EUR Files

The Secretary of War ( Stimson ) to the President

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Memorandum for the President:

I attach a letter from General Deane to General Marshall which the Chief of Staff and I both feel is an apt presentation with sound recommendations.

General Deane has informed us that the American Ambassador in Moscow has seen this letter and concurs fully in the thoughts and recommendations and believes that they apply with equal force to political matters. Mr. Harriman, however, wished to point out the difficulty of giving an accurate picture in such a short letter and states that he would like to express his views in greater detail if consideration is to be given to a change in our policy in dealing with the Soviet Government.

I have furnished the Secretary of State with a copy of General Deane’s letter.

Henry L. Stimson

Secretary of War

The Commanding General, United States Military Mission in the Soviet Union ( Deane ), to the Chief of Staff, United States Army ( Marshall )


Dear General Marshall : Now that I have been in Russia for some time and am qualified as an “expert,” I think it might be of some interest to you to have my general reactions. They may be of value to you since I have served under you long enough to enable you to evaluate them. A report is always more useful if one knows the reporter.

Everyone will agree on the importance of collaboration with Russia—now and in the future. It won’t be worth a hoot, however, unless it is based on mutual respect and made to work both ways. I have sat at innumerable Russian banquets and become gradually nauseated by Russian food, vodka, and protestations of friendship. [Page 448] Each person high in public life proposes a toast a little sweeter than the preceding one on Soviet-British-American friendship. It is amazing how these toasts go down past the tongues in the cheeks. After the banquets we send the Soviets another thousand airplanes, and they approve a visa that has been hanging fire for months. We then scratch our heads to see what other gifts we can send, and they scratch theirs to see what else they can ask for.

This picture may be overdrawn, but not much. When the Red Army was back on its heels, it was right for us to give them all possible assistance with no questions asked. It was right to bolster their morale in every way we could. However, they are no longer back on their heels; and, if there is one thing they have plenty of, it’s self-confidence. The situation has changed, but our policy has not. We still meet their requests to the limit of our ability, and they meet ours to the minimum that will keep us sweet.

The truth is that they want to have as little to do with foreigners, Americans included, as possible. We never make a request or proposal to the Soviets that is not viewed with suspicion. They simply cannot understand giving without taking, and as a result even our giving is viewed with suspicion. Gratitude cannot be banked in the Soviet Union. Each transaction is complete in itself without regard to past favors. The party of the second part is either a shrewd trader to be admired or a sucker to be despised.

We have obtained some concessions after exerting all the pressure we could assemble. These included the Frantic bases, improved communications, exchange of weather, trucks to China, exchange of enemy intelligence, some promises regarding the Far East, and some other inconsequential ones. The cost to the Soviet Union for any of these projects has been nil compared to the cost of our efforts in their behalf. Some will say that the Red Army has won the war for us. I can swallow all of this but the last two words. In our dealings with the Soviet authorities, the U. S. Military Mission has made every approach that has been made. Our files are bulging with letters to the Soviets and devoid of letters from them. This situation may be reversed in Washington, but I doubt it. In short, we are in the position of being at the same time the givers and the supplicants. This is neither dignified nor healthy for U. S. prestige.

The picture is not all bad. The individual Russian is a likeable person. Their racial characteristics are similar to ours. Individually I think they would be friendly if they dared to be—however, I have yet to see the inside of a Russian home. Officials dare not become too friendly with us, and others are persecuted for this offense. The Soviets have done an amazing job for their own people—both in the war and in the pre-war period. One cannot help admire their war effort and the spirit with which it has been accomplished. We have [Page 449] few conflicting interests, and there is little reason why we should not be friendly now and in the foreseeable future.

In closing, I believe we should revise our present attitude along the following lines.

Continue to assist the Soviet Union, provided they request such assistance, and we are satisfied that it contributes to winning the war.
Insist that they justify their needs for assistance in all cases where the need is not apparent to us. If they fail to do so, we should, in such cases, refuse assistance.
In all cases where our assistance does not contribute to the winning of the war, we should insist on a quid pro quo.
We should present proposals for collaboration that would be mutually beneficial, and then leave the next move to them.
When our proposals for collaboration are unanswered after a reasonable time, we should act as we think best and inform them of our action.
We should stop pushing ourselves on them and make the Soviet authorities come to us. We should be friendly and cooperative when they do so.

I think there is something here worth fighting for, and it is simply a question of the tactics to be employed. If the procedure I suggest above were to be followed, there would be a period in which our interests would suffer. However, I feel certain that we must be tougher if we are to gain their respect and be able to work with them in the future.

Sincerely yours,