740.00119 (Potsdam)/6–645

No. 25
Memorandum by the Assistant to the Secretary of State ( Bohlen )

top secret

Memorandum of 2nd Conversation at the Kremlin, 8 pm May 27

Present: Mr. Hopkins, Ambassador Harriman, Mr. Bohlen
Marshal Stalin, Mr. Molotov, Mr. Pavlov
Subjects: Subjects about which Stalin expressed concern:
Invitation of Argentina to San Francisco
Reparation Commission
The Polish question
Curtailment of Lend Lease
Disposition of German Navy and Merchant Ships Poland

Mr. Hopkins said that last night the Marshal had indicated that there were a number of questions concerning the United States which were worrying him. He asked Marshal Stalin if he would perhaps care to begin with these questions.

[Page 32]

Marshal Stalin said he would not attempt to use Soviet public opinion as a screen but would speak of the feeling that had been created in Soviet governmental circles as a result of recent moves on the part of the United States Government. He said these circles felt a certain alarm in regard to the attitude of the United States Government. It was their impression that the American attitude towards the Soviet Union had perceptibly cooled once it became obvious that Germany was defeated, and that it was as though the Americans were saying that the Russians were no longer needed. He said he would give the following examples:

The case of Argentina and the invitation to the San Francisco Conference. At Yalta it had been agreed that only those states which had declared war on Germany before the first of March would be invited1 but at San Francisco this decision had been overturned.2 He said it was not understood in the Soviet Union why Argentina could not have been asked to wait three months or so before joining the world organization. He added that the action of the Conference and the attitude of the United States had raised the question of the value of agreements between the three major powers if their decisions could be overturned by the votes of such countries as Honduras and Porto Rico.
The question of the Reparations Commission. At Yalta it had been agreed that the three powers would sit on this Commission in Moscow3 and subsequently the United States Government had insisted that France should be represented on the same basis as the Soviet Union. This he felt was an insult to the Soviet Union in view of the fact that France had concluded a separate peace with Germany and had opened the frontier to the Germans. It was true that this had been done by Petain’s Government but nevertheless it was an action of France. To attempt to place France on the same footing as the Soviet Union looked like an attempt to humiliate the Russians.
The attitude of the United States Government towards the Polish question. He said that at Yalta it had been agreed that the existing government was to be reconstructed4 and that anyone with common sense could see that this meant that the present government was to form the basis of the new. He said no other understanding of the Yalta Agreement was possible. Despite the fact that they were simple people the Russians should not be regarded as fools, which was a mistake the West frequently made, nor were they blind and could quite well see what was going on before their eyes. It is true that the Russians are patient in the interests of a common cause but that their patience has its limits.
The manner in which Lend Lease had been curtailed.5 He said that if the United States was unable to supply the Soviet Union [Page 33] further under Lend Lease that was one thing but that the manner in which it had been done had been unfortunate and even brutal. For example, certain ships had been unloaded and while it was true that this order had been cancelled the whole manner in which it had been done had caused concern to the Soviet Government. If the refusal to continue Lend Lease was designed as pressure on the Russians in order to soften them up then it was a fundamental mistake. He said he must tell Mr. Hopkins frankly that [if] the Russians were approached frankly on a friendly basis much could be done but that reprisals in any form would bring about the exact opposite effect.
The disposition of the German Navy and merchant fleet which surrendered to the Allies. Stalin said that as we knew certain units of the German Army who had been fighting against the Russians had been anxious to surrender to the western allies but not to the Russians, but under the surrender terms German troops were supposed to surrender to the army against which they had fought. He said, for example General Eisenhower as an honest man had correctly turned over to the Soviet Command in Czechoslovakia some 135,000 German troops who had tried to surrender to the American Army. This was an example of fair and honest behavior. However, as regards to the German fleet which had caused so much damage to Leningrad and other Soviet ports not one had been turned over to the Russians despite the fact the fleet had surrendered. He added that he had sent a message to the President and Prime Minister suggesting that at least one-third of the German Navy and merchant marine thus surrendered be turned over to the Soviet Union.6 The rest could be disposed of by Great Britain and the United States as they saw fit. He added that if the Soviet Union had been entitled to a part of the Italian fleet they certainly had more right to their fair share of the German fleet, since they had suffered five million casualties in this war. He said that the Soviet Government had certain information leading it to believe that both the United States and England intended to reject the Soviet request and he must say that if this turned out to be true it would be very unpleasant. The Marshal concluded by saying that he had completed the range of his account.

