Soviet Diplomatic Interventions 1935-1944
In order to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany we publish documents relating to the diplomacy of the Soviet Union in its fight against German imperialism. The first document belongs to the period after the ascent to power of Hitler when the USSR attempted to construct collective security arrangements with Britain and other western powers in order to bring about the containment of the expansionist plans of Nazi Germany. These endeavours fell through as the ruling circles in Britain followed a policy of appeasement of Hitler and planned to push the aggressive drive of Nazi Germany against the USSR and so embroil Germany and the USSR in war. The conversation with Eden indicates clearly that the perception of Stalin was that Germany and Japan posed a clear danger to world peace which impelled the USSR to try to establish collective security agreements with the western powers and reorientate the Comintern policy to form united, popular and national fronts against the danger of fascism, war and imperialism. As the danger of war increasingly loomed and it became apparent that Britain, which was the kingpin of any European collective security, was unwilling to take a clear stand in favour of collective security, the USSR, to avert the danger of invasion and to strengthen its defence preparations for the impending war, accepted the German proposal for a non-aggression pact. The second document which comprises of Stalin’s guidelines to Molotov on his impending visit to Berlin, is concerned to discern the war objectives of Germany, Italy and Japan and so far as was possible to protect the interests of the socialist Soviet Union in the period of world conflagration. Hitler’s attack on the USSR in June 1941 laid the basis of the formation of the unity of the anti-fascist powers. The three conversations of Stalin and de Gaulle complement the published materials of the war correspondence between the allied leaders and the minutes of the Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam conferences. The conversations carry material which help to answer some of the standard bourgeois charges directed against the USSR, such as the alleged failure of the Red Army to come to the aid of the Warsaw uprising.
Minutes of the Discussions of J.V. Stalin and V.M. Molotov with the Lord Privy Seal of Great Britain, Eden
March 29, 1935
The visit took place in the Kremlin, in the cabinet of Com. Molotov. The meeting was attended by Com. Stalin, Molotov, Litvinov, Maisky, and from the English side Eden, the English ambassador Chilston and the chief of the section on the League of Nations in the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs Streng. The meeting went on for about an hour and a quarter.
The talks were started by Eden after the initial exchange of pleasantries. He said approximately the following:
Eden: On behalf of the British government I consider it to be my duty to express my gratitude at being granted the opportunity to meet the leaders of the Soviet state. I believe that such personal contact between the representatives of the British and the Soviet governments will be helpful for better mutual understanding among them and similarly for the task of improving the Anglo-Soviet relationship and to strengthen world peace. The policy of the British government is a policy of peace. It is closely linked to the League of Nations and is based on the principles of the League of Nations. The British government believes that the USSR also pursues a policy of peace. Apart from that it is also a member of the League of Nations. This creates the preconditions for cooperation between the two countries in the sphere of international politics. I am using this opportunity to clear up one misconception which apparently is widespread in the USSR. Many in your country think that the British government is engaged in some intrigues against the USSR and is poisoning the views of other countries against the USSR. In the name of the British government I must decisively declare that the given view is baseless. The British government wants only peace. It understands that in the present conditions any serious war can not be isolated and localised. That is why the British government thinks that the integrity, inviolability and prosperity of the USSR is one of the most important elements to preserve world peace. I hope that the Soviet government is also of the same opinion on the integrity, inviolability and prosperity of the British Empire.
Stalin: It sounds good, if it is not a mere compliment.
Eden: Mr. Litvinov knows me sufficiently well from Geneva and can confirm that in such situations I am not disposed to giving mere compliments.
Molotov: I can assure Mr. Lord Privy Seal that the policy of the Soviet government is a consistent policy of peace. The USSR does not desire new territories or any war booties. It is engaged in the work of peaceful construction within the country and aims to have the best relationships with all the governments. With regard to the British Empire the Soviet government is alien to aggressive thoughts.
Eden: I don’t consider it necessary to lay down the contents of the negotiations held in Berlin in detail, since I believe that Mr. Litvinov has already informed Mr. Stalin and Molotov about the contents of these negotiations held amongst us. To me it is very important and valuable to listen to their opinion about the present European situation and about measures to be taken to regulate it.
Stalin: First of all I would like to ask Mr. Eden – How does he evaluate the present international situation? Does he consider it to be dangerous or very dangerous?
Eden: I consider the present international situation to be one causing anxiety, but not hopeless. I think so because though the present hardships are tremendous still the European nations still have some time to overcome these difficulties.
Stalin: But if we compare the situation with that of 1913 what do you think it is like, better or worse?
Eden: I think, better.
Stalin: Why do you think so?
Eden: I think so for two reasons. First of all now there exists the League of Nations, which did not exist in 1913. The League of Nations has limited powers, however in Geneva the concerned states at least have an opportunity to discuss a question on the upcoming threats. Secondly in 1913 the broad masses of the European population did not even consider the possibility of war, they did not suspect that the war is so near. War came to them as a total surprise. Now the situation is different. The general opinion of the world clearly understands the threat of war, thinks of this risk and is fighting it. The mood of the wide broad masses now is very pacifistic. And what do you think?
Stalin: I think the situation is worse than in 1913.
Stalin: Because in 1913 there was only one source of the threat of war – Germany and presently there are two such sources – Germany and Japan.
Eden: Has not your relationship with Japan improved over the past few years? Thanks to the wise policy of your government the threat of war in this part of the world has considerably weakened.
Stalin: We are talking not only about the security of the borders of USSR. The issue is much wider: What are the long term intentions of Japan? What does it plan to do generally? From this point of view the situation in the Far East is very alarming. The known improvement of the situation pointed out by you is just temporary. It is a pause which will last only until Japan swallows Manchuria. As soon as it happens we all can expect the further growth of those tendencies which Japan is showing over the period of the last 3-4 years.
