711.61/4–645: Telegram

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

1061. You request a report on our relations with the Soviet Government in your personal cable No. 777, April 3, 5 p.m.23 You will recall that on September 18 in Department’s No. 2234, 10 p.m.24 a similar request was made to which I replied in cable No. 3572, September 19, 1 p.m.25 and No. 3600, September 20, 8 p.m.26 At that time I pointed out that a telegraphic message was a difficult medium in which to report on as complicated a situation as then existed and suggested that a satisfactory report could only be given if I were directed to return to Washington. The situation today is even more difficult to analyze and explain in a message. It is for this reason that I urgently request that I be permitted to return at once to Washington. However, in the meantime, for such a limited value as it may be, I will attempt to outline the situation as it appears from Moscow.

We have recognized for many months that the Soviets have three lines of foreign policy. (1.) Overall collaboration with us and the British in a World Security Organization; (2.) The creation of a unilateral security ring through domination of their border states: and (3.) The penetration of other countries through exploitation of democratic processes on the part of Communist controlled parties with strong Soviet backing to create political atmosphere favorable to Soviet policies.

We have been hopeful that the Soviets would, as we have, place number 1 as their primary policy and would modify their plans for 2 if they were satisfied with the efficacy of plan 1. It now seems evident that regardless of what they may expect from the World Security Organization they intend to go forward with unilateral action in the domination of their bordering states. It may well be that during and since the Moscow Conference they feel they have made this quite plain to us. You will recall that at the Moscow Conference Molotov indicated that although he would inform us of Soviet action in Eastern Europe he declined to be bound by consultation with us. It may be difficult for us to believe, but it still may be true that Stalin and Molotov [Page 822] considered at Yalta28 that by our willingness to accept a general wording of the declarations on Poland and liberated Europe, by our recognition of the need of the Red Army for security behind its lines, and of the predominant interest of Russia in Poland as a friendly neighbor and as a corridor to Germany, we understand and were ready to accept Soviet policies already known to us.

We must recognize that the words “independent but friendly neighbor” and in fact “democracy” itself have entirely different meanings to the Soviets than to us. Although they know of the meaning of these terms to us they undoubtedly feel that we should be aware of the meaning to them. We have been hopeful that the Soviets would accept our concepts whereas they on their side may have expected us to accept their own concepts, particularly in areas where their interests predominate. In any event, whatever may have been in their minds at Yalta, it now seems that they feel they can force us to acquiesce in their policies, Since we are resisting, they are using the usual Soviet tactics of retaliating in ways that they think will have the most effect, one of which is the decision not to send Molotov to the San Francisco Conference.29 They are fully aware of the importance we place on this Conference.

I have evidence which satisfies me that the Soviets have considered as a sign of weakness on our part our continued generous and considerate attitude towards them in. spite of their disregard of our requests for cooperation in matters of interest to us.

I am further satisfied that the time has come when we must by our actions in each individual case make it plain to the Soviet Government that they cannot expect our continued cooperation on terms laid down by them. We have recognized that the Soviets have deep seated suspicions of all foreigners including ourselves. Our natural method of dealing with suspicion in others is to show our goodwill by generosity and consideration. We have earnestly attempted this policy and it has not been successful. This policy seems to have increased rather than diminished their suspicions as they evidently have misconstrued our motives. I feel that our relations would be on a much sounder basis if on the one hand we were firm and completely frank with them as to our position and motives and on the other hand they are made to understand specifically how lack of cooperation with our legitimate demands will adversely affect their interests.

I hope that I will not be misunderstood when I say that our relations with the Soviet Government will be on firmer ground as soon [Page 823] as we have adopted a policy which includes on the one hand at all times a full place for cooperation with the Soviet Union but on the other a readiness to go along without them if we can’t obtain their cooperation. Up to recently the issues we have had with the Soviets have been relatively small compared to their contribution to the war but now we should begin to establish a new relationship. As you know I am a most earnest advocate of the closest possible understanding with the Soviet Union so that what I am saying only relates to how such understanding may be best attained.

Turning now to practical suggestions, they fall into two general categories. The first relates to policies toward other nations. I feel that we should further cement our relations with our other Allies and other friendly nations, settle our relatively minor differences with them and assist them economically as described in my 1038, April 4, 8 p.m., which I suggest be read in connection with this message. I am in no sense suggesting that in settling our political differences with them we should compromise our principles, but that we should make it our business with energy and understanding to make these countries feel that they are secure in dealing with us, that we will be understanding of their problems and needs.

If such an atmosphere is developed, the people of these countries will feel less dependent politically and economically on Soviet Russia and, as their concepts are much the same as ours, they will be inclined to orient their policies along lines similar to ours. A policy of this kind in itself will have an influence on our relations with the Soviet Union as I believe they fear more than anything else a close understanding among the western nations and I believe they will be more ready to deviate from their unilateral policies if they find that they cannot play one against the other and that they are not indispensable to us.

China is a subject by itself and I will not attempt to deal with it in this telegram.

My suggestions in the second general category relate to our current dealings with the Soviet Union. Although we should continue to approach all matters with an attitude of friendliness we should be firm and as far as practicable indicate our displeasure in ways that will definitely affect their interest in each case in which they fail to take our legitimate interests into consideration by their actions.

In the compass of this message I cannot list the almost daily affronts and total disregard which the Soviets evince in matters of interest to us. Whenever the United States does anything to which the Soviet take exception they do not hesitate to take retaliatory measures. I must with regret recommend that we begin in the near future with one or two cases where their actions are intolerable and make them realize [Page 824] that they cannot continue their present attitude except at great cost to themselves. We should recognize that if we adopt this policy we may have some adverse repercussions in the beginning. On the other hand we have evidence that in cases where they have been made to feel that their interests were being adversely affected we have obtained quick and favorable action. In any event I see no alternative as our present relations are clearly unsatisfactory.

Leaning to the military, General Deane on his return to Washington will present recommendations for a line of policy in which I concur. We both are satisfied that whatever the Soviets do in the Far East will be because of their own interests and not because of any conciliatory policy on our part.

I recognize that I am attempting to discuss in this message most fundamental questions. I feel that regardless of other considerations, serious as they are, I should be ordered home immediately for a very brief stay in order that I may report more fully on developments here and their implications. In spite of recent developments, I am still satisfied that if we deal with the Soviets on a realistic basis, we can in time attain a workable basis for our relations. There is ample evidence that the Soviets desire our help and collaboration but they now think they can have them on their own terms which in many cases are completely unacceptable to us. They do not understand that their present actions seriously jeopardize the attainment of satisfactory relations with us and unless they are made to understand this now, they will become increasingly difficult to deal with.

  1. This telegram read: “In view of recent developments it would be helpful for the President and myself to receive an overall survey of our relations with the Soviet Union with any comments and views you may care to submit.” (711.61/4–345)
  2. Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. iv, p. 991.
  3. Ibid., vol. i, p. 826.
  4. Ibid., vol. iv, p. 992.
  5. For documentation on the Yalta Conference, February 4–11, 1945, attended by President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and Marshal Stalin, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945.
  6. For documentation on the United Nations Conference on International Organization, held at San Francisco, April 25–June 26, 1945, see vol. i, pp. 1 ff.