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I began the interview with Molotov on August 15 about 8:00 p m. by stating that according to information which had reached us the Soviet Government was interested in continuing the political conversations, but that it preferred that they be carried on in Moscow.
Molotov replied that this was correct.
Then I read to Herr Molotov the contents of the instruction which had been sent to me and the German text was immediately translated into Russian, paragraph by paragraph. I also informed Molotov about the content of the annex to the instruction which I had received. Molotov took under consideration my communication that on the instructions of the Reich Foreign Minister I was to ask for an audience with Herr Stalin, as well as my statement that in addition to the conference with Molotov, an extended conference with Stalin was a condition for the proposed visit of the Reich Foreign Minister. With regard to the desire of the Reich Foreign Minister that the content of the instruction should reach Herr Stalin in as exact a form as possible, Molotov made a gesture of assent.
Molotov listened to the reading of the instruction with close [gespannter] attention, and he directed his secretary to make as extensive and exact notes as possible.
Molotov then declared that in view of the importance of my communication he could not give me an answer at once but he must first render a report to his Government. He could state at once, however, that the Soviet Government warmly [lebhaft] welcomed the intention expressed on the German side to bring about an improvement in relations with the Soviet Union. Prior to the further communication which he would make to me shortly, after securing instructions from his Government, he wanted, at the moment, to express the following views of his own with regard to the proposals of the German Government.
A trip by the Reich Foreign Minister to Moscow would require extensive preparation if the intended exchange of views was to produce any result. In this connection, he asked me for information as to whether the following was in accordance with the facts.
The Soviet Government at the end of June of this year had received a telegraphic report from its Chargé in Rome about a conference between the latter and the Italian Foreign Minister, Ciano. In this conversation Ciano had said that there was a German plan under way which had as its goal a decisive improvement in German-Soviet relations. In that connection Ciano had referred to the following items in the plan:
1) Germany would not be disinclined to exercise influence on Japan for the purpose of an improvement of her relations with the Soviet Union and the elimination of the boundary disputes.
2) Further, the possibility was envisaged of concluding a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union and making a joint guarantee of the Baltic States.
3) Germany was prepared to make an economic treaty with the Soviet Union on a broad basis.
The contents of the foregoing points had aroused great interest on the part of the Soviet Government and he, Molotov, would very much like to know how much of the plan which Ciano had outlined in the form just mentioned to the Soviet Chargé was true.
I replied that the statements of Ciano apparently rested on a report of the Italian Ambassador here, Rosso, of which we had already heard. The content of this report rested principally on Rosso's deductions.
To a question interjected by Molotov as to whether Rosso was inventing his information, I replied that that was only partly correct. We wanted, as Molotov knew, an improvement in German-Soviet relations and naturally had considered how such an improvement could be brought about. The result of these deliberations was contained in my communications which were known to Molotov and in the statements of the Reich Foreign Minister and of Herr Schnurre to Herr Astakhov.
Molotov replied that the question as to whether Rosso had informed his Government correctly did not interest him further. The Soviet Government at the present moment was interested above all in knowing whether plans such as those which were contained in Rosso's report, or something similar, actually did exist and whether the German Government was still following such a line of thought. He, Molotov, after hearing of the report from Rome had seen nothing improbable about it. The Soviet Government all through recent years had been under the impression that the German Government had no desire to bring about an improvement in relations with the Soviet Union. Now the situation had changed. From the conferences which had taken place in the last few weeks, the Soviet Government had gotten the impression that the German Government was really in earnest in its intentions to bring about a change in relations with the Soviet Union. He regarded the statement which had been made today as decisive and as one in which this wish was especially completely and clearly expressed. As regards the Soviet Government, it had always had a favorable attitude with regard to the question of good relations with Germany and was happy that this was now the case on the German side also. Whether the details as contained in Rosso's report were actually what the Germans had in mind was not of such overwhelming importance. He, Molotov, had the impression that there must be a great deal of truth in them, since these ideas paralleled those advanced from the German side for some months. In this connection he stated with satisfaction that the economic discussions in Berlin were continuing and apparently promised good results.
I remarked that the course of the economic negotiations was satisfactory to us as well, and I asked how he envisaged the further method of procedure in the political conversations.
Molotov repeated that he was interested above everything else in an answer to the question of whether on the German side there was the desire to make more concrete the points which had been outlined in Rosso's report. So, for example, the Soviet Government would like to know whether Germany saw any real possibility of influencing Japan in the direction of a better relationship with the Soviet Union. "Also, how did things stand with the idea of the conclusion of a non-aggression pact? Was the German Government sympathetically inclined to the idea or would the matter have to be gone into more deeply?" were Molotov's exact words.
I replied that, as regards the relationship to Japan, the Reich Foreign Minister had already said to Herr Astakhov that he had his own views on this matter. Thus it might be assumed that the Reich Foreign Minister was prepared to interest himself in this matter also, since his influence upon the Japanese Government was certainly not slight.
Molotov said that all this interested him very much and, at this point, he interjected that Ciano had told the Soviet Chargé that he would strongly support the ideas in the Rosso report. He continued that it was very important for the Soviet Government in connection with the intended trip of the Reich Foreign Minister to Moscow to obtain an answer to the question of whether the German Government was prepared to conclude a non-aggression pact or something similar with the Soviet Union. On an earlier occasion there had been mention of the possibility of "a resurrection and revival of earlier treaties."
I confirmed to Herr Molotov that we really were considering a new order of things [eine Neuordnung der Dinge] either in connection with what had gone before or perhaps on an entirely new foundation. I then asked him whether I might conclude that the questions which had been put by him would constitute the substance of the conferences with the Reich Foreign Minister in Moscow and that he had only communicated them to me so that I might prepare the Reich Foreign Minister for these questions.
Molotov replied that he would still have to make a further reply to me with regard to the question of the visit here by the Reich Foreign Minister. It seemed to him, however, that for such a journey a previous clarification and preparation of definite questions would be necessary, so that it would not be just conversations which were carried on in Moscow, but that decisions could be made as well. He heartily subscribed to my statement that a prompt clarification was desirable. He also had the opinion that haste was desirable, so that the march of events would not confront us with accomplished facts. He must, therefore, repeat that if the German Government was favorably inclined to the idea of the conclusion of a non-aggression pact, and if my statement of today included this or a similar idea, more concrete discussion of these questions should take place at once. He requested me to inform my Government in this sense.
COUNT von der SCHULENBURG
Moscow, August 16, 1939.