740.00119 European War 1939/2208: Telegram

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

186. 1. Reference my 181, yesterday.49 I called on Foreign Minister Ramsay at his request this morning. He began by saying that [Page 569] although American and British newspapers seemed to regard Soviet peace conditions as moderate, Finns found them very difficult indeed. People of Finland wanted peace and were willing to make considerable sacrifies to get it. However, first condition imposed by Soviet [Government,] the internment of German troops, was physically impossible, regardless of other considerations.

2. Its enforcement meant presence of Russian troops in country and although Foreign Minister did not dwell on this point, he clearly appeared to share general Finnish fear of Russian occupation. Condition number two, the restoration of 1940 peace terms, would be extremely difficult and meant vital damage to economy of country. Dr. Ramsay at this point presented me with a set of maps and statistics showing water power, railways, waterways and woodworking industries [lost?] through 1940 Moscow peace treaty (Dept. may already have seen them but they will be summarized in a subsequent telegram50 and airmailed to Dept.) He said it would be difficult to maintain “good neighbor condition” given frontiers of 1940.

3. Third point upon which Dr. Ramsay volunteered comment appears in section 2 of the negotiable part of peace conditions as reported by DNB.51 This referred to partial or total mobilization [demobilization?] of Finnish Army. He found that this would create great problems for Finland’s security and ability to maintain status of a neutral. It would also be difficult for Finnish economy to absorb quickly the demobilized manpower.

4. I asked Dr. Ramsay if Diet had authorized Government to negotiate on terms of peace conditions as announced. He replied that it would be incorrect to say that negotiations had been authorized but that Diet had approved Government’s action and given it a “relatively free hand”. He was not prepared to say that Government was getting ready to make counter-proposals.

5. In reply to a question about Hango (my telegram in reference) he said that Soviet Union had indicated it would be prepared to discuss Hango provided it received satisfaction on other points but there seemed to be a doubt in his mind as to whether this meant all the points of Russian terms or merely those in category 1. There was no reference to Hango in official communiqué.52

6. In going over peace terms point by point it appeared that Foreign Minister was not prepared to state Finnish peace aims in terms of [Page 570] maximum concessions. It was quite clear, however, that greatest difficulty at present is stipulation concerning internment of German troops while there is more hope for concessions by Finnish side on other points. It was either in this connection or elsewhere in interview that Dr. Ramsay referred to the great obstacle to agreement presented by Russian insistence that all points in category 1 be accepted before negotiations could begin.

7. As to release of Soviet prisoners of war (condition 3) Ramsay pointed out that there was no mention of reciprocal action on Soviet part.

8. As to indemnities (point 5) and Petsamo (point 6) Foreign Minister gave no additional information. He said he did not know exactly what territory was intended by term “Petsamo District”.

9. As to German reaction Dr. Ramsay indicated that Berlin had kept comparatively quiet but he made no reference to representations by Germans here nor did I question him about this. He said that although he might be too naïve he did not believe that German military reprisals were to be feared (German action in Italy was not parallel since Finland had no treaty with Germany). He did indicate Germans could apply commercial sanctions by cutting off supplies. Correction in this paragraph: After “to be feared” add: “although one could never tell”.

10. I asked him if Finland had been informed in advance that Tass53 agency was going to publish Russian peace terms. He said that on contrary he had been astounded and that he considered this a bad sign since Russians had done same thing in ’39 and that it seemed to mean that Russians were not prepared to accept any modification of their demands.

11. He concluded interview by saying that he took a pessimistic view of situation.

12. Although present mood of Finns may be merely one on [of] rejection [dejection] after numbing effect of seeing conditions in black and white for first time, morning press and private persons with whom I have talked are also pessimistic. In view of Government’s narrow Diet majority (telegram in reference) there seems to be danger that negotiation is headed toward impasse where unforeseen concessions or perhaps some U. S. initiative would be required to extricate it. It should be recalled that Dr. Ramsay has been a peace activist while powerful political figures like Tanner (telegram in reference) are said to be opposed to peace on terms reported.

  1. Not printed; it reported that by a vote of 105 to 80 the Finnish Diet “voted to open negotiations with Moscow on basis of Russian terms” (740.00119 European War 1939/2210).
  2. Telegram 217, March 11, 1944, not printed; see despatch 2708, March 7, from Helsinki, p. 572.
  3. Deutsches Nachrichtenbüro, German news agency.
  4. On March 1 the Soviet Government newspaper Izvestiya published the press release issued by the Information Bureau of the Soviet People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, giving the Soviet Union’s six terms to Finland.
  5. Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union, official news agency of the Soviet Government.