THE DEPARTURE OF THE PEACE DELEGATION
March 8, 1940
Minister Paasikivi recorded, on March 8, the early phases of the peace delegation's trip:
"In the session of the Council of State [Cabinet], on the 6th of March, 1940, a decision was made to send the peace delegation to Moscow. Ryti, as chairman, I, as deputy chairman, Woionmaa and Walden, (Nykopp as secretary, Hakkarainen as interpreter and a certain lady as typist). By car from Helsinki to Turku and by a special airplane from there to Stockholm, where we stayed overnight.
On March 7, by a special airplane at 8 AM to Moscow, where we arrived at 3:30 PM. We were met by Barkov and an official from the Swedish legation. We were accommodated in a stately 'osobnyak'. At 10:15 PM Ryti and I paid a courtesy visit to Molotov. No actual matters were discussed, only courtesies. In the airplane Ryti prepared, using a draft outlined by me, an introductory speech, which he makes in the first meeting tomorrow. A splendid dinner. In the evening a telegram arrived from Helsinki stating that the situation at the front has gotten worse. The Russians might have brought fresh troops to the mainland west of Viipuri10.
In Stockholm the Swedish Foreign Ministry told us that they were told that Molotov was said to be pleased that Ryti and I were in the delegation.""
When the delegation was on the trip to Moscow, a memorandum was received in Mikkeli [site of the HQ] written in Sweden on the 5th of March by General Archibald Douglas1, who was worried about the situation. He was planning for the troops from the regular Swedish army to push forward into Finland in the north.
NOTES OF THE SESSION OF THE COUNCIL OF STATE (CABINET) ON MARCH 9, 1940 AT 10 PM.
Those present: The President of the Republic, acting Prime Minister Tanner, Ministers Niukkanen, Pekkala, Heikkinen, Koivisto, v. Born, Hannula, v. Fieandt, Fagerholm, Kotilainen and Söderhjelm.
Tanner: I have not got everything done. I have not yet spoken with the Swedish Government.
Niukkanen: The only thing worth asking the Swedish Government is whether they promise to form a military alliance with us and guarantee our boundaries, if we make peace.
Tanner: How the Headquarters sees the current situation is reflected in the following telegram by the Commander-in-Chief: "In addition to what I orally have told the Prime Minister, as well as the Foreign Minister, I hereby send a statement by the Commander of the Isthmus Army2, Lt. Gen. Heinrichs, about the present state of combat-readiness in the army: 'To the Commander-in-Chief. In the capacity of the Commander of the Isthmus army, it is my duty to make it known that the present condition of the army is such that further operations cannot lead to anything else than a continued worsening of the situation and new territorial losses. To support my position, I note in figures the depletion of manpower, already realized and constantly ongoing. The operative capacity of the battalions is now reported to be less than 20..250 men and daily casualties rise up to one thousand. Because of physical and mental strain, the operative capacity of the rest is not equal to what it was in the beginning of the war. Considerable officer losses accentuate the non-usability of depleted units. Enemy artillery fire and air raids destroy machine guns and antitank weaponry in amounts that make considerable shortage evident on critical front lines. Now, as the incidents on the right wing of the front have compelled us to a new use of force in a non-fortified terrain and at the expense of the current front elsewhere, the fighting strength of our defence has decreased to a dangerous extent. Often a threat from the air, sometimes extremely severe, makes it difficult to transfer troops or to maintain them. The commander of the Coastal Group, Maj. Gen. Oesch has emphasized the very small number of his troops as well as their moral fatigue and is sceptical about their capability to achieve results. The commander of the II Army Corps Lt. Gen. Öhqvist has stated that unless miracles occur, the present frontline of the Army Corps can be held for a week but not longer, due to the fact that manpower, especially officers, will dwindle away. The Commander of the III Army Corps, Maj. Gen. Talvela, expresses as his thought that everything is hanging by a hair.'"
This is what the Commander-in-Chief says. The situation can be summarized as follows, we face a coercive peace. We have to hurry up before a total collapse takes place. After that we will not be consulted. I have thought over the matter and arrived at the conclusion that we have to authorize our representatives to make any available peace, and propose a quick armistice. We do have reasons to comment on the conditions, as they now are not the same as those we were informed of before our negotiators left. The boundary as such would deprive us of central industrial areas on the Isthmus, parts of Kuusamo and Salla. - If my proposition is accepted, I have drafted instructions to be sent as a telegram to our negotiators.
