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Contrary to the policy previously planned, we have now decided to undertake definite negotiations with the Soviet Union. Accordingly, in the absence of the Ambassador I asked the Charge, Astakhov, to see me today. The Soviet request for further continuance of their trade mission at Prague as a branch of the trade mission at Berlin provided the starting point of our conversation. Since the Russian request presents a question of policy the Reich Foreign Minister had also been considering it and he had taken the matter up with the Fuhrer. To my inquiry as to whether the maintenance of the trade mission at Prague involved a permanent situation or a continuance over a limited period, the Charge remarked that in his personal view it seemed most likely that the Soviet Government was thinking of a permanent arrangement. I replied that it would not be an easy matter for us to grant permission for continuance of the trade mission in Prague, since Ambassador Count Schulenburg had just received from Molotov a not very encouraging pronouncement on the subject of the general state of our relations. The Charge, in the absence of more definite instructions, interpreted the conversation between Count Schulenburg and Molotov, of which he had knowledge, as meaning that at Moscow they wished to avoid a repetition of the course of events of last January. In Molotov's view political and economic matters could not be completely separated in our relationship. Between the two as a matter of fact, there was a definite connection.
After I had cleared up to some extent the events of January, I said to the Charge that in our opinion also political and economic matters in Russo-German relations could not be entirely separated and I was conferring with him particularly because British efforts to draw Russia into their orbit pointed to a political orientation on the part of Moscow of which we would have to take notice even in relatively minor matters such as that of the trade mission in Prague. I would therefore have to renew my query regarding the length of time the Soviet Union desired the trade mission at Prague. The Charge at this stage of the conversation stated that he must ask Moscow what the intentions there were regarding the trade mission at Prague and what Foreign Commissar Molotov had intended to say to Count Schulenburg. In his view Molotov had, it was true, spoken with the suspicion customary with the Russians, but not with the intention of putting a check on further Russo-German discussion.
In this connection I recalled to the Charge certain conversations which he himself had carried on at the Foreign Office and especially statements made to me by the Soviet Ambassador about the middle of April about the possibility of normalization and even further improvement of Russo-German political relations, and at this point I also referred to the- more moderate tone of the public statements on both sides for several months past and above all to the fact that the development of our relations with Poland had made our policy in the East, which had previously been hampered, more free. Following indications of agreement on the part of the Charge, I said that in my personal opinion Germany was not narrow-minded as respects Soviet Russia, but also not importunate. Communism would continue to be rejected by us, while we, on the other hand, expected no affection for National Socialism from Moscow. The Charge emphasized strongly in that connection the possibility of a very clear separation between principles governing internal policy on the one hand and the attitude adopted in foreign policy on the other. I continued that Russia, in addition to that normalization of our relationship at which the Russian Ambassador had hinted, could choose any course up to unyielding antagonism, even though many people, as, for instance, the Polish Foreign Minister, were interested in hindering such normalization. Beck's interpretation of Germany's Ukranian policy could, however, be best refuted by Germany's conduct in respect to the Carpatho-Ukraine. Whether there was still room for a gradual normalization, after Moscow had, perhaps already, given ear to the enticements of London, I did not know. However, after the Charge and the Ambassador had made unequivocal statements at the Foreign Office, we wanted to escape the charge that we had kept silent about our own position. We were asking and we wanted nothing from Moscow; however, we did not want Moscow to be able to say to us later that we had erected an impassable wall of silence between us.
The Charge replied that he believed that his Government was still of the opinion that foreign policy and internal policy need not disturb each other. He would report the conversation and request instructions from his Government both as to its intentions about the trade mission in Prague and as to whether he had correctly interpreted the statements of Molotov as being in no sense a rejection.
I got the impression from the conversation that the statements of Molotov should not be considered an intentional refusal.
Instructions for further treatment of the subject are being held in reserve.