The Secretary of War ( Patterson ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Acheson )
Dear Mr. Secretary: Reference is made to your recent letter,1 in which you advised that lend-lease settlement negotiations are to begin shortly with the U.S.S.R. and pointed out the necessity for early determination of a U.S. Government policy with respect to the retention by the Soviet Government of lend-lease articles not lost, destroyed or consumed in the war.
From the War Department viewpoint, the interests in Russian lend-lease settlement negotiations appear to be three; namely,
- Recapture of such items still serviceable as can be used in current War Department programs, including military assistance programs already approved or likely to be approved.
- Denial to the Soviets of military equipment and supplies which, although not usable for any of our programs, would serve to enhance Soviet military power if the items were retained by the Soviets.
- Information concerning the present status and distribution of lend-lease supplies furnished to the Soviets.
As to the items desired for recapture, a list is being prepared and will be submitted to you within a few days.2 Items recaptured must, of course, be limited to those in serviceable condition, and arrangements should include provision that the Soviet Government will return the items to the physical custody of the U.S. at such point as the latter may designate. The War Department recognizes the political difficulties that may be involved in recapture of items, particularly if their desired disposition would involve delivery to, say, Greece, Turkey or some other country in connection with military assistance programs.
As to items which may still be serviceable, which are not desired for recapture and whose continued possession by the Soviets enhance their military power, there are practical difficulties. The War Department does not have funds or facilities to handle any equipment over and above that which it is contemplated to deal with under the preceding paragraph. From the military point of view, it would be desirable to destroy the equipment. This course of action, however, appears beyond the realm of consideration. Hence, unless the State Department can, from consideration of the political factors involved, determine some course of action which would achieve the desired objective, it appears that such items will have to be left with Soviet Russia. However, the War Department sees no military reason for [Page 685] continuing to reserve the right of recapture for such items, since, from the practical standpoint, there appears no chance at a later date of exercising such right. Accordingly, if the State Department desires to waive all rights of recapture on the balance of lend-lease items above and beyond those actually recaptured, the War Department will offer no objection.
As to military interest and information concerning the status of disposition of lend-lease items transferred to the U.S.S.R. by the War Department, all information on this subject will be of assistance in connection with preparation of military estimates concerning the U.S.S.R. Here again, however, it appears unlikely that the Soviets will prove sincerely cooperative. The War Department prepared and furnished the State Department some time ago an estimate of the then-current condition of lend-lease items transferred to the Soviets by the War Department, based on U.S. experience in deterioration of these items. The list of estimates will be brought up to date for use of the State Department in connection with the forthcoming negotiations.
Finally, it is the opinion of the War Department that, consistent with our current policy and estimates, public reaction will demand that maximum effort be made to obtain the return of all military equipment either for use in implementing our own programs or to deny such use to the Russians. This will be particularly true if we fail to obtain tangible returns, either financial, political or otherwise, for items not recaptured.