Mr. Hopkins said he first of all wished to express his appreciation of the frankness with which Marshal Stalin had exposed his worries. He said that insofar as he and Ambassador Harriman were able they would answer equally frankly and if on certain points they did not have full information they would endeavor to obtain it. He said he would take the case of the German fleet first. From conversations he had had with Admiral King he was able to state that the United States had no desire to retain any portion of the German fleet and merely wished to examine the vessels for possible new inventions or technical improvements. After that we were prepared to sink the share turned over to us. He also said that he had always understood [Page 34] that the fleet was to be divided between the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain and that insofar as the United States was concerned there was no objection to whatever disposition the Soviet Government wished to make with its share. He added that he thought that this matter could be definitely settled at the forthcoming meeting of the three heads of Government.

Mr. Hopkins then said on the subject of Lend Lease he thought it had been clear to the Soviet Union that the end of the war with Germany would necessitate a reconsideration of the old program of Lend Lease to the Soviet Union.

Marshal Stalin said that was entirely understandable.

Mr. Hopkins continued that the history of Lend Lease showed that although in certain cases we had not always been able to meet every Soviet request we had nonetheless freely accepted commitments which we had done our best to carry out in spirit as well as in fact.

Marshal Stalin said that was undoubtedly true.

Mr. Hopkins stated that even prior to the end of the war in Europe we had made an agreement with the Soviet Union known as Annex 3 to Protocol I [IV],7 which involved delivery of supplies which might be of use in the Far East. He said that this grew out of recent conferences in which Far Eastern matters had been discussed. He emphasized that this commitment was accepted in full by the United States and we were in the process of carrying it out. In regard to the unloading of the ships he said that that was a technical misunderstanding and did not in any sense represent a decision of policy on the part of the United States. That it had been the action of one government agency involved in Lend Lease and that it had been countermanded promptly within twenty-four hours. He said that no one who was responsible for Lend Lease policy or American Government policy had had anything to do with that mistaken order. The only question which had to be reconsidered was the program of deliveries to the Soviet Union which had been based on the needs of the war against Germany and that it had been made clear that on the basis of this reconsideration we would be glad to reconsider any Soviet requests and that he thought some were now being considered. He said he wished to emphasize that he had seen no tendency on the part of those responsible for American policy to handle the question of future Lend Lease to the Soviet Union in an arbitrary fashion. It was in fact a question of law, since the basic Lend Lease Act8 made it [Page 35] clear that materials could only be delivered which would be useful in the process of the war. The United States Government, however, had interpreted this in its broadest sense and had included in addition to munitions of war foodstuffs and other non-military items.

Marshal Stalin said this was true.

Mr. Hopkins concluded by saying that there had naturally been considerable confusion in the United States Government as to the status of Lend Lease towards Russia at the end of the war and that there had been varying legal interpretations but that he wished to emphasize that the incident to which Marshal Stalin referred did not have any fundamental policy significance.

Marshal Stalin said he wished to make it clear that he fully understood the right of the United States to curtail Lend Lease shipments to the Soviet Union under present conditions since our commitments in this respect had been freely entered into. Even two months ago it would have been quite correct for the United States to have begun to curtail shipments but what he had in mind was the manner and form in which it was done. He felt that what was after all an agreement between the two Governments had been ended in a scornful and abrupt manner. He said that if proper warning had been given to the Soviet Government there would have been no feeling of the kind he had spoken of; that this warning was important to them since their economy was based on plans. He added that they had intended to make a suitable expression of gratitude to the United States for the Lend Lease assistance during the war but the way in which this program had been halted now made that impossible to do.

Mr. Hopkins replied that what disturbed him most about the Marshal’s statement was the revelation that he believed that the United States would use Lend Lease as a means of showing our displeasure with the Soviet Union. He wished to assure the Marshal that however unfortunate an impression this question had caused in the mind of the Soviet Government he must believe that there was no attempt or desire on the part of the United States to use it as a pressure weapon. He said the United States is a strong power and does not go in for those methods. Furthermore, we have no conflict of immediate interests with the Soviet Union and would have no reason to adopt such practices.