The President of the Republic: Is there any news from Moscow?
Tanner: Our delegates have promised to give the answer in the next meeting. Before that they want to hear our opinion. I have not yet been able to contact Günther3.
Söderhjelm: Has the question for the defence alliance been put forward. Now we can exert pressure on the Swedish Government.
Niukkanen: I had not an opportunity to follow what has happened to that question. Should we not now demand a promise from Hansson4 on the military alliance. Another question: Is there any news about the attitudes in Berlin and Svinhufvud's5 trip there?
Tanner: It would be wrong to say that I have not clarified the facts. I have reported about the Swedish standpoint on the military alliance. It has been discussed with both the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister. But this is a matter of great magnitude, and it will take time. No reply will be received today. As for Germany, the situation is the same as before: she does not want to be involved in our business. In response to our feelers, we have been informed that they will not act as a mediator for peace. I have doubts about Svinhufvud achieving anything. We only just heard from Kivimäki6 about their stand.
Kotilainen: The report of the military command about the present situation in the Isthmus is clear and it is consistent with what we otherwise know. We face a coercive peace. I agree with the Foreign Minister's proposal.
v. Fieandt: I support the Foreign Minister's proposal.
Heikkinen: I'd like to hear the wording of the telegram.
Tanner presented the draft for the telegram, which still was without the report of the situation in the Isthmus.
Hannula: The HQ's answer did not came as a surprise, for we have not received anything else but pessimism from there. The information is limited to the Isthmus with no word about the eastern frontier. I interpret this as showing that the situation there is unchanged, therefore partly satisfactory, partly good. The army still stands unbeaten. The peace terms are so hard that they can't be accepted. I have already many times proposed approaching the Western powers. I deplore that it has not been done earlier. As the situation is now extremely serious, we should immediately seek assistance from the Western powers.
Kotilainen: As to the telegram, I suggest that it should be advisable not to paint a grim picture about the situation. Even if the [encryption] code is fine, there are no guarantees that it remains unbroken.
The President of the Republic: I agree. It should be satisfactory, if we only mention that we have received a report from the HQ.
Pekkala: Based on all the facts we have heard, I agree with the Foreign Minister on the main point.
Tanner: I just had a telephone call with Günther. I commented that additional demands have been presented, and that we had presumed that an armistice would have been put into effect right at the moment when our representatives started their journey. I told him that we had been duped. Günther agreed that the demands should have been confined to what they were, when the delegates left. He promised to make it known to Mme. Kollontay7 that no honourable state would behave like that. I asked further if the increase in demands and a dishonourable behaviour might have an effect on the opinion of the Swedish government in questions of transit and assistance. He did not believe so. I commented that new territorial demands were extended to industrial centers and power plants and that in some cases the borders of Peter the Great were overstepped. Günther promised to mobilize minister Assarsson8 and Mme. Kollontay. He also wanted to know what we would reply. I let him understand that we intend to stand strictly by the previous Russian offer. We have to inform the delegation about this.
v. Fieandt: It might be better to be cautious and leave Enso and Värtsilä unmentioned and consider it to be clear that they will be retained on our side.
Niukkanen: If the peace terms are approximately what now have been presented, then, however pessimistically I might see the situation, it nevertheless is more advantageous to continue fighting than to bow down. The question is of surrendering dense population centers and traffic routes. If it will be done without fighting, they are lost forever, but if we continue fighting, there is a possibility to win them back in the final settlement of the 'estate'. I do understand that continuing the war is extremely strenuous as the troops and the officers are tired. I assume that the invasion comes to a halt on the Saimaa9 line. The news about the Western assistance raises spirits to such an extent that we can hold this line the whole summer. The world situation will then change. Finland is saved and restored. The suggested boundary is most disadvantageous. I am not able to agree with the Foreign Minister. I instead support minister Hannula and the request of immediate Western assistance and that we negotiate a military alliance with them.
