Department of State Atomic Energy Files
The Ambassador in Sweden (Matthews) to the Under Secretary of State (Lovett)
Dear Bob: Your top secret letter of July 21 concerning Sweden’s potential role as a source of uranium reached me on July 10.…
We were somewhat surprised at the importance now attributed to Sweden as a potential source of uranium since I had received the contrary impression during my talk with the members of the AEC last October. At that time I understood that the AEC was interested in Sweden primarily as a possible source of industrial equipment for possible export to the Soviet Union and/or its satellites for the development of atomic energy therein for military purposes.
As you will note from the enclosed memorandum, Sweden is at present engaged in a modest program of development of atomic [Page 729] energy for her own economic needs. I understand the cost, both in money and in manpower, of any sizeable military program would be far beyond Swedish possibilities, even should Sweden desire to embark on such a program. (And I believe the Swedes are well aware of the temptation to the USSR involved in any such important development program.)
As to Swedish cooperation, I think we can at present count on it in two respects:
- Sweden will not export to Russia or her satellites any equipment which we can show is important to Soviet development of the atomic bomb. (Both in the case of the ceramic kilns for Czechoslovakia and in the matter of Swedish guarantee against re-export of molecular diffusion pumps we have two examples of prompt and complete Swedish cooperation on this.)
- Sweden will live up to the oral commitment made in 1945 and furnish us with such information as we may require concerning her own development program.
I now come to the nub of the question, namely, the possibility that our own uranium supply problem may compel us to ask Sweden for uranium. I see no likelihood that as of today Sweden would comply with such a request. As the enclosed memorandum states succinctly, “The sine qua non for the procurement by the United States of Swedish uranium is the definite abandonment by Sweden of her neutrality policy.” Though, as my telegrams have shown, Swedish thinking on neutrality has evolved somewhat and may evolve further after the September elections, Sweden is still emphatically neutral minded.
I have hammered home to the Department in my many telegrams (almost, I fear, to the point of “diminishing returns”) my conviction that Sweden will only abandon neutrality if she is convinced that the risk of material harm to Sweden of sticking to neutrality will be greater than its abandonment. If this question of Sweden’s atomic energy role is really as important as your letter implies, I hope you will reread my letter to you of March 23 and its enclosed copy of my letter of March 16 to Jack Hickerson.2 Also please see my telegram no. 828 of July 123 as the latest of my lengthening series on the subject of withholding military equipment from Sweden. The Swedes still think (a) the United States is in no position to give prompt military aid anyway, (b) the United States is just as apt to come to Sweden’s defense whether Sweden retains its neutrality policy until actually invaded or not, and (c) Sweden can obtain just as much equipment from the United States and Britain to strengthen its defense now [Page 730] whether she remains neutral or whether she associates herself with Western Powers. That is why it is so important to my mind from the point of view of this little corner that the NSC reach an early and favorable decision on the withholding of any important military equipment from Sweden and endeavor to persuade the British to do likewise. Sweden must then be told, sadly not nastily, that we must save all available equipment for our friends and potential allies. If Sweden does abandon neutrality and does associate herself with the West, the chances of our obtaining Swedish uranium would be greatly improved. As indicated in the memorandum,-however, I believe we would still have to pay for the development of uranium production on any important scale and furnish the necessary technical knowledge and equipment.
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In plain English, the recommendation contained in the last paragraph of the memorandum means that if our need for uranium is so urgent, we must be prepared to take very drastic action to modify Swedish policy. I hope, from the point of view of our general policy vis-à-vis Sweden, that is not the case, and that we do not at present need Swedish uranium.
I shall welcome the assignment here of a qualified “Scientific Attaché” if we are going to ask the Swedish Government for technical information on atomic energy. I will not take the matter up with the Swedish Government, however, until I receive the telegram referred to in your letter.…
There was one sentence in your letter which I fail to understand and with which I do not feel that I can concur. You say, “It seems to me that the Swedes may now claim that their estimate of the effect of Swedish neutrality on world security is at least entitled to as much credence as ours, or gut another way, that it is a matter of opinion whether our interests, are best served by their staying on the fence.” If you really believe there is validity in that premise, I think I have been wasting my time in trying so persistently to point out the fallacies of Swedish neutrality.
I hope that you are not being completely worn down by the load you are carrying, and this carries with it my very best wishes.