761.90H/51: Telegram

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

224. 1. High Afghan officials do not conceal their disappointment that Moscow Conference should not have produced some definite announcement from which it would be possible to gauge future Soviet policy toward her neighbors and more particularly countries of the Middle East. They are seen [surprised that Austria should have been]24 only country mentioned by name whose independence is guaranteed [Page 33] and they are a little alarmed lest this imply that other small nations in Eastern Europe and the Middle East will not receive the same consideration.

2. German propaganda here is taking advantage of this uneasiness by declaring that Moscow Conference proves Russia’s pretensions and ambitions to be unlimited and that she aims at complete domination even of Central Europe. Russia would also oppose any bloc of small nations such as exists under the Saadabad Pact25 or a Balkan Federation, etc. which might become an anti-Soviet coalition under the aegis of the Anglo-Americans. The Soviets will not tolerate British or American influence in the Near and Middle East because they want to strengthen their position against the day of an attack by the capitalist powers. But neither Great Britain nor the United States will be willing to resist Russia for the purpose of protecting her small neighbors if she decided that “territorial adjustments” are required to give her impregnable strategic frontiers. Afghanistan will undoubtedly be forced to cast in her lot with the Soviets who will set up a government there prepared to do their bidding.

3. The Afghans, always acutely conscious of their close proximity to Russia, are only too ready to believe [such Nazi prognostications.] Whether Comintern is really dead or not interests them less than whether a Nationalist Russia will after the war again head a great pan Slav movement with pretensions to special influence in neighboring states. They look upon the precise value of Russian assurances as extremely doubtful because they have experienced what they consider the cynicism of both Imperial and Soviet diplomacy with all its obscure motives and baffling moves.

4. Although Afghanistan would certainly fight if Soviet expansionist aims should result in a southward move either in the shape of political and economic domination or a threat to the territorial status quo, well-informed Afghans realize, of course, that military resistance would be hopeless. They would, therefore, like to make it quite clear that Afghanistan’s fundamental orientation is toward Great Britain and the United States rather than Russia and that they have no desire to fall under any Soviet hegemony. They hope England and America will take a direct and active interest in Persia and Afghanistan as they feel that the complete independence of the latter two countries is necessary in any post war organization dealing with questions affecting western Asia and India. But their meagre information regarding results of Moscow Conference leads them to believe that the Russian leopard has not changed his spots and that the west is probably powerless to do anything about it.

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5. Please refer in this connection also to my telegrams 90, April 29, 101, May 16, 124, June 22, C 135, July 6,27 and paragraph 6 of my 217, November 6.

6. Department may wish to send me for background purpose a brief confidential statement refer general attitude of Soviet Government during the Conference which—if discreetly used in connection with the official communiqués—may have a reassuring effect on the Afghans.

Code text sent to Moscow by air.

  1. Bracketed corrections based on paraphrase of this telegram in Kabul Legation files.
  2. Treaty of nonaggression, signed at Tehran, July 8, 1937, by Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey; League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cxc, p. 21.
  3. Telegrams No. 124 and No. 135 not printed.