711.61/977a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman)

268. Personal for the Ambassador. I am becoming increasingly concerned over the repercussions in the press and elsewhere in the United States of the successive moves of the Soviet Government in the field of foreign relations. Your telegrams, as I have already told [Page 825] you, have been of the greatest value to us in the continuous consideration which President as well as I and my associates here have been giving to every aspect of the situation. Your comments and observations have provided us with an excellent picture of the attitude of mind of the Soviet leaders and we in turn have endeavored to give you our views as seen from the United States and this telegram should be read in conjunction with our no. 88, January 15, no. 150 January 25, as well as the President’s message to Stalin contained in our no. 236, February 7.55

While we have made every effort in our contact with responsible press correspondents and commentators to counsel patience and steadiness in commenting on the recent Soviet moves in foreign affairs, and particularly in regard to the Soviet-Polish dispute, there is evidence in the press and public comment in the United States of a mounting concern and apprehension, amounting in many cases to suspicion, as to the real motives of the Soviet Government. The cumulative effect of the Pravda attack on Willkie,56 the Cairo dispatch reporting peace negotiation rumors,57 the rejection of our tender of good offices,58 the failure of the British efforts up to the present to make any progress in the Polish-Soviet dispute, the truculence of the Soviet press and particularly the War and The Working Class including the attack on the Greek Government-in-exile, and the recent Constitutional changes with the as yet unclarified potentialities in foreign affairs, have mystified and alarmed the American public.

Whatever the justification from the Soviet point of view of each individual statement or action, the fact that they are made without any adequate clarification or explanation which our people can understand can only serve to stimulate the suspicion we are so anxious to avoid in regard to Soviet objectives and to undermine faith in the validity of the results of the Moscow and Tehran Conferences. They also provide enemy propaganda with an opportunity which is by no means being neglected at the present time.

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If similar indications of the Soviet determination to deal unilaterally with the problems of Eastern Europe continue to manifest themselves, the American public even against its will and desires may well be forced to the conclusion that despite Tehran and Moscow the Soviet Government is not disposed to play a constructive part as a full and equal member of the family of nations in the movement of international cooperation. However valid the Soviet position on one or another of the questions of Eastern Europe may be, and as you know we have carefully avoided and shall continue to avoid any disputation with the Soviet Government on the merits of such questions, the present course of Soviet policy if translated into unilateral action cannot fail to do irreparable harm to the whole cause of international collaboration. For without public support of its present efforts in that direction this Government and any other democratic government can accomplish little. Matters are rapidly approaching the point where the Soviet Government will have to choose between the development and extension of the foundation of international cooperation as the guiding principle of the postwar world as against the continuance of a unilateral and arbitrary method of dealing with its special problems even though these problems are admittedly of more direct interest to the Soviet Union than to other great powers. The American people will be unable to reconcile the contradictions between the two and will not be disposed to favor American participation in a scheme of world organization which will merely be regarded as a cover for another great power to continue to pursue a course of unilateral action in the international sphere based on superior force. We share your view that it is of the utmost importance that the principle of consultation and cooperation with the Soviet Union be kept alive at all costs, but some measures of cooperation in relation to world public opinion must be forthcoming from the Soviet Government.

The foregoing is intended primarily for your confidential information, but you are authorized in your discretion and if you believe it will be helpful to use all or any part thereof in your conversations with Soviet officials not as the views of this Government but as indications of the present temper of American public opinion.

  1. These telegrams, reflecting concern of the United States over current Polish-Soviet developments, are printed in vol. iii, pp. 1228, 1234, and 1243, respectively.
  2. Reports on the visit of Wendell L. Willkie, Personal Representative of President Roosevelt, in the Soviet Union during September 1942 are printed in Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iii, pp. 637650, passim. Willkie wrote an article which was published in Life magazine for October 5, 1942, describing his meetings with Stalin. An article in Pravda had bitterly attacked this.
  3. The newspaper Pravda on January 17, 1944, published a report from its own correspondent in Cairo based upon reliable information about a recent secret meeting in one of the coastal cities of the Iberian Peninsula between two responsible British officials and the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop. The purpose of the meeting was to find out the conditions of a separate peace with Germany. It was presumed that the meeting had not remained without results. Two days later Pravda printed a Tass (Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union) dispatch from London reporting that the Reuter Agency had stated that the British Foreign Office had denied the rumors from Cairo.
  4. See vol. iii, p. 1236, footnote 53.