Eden: Are you convinced of the aggressive intentions of Japan?
Stalin: Till now there are no such facts which would have contradicted this conclusion. At the same time there are facts which force us to be prepared for the worst in the Far East. In fact Japan has walked out of the League of Nations and is mocking at the principles of the League of Nations; Japan in the eyes of everyone is tearing apart the international agreements which are signed by it. This is very dangerous. In 1913 Japan was still among those powers which paid respect to their signatures on international documents. Now the situation is reversed. Such a policy cannot promise anything good.
Eden: And what about Europe?
Stalin: In Europe, Germany is causing great unease. It has also walked out of the League of Nations, and as you have informed Com. Litvinov, it does not intend to return to it. It also openly in front of the eyes of everyone is tearing up international declarations. This is dangerous. How can we under such situations trust the German signatures on any of the international documents? You yourself have told Com. Litvinov, that the German government is protesting against the Eastern Pact of Mutual Cooperation. It is agreeable only to a pact of non-aggression. But what is the guarantee that the German government which so easily disowns its international commitments will adhere to the pact of non-aggression? There is no such guarantee. Therefore we can not be satisfied just by signing a treaty of non-aggression with Germany. To ensure peace we need a more real guarantee, and only the Eastern Pact of Mutual Cooperation is such a real guarantee. See, how in fact such a pact will function. We are six people in the room, let us assume that amongst us we have a pact of mutual cooperation and assume, for example, that Com. Maisky wishes to attack one of us, what would happen? We all together would beat Com. Maisky.
Molotov (jokingly): That is why Com. Maisky is behaving like a gentleman.
Eden (smiling): Yes, I can very clearly understand your metaphor.
Stalin: That’s the same with the countries of Eastern Europe. Similarly if one of the member countries of the pact for mutual cooperation faces an attack from another country, all the remaining members of the pact would come out with all their forces to the help of the first. This is the simplest solution to the problem of security at the given stage.
Eden: How do you view a pact of mutual co-operation – including Germany or without Germany?
Stalin: Including Germany, of course including Germany. We do not wish to corner anyone. We are not trying to isolate Germany. On the contrary we wish to have friendly relations with Germany. The Germans are a great and brave nation. We don’t forget this. It was impermissible to hold such a nation in the bondage of the treaty of Versailles for long. We were not participants at Versailles and therefore can judge Versailles more objectively than those who participated in its formation. I repeat that such a great nation as the Germans must have broken free from the bondage of Versailles. However the forms and the situations of this freedom are such that they are capable of causing serious alarm for us, and for that reason, so as to be prepared for the possible unfavourable developments, this is the time that known insurance is necessary. An Eastern Pact of Mutual Cooperation is one such insurance, of course including Germany, if there is any possibility of it. You Mr. Eden have been to Berlin recently, what are your impressions?
Eden: I would answer to that with an English saying: I am satisfied, but not glad. I am satisfied that we understand the situation, but I am not happy with what we understand from the situation.
Stalin: I agree with you. There is nothing to be pleased about. Generally speaking there are strange people sitting in Berlin. For example around one year earlier the German government offered us aid of 200 million Marks. We agreed to it and started negotiations – and immediately afterwards suddenly the German government started spreading the rumour that Tukhachevsky and Goering met in order to work out a joint plan to attack France. Now is it politics? It is mean politics. Or for example Litvinov informed me that all the time in Berlin you were made to believe of the existence of a military threat from the USSR. Isn’t it so?
Eden: Yes, Hitler informed that he is extremely worried about the large size of your Red Army and the threat of it attacking him from the east.
Stalin: And do you know that at the same time the German government agreed to supply us on account of loan such products about which it is not even convenient to speak openly, armaments, chemicals etc.
Eden (troubled): How? Did the German government agree to supply arms for your Red Army?
Stalin: Yes, it agreed and most likely in the near future we are going to sign an agreement for a loan.
Eden: It is outrageous! Such behaviour is a proof of Hitler’s insincerity, while he is telling others about the military threat from the side of the USSR.
Stalin: Absolutely correct. Now, is it politics? Is it serious politics? No; petty and awkward people are sitting in Berlin.
Eden: I am extremely pleased to hear from you and Mr. Molotov that you decisively stand for peace and unanimously uphold the system of collective security. Great Britain and the USSR – both are members of the League of Nations and such an unanimity of views of both the governments on the basic problems of this time lays the foundation for their cooperation in Geneva.
Stalin: Yes, it’s good. We joined the League of Nations not to play around, but we understand that at present the League of Nations does not possess any serious authority; even Paraguay laughs at it. The League of Nations needs to be strengthened and for that the pact for mutual cooperation is absolutely necessary.
Eden: I will report to my government about our meeting; I have no doubts that it would be very much satisfied when it comes to know of your preparedness to cooperate in the system of collective security in Europe and possibly in other parts of the world.
At this the official meeting was concluded. Later Com. Molotov invited all those present to a long table for a cup of tea. Approaching the table, Eden looked at the large map of the USSR that was hanging on the wall and remarked: What a beautiful map and what a big country!
Stalin jokingly answered: The country is big but we face a lot of difficulties.
Eden looked at the position of Great Britain and added that England is such a small island. Com. Stalin looked at Great Britain and said: – Yes, a small island, but a lot depends on it. If this small island tells Germany: we will not give you money, raw materials, metal – peace in Europe would be guaranteed.
Eden did not reply to this.
Published from the archives
From: ‘Dokumenty Vnesheye Politiki SSSR’, Volume 18, 1st January-31st December 1935, Ministerstvo Inostrannykh Del SSSR, Izdatel’stvo politicheskoye literatury, Moscow, 1973, pp. 246-251.
Translated from the Russian by Anand Shintre.
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