Koivisto: When we consider the statement of the military command, without painting it in rosy colours, and add to it my information about the situation at the home front, I come no other conclusion than that of a coercive peace. No 15,000 men can change the situation. As to the wording in the telegram, I am for caution because no code is unbreakable.
The President of the Republic: In any case, it feels like we cannot risk including the opinions of the generals in the telegram. What they say will be understood simply if we say, for instance: The Headquarters has given a report based on the demands — —.
v. Born: The most important thing is that it is said which direction the report goes to. It would be fine, if it could be emphasized that the original terms should be kept. But in the end they should be given free hands to make the agreement.
Tanner: It is easy to formulate the telegram, the main thing is, however, what sort of authorization they are given. We have no possibility to have consultations between them and us. But they can deliberate over the matter by themselves. I suggest that we give a full authorization to four of our delegates. - This would have been done already before Summa [the site where after heavy fighting a breakthrough of Finnish defences first occurred, on Feb. 11, 1940]. But it was resisted then, as it is now. The gentlemen have sold Viipuri and Sortavala10.
Niukkanen: Unfortunately the Foreign Minister has not given any facts making the negotiations possible. Not at least in my presence.
Hannula: The Foreign Minister brought a severe charge against his companions in the government. I only state that this matter was discussed in the Foreign Affairs Committee on the 12th of February. The Foreign Minister then placed the Western Powers assistance last. If a month ago we had approached them, the situation would now be different.
Söderhjelm: It's no use discussing these matters now. Our duty is not to clear up old matters. But we have to show respect to each other. Now we must, to the best of our abilities, take care of the current difficult situation.
Hannula: In the occasion I mentioned, the matter was discussed seriously but the Foreign Minister had then no agenda to show. Already in the autumn I was of the opinion that we might have discussed about Jussarö [an island near Hanko]. But the Foreign Minister's only agenda was that in the first place we have to strive for peace, in the second place to try to seek assistance from Sweden, and assistance from the Western Powers was only in the third place.
Tanner: I might have a lot to say about these statements but my purpose was not to drag old matters into discussion.
The President of the Republic: The content of the telegram is so important that it should be presented here. I am not sure, if it satisfies even me as such. We should advise our representatives to make a counterproposal with the plea that no reputable government would act like this.
Tanner: I should say that a formulation can always be found after we decide on the matter.
The President of the Republic: I am afraid that this will produce confusion in the country and it is horrible. At least the generals have bound their hands.
Heikkinen: We have to consider the situation from a pessimistic viewpoint. There perhaps was cause to suspect exaggeration when the Commander-in-Chief alone explained the situation, but now, the statement is supported by people, who cannot be suspected of being too pessimistic.
Pekkala: If General Talvela is pessimistic, it is of great weight.
Heikkinen: One can expect a severe domestic crisis. Neither the Karelians or anybody else can understand this. But the government has to try to explain, or otherwise the situation will grow unbearable.
After some short comments the following telegram was adopted: "We have informed Sweden and the Western Powers of the Soviet demands. Sweden will likely keep to her present stand towards assistance and through passage. The Western Powers continue to be willing to help. They are expecting our answer by the 12th of this month. The Headquarters has given a written situation report. It is not optimistic about the prospects for continuation. The government has weighed the required terms and finds them horrifying, especially as the boundary is drawn by vital regions, and as several new requirements have been presented including islands around Hanko, Enso, Värtsilä, Kuusamo and Salla, even though all the requirements were supposed to have been included in the preconditions forwarded by Sweden. The boundary of Peter the Great was also overstepped in mid-Karelia. We have informed the Swedish Foreign Minister that we cannot accept the expanded requirements. This kind of procedure is completely unexpected in discussions of this kind. Mr. Günther agreed. He made this known to the Soviet Union and demanded that she revert to the previous agenda. As the continuation of the war is difficult on the basis of the promised assistance, and as making contact with you is slow, we authorize you to make decisions with full powers when you have reached unanimity. An armistice should be effected immediately. At what time the next meeting will be held? On the 12th of this month we absolutely have to give our answer to the Western Powers. When will the Prime Minister return?"
The President of the Republic: This goes further than what the Parliament was told. It should be informed.
