Memorandum by the Legal Adviser ( Hackworth ) to the Chief of the Division of Eastern European Affairs ( Bohlen )
Mr. Bohlen: I am returning the Aide-Mémoire of May 6 from the Embassy of the Soviet Union requesting that Victor Kravchenko [Page 1231] be turned over to the Soviet authorities for prosecution for desertion, together with a memorandum dated May 10,16 prepared by Miss Fite.
It will be seen from the attached memorandum that our practice with respect to deporting people to countries in which they might be subjected to harsh treatment has not been entirely uniform. In some cases we have returned them, in other cases we have allowed them to depart from the country to destinations of their own choice, and in still others we have not seen fit to deport them.
Under our own law desertion from the military service in time of war may subject the deserter to the death penalty. It is to be supposed that no less severe penalty may be provided for by the law of the Soviet Union. The Aide-Mémoire from the Embassy expresses the confidence of the Soviet Government that we wall agree that such offenses as desertion “are especially dangerous under war conditions, and that the fight against them is necessary in the interests of our both Governments”.
While desertion is a political or military offense and would not constitute grounds for extradition under our Extradition Treaties, no such exception is made in our laws with respect to deportation, since deportation is supposed primarily to be in the interest of the deporting country and may not ordinarily be drawn upon by the demanding country in lieu of extradition. On the other hand, the precedents and treaties referred to relate to peace-time situations. In times of war greater weight is given to requests of allied governments in matters pertaining to desertion and lesser military offenses. We are now permitted by agreement to exercise jurisdiction over our military personnel in many foreign countries without regard to the gravity of the offense. We also allow certain foreign governments to exercise jurisdiction in the United States over their military personnel, and there is now pending in the Congress a bill designed to give service courts of foreign governments in the United States authority to try members of their forces in this country. The same bill would require assistance of our judicial and administrative officials in apprehending offenders and turning them over to the service courts. We would undoubtedly expect assistance from our allies in reclaiming deserters and, generally speaking, we would reciprocate. We have no agreement with the Soviet Union on this subject and we are, therefore, free to take whatever course we may think proper under all the circumstances.
The case resolves itself into one purely of policy as to how our interests would best be served.
- Not printed.↩