740.00119 European War/2327

Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Northern European Affairs (Cumming)76

The decision “in principle” of the Finnish Government reported in Helsinki’s 260, March 21,77 to send two representatives to Moscow probably at the end of this week for the purpose of obtaining from [Page 579] the Soviet Government “interpretations” of the Soviet peace terms seems circumstantially to have been communicated to the Soviet Government prior to the issuance of the Finnish and Soviet communiqués on March 21.78 The Finnish communiqué in effect expressed a desire to continue negotiations; and it is considered significant that the Soviet communiqué aside from recounting previous developments stated only with respect to the Finnish reply of March 17 that “by this action the Finnish Government has taken upon itself full responsibility for what will follow” and did not launch into a tirade against Finnish leaders, etc. It is also interesting that German propaganda regarding Finnish developments continues cautious and had made no claims as yet of a great diplomatic defeat for “the Anglo-Saxon countries”.

These circumstances strongly suggest that the Finnish and Soviet Governments may have reached tacit agreement that the conversations are to be continued in Moscow (in this connection, however, it is to be noted that the Finnish Foreign Minister emphasized that the Finnish representatives would not have plenary power and would not make decisions in Moscow). It would seem that both the Finnish and Soviet Governments are desirous of keeping the further conversations as secret as possible. The generally negative tone of the two communiqués was probably intended as a “smoke screen” for the further conversations.

It will also have been noted from Helsinki’s telegram under reference that Dr. Ramsay went into considerable detail as to the validity of the Finnish Government’s mandate from the Finnish Diet to continue the conversations. It has been suggested by a number of competent observers that if the Finnish Government makes peace on the basis of the Soviet terms there is a possibility that with German resistance to ejection of German troops from Finland, Finland faces the distinct possibility of civil war. We have received previous indications that President Ryti and other Finnish leaders held the opinion that when it came time to make peace with the U.S.S.R. it might be preferable to confront Finnish public opinion with a fait accompli. The parliamentary maneuvers described by Dr. Ramsay to Mr. Gullion taken together with Dr. Ramsay’s statement that very few “Finnish personalities” were aware of the decision to send representatives to Moscow point toward a development of that character.

Regarding the possibility of civil war in Finland, it is to be recalled that the mandate of the Diet to the Government to explore the possibilities [Page 580] of making peace on the basis of the Soviet terms passed by a vote of 105 to 80. The minority consisted of the Conservative, the Agrarian and the IKL79 (quasi Fascist) Parties. The minority was later described as determined in its objections whereas the majority were lukewarm in their approval. The majority of the Karelians who will be dispossessed of their land if the terms are accepted belong to the Agrarian Party and these Karelians are reportedly unequivocally opposed to any terms which involve the return of Finnish Karelia to the Soviet Union. It is also interesting to recall that the White Guard Movement80 in 1918 originated with and was principally supported by the farming population of Finland; and that the so-called Lappo Movement81 in 1930 which aimed at the suppression of Communism and the power of the Social Democrats also had the same origin. Reports indicate that Finnish censorship has nowhere been more effective than among the rural population where the belief even now is held that the Soviet Union is being rapidly defeated by German forces. The Conservatives were the principal backers in 1918 of the plan to make a German prince King of Finland and they subsequently have numbered among their ranks some of the most pro-German people in Finland. The IKL Party is completely pro-Nazi and could without doubt be depended upon to support any movement to overthrow a Finnish Government which would make peace with the U.S.S.R. at this time. It has frequently been stated that the full power and prestige of Marshal Mannerheim would have to be behind a peace of the character now under consideration if Finnish unity were to be maintained in the face thereof.

The question naturally arises as to what course of action this Government should take in such a situation. Pending further developments, it is assumed we would wish to respect the stated desire of the Finnish Government for secrecy concerning the proposed further conversations. This in turn suggests that we would wish to refrain from further comment to the press with respect to our own intentions toward Finland and to information regarding developments in the Finnish situation. Such a course of action would not, however, exclude the continuation of our firm attitude toward the Finnish Government.

Hugh S. Cumming, Jr.
  1. Addressed to the Director of the Office of European Affairs (Dunn), the Under Secretary of State (Stettinius), and the Secretary of State.
  2. Not printed; in this telegram the Chargé informed the Department that on the morning of March 21, Finnish Foreign Minister Ramsay told him that the Soviet Government had been informed of Finland’s acceptance in principle of the sending of two representatives to Moscow.
  3. The Finnish and Soviet Governments each released on this date a communiqué, summarizing for the press the official exchanges between them during the previous month and stating the position of each Government with respect to the armistice terms. See Izvestiya, March 22, 1944, p. 1.
  4. Isänmaallinen Kansanliike, the “Patriotic National Movement”.
  5. On the activities of the White (civil) Guards against the Red Guards and Bolshevik participation in the struggle over the independence of Finland, see Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, vol. ii, pp. 746 ff., and ibid., 1919, Russia, index under Finland, p. 796.
  6. During 1929–1930 the Lapua Movement, first organized in the region of the town Lapua, spread in Finland as a vigorous anti-Communist political organization which demanded that severe legal controls be placed on the Communist (Labor) Party and its adherents in Finland.