The Acting Secretary of State ( Grew ) to the President


Memorandum for the President

Subject: Soviet Foreign Policy

While you may not have time to read in full the enclosed lengthy interpretive report from Harriman on developments in Soviet policy derived from the attitudes of the Russian press, I believe that, in view of your forthcoming meeting, you will find it worthwhile to look over at least the first two paragraphs of the report which summarize the Ambassador’s conclusions in regard to the main lines of Soviet foreign policy at the present time.

Joseph C. Grew

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

90. For the Secretary and the Under Secretary.

Herewith my ninth interpretative report on developments in Soviet policy based on the Press for the period October 13 to December 31 for distribution as suggested in my 2215, December 14, 2 p. m., 1943.2 . . .

Report begins: No. 9.

The relative lull in military activities on the Eastern Front has in effect given the Soviet Union a chance to pursue its political objectives in areas liberated by Russian Army. As a result the pattern of Soviet tactics in Eastern Europe and the Balkans has taken shape and the nature of Soviet aims has been clarified. It has become apparent that the Soviets, while eschewing direct attempts to incorporate into the Soviet Union alien peoples who were not embraced within the frontiers of June 21, 1941, are nevertheless employing the wide variety of means at their disposal—occupation troops, secret police, local communist parties, labor unions, sympathetic leftist organizations, sponsored cultural societies, and economic pressure—to assure the establishment of regimes which, while maintaining an outward appearance of independence and of broad popular support, actually depend for their existence on groups responsive to all suggestions emanating from the Kremlin. The tactics are endless in their variety and are selected to meet the situation in each particular country, dependent largely on the extent and strength of the resistance to Soviet penetration. It is particularly noteworthy that no practical distinction seems to be made in this connection between members of the United Nations whose territory is liberated by Soviet troops and ex-enemy countries which have been occupied.

The overriding consideration in Soviet foreign policy is the preoccupation with “security”, as Moscow sees it. This objective explains most of the recent Soviet actions which have roused criticism abroad: the demand for unanimity of decision in the council of the security organization; the opposition to regional blocs; the sponsorship of puppet regimes in all contiguous countries; the demand for the thorough purge of reactionary elements in all liberated areas, the constant harping at the European neutrals; the demands for vast oil and mineral concessions in Iran. The Soviet Union seeks a period of freedom from danger during which it can recover from the wounds of war and complete its industrial revolution. The Soviet conception [Page 451] of “security” does not appear cognizant of the similar needs or rights of other countries and of Russia’s obligation to accept the restraints as well as the benefits of an international security system.

1. The major theme of Allied unity, dominant since the Tehran and Moscow conferences, continued to be played in all major pronouncements on foreign affairs; but it had acquired a certain perfunctory quality; and a minor chord was introduced to condition the Soviet public for differences which the approaching end of war in Europe might bring. The German offensive in the Ardennes was dispassionately portrayed to the Soviet reader as a sally with limited objectives designed to throw the grand Allied offensive off balance. Meanwhile the Soviet reader was frequently reminded that the bulk of German manpower was engaged by the Red army in the East, and the press was quick to resent any implication that the Red army was not doing its share and that the operations in Hungary served primarily political aims.

2. Keen but wary interest continued to be manifested in projects for international cooperation in various fields. No change occurred in the Soviet attitude toward participation of the great powers in voting in the security council on issues involving themselves, and the Soviet position was reiterated by Stalin in his November 6 speech. War and the Working Class in December advanced a proposal for continental zones within the security organization in which the great powers would be represented if their interests were involved. This scheme was patently designed to offset projects for regional blocs to which the Soviets, fearing that such blocs may sooner or later be directed against the Soviet Union, are strongly opposed.3

