840.50/4–445: Telegram

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

1038. I fully agree with the Department’s views expressed in 768, April 1, 11 p.m. [a.m.],17 regarding the British proposal for tripartite conversations in Moscow on relief supplies for Europe. Aside from the practical reasons given in the Department’s cable indicating that these tripartite conversations would overlap other established commissions I feel that we have now ample proof that the Soviet Government would use such conversations to promote only their own welfare and political objectives. As we would approach the conversations from the humanitarian aspect we would start at an insuperable disadvantage. Should our own study of these problems together with British develop specific matters on which we wished to obtain Soviet cooperation I believe we should then approach the Soviet Government through one of the established commissions or through diplomatic channels in order to attempt to persuade or induce the Soviets to cooperate. I refer to such things as the general problem of feeding Germany, since I understand that the Russians will occupy the food surplus areas of Germany whereas the British and we will occupy some food deficit areas. Another case might be the stimulation of production and the direction of the distribution of oil in Rumania. In this case I still believe that we should insist upon the establishment [Page 818] now of the tripartite committee of experts in Rumania as has been suggested by the Department18 and also in Hungary. I can see no reason why we should not inform the Soviet Government that until they show willingness to cooperate along these lines we will be forced to give less attention to Soviet protocol requests for petroleum products.19 Pressure of this kind is the only way we can hope to obtain even partial Soviet cooperation.

Turning to the matter of policy, we now have ample proof that the Soviet Government views all matters from the standpoint of their own selfish interests. They have publicized to their own political advantage the difficult food situation in areas liberated by our troops such as in France, Belgium and Italy, comparing it with the allegedly satisfactory conditions in areas which the Red Army has liberated. They have kept our newspaper correspondents under strict censorship to prevent the facts becoming known. They have sent token shipments to Poland of Lend-Lease items or those similar thereto in order to give the appearance of generosity on the part of the Soviet Union. The Communist Party or its associates everywhere are using economic difficulties in areas under our responsibilities to promote Soviet concepts and policies and to undermine the influence of the western Allies.

In my War Department message of March 31 to the Protocol Committee20 in answer to the War Department message the Department refers to, which evidently crossed the Department’s cable to which I am now replying, I suggested in the first paragraph “that minimum requirements of our western Allies be given first consideration”. I feel I should expand the reasons for this suggestion and if the Soviet Government had shown any willingness to deal with economic questions on their merits without political considerations, as we approach them, I would feel that we should make every effort to concert our plans with those of the Soviet Government. On the other hand our hopes in this direction have proved to be futile. Unless we and the British now adopt an independent line the people of the areas under our responsibility will suffer and the chances of Soviet domination in Europe will be enhanced. I thus regretfully come to the conclusion that we should be guided as a matter of principle by the policy of taking care of our western Allies and other areas under our responsibility first, allocating to Russia what may be left. I am in no sense suggesting that this policy should have as its objective the development of a political bloc or a sphere of influence by the British or ourselves, but that we should, through such economic aid as we can [Page 819] give to our western Allies, including Greece as well as Italy, reestablish reasonable life for the people of these countries who have the same general outlook as we have on life and the development of the world. The Soviet Union and the minority governments that the Soviets are forcing on the people of eastern Europe have an entirely different objective. We must clearly recognize that the Soviet program is the establishment of totalitarianism, ending personal liberty and democracy as we know and respect it. In addition the Soviet Government is attempting to penetrate through the Communist parties supported by it the countries of western Europe with the hope of expanding Soviet influence in the internal and external affairs of these countries.

Since we under no circumstances are prepared to involve ourselves in the internal political affairs of other countries by such methods, our only hope of supporting the peoples of these countries who resent totalitarian minority dictatorships is to assist them to attain economic stability as soon as possible. Lack of sufficient food and employment are fertile grounds for the subtle false promises of Communist agents.

The Soviet Government will end this war with the largest gold reserve of any country except the United States, will have large quantities of Lend-Lease material and equipment not used or worn out in the war with which to assist their reconstruction, will ruthlessly strip the enemy countries they have occupied of everything they can move, will control the foreign trade of countries under their domination as far as practicable to the benefit of the Soviet Union, will use political and economic pressure on other countries including South America to force trade arrangements to their own advantage and at the same time they will demand from us every form of aid and assistance which they think they can get from us while using our assistance to promote their political aims to our disadvantage in other parts of the world.

I recognize that it may be thought that much of this has no relationship to the question raised by the Department’s message. On the other hand, I am stating it in order to justify my final recommendation, namely that the Soviet Government’s selfish attitude must, in my opinion, force us if we are to protect American vital interests to adopt a more positive policy of using our economic influence to further our broad political ideals. Unless we are ready to live in a world dominated largely by Soviet influence, we must use our economic power to assist those countries that are naturally friendly to our concepts in so far as we can possibly do so. The only hope of stopping Soviet penetration is the development of sound economic conditions in these countries. I therefore recommend that we face the realities of the situation and orient our foreign economic policy [Page 820] accordingly. Our policy toward the Soviet Union should, of course, continue to be based on our earnest desire for the development of friendly relations and cooperation both political and economic, but always on a quid pro quo basis. This means tying our economic assistance directly into our political problems with the Soviet Union. This should be faced squarely in our consideration of the fifth protocol.

  1. Vol. ii, p. 1082. For documentation on negotiations relating to provision of civilian supplies for liberated areas in the military and post-military periods, see ibid., pp. 1059 ff.
  2. See telegram 143, March 17, 8 p.m., to Bucharest, p. 650.
  3. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 647 ff.
  4. Harry L. Hopkins, Adviser and Assistant to President Roosevelt, was Chairman of the President’s Soviet Protocol Committee; for documentation on wartime assistance by the United States to the Soviet Union, partly through this Committee, see pp. 937 ff.