Marshal Stalin said he believed Mr. Hopkins and was fully satisfied with his statement in regard to Lend Lease but said he hoped Mr. Hopkins would consider how it had looked from their side.

Ambassador Harriman then suggested that he and Mr. Molotov might go into the details of the whole Lend Lease matter together with Mr. Mikoyan the following day.

Mr. Hopkins concluded the discussions of Lend Lease by stating that he thought it would be a great tragedy if the greatest achievement [Page 36] in cooperation which the Soviet Union and the United States had on the whole worked out together on the basis of Lend Lease were to end on an unsatisfactory note. He said he wished to add that we had never believed that our Lend Lease help had been the chief factor in the Soviet defeat of Hitler on the eastern front. That this had been done by the heroism and blood of the Russian Army.

Mr. Hopkins then turned to the question of the Reparations Commission. He said it was true that we had suggested France as an additional member and that the Soviet Government had indicated that if France was to be a member there were other countries with equal or better claims to be represented. He said that he had not been directly involved in this question since the Yalta Conference because of his illness but so far as he knew our only motive was that France was to be represented on the Control Council for Germany and it therefore appeared reasonable and logical that she should participate in the reparations discussions. He said he realized that the Soviet Union had reluctantly agreed to the participation of France in the Control Council at the Crimea Conference. In any event the situation now was that the three powers were to go ahead and begin discussions in Moscow without France. He wished to state that he also had in mind the doubts which Stalin and Molotov had in regard to the subject of reparations and how seriously they regarded this question. He wished only to say that the United States for its part considered reparations a most important and serious question which must be thrashed out in the Reparations Commission. He said he did not of course know, but he felt that we would probably not insist in an unyielding manner on the question of the admission of France.

Marshal Stalin replied that Poland, which had suffered even more than France should certainly be represented if France was to be, and that Yugoslavia also deserved a place.

Mr. Hopkins then said in regard to the Argentine question, since he had not been at San Francisco he would ask Ambassador Harriman to explain that situation. He added that he had been at Yalta and he must say that the Marshal was right in regard to the decision there.

Ambassador Harriman said that he hoped that he could speak frankly on the subject of the Argentine and that Mr. Molotov would forgive him if he spoke in that fashion. He said he had not been at Mexico City9 and therefore was not familiar with all of the implications of certain commitments taken there. In brief, however, the situation was that we came to San Francisco with a commitment [Page 37] which President Roosevelt assumed at Yalta to support the admission of the Ukraine and White Russia as original members of the world organization10 and also with certain commitments with the South American countries in regard to Argentina.11 At San Francisco, at Mr. Molotov’s request, Mr. Stettinius had taken up with the Latin American countries the question of their willingness to support the Crimea Decision in regard to the Ukraine and White Russia. The Latin American countries had immediately tried to connect this question with that of the admission of the Argentine. Mr. Stettinius had made it plain that he would not make any such connection and if Mr. Molotov recalled the Latin American countries had voted solidly in support of the Yalta decision. There was, however, another step to the Ukraine and White Russia question, namely that of inviting them to the Conference, concerning which the United States had taken no commitment at Yalta. Mr. Harriman said that he, personally, felt that if Mr. Molotov had not introduced the question of an invitation to the present Polish Government12 we might have been successful in persuading the Latin American countries to postpone the question of Argentina, but that once Mr. Molotov had connected the question of Argentina with that of an invitation to the present Polish Government, Mr. Stettinius felt that because of the willingness of the South American countries to support the Crimea Decision and the invitation to the Ukraine and White Russia, he was committed to vote for the admission of Argentina.

Mr. Molotov said that his request for more time had not been granted.

Marshal Stalin said in any event what had been done could not be put right and that the Argentine question belonged to the past.

Mr. Hopkins then said with the Marshal’s permission he would like to review the position of the United States in regard to Poland. He said first of all he wished to assure the Marshal that he had no thought or indeed any right to attempt to settle the Polish problem during his visit here in Moscow, nor was he intending to hide behind American public opinion in presenting the position of the United States.

Marshal Stalin said he was afraid that his remark concerning Soviet public opinion had cut Mr. Hopkins to the quick and that he had not meant to imply that Mr. Hopkins was hiding behind the screen of American public opinion. In fact he knew Mr. Hopkins to be an honest and frank man.

