No. 1418
Memorandum by the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State ( Bohlen )


Subject: Meeting of President Truman with Generalissimo Stalin at Babelsberg, 12 noon, July 17, 1945

Present: President Truman, Secretary of State Byrnes, Mr. Bohlen;

Generalissimo Stalin, Foreign Commissar Molotov, Mr. Pavlov

The opening remarks recorded in my longhand notes on this meeting1 refer to Stalin’s apology for arriving late at Potsdam. (He arrived one day after the President.) Stalin explained that he had been delayed by the negotiations with the Chinese.2 (T. V. Soong had been in Moscow for negotiations for a Sino-Soviet treaty subsequently concluded that summer.) He also explained that his doctors had forbidden him to fly because of the condition of his lungs.

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President Truman expressed understanding of the reason for Stalin’s arriving late and said he had looked forward for a long time to making his acquaintance. Stalin agreed upon the importance of personal relationships and contacts, to which the President replied that he thought they would have no difficulty in reaching agreement on the matters which would be before them at the Potsdam Conference.

The President having replied in the negative to Stalin’s inquiry as to whether he had any questions to be added to the agenda, Molotov read a list of questions which the Soviets desired to have included, pointing out that some were already on the agenda. He listed:

Division of the German Fleet.
The Polish question.

Under the last heading he included the question of the status of the former Polish Government-in-Exile in London headed by Arciszewski and in particular the disposal of the assets belonging to that former government. He also mentioned the question of the western frontiers of Poland, which apparently was already on the agenda. Stalin pointed out that the Yalta Conference had not decided the frontiers of Poland.3

Molotov raised the question of the possibility of trusteeships for the U. S. S. R. Stalin explained that there was no question of changing existing trusteeship arrangements, which had been settled at San Francisco,4 but he thought, although this might appear stupid, that the Soviets were entitled to be considered for trusteeship of the former Italian colonies which had not been assigned. He did not dispute the claims of other countries, but merely felt that in principle the Soviets should be entitled to consideration for the administration of one.

Some reference was made by Molotov to the question of relations with the former Axis satellites and also to the problem of the Franco regime in Spain. There seems here to have been a discussion between Secretary Byrnes, Molotov, and Stalin as to how the trusteeship item should be worded on the agenda.

There then followed a brief discussion as to the time to be set for the meetings of the Conference, including some joking references by Secretary Byrnes to Stalin’s habit of rising late, to which Stalin replied that he had changed those habits since the war. It appears [Page 1584] to have been agreed that the Conference would meet at 5 p.m. for its opening session on July 17 and would meet regularly at 4 p.m. after that.

There is a brief but not clear discussion as to the meetings of the military advisers during the Conference, at which time it was indicated that General Marshall would be there for the United States and General Antonov for the Soviets and possibly an Air Marshal for the British.

Stalin then returned to the question of the Franco regime in Spain. He explained that this regime had not come about as a result of internal conditions but had been imposed by the Germans and the Italians. He felt its continuance was a danger to the United Nations, since it would be disposed to give shelter to fascist remnants. The Soviet Government thought it would be proper to break off relations with the present regime and give the Spanish people a chance to select a government of their choice. The President said he held no brief for Franco and agreed that the matter should be studied.

There seems to have been a brief discussion of the conduct of the business of the Conference during which the President restated his pleasure at meeting Generalissimo Stalin. With what appears to be a jocular reference to Stalin’s nickname, “Uncle Joe”, the President appears to have said that he proposed to deal directly with Stalin as a friend and that, since he was no diplomat, he would not beat around the bush but would operate on a yes or no basis. Stalin expressed appreciation for the President’s remark and said that the Soviet Union would always try to meet the views of the United States.

Following the President’s remark that Churchill had called on him also, there appears to have been a brief discussion of the British election, during which Stalin expressed the view that the British people would not throw Churchill out if only because of his great service during the war and their instinct of self-preservation. The President made some mention of the size of the majority that Churchill expected to have. (It seemed to be in the neighborhood of 80 seats.) With reference to Stalin’s observation, the President agreed and spoke of the precedent of the re-election of Roosevelt in 1944.

Stalin then appears to have spoken about the different attitude of the British toward the Japanese and European wars. He said that Great Britain seemed to think that the war was virtually over with the victory in Europe, but they had been bombed by the Germans and not by the Japanese. The British therefore had very little interest in the war against Japan, and this might be a complicating factor in relations with the British. The President observed that the United States was not in the same dire straits in regard to the war in the Pacific as England had been in with regard to the war Europe.

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Stalin reverted to the Yalta agreement concerning Soviet entry into the Pacific war 5 and told the President that the Soviets would be ready for such entry by the middle of August, but said that prior to acting they would need to complete their negotiations and reach agreement with the Chinese.

Stalin then gave a brief outline of the status of these negotiations, in which he stated that the question of Outer Mongolia had been agreed after long negotiation, but that the question of railroads in Manchuria and the status of Dairen and Port Arthur were still the subject of differences. He mentioned that Soong was not optimistic about settling these differences by cable, and he had observed that Soong understood the Russian position better than Chungking. The President observed at this point that he had had a long talk with T. V. Soong 6 and that the latter well understood the situation.