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4. After several months of unsuccessful attempts to effect a reconciliation on Soviet terms of the Lublin Committee with the more moderate elements of the Polish Government in London, the Soviets abandoned the effort following Mikolajczyk’s resignation and set in motion an intensive agitation in liberated Poland which culminated in the formation of a provisional government in Lublin on December 31. Meanwhile several of the more prominent leaders in the early stages of the life of the National Council, including Wanda Wasilewska, who was head of the union of Polish Patriots in the Soviet Union, General Berling, who commanded the Polish forces in the Soviet Union and later on the Warsaw Front, and Andrzej Witos, who was in charge of land reform, have been removed from their posts with little explanation. The tight control exercised over political parties and public opinion in Poland is manifest in the unanimity of support reported for the various measures undertaken [Page 452] by the Committee. The influence of Moscow is also evident in a law adopted by the Council providing stern penalties for the familiar crimes of treason, wrecking and sabotage. A delegation from Warsaw visited Moscow to express gratitude for aid rendered by the Soviets; meanwhile the press laid the delay in receipt of aid from the United States to the intrigues of reactionary Polish circles there.

The committee proceeded energetically with its program of land reform and by the end of the year was able to announce that the division of large estates and the distribution of the land to peasants had been practically completed in the area liberated to date. It was obvious that the parcelling up of the estates was uneconomic, since the new holdings were very small and their new owners often without draught animals and tools to work them. It appeared inevitable that some kind of cooperative or collective system would have to be introduced before the new holdings could be worked with any degree of efficiency. Meanwhile the reform doubtless served the purpose of increasing support for the Lublin Committee in an area where the Communist industrial element was small and the peasantry largely apathetic.

5. In the other United Nations countries on whose soil the Red army was fighting, the situation was apparently much less complicated than in Poland. After the entry of Soviet troops into Ruthenia a mission headed by Nemec arrived in Moscow from London to take over the administration of the liberated territory in accordance with the Soviet-Czechoslovak agreement concluded last spring.4 The mission was permitted to proceed to Ruthenia but did not take direct part in the civil administration, which was in the hands of a pro-Soviet Ruthenian National Committee of obscure origin. Messages were published in the Moscow press from mass meetings in Ruthenian towns demanding union of the province with the Ukrainian SSR, but Red army authorities on the spot were reported to have remained strictly aloof from this agitation. War and the Working Class on two occasions took Czech Foreign Minister Masaryk to task, once for suggesting that his country might become a bridge between the Soviet Union and the West, once for reviving the idea of a Czech-Polish federation.

The entry of Soviet troops into Belgrade was the occasion for a message of gratitude and solidarity from Tito to Stalin, but in general Yugoslavia received much less notice in the Press than normally. Subasic’s Moscow visit passed almost unnoticed.

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6. In the ex-enemy countries which have broken with Germany the Soviets have been interested primarily in the prompt and complete fulfillment of the armistice terms and the purge of former Fascist and Collaborationist elements. . . .

In contrast to its coolness toward Finland, the Soviet attitude toward Bulgaria was one of warmth and approbation. The abject and servile submission of the Bulgarian delegates during the Armistice negotiations, Soviet satisfaction with the Fatherland Front Government and the enthusiasm with which purge measures were adopted coupled with the traditional benevolence of the Russians for the Slav, Bulgars and the strategic position of Bulgaria adjacent to British occupied Greece, combined to create for Bulgaria a place of special privilege among the defeated powers. Suggestions for the federation of Bulgaria with Yugoslavia received the endorsement of the Soviet press.

Rumania remained the bad boy. Although Press material for the most part was light, the Russians did not conceal their dislike for the Rumanians and their dissatisfaction with Rumanian failure to cooperate fully in meeting their obligations under the Armistice. Vice Foreign Commissar Vyshinsky spent several weeks in Bucharest endeavoring to effect an improvement in the situation.

The coup d’état in Hungary following Horthy’s armistice feelers in Moscow led to violent Press attacks on Szalasy as a Nazi stooge. Following Russian occupation of the greater part of Hungary, a Provisional Government was formed at Debrecen obviously under Soviet sponsorship but apparently with wide and respectable non-Communist participation. The new government immediately declared war on Germany and despatched a new delegation to Moscow to conclude an armistice with the United Nations.

7. The general attitude of the Press toward United Nations countries which were not liberated or in the process of liberation by Soviet troops was one of polite reserve. Soviet sympathy for the resistance forces in these countries which were frequently under Communist leadership was not concealed. . . .

