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The Russian Ambassador visited me todayfor the first time since he took up his post here (1) for a conversation on practical matters. He dwelt at length on a subject which he said was of particular interest to him: namely, the fulfillment of certain contracts for war materiel by the Skoda Works. Although the items involved are manifestly rather insignificant, the Ambassador regarded the fulfillment of the contracts as a test, to determine whether, in accordance with a recent statement by Director Wiehl (2) to him, we were really willing to cultivate and expand our economic relations with Russia. The matter of these supply contracts is being looked into elsewhere.
Toward the end of the discussion, I casually mentioned to the Ambassador that even granted goodwill on our part, a favorable atmosphere for the delivery of war materials to Soviet Russia was not exactly being created at present by reports of a Russian-British-French air pact and the like. Herr Merekalov seized on these words to take up political matters. He inquired as to the opinion here regarding the present situation in Central Europe. When I told him that as far as I knew Germany was the only country not participating in the present saber-rattling in Europe, he asked me about our relations with Poland and about the alleged military clashes on the German-Polish frontier. After I had denied the latter-and made some rather restrained comments on German-Polish relations, the Russian asked me frankly [unverblumt] what I thought of German-Russian relations.
I replied to Herr Merekalov that, as everybody knew, we had always had the desire for mutually satisfactory commercial relations with Russia. It had appeared to me that the Russian press lately was not fully participating in the anti-German tone of the American and some of the English papers. As to the German press, Herr Merekalov could form his own opinion, since he surely followed it very closely.
The Ambassador thereupon stated approximately as follows:
Russian policy had always moved in a straight line. Ideological differences of opinion had hardly influenced the Russian-Italian relationship, and they did not have to prove a stumbling block with regard to Germany either. Soviet Russia had not exploited the present friction between Germany and the Western democracies against us, nor did she desire to do so. There exists for Russia no reason why she should not live with us on a normal footing. And from normal, the relations might become better and better.
With this remark, to which the Russian had led the conversation, Herr Merekalov ended the interview. He intends to go to Moscow in the next few days for a visit.