Stalin continued that Soong was prepared to return to Chungking in an endeavor to persuade his Government, and should return to Moscow by the end of July. He had asked from the Soviets a statement giving a Soviet assurance that Manchuria was a part of China and subject to its sovereignty. The Soviets had given this assurance. Stalin said that Soong had asked assurances that the central government would be the only recognized authority in Manchuria and not any other military nucleus, having in mind the Communist army. He repeated that the Soviet Union would give Soong full assurances on all these points. The President said that he was very happy to hear that these matters were so near settlement. Stalin repeated that assurances had been given that there would be one government and one army, and that this would be clearly stated in the treaty, which was to last for 30 years as against the 20-year term of the Czech treaty.7 It would also provide for noninterference in Chinese internal affairs and deal with the problem of Sinkiang, where it was recognized that the Chinese authorities had a definite problem with the local population. The Soviets agreed not to give any assistance to the rebels. Special provisions in the treaty dealt with this problem of noninterference. The Soviets had, however, suggested to the Chinese that they make concessions, such as native schools, to satisfy the non-Chinese inhabitants in Sinkiang. According to Stalin, Soong had agreed and [Page 1586] realized that a situation of this kind could not be calmed by a stick but required certain concessions and improvements for the local inhabitants.

The President remarked that Soong seemed to be a reasonable man. Secretary Byrnes asked what differences still remained.

Stalin said the Yalta agreement provided that the railroads should be jointly administered and that the preeminent interests of the Soviet Union were to be safeguarded in regard to the railroads and also in Dairen and Port Arthur. The Chinese do not recognize the Soviet preeminent interest and will attempt to get around it. In answer to his own rhetorical question as to what the Soviet preeminent interests were, Stalin pointed out that they were asking no profit from the railroads, the administration of which would be equally divided, although they had been built by Russian money. Furthermore, there would be no guards such as the Japanese had maintained, but the Chinese would protect the railroads themselves. The old treaty concerning the railroads8 had been for 80 years, after which time they would revert to China. The Soviet suggestion in the present instance was 30 years. He also mentioned that the Russians wished to have a majority of one on the railroad board and a Russian director, but the Chinese wanted a Chinese director with no Russian majority. There was also the question of the Chinese administration of Dairen. At this point there was an exchange between Secretary Byrnes and Stalin relating to the question of joint administration and a Chinese majority. Stalin said that the Soviets had proposed a city council with a joint board in which the Russians would participate.

The President then appears to have asked what effect this arrangement would have on the rights of the United States. Stalin answered that it would be a free port open to the commerce of all nations, to which the President observed that it would follow, therefore, the Open Door policy. Stalin remarked that all was not smooth with the Chinese, presumably between Soong and his government, and this was why Soong had gone home.

Reverting to the question of Soviet entry into the Far Eastern war, Stalin repeated that the Soviets would be ready in mid-August, as was agreed at Yalta, and said they would keep their word. The President appears to have expressed his confidence that the Soviets would keep their word.

Secretary Byrnes reverted to the negotiations with the Chinese and said that, if the arrangements were in strict accordance with the Yalta agreement, this would be all right, but that if at any point they were in excess of that agreement, this would create difficulties. Stalin stated that their desires were more liberal than the Yalta agreement, which had provided for the restoration of Russian rights. This [Page 1587] would have entitled them to station troops and to have the railroads run for 80 years exclusively by Russians. He said they would have had that formal right, but they had not insisted on it. The Soviets did not wish to add in any respect to the Yalta agreement or to deceive the Chinese. However, he said that Chungking did not understand horse trading; they were very slow and tried to wangle every little thing. They did not seem to be aware of the big picture.

The President and Secretary Byrnes both indicated that the main interest of the United States was in a free port.

In reply to the Secretary’s inquiry as to Soong’s movements, Stalin stated that Soong expected to return to Moscow at the end of July to finish the negotiations. In an obvious reference to Outer Mongolia, Stalin stated that for 22 years there had been no ties with the Chinese and no Chinese representation there. The Chinese therefore could not lose what they did not have.

C[harles] E B[ohlen]
  1. Ante, pp. 4346.
  2. Concerning the Stalin-Soong conversations referred to, see vol. i, p. 857.
  3. See document No. 1417, section vi.
  4. i. e., at the United Nations Conference on International Organization. See chapters xi–xiii of the Charter of the United Nations, signed at San Francisco, June 26, 1945 (Treaty Series No. 993; 59 Stat. (2) 1031).
  5. Signed February 11, 1945. For text, see Executive Agreement Series No. 498; 59 Stat. (2) 1823; Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 984.
  6. See Truman, Year of Decisions, pp. 268-270.
  7. The reference is to the Soviet-Czechoslovak Treaty of Friendship, Mutual Assistance, and Post-War Cooperation, signed at Moscow, December 12, 1943, which was to remain in force for 20 years. For text, see Department of State, Documents and State Papers, vol. i, p. 228.
  8. For a description of and citations to the treaties referred to, see ante, p. 1231.