Foreign Office Memorandum
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BERLIN, July 27, 1939.


In accordance with my instructions I invited the Soviet Chargé, Astakhov, and Babarin, the chief of the Soviet trade mission here, to Ewest for dinner last night. The Russians stayed until about half past twelve. The Russians started the talk about the political and economic problems which interest us in a very lively and interested manner so that an informal and thorough discussion of the individual topics mentioned by the Reich Foreign Minister was possible. The following parts of the conversation should be stressed:

1. Referring to remarks by Astakhov about close collaboration and community of interests in foreign policy which formerly existed between Germany and Russia, I explained that such collaboration appeared attainable to me now, if the Soviet Government considered it desirable. I could visualize three stages:

Stage One: The re-establishment of collaboration in economic affairs through the credit and commercial treaty which is to be concluded.

Stage Two: The normalization and improvement of political relations. This included, among other things, respect for the interests of the other party in the press and in public opinion and respect for the scientific and cultural activities of the other country. The official participation by Astakhov in German Art Day at Munich, or the invitation of German delegates to the Agricultural Exhibition in Moscow, as suggested by him to the State Secretary, could, for instance, be included under this heading.

Stage Three would be the re-establishment of good political relations, either a return to what had been in existence before the Berlin Treaty (1) or a new arrangement which took account of the vital political interests of both parties. This stage three appeared to me within reach, because controversial problems of foreign policy, which would exclude such a relationship between the two countries, did not, in my opinion, exist in the whole area from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and the Far East. In addition, despite all the differences in Weltanschauung, there was one thing in common in the ideology of Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union: opposition to the capitalist democracies. Neither we nor Italy had anything in common with the capitalism of the West. Therefore it would appear to us quite paradoxical if the Soviet Union, as a Socialist state, were to side with the Western democracies.

2. With the strong agreement of Babarin, Astakhov designated the way of rapprochement with Germany as the one that corresponded with the vital interests of the two countries. However, he emphasized that the tempo must probably be very slow and gradual. The Soviet Union had been forced to feel itself most seriously menaced by the National Socialist foreign policy. We had appropriately called our present political situation encirclement. That was exactly how, after the events of September of last year, the political situation had appeared to the Soviet Union. Astakhov mentioned the Anti-Comintern Pact and our relations to Japan, and Munich and the free hand in Eastern Europe that we gained there, the political consequences of which were bound to be directed against the Soviet Union. Our assumption that the Baltic countries and Finland, as well as Rumania, were in our sphere of interest completed for the Soviet Government the feeling of being menaced. Moscow could not quite believe in a shift of German policy with respect to the Soviet Union. A change could only be expected gradually.

3. In my reply I pointed out that German policy in the East had taken an entirely different course in the meantime. On our part there could be no question of menacing the Soviet Union; our aims were in an entirely different direction. Molotov, himself, in his last speech had called the Anti-Comintern Pact camouflage for an alliance aimed against the Western democracies. He was acquainted with the Danzig question, and the related Polish question. I saw in these anything but a clash of interests between Germany and the Soviet Union. That we would respect the integrity of the Baltic countries and of Finland had become sufficiently clear through our non-aggression pacts and our non-aggression offers. Our relationship to Japan was that of a well-founded friendship, which was not, however, aimed against Russia. German policy was aimed against England. That was the decisive factor. As I had stated previously, I could imagine a far-reaching compromise of mutual interests with due consideration for the problems which were vital to Russia. However, this possibility was barred the moment the Soviet Union, by signing a treaty, sided With England against Germany. The Soviet Union would then have made its choice, and then would only be able to share the German opposition with England. Only for this reason would I have any objection to his view that the tempo of a possible understanding between Germany and the Soviet Union had to be slow. The time was opportune now, but would not be after the conclusion of a pact WITH London. This would have to be considered in Moscow. What could England offer Russia? At best, participation in a European war and the hostility of Germany, but not a single desirable end for Russia. What could we offer, on the other hand? Neutrality and staying out of a possible European conflict and, if Moscow wished, a German-Russian understanding on mutual interests which, just as in former times, would work out to the advantage of both countries.

4. During the subsequent discussion Astakhov came back again to the question of the Baltic countries and asked whether, besides economic penetration, we had more far-reaching political aims there. He also took up the Rumanian question seriously. As to Poland, he stated that Danzig would return to the Reich in one way or another and that the Corridor question would have to be solved somehow in favor of the Reich. He asked whether the territories which once belonged to Austria were not also tending toward Germany, particularly the Galician and Ukrainian territories. After describing our commercial relations to the Baltic countries, I confined myself to the statement that no German-Russian clash of interests would result from all these questions. Moreover, the settlement of the Ukrainian question had shown that we did not aim at anything there that would endanger Soviet interests.

5. There was a rather extensive discussion about the question of why National Socialism had sought the enmity of the Soviet Union in the field of foreign policy. In Moscow, they had never been able to understand this. They had always had full understanding for the domestic opposition to Communism. I took advantage of this opportunity to explain in detail our opinion concerning the change in Russian Bolshevism during recent years. The antagonism of National Socialism resulted naturally from the fight against the Communist Party of Germany which depended upon Moscow and was only a tool of the Comintern. The fight against the German Communist Party had long been over. Communism had been eradicated in Germany. The importance of the Comintern had been overshadowed by the Politbureau, where all entirely different policy was being followed now than at the time when the Comintern dominated. The amalgamation of Bolshevism with the national history of Russia, which expressed itself in the glorification of great Russian men and deeds (celebration of the battle of Poltava, Peter the Great, the battle on Lake Peipus, Alexander Nevski), had really changed the international face of Bolshevism, as we see it, particularly since Stalin had postponed world revolution indefinitely. In this state of affairs we saw possibilities today which we had not seen earlier, provided that no attempt was made to spread Communist propaganda in any form in Germany.

6. At the end Astakhov stressed how valuable this conversation had been to him. He would report it to Moscow, and he hoped that it would have visible results in subsequent developments there. The question of the commerce and credit treaty was discussed in detail.

7. After the statements of the Russians I had the impression that Moscow had not yet decided what they want to do. The Russians were silent about the status and chances of the English pact negotiations. Considering all this, it looks as if Moscow, for the time being, is following a policy of delay and postponement toward us as well as England in order to defer decisions the importance of which they understand completely. Therefore the receptive attitude of the Russians after the various talks, particularly the attitude of Molotov; therefore the delay in the protracted economic negotiations, in which the Russians absolutely reserve the tempo to themselves; therefore most likely also the retention of Ambassador Merekalov in Moscow. As a further handicap, there is the excessive distrust, not only toward us but toward England as well. From our point of view it may be considered a noteworthy success that Moscow, after months of negotiation with England, still remains uncertain as to what she ought to do eventually.



(1) Treaty of friendship and neutrality between Germany and the Soviet Union, signed at Berlin April 24, 1926. Back

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