The Ambassador in Norway (Osborne) to the Secretary of State

No. 301

Sir: I have the honor to report, with reference to my telegram No. 204, July 5 and No. 277, July 23, that there is still no public knowledge of the Soviet demands on Norway with reference to Bear Island and Spitzbergen. I believe this is a notable fact and one not altogether easy to explain. As reported in my telegram No. 204, July 5 the Foreign Minister discussed the matter in a secret session of the Storting with its 150 members; he also dealt with it in a secret conference with the press; the Norwegian military and naval authorities certainly know about it. Yet no American or other foreign newspaper correspondent has apparently got even a smell of it; and I and the one or two members of the Embassy staff who know of it have not had any indication that anyone outside official circles is aware of it.

This might not be so surprising if the matter were one of slight intrinsic interest to the average member of the Norwegian public. That is certainly not the case. Most of the well-to-do Norwegians are extremely sensitive with regard to Russia and tend to be alert in respect of anything which contains the least suspicion of Soviet aggressiveness. There can be no question that knowledge of the Soviet demands would affect these people greatly—and most painfully. There would moreover be the liveliest general public interest in any proposal to derogate complete Norwegian sovereignty over the territories in question. Yet the Soviet demands remain a well kept secret. There has been absolutely no public mention of them—no hint even; [Page 99] if there has been private discussion, outside a restricted official circle, the Embassy is unaware of it. The only explanation I can offer is that the Norwegians are naturally a reticent people and that, in this case, fear has made the considerable number who are in the know preternaturally reticent—which with Norwegians means absolutely mum.

In the meantime Foreign Minister Lie continues to inform me that the Soviets have not raised the question again or made any reply to the Norwegian counter-proposal mentioned in my telegram No. 204, July 5.

Respectfully yours,

Lithgow Osborne