861.24557H/1–1147: Telegram

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

us urgent

18. Embtel 14, Jan 10. Foreign Minister Lange received me this afternoon and told me Norwegian Govt was not responsible for news leak in London regarding Soviet proposals for establishment of military bases in Svalbard. British Ambassador1 had, he said, informed him that he had received assurances by telephone from Foreign Office, London, that reports had not come from British official sources adding suggestion may have originated in Norwegian circles, London.2 Lange remarked smilingly to me that it was possible to imagine disclosure at present time might seem good idea in British quarters, allowing inference he felt British circles at least as suspect as Norwegian.

In course of hour’s discussion Foreign Minister reviewed developments since 1944, including presentation by Norwegians of draft joint [Page 1007] declaration (despatch 158, July 26, 19453) to which Russians have never replied and repeated previous assertions of his declared position that (a) Norway is bound by 1920 treaty; (b) abrogation or modification thereof can be effected only in consultation with other signatories; (c) any mutual defense arrangement must be elaborated within framework of UN and have approval Security Council; and (d) negotiations can be undertaken only after consultations with Norwegian Govt and Storting.

When I asked him extent to which he felt bound by 1944–45 Commitment, Lange said that he obviously could not ignore commitment made by previous Govt, altho terms of proposed declaration could not be considered binding, as it had never been accepted by Soviet Govt. He reminded me that initial discussions occurred in war period, when Russians were occupying northern part of country and London Govt felt it had at least to accede to Soviet request that Norway agree to need of abrogation or modification of treaty. At that time, he emphasized, Soviet Govt was making outright claim to Bear Island and making condominium [sic] over Svalbard.

Lange expressed belief that other signatories would not agree to abrogation of 1920 treaty or modifications proposed by Russians. He also mentioned that Norwegian people would be greatly opposed to granting Russia special economic rights in Svalbard, particularly as Spitzbergen is Norway’s only domestic source of coal.

Foreign Minister seemed rather fatalistic regarding future developments, feeling that Norway is in stronger position today than when original commitment was made in 1944; and that particularly now that militarization projects have recently been further discountenanced by UN adoption of disarmament resolution,4 Norway will be rescued from any serious effects of Russian designs by double check of other signatories to treaty and of second [Security?] council. He gave no clue to any indications he may have received regarding Soviet reaction to news leak. He evidently believed the Soviet Govt hoped that regardless of results of consultation with other signatories Norway could be induced to declare its agreement with Soviet view that 1920 treaty should be abrogated and new arrangements made.

Most Norwegians, including many high officials, seem genuinely surprised at news of Soviet proposals regarding Svalbard and preliminary reaction is marked by grave concern, if not by shock. Press [Page 1008] has devoted considerable space to yesterday’s announcements, together with pictures, historical sketches and other background; but more studied editorial comment will probably appear during next few days.

Sent Dept as 18; repeated London as 2; Moscow as 2.

  1. Sir Laurence Collier.
  2. Responsibility for the leak in newspapers was admitted by the London correspondent of the Oslo Arbeiderbladet, who informed the (London) Times.
  3. Not printed.
  4. A resolution on Principles governing General Regulation and Reduction of Armaments was adopted unanimously by the General Assembly at its 63d plenary meeting on December 14, 1946. For text, see Yearbook of the United Nations 1946–47, p. 142, and for documentation on this subject, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. i, pp. 712 ff.