760C.61/1056: Telegram

The Minister in Afghanistan (Engert) to the Secretary of State

90. News of the rupture of diplomatic relations between the Soviets and the Polish Government has had a deplorable effect on Afghan official circles. Not only was it immediately seized upon by the Axis Legations and sympathizers and proclaimed as proof of deep-rooted dissensions among the so-called United Nations but it has confirmed the Afghan Government in its great reluctance to believe that anything good can ever come out of Russia.

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I have already had occasion to refer to the fear and dislike of Russia which even blinds most of the Afghans to the dangers based on an Axis victory. See e. g. paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 of telegram No. 54, August 16, paragraph 5 and the last sentence of telegram No. 74, September 15, paragraph 7 b of telegram No. 129, November 28, 19426 and my telegram No. 34 February 14, 1943. In Afghanistan the intentions of her Russian neighbor have never been considered above suspicion and there is much concern over the future relations with the Soviets. The Russian front is believed to represent the phase of the war most likely to affect Afghanistan permanently and every indication of Moscow’s policy and designs is anxiously watched in view of its possible repercussions in Central Asia. There is, therefore, no desire to see Russian arms emerge victorious from the war.

The present Russo-Polish crisis has revived beyond reason the uneasiness long felt by all small neighbors of the Soviet Union lest Bolshevist imperialism revert to the tendency to absorb geographically and politically non-Russian territory. Nobody in Kabul is of course in a position to judge how far the Soviet Government is bluffing and how far it is in earnest but the situation admittedly contains many imponderables and the Afghans have vivid recollections of the intensive Sovietization between 1939 and 1941 of the parts of Poland annexed by Russia. More recently certain alarming reports received from Iran have created the impression here that the Soviet irruption into that country has spread communism among workers and peasants and may even incite the army to rise against the alleged “rapacious ruling classes”.

The Afghans are convinced that when the war is over Russia will demand substantial territorial concessions of her neighbors and that neither the US nor Great Britain will be able to stop her. They consider the Polish incident as a straw which shows the mind [wind?] and much will depend on how and how quickly the dispute is settled.

Russian Ambassador who left for Moscow January 7 has not yet returned.

Repeated to Kuibyshev.

  1. For telegram No. 54, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iv, p. 54; telegrams No. 74 and No. 129 not printed.