Tanner: There is no time for that. Furthermore, it is a dangerous thing. On Monday I will present the matter to the Foreign Affairs Committee. - I still have a couple of other matters.
The President of the Republic: When I in the middle of the day heard about additional requirements, I had in my mind that our colleagues should be called back, ask for Western assistance and continue the war. But the generals' report was horrible.
Tanner: The officers are usually the most eager for the war. When they are pessimists, then what will happen with the civilians!
Söderhjelm: I consider it to be easier to agree, if we are assured that everybody considers this to be an interim peace, and are ready to make preparations for the moment when the boundary will be annulled. I know that this means immense sacrifices. But if we, keeping this in mind, accept the peace, we do make the people stand behind us. This certainly is the only way. If the people are unanimous, carrying on life after peace will not become too heavy. But if unanimity is lost, it will become horrible then.
Tanner: That is the idea but it cannot be expressed. I guess that everyone thinks that when an appropriate moment came, we would re-conquer the lost territory. One lesson we, at least, have learned is that we have to spend money on defence. The unanimity among the people lasts, if the leadership is unanimous.
v. Born: The only possibility is that we are unanimous. We have to be able to say that we have acted in accordance with the military leadership.
Niukkanen: I have discussed this very seriously with all the generals. They are of the opinion that the absolute prerequisite for us to be saved is that the time of peace will be used for rearmament. The commander-in-chief says that as well as many others.
Tanner: Minister Gripenberg11 sends a cable asking if we should influence the Western Powers to make a proclamation that they are prepared to help us. I sent this to the Headquarters. The commander-in-chief approves this, anyway, it will not worsen the situation.
The President of the Republic: This can be approved.
Tanner: The world is full of rumours. Should newspapers and news agencies be given some information.
Fagerholm: I have doubts about a communiqué. People easily get the impression that the terms are less severe than they are.
v. Born: It is better that no information is given.
1 Archibald Douglas, major general, chief aide of the King, and the commander of Swedish troops in northern Sweden. Later he was Head of the Swedish Infantry
2 Karelian Isthmus between Lake Ladoga and Gulf of Finland
3 Christian Günther, Swedish Foreign Minister
4 Per Albin Hansson, Swedish Prime Minister
5 Pehr Evind Svinhufvud, former President of Finland
6 Toivo Kivimäki, Finnish minister in Berlin
7 Aleksandra Kollontay, Soviet minister in Stockholm
8 Vilhelm Assarsson, Swedish minister in Moscow
9 Saimaa, lake inside the present borders
10 Viipuri, Sortavala, big cities now in the ceded territory
11 Georg Achates Gripenberg, Finnish minister in London
MEMBERS OF THE CABINET
Prime Minister, former M.P. and Government Minister,
Director General of the Bank of Finland Risto Ryti
Minister of the Interior, M.P. (Swedish People's Party),
estate owner Ernst von Born
Minister for Social Affairs, M.P. (Social Democratic Party),
editor-in-chief Karl-August Fagerholm
Minister of National Supply (non-party)
bank director Rainer von Fieandt
Minister of Education, M.P. (Agrarian Union)
editor-in-chief Uuno Hannula
Minister of Agriculture, M.P. (Agrarian Union)
farmer P. V. Heikkinen
Second Minister of the Interior, Agriculture, and National Supply
M.P. (Agrarian Union), farmer Juho Koivisto
Minister of Trade and Industry (non-party)
honorary councillor of mining V. A. Kotilainen
Minister of Defence, M.P. (Agrarian Union)
farmer Juho Niukkanen
Minister without portfolio (non-party), former party leader of
the National Coalition party, envoy extraordinary J. K. Paasikivi
Minister of public finances, M.P. (Social Democratic Party)
National Forestry director Mauno Pekkala
Minister of Communications and Public Works, M.P.
(Social Democratic Party), director Väinö Salovaara
Minister of Justice, former M.P. and government
(Swedish People's Party), Chief Executive Officer J. O. Söderhjelm
Minister for Foreign Affairs, M.P. (Social Democratic Party),
Chief Executive Officer [in a Cooperative Enterprise] Väinö Tanner
The Winter War