in view of the foregoing it is more desirable to endeavor to maintain a common policy with the British in this matter or independently to accept the Soviet offer; and any other recommendations I may care to make.”
Please inform Land that I have just received his letter and suggest to him that because of great delays in communications further correspondence be addressed to the Department for transmission by cable to me.
Subject to the Department’s approval also advise him that I regard it as essential that we maintain a common policy with Britain in this matter; that although I feel that the most reasonable and practical solution is the extension of the diplomatic exchange rate, in view of the repeated categoric refusal of the Soviet Government to agree to this suggestion it would appear that the maintenance of such a common policy could be more easily realized by the acceptance of the Soviet proposal by the British and ourselves. In this event I feel sure that the Soviet authorities could be prevailed upon to extend similar provisions to survivors and crane ship crews. I do not believe that it would be advisable to refuse the Soviet offer outright unless we have some workable alternative to present which is likely to be accepted by the Soviet Government. From past experience I do not believe that the diplomatic exchange rate constitutes such an alternative. I am primarily interested in obtaining some fair and workable treatment for our seamen in the north and if the Soviet proposal is acceptable to the War Shipping Administration it would seem that such an objective might be attacked [attained?] by adopting it. I, therefore, suggest that the Board endeavor to prevail upon the British to accept this compromise proposal and thus attain common treatment and a common Anglo-American policy.