[Page 38]

Mr. Hopkins said that he wished to state this position as clearly and as forcibly as he knew how. He said the question of Poland per se was not so important as the fact that it had become a symbol of our ability to work out problems with the Soviet Union. He said that we had no special interests in Poland and no special desire to see any particular kind of government. That we would accept any government in Poland which was desired by the Polish people and was at the same time friendly to the Soviet Government. He said that the people and Government of the United States felt that this was a problem which should be worked out jointly between the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain and that we felt that the Polish people should be given the right to free elections to choose their own government and their own system and that Poland should genuinely be independent. The Government and people of the United States were disturbed because the preliminary steps towards the reestablishment of Poland appeared to have been taken unilaterally by the Soviet Union together with the present Warsaw Government and that in fact the United States was completely excluded. He said he hoped that Stalin would believe him when he said that this feeling was a fact. Mr. Hopkins said he urged that Marshal Stalin would judge American policy by the actions of the United States Government itself and not by the attitudes and public expressions of the Hearst newspapers and the Chicago Tribune. He hoped that the Marshal would put his mind to the task of thinking up what diplomatic methods could be used to settle this question, keeping in mind the feeling of the American people. He said he himself was not prepared to say how it could be done but that he felt it must be done. Poland had become a symbol in the sense that it bore a direct relation to the willingness of the United States to participate in international affairs on a world-wide basis and that our people must believe that they are joining their power with that of the Soviet Union and Great Britain in the promotion of international peace and the well being of humanity. Mr. Hopkins went on to say that he felt the overwhelming majority of the people of the United States felt that the relations between the United States and the USSR could be worked out in a spirit of cooperation despite the differences in ideology and that with all these factors in its favor he wished to appeal to the Marshal to help find a way to the solution of the Polish problem.

Marshal Stalin replied that he wished Mr. Hopkins would take into consideration the following factors: He said it may seem strange although it appeared to be recognized in United States circles and Churchill in his speeches also recognized it, that the Soviet Government should wish for a friendly Poland. In the course of twenty-five [Page 39] years the Germans had twice invaded Russia via Poland. Neither the British nor American people had experienced such German invasions which were a horrible thing to endure and the results of which were not easily forgotten. He said these German invasions were not warfare but were like the incursions of the Huns. He said that Germany had been able to do this because Poland had been regarded as a part of the cordon sanitaire around the Soviet Union and that previous European policy had been that Polish Governments must be hostile to Russia. In these circumstances either Poland had been too weak to oppose Germany or had let the Germans come through. Thus Poland had served as a corridor for the German attacks on Russia. He said Poland’s weakness and hostility had been a great source of weakness to the Soviet Union and had permitted the Germans to do what they wished in the East and also in the West since the two were mixed together. It is therefore in Russia’s vital interest that Poland should be both strong and friendly. He said there was no intention on the part of the Soviet Union to interfere in Poland’s internal affairs, that Poland would live under the parliamentary system which is like Czechoslovakia, Belgium and Holland and that any talk of an intention to Sovietize Poland was stupid. He said even the Polish leaders, some of whom were communists, were against the Soviet system since the Polish people did not desire collective farms or other aspects of the Soviet system. In this the Polish leaders were right since the Soviet system was not exportable—it must develop from within on the basis of a set of conditions which were not present in Poland. He said all the Soviet Union wanted was that Poland should not be in a position to open the gates to Germany and in order to prevent this Poland must be strong and democratic. Stalin then said that before he came to his suggestion as to the practical solution of the question he would like to comment on Mr. Hopkins’s remarks concerning future United States interests in the world. He said that whether the United States wished it or not it was a world power and would have to accept world-wide interests. Not only this war but the previous war had shown that without United States intervention Germany could not have been defeated and that all the events and developments of the last thirty years had confirmed this. In fact the United States had more reason to be a world power than any other state. For this reason he fully recognized the right of the United States as a world power to participate in the Polish question and that the Soviet interest in Poland does not in any way exclude those of England and the United States. Mr. Hopkins had spoken of Russian unilateral action in Poland and United States public opinion concerning it. It was true that Russia had taken such unilateral action but they had been compelled to. He said the Soviet [Page 40] Government had recognized the Warsaw Government and concluded a treaty13 with it at a time when their Allies did not recognize this government. These were admittedly unilateral acts which would have been much better left undone but the fact was they had not met with any understanding on the part of their Allies. The need for these actions had arisen out of the presence of Soviet troops in Poland and it would have been impossible to have waited until such time as the Allies had come to an agreement on Poland. The logic of the war against Germany demanded that the Soviet rear be assured and the Lublin Committee had been of great assistance to the Red Army at all times and it was for this reason that these actions had been taken by the Soviet Government. He said it was contrary to the Soviet policy to set up [a] Soviet administration on foreign soil since this would look like occupation and be resented by the local inhabitants. It was for this reason that some Polish administration had to be established in Poland and this could be done only with those who had helped the Red Army. He said he wished to emphasize that these steps had not been taken with any desire to eliminate or exclude Russia’s Allies. He must point out however that Soviet action in Poland had been more successful than British action in Greece and at no time had they been compelled to undertake the measures which they had done in Greece. Stalin then turned to his suggestion for the solution of the Polish problem.

