Memorandum by the Deputy Director of the Office of European Affairs (Hickerson) to the Director of the Office of European Affairs (Matthews)

top secret

Actions of the Soviet Government in the field of Foreign Affairs leave us no alternative other than to assume that the USSR has aggressive intentions.

The Soviet Government nearly always has alternative courses of action for its objectives. It can openly use force, or threaten to use force, to influence foreign countries or it can try the inside job method, using the local communist party and boring from within as they are now doing in France.1 They can shift from one method to the other readily, depending upon the needs and circumstances of the moment.

If the right of free men to live out their lives under institutions of their free choice is to be preserved, there must be a vigilant determination on the part of peoples and governments of the U.S.A. and the U.K. to resist Soviet aggression, by force of arms if necessary. It seems clear that there can be no question of “deals or arrangements” with the [Page 716] USSR. That method was tried with Hitler and the lessons of that effort are fresh in our minds. One cannot appease a powerful country intent on aggression. If the lessons we learned from efforts to deal with Hitler mean anything, concessions to the Soviet Union would simply whet their appetite for more.

The United States’ policy is based squarely on the principles of the United Nations and the fullest support of that organization. I am convinced that we must continue this policy. The United Kingdom similarly has been built around the fullest support of the United Nations. I am convinced that any departure from that policy on the part of the UK would not only be a serious mistake in itself but would have far-reaching and disastrous consequences on public opinion in the United States.2

I am convinced that the people of the United States are prepared to back up support of the United Nations, by force of arms if necessary, so long as the United Kingdom and the other peace-loving democracies are similarly minded.

If our two countries continue their policy of building up support for the United Nations, I believe that in course of time the organization will become a defensive alliance of peace-loving states. Article 51 of the Charter says that “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security”. This might well afford an appropriate framework for collective action by peace-loving states in the event of armed aggression by the Soviet Union, whose veto power would of course block action in the name of the whole organization against her.

While the people of the United States are wholeheartedly supporting the United Nations, it would be foolish to assert that isolation is dead in the United States. So long as our Foreign Policy is based squarely on the principles of the United Nations and the fullest support of that organization, I believe that the strong pull toward political isolation can be successfully resisted. I am, however, certain that any arrangements between the UK and the USSR which could be [Page 717] interpreted as appeasement or which did not fall fully and completely within the purposes and principles of the United Nations would touch off an upsurge of isolation sentiment in the United States which would be irresistible. In other words, the American people would say “To hell with all of them”.

John Hickerson
  1. For documentation on United States interest in the preservation of democratic government in France, see Vol. iii, pp. 688 ff.
  2. For documentation on United States interest in Anglo-Soviet relations, see Vol. iv, pp. 514 ff. passim.