760D.61/1–2648: Telegram

The Ambassador in Sweden (Matthews) to the Secretary of State


110. I called on Secretary General Beck-Friis this morning and asked his impressions concerning happenings in Finland and what they portend. He said he had little concrete information but three recent developments did cause some anxiety:

(1) Soviet pressure forcing return of thirty-one Baits (which Beck-Friis said was in fact provided in peace treaty).; (2) visit of Leino1 and wife to Moscow where he presumed important “orders” were given; and (3) sudden appointment of General Savonenkov as Soviet Minister Helsinki.2 He said Savonenkov had reputation in Finland of being very tough and disagreeable while serving as number two to Zhdanov on Control Commission.3

I asked specifically whether to his knowledge Soviet had yet “invited” Finns sign military alliance (mytel 106, January 244). He said a number of rumors to that effect were circulating but he had no confirmation as yet. While reports are vague it seems clear he said that the question was discussed during Pekkala’s visit to Moscow.5

Whether all this foreshadows a definite change in Soviet policy toward Finland or whether it marks merely a tightening of the screws preliminary to next summer’s Finnish elections he said he did not know. During his service in Finland the Finns who at first after the armistice were panicky lest they would suffer fate of Baltic states, subsequently indulged in much speculation as to why they were permitted such relative autonomy. They usually concluded he said this was due to their toughness, their basic traditions of law and order and their belief that their reparations contribution to Soviet economy [Page 760] made it wiser for Moscow to leave them alone. Whether this was wishful thinking Beck-Friis could not say but he had always felt Soviet policy toward Finland would depend primarily on general situation. With the increase over past months in tension, Soviet regime may follow its Balkan pattern in Finland but this he said is merely a guess as Sweden had no indication of Soviet intentions.

Sent Department as 110, repeated Helsinki as 6, Moscow as 9, Paris as 39 and London as 41. By mail to Oslo and Copenhagen.

  1. Yrjö Leino, Finnish Minister of the Interior.
  2. Lt. Gen. G. M. Savonenkov presented his credentials to the Finnish Government on January 16, 1948.
  3. Andrei Andreyevich Zhdanov, Chairman of the Allied Control Commission in Finland in 1944–1947.
  4. Not pointed.
  5. The Finnish Prime Minister, Mauno Pekkala, and the Foreign Minister, Carl Enckell, had visited Moscow in November 1947.