Marshal Stalin said that he felt that we should examine the composition of the future Government of National Unity. He said there were eighteen or twenty ministries in the present Polish Government and that four or five of these portfolios could be given representatives of other Polish groups taken from the list submitted by Great Britain and the United States (Molotov whispered to Stalin who then said he meant four and not five posts in the government). He said he thought the Warsaw Poles would not accept more than four ministers from other democratic groups. He added that if this appears a suitable basis we could then proceed to consider what persons should be selected for these posts. He said of course that they would have to be friendly to the USSR and to the Allies. He added that Mikolajczyk had been suggested and he thought he was acceptable and that the question was now who else. He inquired of Mr. Hopkins whether possibly Professor Lange might be willing to join the government.

Mr. Hopkins said he doubted whether Professor Lange, who was an American citizen could be induced to give up his American citizenship for this purpose but that of course was only a private opinion.

[Page 41]

Marshal Stalin then said it might be wise to ask some of the Warsaw leaders to come to Moscow now and to hear what they had to say and to learn more of what had been decided. He added that if we are able to settle the composition of the new government he felt that no differences remained since we were all agreed on the free and unfettered elections and that no one intended to interfere with the Polish people.

Mr. Hopkins said he would like to have some time to consider the Marshal’s suggestion.

Marshal Stalin then said that there were three other questions they had not touched on:

Future policy in regard to the occupation of Germany;
Japan; and
Meeting of the three heads of Government.

In reply to Mr. Hopkins’s question Marshal Stalin said that he was prepared to meet at any time but had not yet heard from the President and Prime Minister whether the Berlin area was acceptable or not.

In conclusion Mr. Hopkins said he felt it would be most desirable if Marshal Stalin could announce publicly as soon as possible the appointment of Marshal Zhukov as Soviet Representative on the Control Council for Germany so that that body could start its work as soon as possible.

Marshal Stalin said he was prepared to announce Marshal Zhukov’s appointment either tomorrow or the next day or whenever we wanted.

It was agreed that the next meeting would take place at 6 P.M. tomorrow, May 28th.

  1. See vol. ii, document No. 1416, section i .
  2. See The United Nations Conference on International Organization: Selected Documents, pp. 317–325, 405–406, 409–410.
  3. See vol. ii, document No. 1416, section v .
  4. See vol. ii, document No. 1417, section vi .
  5. See Truman, Year of Decisions, p. 228.
  6. See document No. 386, footnote 2.
  7. The reference is to the so-called “Fourth Protocol” concerning lend-lease between the Soviet Union and the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, signed April 17, 1945. Text in Wartime International Agreements: Soviet Supply Protocols (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1947; Department of State publication No. 2759), p. 89. For the text of annex iii to the Fourth Protocol, see ibid., p. 141.
  8. Approved March 11, 1941 (55 Stat. 31).
  9. At the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace, February 21–March 8, 1945.
  10. See Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 966.
  11. See The United Nations Conference on International Organization: Selected Documents, p. 405.
  12. See ibid., p. 318.
  13. Signed at Moscow, April 21, 1945. Text in United Nations Treaty Series, vol. 12, p. 391.