740.00119 European War/2309

Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Northern European Affairs (Cumming)

A recent (February 21) JIS37 survey of the Finnish situation makes the following points, inter alia:

Germany obtains from Finland 60 percent of the nickel available to Germany, 10 percent of the copper, 23–32 percent of the molybdenum, 28 percent of the cobalt and asbestos; and any Finnish decision to withdraw from the war would probably be met with emphatic objections from the Germans and might be followed by German military action.
It is within Germany’s capabilities to retain the resources now in its possession adjusting its southern flank in Finland to extend generally east from the north end of the Gulf of Bothnia to the present front line. This can be accomplished by the seven divisions already in Finland and the five in northern Norway.
Assuming the Germans will remain in northern Norway, the Soviets are confronted with problems of either attacking the Germans or standing fast. They would stand fast only if economic benefits being derived by the Germans from northern Finland were being successfully interfered with and if the terms of the peace treaty precluded unlimited military occupation of Finland and if the Finns refused to cooperate militarily. The Russian lines of communication to the area rule out substantial reinforcement of the troops there. Regardless of whether Finns cooperate militarily, “a coordinated attack from the east and south is probable if the Germans continue to exploit the nickel mines at Petsamo.”
If Finland elects to remain in the war and the Soviet Union decides to attack it, only an over-whelming Soviet ground force with [Page 566] considerable armor supported by a much greater amount of strategic bombing of military objectives than the Soviets have exhibited in the past could defeat organized Finnish resistance. Morale in the Finnish Armed Forces is excellent and basic supplies available to the Finns are adequate for a stout resistance. Finland’s defensive position against the Soviets is advantageous in that it is favored by internal lines of communication. Also its necessary land defenses are more or less limited to three land sectors, namely, the Karelian, the Aunus,38 and the Masselka39 isthmuses.
Neither Germany nor Russia is likely to initiate action against Finnish forces in view of more pressing commitments elsewhere. German retaliation other than defensive operations in the North would be limited principally to air and naval attacks.
Presumably with Finland breaking away from Germany the U. S. S. R. and Sweden will assume important roles in Finnish trade. Swedish exports to Finland might conceivably be increased including some food products, and some iron and steel machinery. The strategic metal production of Finland would be a most acceptable increment to U. S. S. R. suppplies. It might in fact displace the present Lend-Lease40 supplies to that country. Finnish wood products could presumably also be absorbed by the U. S. S. R. as their importation at least as long as the war continues would free Russian manpower for other uses.

The foregoing survey gives point to the reported recent statement of Finnish Finance Minister Tanner41 that Finland’s position is not “hopeless”; and that if the terms of peace which may be offered Finland are unacceptable, Finland will continue to fight.

H[ugh] S. C[umming, Jr.]
  1. Presumably Joint Intelligence Staff.
  2. The Aunus, or Olonets (Russian) Isthmus lies between Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega.
  3. The Maaselkä, or Maselgskaya (Russian) Isthmus extends from Lake Onega to the Segozero and Vygozero, and thence to the Gulf of Onega on the White Sea littoral.
  4. For correspondence relating to aid to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease program, see vol. iv , section under Union of Soviet Socialist Republics entitled “Continuance of wartime assistance …”
  5. Väinö A. Tanner, who was also head of the Finnish Social-Democratic Party, stated in an interview with the Helsinki correspondent of the Stockholms-Tidningen that Finland’s position “is not desperate.” See the issue of that newspaper for February 23, 1944.