Foreign Office Memorandum
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To W 1301/39g


Soviet Chargé Astakhov called on me today at 11 a. m. for a conversation lasting an hour. First the journey of the German participants in the agricultural exhibition at Moscow was discussed (cf. separate memorandum (1)). I then asked Astakhov whether he had any news from Moscow regarding the questions which had been discussed between us. Astakhov replied in the affirmative and stated as follows:

The question informally discussed between us, as to whether a political thought should be inserted in the preamble to the credit agreement, had also been examined in Moscow. It was held more appropriate not to connect the trade and credit agreement with language of a political nature. This would be anticipating the future. I replied to Herr Astakhov that this was our view, too. Astakhov then mentioned that he had once again received an express instruction from Moscow to emphasize that the Soviet Government desired an improvement in relations with Germany. The declaration he had made to me the last time was thereby strengthened. I took advantage of this in the ensuing conversation to tell Astakhov the following:

We had noted with satisfaction that the Soviet Government was anxious to continue the conversation regarding the improvement of Soviet-German relations. We had wished that Molotov would let us know his basic attitude in regard to the status of Soviet interests in order to facilitate further conversations and had believed that it was premature for us to discuss concrete problems so long as we did not know exactly the interests of the Soviets. But, in any event, one question was quite ripe, namely Poland. The Polish delusion of grandeur, shielded by England, drove Poland constantly to new provocations. We were still hoping that Poland would somehow come to reason, so that a peaceful solution could be found. Failing this, it was possible that, against our will and against our desires, a solution by force of arms would have to take place. If, as we had now done on various occasions, we had declared ourselves willing to enter upon a large-scale adjustment of mutual interests with Moscow, it was important for us to know the position of the Soviet Government on the question of Poland. In Moscow, after political negotiations had brought no result, military negotiations were now being conducted with England and France. We scarcely believe that. contrary to the direction in which her interests clearly lay, the Soviet Union will align herself with England and make herself, as had England, a guarantor of megalomaniac Polish aspirations. It would, of course, mean a poor start for the German-Soviet conversations, if, however, as a result of the military negotiations in Moscow, a sort of military alliance were contemplated against us, with the Soviet Union participating. These were therefore questions that were of interest to us at this stage of our conversations, and upon them depended, after all, the prospects of achieving a German-Soviet understanding: in the first place, then, the attitude of the Soviet Union on the Polish question, and, in the second place, the objectives that Moscow was pursuing in the military discussions with England and France. I could again assure Herr Astakhov, as I had already done on various occasions, that, even in the event of a solution by force of arms, German interests in Poland were quite limited. They did not at all need to collide with Soviet interests of any kind, but we had to know those interests. If the motive behind the negotiations conducted by Moscow with England was the feeling of being threatened by Germany in the event of a German-Polish conflict, we for our part were prepared to give the Soviet Union every assurance desired, which would surely carry more weight than support by England, which could never become effective in Eastern Europe.

Astakhov was keenly interested, but naturally had no instructions of any kind from Moscow to discuss the subject of Poland or the subject of the negotiations in Moscow. In the course of the conversation, however, he went quite extensively into both subjects on his own accord. The negotiations with England had begun at a time when there had still been no sign of a disposition on the part of Germany to come to an understanding. The negotiations had been entered upon without much enthusiasm, but they had to conduct them because they had to protect themselves against the German threat and had to accept assistance where-ever it was offered. To be sure, the situation had changed since the conversations with Germany had started. But one could not now simply break off something which had been begun after mature consideration. The outcome of the negotiations was uncertain in his opinion, and it was quite possible that his Government likewise considered the question as completely open. Our conversation of today, just as those which previously took place, would surely tend in that direction. On the question of Poland, he said that he doubted whether he would receive a concrete reply from Moscow on this enormous problem. At this stage of the conversations it was somewhat like putting the cart before the horse to want to bring the question of Poland up now for final discussion. Astakhov sought to learn whether any German decisions in the Polish question could be expected in the next few days and what Germany's aims in respect to Poland were. I avoided a reply to this question and at any rate did not show such urgency in the matter. Astakhov will report and then revert to these questions. Astakhov was unable to answer an informal question regarding the possible return of his Ambassador. On the contrary, he asked me whether we had not heard anything from Moscow regarding Herr Merekalov. He emphasized, however, that it made no difference in our talks who was acting as the official representative of the Soviet Government in Berlin.


BERLIN, August 10, 1939.


(1) Not printed. Back

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