740.00119 European War/2412

The Soviet Embassy to the Department of State


On March 19, the British Ambassador, Mr. Kerr, sent a letter to Mr. V. M. Molotov, People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs and, on behalf of the British Government, informed him that the British Government gave consideration to the question of application of the [Page 587] principle of unconditional surrender in regard to European countries—satellites of Germany, in the light, as it was said in the letter, of the new situation developed as a result of the terms which were proposed by the Soviet Government to Finland and which, as it is known, do not contain a demand of unconditional surrender and provide negotiations on certain questions.

The letter contains a summary as to how the British Government interprets the formula “unconditional surrender” and points out in detail the disadvantages which may arise for the Allies in the case of strict application of this principle in regard to the European satellite countries and expresses the thought that, on the contrary, non-application of this principle may in certain cases be advantageous for the Allies, the policy of whom should be that of withdrawing small countries from the war, as it is said in the letter, as soon as possible.

The letter further says that while it is desirable to insist on unconditional surrender in the case of Germany, it is not necessary that the same formula is to be applied as obligatory to small European countries.

Having in view that the principle of the unconditional surrender in regard to all Axis countries with whom correspondingly are in a state of war the Soviet, British and American governments was confirmed at the Moscow Conference, the British Government in the above-mentioned letter asks “whether the Soviet Government, on its part, agrees that all the three governments be freed from the Moscow decision as far as the small European Axis countries are concerned, in regard to their propaganda in these countries, as well as in connection with any peace moves, which these countries may undertake, in order that in the future the three governments, as far as these countries are concerned, were free to decide, in the light of existing circumstances and, after consultation with each other, whether to insist or not to insist on the unconditional surrender.”

At the end of the letter the Soviet Government was asked to give a speedy reply in view of the fact that serious appeals for peace from the Rumanian, Hungarian and Bulgarian governments may be received. It was also stated in the letter that a similar request was being made to the United States Government.

On March 29, the Soviet Government gave the following reply to Ambassador Kerr’s letter:

“In connection with your letter of March 19, in regard to the application of unconditional surrender to European countries—satellites of Hitlerite Germany, the Soviet Government informs, that, as it was already clear from the Soviet peace terms to Finland, the Soviet Government considers it possible, under certain circumstances, not to apply the principles of unconditional surrender to the satellites of Germany to what [sic] and the British Government agreed.

[Page 588]

The Soviet Government considers that the demand of unconditional surrender from European satellite countries under certain circumstances may yield not a positive but a negative effect, helping not to weaken but to strengthen the bonds of satellite countries with Germany and thereby delaying the process of disintegration of these bonds. Besides, the principal task of the Allied governments in regard to the countries—satellites of Germany, especially under the present conditions, must be that of assisting the rupture between these countries and the Hitlerite Government and their going over to the side of the Allies for the purpose of hastening the defeat of Germany. Proceeding from the above-mentioned considerations, the Soviet Government regards favorably the proposal of the British Government that, in modification of the decisions of the Moscow Conference, the three Allied governments, in each separate case, could make decisions after having consulted each other, whether they should insist on the unconditional surrender in regard to a particular satellite country, or, instead of that, to put forward moderate concrete terms of agreement between this country and the Allied countries.

As to the question of applying the principle of unconditional surrender to Germany, the Soviet Government considers that this principle should not be subjected to any doubt and that it should be preserved in regard to Germany to the full extent.”

The Soviet Government, until making final decision regarding the proposal of the British Government, would like also to know opinion of the American Government on this question. The Soviet Government would appreciate a speedy reply from the Government of the United States.