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The Soviet Russian Charge called on me this morning at my request. I designated as our subject of conversation the Soviet Russian request to continue accrediting their trade mission in Prague as a branch Office of the trade mission in Berlin. In my subsequent remarks, which the Charge interrupted by occasional objections, I adhered strictly to the instructions given to me.
First, I told the Charge that the request of the Russian Government involved a matter of principle, and that for this reason the Foreign Minister had dealt with it. Herr von Ribbentrop had presented the matter to the Fuhrer. At this point the attention of the Charge was aroused, and he made sure by asking me again whether the Fuhrer had really dealt with the matter.
I then continued that we would like to know whether the trade mission in Prague was to be retained permanently or only temporarily, and for what length of time. To this the Charge immediately replied that he personally could only state that there was still much work to be done in order to complete current business in the Protectorate, but that his Government had probably been thinking of a permanent status.
In accordance with instructions I then went on to state that it would not be easy for us to give our consent to the retention of the trade mission in Prague, because we, i. e., Ambassador Count Schulenburg, had recently received from Herr Molotov a not very encouraging reply in the matter of our economic relations. The Charge indicated that he was informed of the contents of the talk, and pending more detailed instructions interpreted it to the effect that in Moscow they wanted to avoid a repetition of what happened last January, i. e., they did not want to make preparations again for the trip of a German trade negotiator to Moscow only to receive a cancellation at the last moment, amidst the ridicule of the foreign press. Actually, Herr Molotov had stated that politics and economy could not be entirely separated in our relations; a certain connection between the two did actually exist. Apparently Potemkin in his communication to the Charge here expressed the matter this way: that the contemplated trade negotiations could not be treated lightly.
After we had exchanged a few more words to clarify the incident of last January, I told the Charge that I agreed with him that economics and politics could not be entirely separated from each other. 1t was for this very reason that I was having the conversation with him, because the British efforts to draw Russia into her sphere- efforts of which we were informed-indicated a political orientation in Moscow of which we would have to take account, even in considering less important problems, such as the Soviet Russian trade mission in Prague. I returned therefore to the question raised at the beginning of our conversation-namely, what length of time the Soviet Government would propose for the business of its trade mission in Prague.
The Charge concluded from this part of the conversation that he would have to inquire again in Moscow as to what intentions they actually had for the trade mission in Prague and, furthermore, what Foreign Commissar Molotov actually meant to tell Count Schulenburg. The Charge was willing to say on his own account that Herr Molotov had, to be sure, talked with the customary Russian distrust, but not with the intention of barring further German-Russian discussions.
After the discussion had reached this point I reminded the Charge of certain conversations which he himself had conducted in the Office and above all of the statements of his Ambassador, now absent from Berlin, who told me in the middle of April of the possibility of a normalization and even further improvement of German-Russian political relations. From this point the conversation proceeded spontaneously and I changed over to a purely conversational tone and put aside paper and pencil.
I here reminded the Charge of the remarks of his Ambassador about the more reserved language of the press on both sides in the last few months. I mentioned that to my knowledge the topic of Soviet Russia had receded into the background in official German speeches of recent months-which the Charge confirmed but held that it could be interpreted in different ways. Finally I told the Charge that the development of our relations with Poland, which was known to him, had actually made our hitherto restricted policy in the East freer.
After some concurring remarks by the Charge, I told him that personally thought the German position toward Soviet Russia was as follows: Germany was not narrow-minded, but she was not officious either. Among our German political merchandise, however, one item did not exist, namely a special liking for Communism. We had dealt with Communists in short order and we would continue to do so; moreover, we did not expect any special liking for National Socialism in Moscow either. At this point the Charge interrupted with explanations as to how Russian relations with Italy and particularly Turkey, as well as other countries could be normal or even very good, although in those countries Communism was not favored at all. He strongly emphasized the possibility of a very clear distinction between maxims of domestic policy on the one hand and orientation of foreign policy on the other hand.
I then continued with my figure of speech and stated that among our political merchandise there was also a pretty good selection for Russia, ranging from normalization of our relations such as the Russian Ambassador had suggested to me, to unrelenting hostility. Normalization was indeed obstructed by a lot of rubble and I was convinced that many people would even like to pile it higher. The Charge probably knew that Herr Beck, the Polish Foreign Minister, was also not entirely without his share in this. One could conduct interesting talks with Herr Beck, but he appeared to me to have become a little old, because he sometimes suffered from a regrettable weakness of memory. Thus, for instance, Beck's interpretation of the German policy toward the Ukraine was refuted by the German conduct in the case of the Carpathian Ukraine. However, I did not want to go into these things in detail; I thought that Germany had proved that she could cope with Communism at home; nor did she have any fear in foreign policy. I did not know whether there still was any room at all for a possible gradual normalization of relations between Soviet Russia and Germany, now that Moscow had perhaps already listened to the enticements of London. At any rate, however, since the Charge and his Ambassador had talked so frankly in the Foreign Ministry, I would like to spare myself the reproach that we on our part had held back and had concealed our position. We did not ask anything from Moscow, we did not desire anything from Moscow, but neither did we want to be told by Moscow at a later date that we had erected between us an impenetrable wall of silence.
The Charge, who had followed the talk attentively and had contributed to it a number of remarks not mentioned here, stated in conclusion that the ideological barrier between Moscow and Berlin Was in reality erected by us. Before our treaty with Poland we had rejected Russian offer of alliance and until recently there had been little comprehension here of the Russian thesis that foreign and domestic policy did not have to interfere with each other. He believed that his Government had not wavered in this viewpoint and was still faithful to it today. In conclusion the Charge stated that he would report home about our talk, the second part of which he designated, for his part, as private, and he would request instructions from his Government as to what its real aims were concerning the trade mission in Prague, as well as whether he, the Charge, had correctly interpreted the Molotov talk as in no way negative [keineswegs zuruckweisendes].
I did not, of course, ask the Charge about the state of the AngloRussian negotiations; nor did he mention anything about them. However, it cannot be contested that in his remarks today about our political relations he used basically the same language as hitherto and as his Ambassador did in the middle of last April. The Molotov Schulenburg episode appears to me, therefore, to have been the product of sensitivity and distrust rather than a premeditated rejection.