740.0011 Stettinius Mission/3–1944

Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Northern European Affairs (Cumming)82

In September 1940 the Soviet Government demanded and received permission from Finland for the transit of Soviet troops over Finnish railroads between the U.S.S.R. and the Soviet-leased area of Hango, Finland, and a few days later similar privileges were granted Germany by Finland for the transit of German troops between Finnish ports and Northern Norway.83 In the spring of 1941 there were indications that these German troops were tending to remain unduly long at transfer points in Finland. In view of these and other indications of the coming conflict between Germany and the U.S.S.R. this Government even before the German attack on the U.S.S.R. began its efforts, in anticipation thereof, to persuade the Finnish Government not to become involved in such an attack.84

After Finland became associated militarily with Germany the Department used all available diplomatic means (a) to limit Finland’s military contribution to the German war effort and (b) to effect Finland’s withdrawal from the war at the earliest possible moment. We made the strongest possible representations to the Finns in the autumn of 1941 both in Helsinki and in Washington to this end and, though Finland’s withdrawal from the war did not result, it can be fairly claimed we were successful in limiting to a material extent Finland’s military assistance to Germany.

In 1942 we continued our efforts to impress on the Finnish Government the direction in which its policies were leading the country, and especially that American sympathy could not be counted on.85 We seized the opportunities to sever consular relations between the two countries,86 to place restrictions upon the movement of Finnish diplomatic personnel in the United States,87 and to stop Finnish Government publicity activities in the United States provided by prior similar actions of the Finnish Government.88

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In the spring of 1943 we again undertook concrete measures to bring about Finnish-Soviet peace negotiations.89 The Soviet Government indicated its willingness to begin such negotiations but expressed the opinion that the Finnish Government was not similarly disposed and this view proved to be accurate after German intervention with the Finnish Government as a result of which we reached the decision to break relations with Finland. This latter action was, however, held up at the last minute for the reason that it would have taken place concurrently with the Soviet action in breaking relations with the Polish Government.90

No further major moves were undertaken by us until January 29, 1944 when we instructed the Chargé d’Affaires in Helsinki91 to emphasize to the Finnish Government the determination among the United Nations to effect the total military defeat of Germany with which there must inexorably result disastrous consequences to those nations which founded their policies on confidence in German military might; to point out that it would seem that the Finnish Government would wish to consider whether the conclusion might not be drawn that the peace terms open to Finland would become more unfavorable to Finland the longer Finland continued at war; and to reiterate that the Finnish Government alone must bear the consequences to Finland of its failure to terminate Finland’s collaboration with the Axis and its participation in the war.

Shortly after this démarche the Finnish Government sent Mr. Paasikivi to Stockholm to ascertain from the Soviet Ambassador there the nature of the peace terms which the Soviet Government might be prepared to offer Finland. He was given on February 19 the Soviet terms in the form of six points. The Finnish Government referred these terms to the Finnish Diet and obtained a mandate to procure from the Soviet Government further information regarding the terms. On March 8 the Soviet Government replied giving the Finnish Government until March 18 to accept the Soviet terms. The Finnish reply rejecting the terms “as such” but expressing the desire to discuss them further was given the Soviet representative on March 17.

Throughout this period this Government through public statements by the President and the Secretary and through diplomatic channels urged the Finnish Government to continue negotiations until an agreement with the Soviet Government was reached.

The present position is that we have been informed by the Finnish Foreign Minister, in strictest confidence, that the Finnish Government [Page 583] has decided “in principle” to send two representatives to Moscow to discuss further with the Soviet Government the Soviet terms. There are no present indications that the Soviet Government opposes this development.

While there is no certainty as to the future course of events it seems that the Finnish Government may prefer to confront the Finnish Diet and people with a fait accompli if it proves possible to reach an agreement with the Soviet Government on peace terms, for the reason that it fears that in view of the substantial opposition in Finland to the terms civil war might occur if the Government, prior to reaching agreement, publicly indicated its intention to do so.

Hugh S. Cumming, Jr.
  1. Prepared for Under Secretary of State Stettinius, in connection with his departure for London for discussions with members of the British Government, held April 7–29, 1944.
  2. For correspondence relating to these transit agreements with the Soviet Union and Germany, see Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. i, pp. 343345 and 346348, respectively.
  3. See ibid., 1941, vol. i, pp. 31 ff.
  4. For correspondence on this subject, see ibid., 1942, vol. ii, pp. 21 ff.
  5. United States Consular Offices in Finland were closed on July 15, 1942, and Finnish Consulates in the United States on August 1, 1942. See telegrams 142 of July 15, 1942, to Helsinki, and 596 of July 21, 1942, from Helsinki, ibid., pp. 68 and 73, respectively.
  6. See ibid., pp. 2123.
  7. See ibid., p. 115; and ibid., 1943, vol. iii, p. 213.
  8. See Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iii, pp. 247262, passim.
  9. See ibid., pp. 384 ff.
  10. See aide-mémoire of January 31, from the American Legation in Finland to the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and footnote 14, p. 559.