740.0011 European War 1939/32782: Telegram

The Chargé in Finland (McClintock) to the Secretary of State

49. I was received by President Ryti this afternoon in farewell audience2 and spent 2 hours with him during which, as usual, he covered practically entire range of human history and all the map of Europe. I was struck by basic fact there had been practically no change in President’s estimate of Finland’s situation in year between my interview of January 21, 1943 (see my 116 that day3) and today. The President still insisted that Finland was fighting a separate war and its only enemy was Russia, that his policy had been right all the time and that Finland would continue to “wait and see”.

Mr. Ryti confirmed entirely, report in my 31, January 14,4 that Ribbentrop had again requested a statement of joint solidarity between Germany and Finland and that Finnish Government had declined this demand. President said Germans had on “two or three occasions” asked Finland to participate in active military operations to take Soroka5 and to participate in a German drive against Tikhvin but that his Government had turned down these requests. This contrasts with his statement to me last year that “only once” had Germans requested active Finnish participation in new offensives.

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President is following military events with keen personal interest and said in fact it was “his duty” these days to do so. In a large hall adjoining his study he had maps of every active front in Europe. As for recent military events he thought Russian offensive from Oranienbaum was purely local in character designed to pinch off German salient between there and Tsarskoe Selo. Russians in this offensive had lost half their tanks but their infantry was “very strong”. Mr. Ryti confided that German forces in this sector had been considerably reduced as Germans were concentrating their strength to prevent a Russian thrust westward from Nevel area. Novgorod, said President, had already been taken by Russians.

He refused to be drawn into speculation of [as] to whether Germany could, or would, hold Baltic States but did say definitely General Dietl’s6 forces in far north had been reduced in number. President declined to rise to my bait when I said I had heard number of German divisions now in Finland was 6.

President at no time referred to recent American policy toward Finland. He seemed completely convinced his own policy had been right and that Finland had no other course but to fight its second war with Russia. When I recalled Hitler’s Proclamation of June 22, 1941,7 suggested Finland had had prior notice of impending outbreak of hostilities, President professed his Government had been in dark as to when war would break out, or if indeed it would commence at all. He said Foreign Minister Gunther8 had been “very angry” at Finnish Foreign Minister Witting9 following his visit here in May, 1941, because Witting had not told him Russo-German war would soon begin. However, according to President Ryti, Witting had day before Gunther’s visit, been informed by a member of “Ribbentrop’s private cabinet” that there would be no Russo-German war and that Witting had informed Gunther accordingly. I think this was eyewash.

President said with great emphasis “the papers are perfectly clear. We have no reason to start [sic] the verdict of history”.

I said that might seem true to a Finn but that in American eyes, Finland had made a disastrous decision in choosing to cooperate with the Nazis. I asked why the Finnish people seemed universally to [Page 558] fear “unconditional surrender” if they were not a satellite state of Germany and not a Nazi power. President said, as had Foreign Minister10 (see my 1347, December 1511) that [according to?] British newspapers and BBC12 Finnish language broadcasts, unconditional surrender would be demanded of Finland and that Russian broadcasts were to same effect. However, he did not seem at all concerned at prospect of unconditional surrender.

President said at close of an exceedingly long interview that he did not think Finland would seek a separate peace because risks were too great of Finland standing alone versus Russia. He said flatly that terms of treaty of Moscow13 were not acceptable. His policy was accordingly to wait for termination of hostilities in Europe on assumption that Finland, despite fact it was fighting a “separate war”, would gain the benefits of a collective peace. President Ryti as usual reaffirmed his abiding distrust of “the Bolsheviks” and was filled with foreboding for future of world after war unless America could act as a restraining influence on USSR. He said within 20 years Russians would be stronger than ever and seemed to feel that with Germany reduced in strength and both Italy and France negligible nations there was nothing to prevent sweep of Russian revolutionary influence throughout Europe unless we could somehow stem the tide.

President whom I have known for more than 4 years in recalling events of two wars said many great powers had sought to help Finland: British, French, and “whether we (the Finns) wish it or not”, the Germans. At this point he added that German help had been very welcome and that without it “Finland would not today exist as a nation”. He then said only great power which had not yet been called upon to help Finland was America and that he hoped day would come when U. S. might intercede in Finland’s behalf. I said that as President well knew from record there was nothing in history of 2½ years of our diplomacy with Finland which could lead him to expect such intercession.

  1. On January 25, Second Secretary and Chargé Robert M. McClintock relinquished charge of the American Legation in Finland to Edmund A. Gullion, designated Third Secretary of Legation and Chargé. Mr. McClintock was transferred to the American Legation in Stockholm as Second Secretary.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iii, p. 222.
  3. Not printed; it reported that, according to a statement made by an official of the Finnish Foreign Ministry, in late November of 1943, German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop twice pressed the Finnish Minister to Germany, Toivo M. Kivimäki, with a demand that Finland sign an agreement to continue the war “to the end” with Germany (740.00119 European War 1939/2073).
  4. An important Soviet town on the Murmansk–Leningrad railroad and White Sea–Baltic Canal, now called Belomorsk.
  5. Col. Gen. Eduard Dietl, Commander of the German Army in North Finland.
  6. Proclamation of the Fuhrer to the German People on June 22, 1941, in which he referred to “Finnish comrades”, with whom German soldiers were “united” in defense of the Arctic shores; for text, see Monatshefte für Auswärtige Politik (Berlin), July 1941, pp. 545–551.
  7. Christian Günther, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  8. Rolf J. Witting, Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs, January 1941 to March 1943.
  9. C. Henrik Ramsay.
  10. Not printed; see telegrams 1332 of December 7, 1943, to Stockholm, and 1419, December 17, 1943, from Moscow, Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iii, pp. 310 and 311 respectively.
  11. British Broadcasting Corporation.
  12. The Treaty of Moscow of March 12, 1940, between the Soviet Union and Finland. For texts of the treaty and protocol, see Finland, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, The Finnish Blue Book (Philadelphia–New York, 1940), p. 115, and Department of State Bulletin, April 27, 1940, p. 453; or U.S.S.R., Sbornik deystvuyushchikh dogovorov, soglasheniy i konventsiy, zaklyuchennykh s inostrannymi gosudarstvami (Moscow, 1955), vol. x, p. 11. For terms and conditions for Finland, see telegrams 281 and 283 from Moscow, dated March 13, 1940, Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. i, p. 314.