860C.50/11–1445: Telegram

The Ambassador in Poland (Lane) to the Secretary of State

559. In interview with President Bierut November 14 I discussed Polish Economic Mission to Washington83 and possibility of obtaining credits from US as follows: While we are most sympathetic to present difficulties which Polish Government is facing there are certain [Page 415] conditions in country having relation to holding of elections which give us concern. According to our system, Government in considering extension of credits would be influenced by consensus of Congress and Congress would be affected by consensus of people. If American people felt that undemocratic processes obtain in a foreign country, the displeasure of the people would have an effect on our Government’s position.

I said that I had been glad to report to my Government that I had noted the liberalization in restrictions on the press but that I regretted that I had had to report that there existed a continuance and even an increase of terroristic activities of the security police including arrests for political offenses. And although my Government had not as yet determined its position regarding credits in general it would not now extend credits for the use of Polish Army. I said that I interpreted this negative action as being indicative that we disapprove of terroristic activities of security police (Deptel 263, November 9). I said that I had only just received this word and that I wished to convey it to the President before anyone else in the Government should learn of it.

Bierut replied by saying that from 1936 to 1939 US extended credits to Poland even though Polish Government then was far less democratic than Government today. He referred to difficulties which Government had had in organizing police, that it had been forced to accept all volunteers without checking their ability or background and that many members of the police have been arrested and even executed as a result of their misdeeds. He said that only 6 months ago Poland was being overrun by fighting armies and that these factors should be taken into consideration.

I repeated that we have the greatest sympathy with Poland’s present difficulties. We are, however, also deeply concerned with the holding of free and unfettered elections and I do not perceive how it is possible to have such elections if police continue to arrest political opponents of the Government and with the presence of the Soviet Army in the country.

The President replied somewhat heatedly that if Poland must accept an Allied Power’s activity in the internal affairs of Poland as a price for economic assistance then Poland would prefer not to have such assistance. He immediately softened this remark by inquiring whether the US would like to receive assistance from even its best friend on terms which were not pleasant to the US.

I decided that it would be preferable not to carry on further this phase of the discussion it being perfectly clear that my point had been made.

[Page 416]

I said that while we do not wish to suggest that elections should be held at any particular time the people of the US are, of course, very much interested in the holding of elections in Poland and that I have an obligation to report to my Government regarding conditions relative to the holding of elections in accordance with the provisions of the Yalta decision. I said, however, that I did not believe that free elections could be held as long as the Soviet Armies remain in Poland in the numbers which now exist. I expressed my understanding that Marshal Stalin at Potsdam had agreed to limit Soviet forces in Poland to the maintenance of two lines of communications. I added that there are far greater numbers. I and other members of my staff had traveled about the country and we had observed Soviet troops in command in almost every village. I specifically mentioned Colonel Pashley’s recent trip to Southeast Poland (mytel 557, November 1484).

The President replied that he of course would wish that there should not be one foreign soldier in Poland. But Poland is on very close terms with Soviet Union, is indebted to it and is not in a position to suggest that Soviet troops be withdrawn. There are, however, only one-third as many Soviet troops in Poland today as there were 3 months ago and certainly they are being reduced continually. In reply to my question he said he did not know how many troops were in Poland today. He said that at Potsdam the Western Allies did not wish Poland to extend its frontiers to the west but that Russia, of course, supported the Polish claims and consequently Poland is not in a position to complain regarding Soviet troops within the country. America he said is strong enough to be in a position to quarrel with Russia if it wishes but Poland is such a close neighbor that it is not in a position to complain.

I said that as President Roosevelt emphasized at Yalta we desire Poland and Russia to be on friendly terms and that certainly the US wishes to have the friendliest relations with Russia. I expressed hope therefore that Bierut would not heed reports circulating that US wishes difficulties and even war with Soviet Union. Withdrawal from Europe and demobilization of our forces is proof of our attitude.

I asked President whether in his opinion free elections could really be held in Poland if a foreign army were in occupation.

Bierut replied that, of course, it would be preferable if no Soviet troops whatever were here during elections but that it was shown both in Hungary and Rumania85 that free elections can take place [Page 417] even with a foreign army of occupation present. As to Poland he felt sure that late spring or early summer when the elections will be held there will be a minimum number of Russian troops here.

Before taking leave of President I expressed concern regarding pressure either through terror or other economic means to force persons to join Government parties. I referred to difficulties of non-party members obtaining UNRRA goods and to recent specific instances in Hotel Polonia of discharging servants who refused to join Government party. The President admitted that abuses existed as in all countries but that as there are only 600,000 members of six recognized parties this charge must be untrue as 10 million people are benefitting from UNEEA supplies. He promised, however, to look into any specific case of injustice which I might bring to his attention.

I assured him that because of 72 percent interest of the US in UNRRA I am as interested as he in success of UNRRA Mission to Poland.

Sent to Department as 559, repeated to Moscow as 89.

Lane
  1. Headed by Dr. Ludwik Rajchman, this mission was officially described as intending to conduct conversations in the United States in the matter of obtaining credits for equipment and supplies for the rebuilding of the Polish economy.
  2. See footnote 63, p. 400.
  3. The general election in Hungary on November 4, 1945, appeared to be free from direct interference and resulted in a substantial defeat for the Hungarian Communists and their allies. See telegram 886, November 9, from Budapest, vol. iv, p. 904. No election, however, had been held in Rumania.