689.90D/4–1651: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Kirk) to the Secretary of State


1819. Deptel 627, April 5, based Karachi’s tel to Dept 915, April 4.1 From scanty info available to us here we would surmise that Sov short-term intentions re Afghanistan are somewhat less carefully defined and perhaps more pragmatic than is case with Sov ME policy generally. Lacking strategic position and oil resources Iran, and not having revolutionary potentialities inherent in more industrially-developed ME nations. Afghanistan as such hardly seems to occupy major place in list Kremlin’s immediate objectives in ME.

It is of course obvious that Sovs are always prepared to take fullest advantage of any and all opportunities to embarrass Pakistan, country which Sovs regard as Brit-created monstrosity. However, despite theoretical advantages to Kremlin of pushing Pooshtoonistan issue, official Sov silence up to now suggests hesitancy to disregard reactions in other Muslim countries. In this sense approach of Sov Amb Kabul to Saudi Mins may be attempt to probe attitude Islamic nations, and SA Min’s prompt reaction in defense Pak thesis may cause Sovs to avoid taking sides at present juncture.

Clue to Sov thinking on Pooshtoonistan issue may be found in art published in Questions of History in 19492 (Emb despatch 746, Dec 2. 1949).3 In bald terms this suggested territorial aggrandizement Afghanistan at expense Pak tribal area, but at same time “return” to USSR of Afghan areas inhabited by Tadjiks, Uzbeks and other peoples majority of whom encompassed USSR. We have not seen this line of thought developed elsewhere, but no doubt it constitutes theoretical Sov position re frontier problems this area. That any such boundary rectification would probably seriously impair continued existence Pak naturally would not constitute obstacle in eyes of Sov planners.

Based on foregoing, we are inclined to believe that “speculative assumptions” Pak Sec Gen, while they may be perfectly correct, are not warranted by slim info now at hand. We doubt whether it is right to postulate that Sov expansionism up to now has been based on limited objective extending to Hindu Kush, any more than that Indus with Karachi now is new frontier Sov expansionist thinking. As indicated first para this tel, we conceive Sov tactics this area to be [Page 1961]pragmatic at present time, and we believe they must be considered within framework “sof” [soft?] policy outlined Emb despatch 294, Dec 11, 1950.4

However, fact that Pak Fon Secy has taken alarm at new Sov interest in Pooshtoonistan issue possibly may be turned to our advantage. If we can bring both Paks and Afghans to realize potential Sov exploitation issue, possibilities greater degree of caution both sides and mutual willingness to reach some form modus vivendi may result. We assume Dept already has thought of utilizing this opportunity for informally pressing our views to both parties to dispute.

Dept pass London. Sent Dept 1819 rptd info London 340. Dept pass Karachi 29 and Kabul 12. Dept pouch New Delhi, Tehran and Paris unnumbered.

  1. Telegram 627, to Moscow, April 5, repeated the text of telegram 915 from Karachi, April 4 (p. 1952), adding the phrase “please comment” (689.90D/4–451).
  2. I. Reisner, “K voprosu o skladyvanii afganskoi natsii” [On the question of the formation of the Afghan nation], Voprosy istorii [Questions of history], No. 7 (July) 1949, p. 66.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Despatch 294, from Moscow, December 11, 1950, not printed, reported that there had been in the past several months an apparently sustained effort on the part of the Soviet Government to avoid sharp criticism of Near Eastern Governments, picturing them instead as victims of Western imperialism (761.00/12–1150).