De Gaulle was invited to Moscow and his visit resulted in the signature of a twenty-year alliance5 which was ratified without delay by both countries. The Press interpreted the new alliance as a security measure directed against a renewal of German aggression. Thorez the French Communist leader, returned to Paris from Moscow. . . .

8. On the expressed assumption that the war was approaching its end the press published rather less than the usual amount of material against Germany. It expressed concern about efforts of leading Nazi to flee Germany and the transfer of German resources to neutral countries. . . . An appeal by 50 German generals headed by Marshal [Page 454] von Paulus, once more calling on the Germans to overthrow Hitler and submit, was a reminder that the free Germany movement in Moscow is still active. The appeal warned the Germans that they must now expect occupation and punishment but that they would subsequently be able to take their place among the free nations.

Several reports of the Extraordinary State Commission described ghastly German atrocities committed in the Baltic States and the Lwów region. Long lists of Germans charged with responsibility including Commanding Front generals formed part of the reports and in one Himmler was held to be directly responsible.

9. Those European neutrals who are without diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union namely Switzerland, Spain, and Portugal were under almost constant Press attack. . . .

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11. Refusal by Iran to consider the grant of oil concessions in northern Iran to the Soviets until after the war led to a violent campaign against the Saed Government which eventually brought about its resignation. Mass meetings in Iran organized by Soviet sympathizers and attacks on Saed in the left wing papers were fully reported by the Soviet Press. It was alleged that Saed and his government were Fascist in their outlook, that they maintained contact with bandits who interfered with supply lines leading to the Soviet Union, that their continuance in office was detrimental to the prosecution of the war. At the height of the controversy Izvestiya asserted that there was no legal basis for the presence of American troops in Iran. Saed Xiaedden [Seyid Zia-ed-din ] was a favored target for attack and there were frequent reports of mass meetings demanding that he be exiled. Following Saed’s resignation it was urged that he and responsible members of his government be brought to trial. Pressure for immediate grant of oil concessions relaxed but the Soviets made it clear that they did not intend to drop the issue.

12. Most significant development in Soviet policy in the Far East was Stalin’s definition of Japan as an aggressor nation in his November 6 speech. Foreign Press reaction to this departure was played down but the new line gradually became apparent by subsequent Press material. The sharp denunciation of Japan made at the Congress of the British Communist Party was published. A book on the siege of Port Arthur in the Russo-Japanese war, publication of which had been withheld for several years appeared and was favorably reviewed in the Press. The regular reviews of the Pacific war stressed the worsening situation of Japan from the damage being caused by B–29 raids. While Press handling of Japan continued to be cautious and gingerly, Soviet dislike of the Japanese was much more clearly apparent than a year ago.

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Hostility continued to be expressed toward the Chiang Kai-shek regime because of its failure to reach an accommodation with the Chinese Communists. No enthusiasm was shown for the cabinet changes which were viewed as merely a change in lineup without any fundamental modification of policy or direction.

13. . . .

Great interest was manifested in the return of all categories of Soviet Nationals or persons who could be claimed as such particularly those found among German forces captured by Allies. A special commission was established to expedite repatriation. Extreme touchiness was shown over reported reluctance of many of these people to return and over alleged encouragement being given to such sentiments by foreign authorities. Press stories of warm reception accorded repatriates did not check with reports of Embassy observers and apparently reflected a desire to disarm the suspicions of those still abroad. Population transfers along western borders continued.

Press devoted much space to the progress of reconstruction in the Baltic area while inveighing against so called “Bourgeois-Nationalist” groups both there and in the Ukraine. It seemed clear that Nationalist remnants survived in these areas and were creating difficulties for the Soviet authorities.

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While occasional anti-religious articles still appear in the press the trend is increasingly toward recognition of the church as a beneficial factor in Soviet society. Metropolitan Nikolai and other churchmen were awarded defense of Moscow medals. A meeting of the Holy Synod to elect a new patriarch was announced for January. All the eastern patriarchs were invited to attend.

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  1. Printed from the original telegram (861.9111/1–1045).
  2. Not printed.
  3. Passages not relating to foreign affairs have been omitted.
  4. Agreement relating to civil administration in Czechoslovak territory upon entry of Soviet troops, signed at London May 8, 1944 (860F.01/545).
  5. See ante, p. 292.