840.50 Recovery/1–749: Telegram

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

top secret

24. I took up personally with Secretary General [Baron Johan Hugo] Beck Friis this afternoon question East-West trade (Deptel 874, December 27, 5 p. m.1). I pointed out that question had first been raised with Swedish Government October 13, that later full lists had been given Swedish Government, and that neither I nor Haskell2 had yet received any indication of Swedish views. I said we realized the problem was a difficult one for Sweden and that we did not wish to seem impatient, but that three months seemed to us a reasonable period for the study which such an important problem required. I had now received telegraphic instructions from my government again to ask when we might expect Swedish views and what degree of cooperation would be forthcoming. I said that assurances had been given by Mr. Haskell that Swedish cooperation in this matter would not be made public in the hearings before Congress. However, as Beck Friis must realize, it is the duty of the Department and ECA to determine in its own mind the cooperation which is being shown by various OEEC countries in this matter of East-West trade which our government considers of great importance for reasons of national security. I added that while we naturally were thinking in terms of our national security, we felt just as strongly that Sweden’s own national security was equally involved. I told him in reply to his question that it was my understanding that other OEEC countries were cooperating, mentioning specifically British, Danes and Norwegians, and said that even the Swiss, who were not requesting any EBP assistance, had in their preliminary reactions shown a willingness to enter into discussions of items on the two lists.

[Page 64]

In reply Beck Friis said he quite realized that we are entitled to know Sweden’s reaction; he was sorry that he had not yet been able to obtain the government decision though the question had of course been discussed in highest government circles. He hoped to be able to obtain some decision soon. There were of course two aspects involved. The first (and I gather the most important) was the question of general principle which involved “Sweden’s autonomy”. In this connection see mytel 1228 November 2, 6 p. m.3 This is of course a question on which Swedes in general, and Unden in particular, are most sensitive. The second was the practical question of Sweden’s probable need to export some of the items on the two lists in order to obtain much needed imports from the east (Polish coal is of course outstanding example). I reiterated that we are quite sympathetic to Sweden’s difficulties in this respect and are willing to sit down and discuss any items on the lists which present special difficulties, but I pointed out our offer to do so has resulted in no action on the Swedish side.

I think that the most we can hope for is that Swedes will work out some unilateral formula of policy on exports to the east about which they may inform us in secrecy, and which will in practice result in elimination of some of the items on A and B lists which would otherwise have gone to the east. (Beck Friis made it clear Sweden would give us no formal written commitment—I said we were not asking for one). They may possibly be willing to discuss some of the items on the lists. On the other hand they may not even go this far, and I think the Department and ECA should give serious consideration as to whether it considers probable Swedish exports to the east of sufficient importance to warrant cutting off ECA assistance in 1949–50 with all that this may imply.

Sent Department 24; repeated Paris 8 for Torep.

  1. Not printed; it instructed the Embassy in Sweden to inquire again whether the Swedish Government had decided to undertake the control for security reasons of exports to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in line with United States policies (840.50 Recovery/12–2748).
  2. John H. F. Haskell, Chief of the European Cooperation Administration Mission in Sweden.
  3. Not printed.