Memorandum by the German Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Schulenburg) May 20, 1939
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Tgb. Nr. A/1023
Moscow, May 20,1939.

This afternoon at 4:00, I was received by the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars and Commissar for Foreign Affairs Molotov. The interview took place in the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. It lasted over an hour and was carried on in most friendly fashion. Herr Molotov, who speaks only Russian, had requested that no translator be brought along since he himself would provide an excellent interpreter. The latter, a rather young man, translated very correctly but slowly from the French. That explains in part the long duration of the conference.

I opened the conversation by saying to Herr Molotov that the last proposals of Herr Mikoyan in our economic negotiations had presented several difficulties which could not be immediately removed. We now believed that a way had been found to come to an under standing and we intended in the very near future to send Geheimrat Dr. Schnurre to Moscow to discuss with Herr Mikoyan whether an agreement could be reached on the basis of our proposals. I asked whether Herr Mikoyan was prepared to confer with Herr Schnurre.

Herr Molotov replied that the course of our last economic negotiations had given the Soviet Government the impression that we had not been in earnest in the matter and we had only played at negotiating for political reasons. At first it had been reported that a German delegation was coming for economic negotiations to Moscow (I suggested that this report did not emanate from us but from the Polish and French press), and later it was to the effect that Herr Schnurre was coming alone. Herr Schnurre did not come, but Herr Hilger (1) and I had conducted the negotiations and then these negotiations also had faded out. The Soviet Government could only agree to a resumption of the negotiations if the necessary "political bases" for them had been constructed [wenn hierfur die notwendige "politische Grundlage" geschaflen sein werde.].

I told Herr Molotov that we had never regarded the economic discussions as a game, but we had always conducted them entirely in earnest. We always had and still have the sincerest intention to come to an agreement, and Berlin was of the opinion, if I understood it correctly, that a successful conclusion of the economic discussions would also help the political atmosphere. It had been technical reasons only that had been responsible for Herr Schnurre's absence and for the delay of the negotiations. The present economic conditions in Germany made it very difficult to fulfill the wishes of Herr Mikoyan. I asked Herr Molotov what he meant by the construction of political bases. I had the impression that the German-Soviet atmosphere had improved during the last year or so, and I was astonished that economic negotiations should now be impossible while previously negotiations of the same sort had repeatedly taken place under more unfavorable Conditions and had been brought to a conclusion. Herr Molotov then declared that the way in which better political bases could be built was something that both Governments would have to think about. All of my determined efforts to bring Herr Molotov to make his wishes more definite and more concrete were in vain. Herr Molotov had apparently determined to say just so much and not a word more. He is known for this somewhat stubborn manner. I thereupon concluded the conversation and stated that I would inform my Government. Herr Molotov then bade me farewell in a very friendly fashion.

Immediately at the conclusion of my visit to Herr Molotov, I visited Herr Potemkin. I related to him the course of my conversation with the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, and I added that I had unfortunately not been able to find out from the conversation what Herr Molotov actually wanted. He certainly must have had something in mind. I asked Herr Potemkin to find out whether he could not possibly let me know what direction Herr Molotov's line of thought was taking. I gave the impression that I did not know at all what I should suggest to my Government. Nothing could be changed in the main lines of German policy. Thus, in my opinion, we would persevere in our East Asia policy. I could, however, add that this policy was in no way directed against the Soviet Union.



(1) On the staff of the German Embassy in Moscow. Return to the Text.

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