740.00119 European War 1939/2501: Telegram

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

336. Dr. Ramsay this morning gave me Finnish text of Finnish reply to Russian terms as communicated to Dr. Paasikivi on March 21 [29]. With some hesitation he gave me an English translation [Page 592] which he and I revised together. I promised I would make clear this translation was for purposes of convenient reference only and not to be considered official text. It follows in paraphrase.

“Russia’s peace terms for Finland, which were transmitted in a more detailed form to Dr. Paasikivi and Mr. Enckell on March 29, have now been received by the Finnish Government.

These terms have been brought before the Diet and have been considered and examined by the Government. Acceptance of these terms, which for technical reasons alone could not be fulfilled would, it has been found, undermine and weaken fundamentally the existence of Finland as an independent country, imposing on Finland a burden far beyond its ability to support, according to unanimous expert opinion. Consequently Finland, still earnestly aiming at re-establishment of permanent and peaceful relations with its great neighbor to the east, after careful consideration of the terms, as now presented, regret that they do not offer opportunities for attaining this goal.”

Finnish and English texts of this answer will be airmailed.14 Dr. Ramsay said he had not heard that reply had actually been handed over to Mme. Kollontay but he assumed it had since he had not heard to contrary. He then read to me with own comments a memorandum [describing the] difficulties of terms, which forms section II of this telegram.

Foreign Minister described memorandum which follows as statement from “purely Finnish” point of view of reasons which made peace on terms of March 29 impossible. These Finnish views have been represented in Legation’s previous telegrams but is desired to point out relative emphasis placed on war indemnity demanded. Memorandum follows, extensively paraphrased.

For technical reasons it will be impossible to withdraw Finnish troops to frontier of ’40 by end of April or within 30 days. Furthermore as in ’40, some 300,000 persons or the entire civil population of evacuated regions would move to western Finland with all their property at same time as troops.
In addition to these persons the 150,000 people who had already left Karelia and who have been unable return would lose their homes. All of these displaced Karelians left home in ’40 of their own free will thus testifying to their desire to remain Finnish, and if situation should again arise there is no doubt that they would once more present same unmistakable manifestation that proposed territorial changes are not in accordance with wishes of people involved. Furthermore there would be lost in purely Finnish territory to be ceded, natural waterways, the Saima Canal and the whole of the rail and road system of eastern Finland.
Finland would be left no opportunity to defend itself in midst of continuing war if Finnish Army is demobilized as proposed and [Page 593] this at a time when defenses of all neutral countries will be strengthened. Finland cannot permit foreign intervention at any particular time as to degree of demobilization. Principle of sovereignty would be infringed by such intervention.
Finland’s economic capacity is not sufficient to provide the 600 million dollar war reparations demanded by Russia. This indemnity would be all the more crushing when it is taken into account that cession of Karelia would mean loss of about 15 percent of Finland’s exports. For a period of 5 years almost all of Finland’s export trade as it was before the war in the best years would be committed to payment of reparations. Exact burden of indemnity cannot be definitively estimated since there is no preliminary determination of prices of goods in which it is to be paid. Finland’s economic life would be placed under external control by reason of fact that Russia could require delivery and stipulate cost of merchandise. The country would be led to economic peonage when account is taken of total sum in question. People’s standard of living would be forced down by indemnity and Finland’s path to economic advancement and better standards of labor would be definitely barred.
Gustav Cassel the well-known Swedish economist declared in Svenska Dagbladet of April 8 that he was filled with deepest concern at news of Russian war reparations demands of Finland. People of Finland would be most heavily stricken and they would also be deprived, for at least a whole generation, of economic health.
[6.] Finland’s only ocean port is Petsamo which is of greatest importance as was proved in ’40 and ’41. Economic incorporation of Petsamo with Finland and its development has entailed heavy sacrifices for country. Solely for purposes of territorial aggrandizement Soviet Union now demands Petsamo.
[7.] Foundation of freedom and independence of Finland would be undermined by conditions set by Russia as stated above. Terms include conditions which cannot possibly be achieved.”

In reviewing this memorandum with me Dr. Ramsay pointed out first the references to self-determination principle in paragraph 2, saying that right of small peoples to live in territories bounded by limits of their own choice had been frequently expressed in course of war. (I have reason to believe that this memorandum as first drafted included references to Atlantic Charter.

When I had finished reading memorandum Dr. Ramsay asked me what I thought and I said that this was as he had stated the “purely Finnish point of view” and pointed out that it contained no reference to Finland’s association with Germans, which was of greatest concern to our Government. I added that I would not venture an opinion on terms myself nor on findings in Finnish memorandum.

Dr. Ramsay replied to my point about Germans by saying that situation was indeed very complicated but that purpose of memorandum was to show that even if German question were disregarded terms still meant something like oblivion for Finland. He recalled [Page 594] that he had some time previously asked my predecessor15 if our Government’s attitude toward Finland would be the same if once Germans had left country Finns were to continue to fight Russians. I said that as far as I knew our views were still those expressed in my aide-mémoire of January 31.

Dr. Ramsay insisted on crushing nature of Soviet terms and I repeated that I had no opinion on terms but that average man in America probably wondered what Finland had to gain by rejecting them, pointing out our Government’s view that Finland would have to accept the consequences. Dr. Ramsay said that it was easy enough for average man in America or for that matter in Stockholm to say to Finland to go ahead and surrender but that it was very, very complicated.

He confirmed that memorandum which he gave me was for our Government and not for dissemination. He also said that there would probably not be a communiqué about Finnish reply for some days at least until Russian reaction was known. As I left I repeated that I would not undertake to express any opinion on memorandum but would transmit it to Department.

To Stockholm as my 79.

  1. Copy transmitted to the Department in despatch 2725, April 19, 1944, from Helsinki; not printed.
  2. Robert M. McClintock.