47. Telegram From the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Bohlen) to the Department of State1

1185. In my 11522 I dealt only with the immediate point at issue and did not attempt to discuss what from here appears to be general Soviet policy in re to Formosa issue. The following observations are, of course, not based on any hard information since I have had no conversation on the subject since my return with any Soviet official and we have no contacts with Chinese Communist Embassy here. They are in part based on Soviet press treatment of issue which has been covered in press telegrams from here and in part on deductions from general Soviet policy at present time.

Soviet Government has no inclination to become involved in hostilities over an area which does not involve a Soviet vital interest such as Formosa. However, because of special relationship and importance of China to Soviet Union in general world picture, they would be confronted with a terrible dilemma in event of outbreak real hostilities between US and China. Confronted with a choice between involvement in a war in which they had no direct interest and [Page 148] abandonment of their chief and possibly only real ally in world, it is impossible in advance to say which decision would be made.
It seems increasingly obvious that Soviet Government does not have controlling influence over Chinese actions and even degree of influence is problematical. In last analysis, if issue was war or peace, presumably Soviets would have important if not decisive voice, but only in event that issue was completely clear.
With reference to (1) above, AP correspondent a few days ago submitted to censor speculative piece in which it was stated that despite Soviet press support of legitimacy Chinese aspirations to liberate Formosa, most foreign observers believe Soviet Union would not be disposed to engage in hostilities over area not vital to Soviet Union which Formosa was not and that any conflict between US and China would be “Chinese affair”. Story was held up for 12 hours indicating that it was referred to higher authority and eventually passed with deletion only of line referring to Soviet press support of Chinese position. This, of course, is not conclusive but is very much in line with extreme caution of Soviet press on Formosa question which, while justifying morally Chinese position and quoting approval Chinese statements on subject, has been careful not to commit even indirectly Soviet Union to any military support of Chinese policy.
With reference to (2) above, Soviet handling of Chou En-lai statement3 does not indicate it was jointly agreed or even issued with advance Soviet approval.
Indonesian Ambassador who saw Molotov recently (Embtel 1131)4 told me yesterday at Indian reception that he genuinely believed Soviets would prefer above all to see cease-fire in Formosan Straits but that in his view Peking is playing independent hand in this matter. I am seeing Indonesian tomorrow and hope to obtain further details of his talk with Molotov.
Foregoing leads to repetition of my conclusion in telegram under reference that when and if we have clear-cut position in regard to offshore islands and basis on which we would accept cease-fire with Chinese Nationalist acquiescence therein, there is at least outside [Page 149] chance that approach to Molotov on subject might be of real use.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/1–2755. Top Secret; Limit Distribution.
  2. Document 33.
  3. Telegram 1179 from Moscow, January 26, reported that the full text of Chou’s January 24 statement (see Document 35) had been carried in all Moscow papers the previous day and that his statement that the “liberation” of Formosa was a Chinese internal affair had been quoted in a January 26 article in Pravda attacking President Eisenhower’s message to Congress. (Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/1–2655)
  4. Telegram 1131 from Moscow, January 19, reported that the Indonesian Ambassador had raised the question of the Chinese-held American fliers with Molotov, who made no direct comment but gave the impression that the fliers would eventually be released. (Ibid., 611.95A241/1–1955)