740.00116 European War, 1939/108 : Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Steinhardt) to the Secretary of State
 
 
Moscow, December 1, 1939—midnight
[Received December 1—11:50 p.m.]

991. For the Secretary and Under Secretary. I have just seen Molotov and Potemkin and handed to the former a note conveying the President's message as set forth in the Department's No. 255 of November 30, 6 p. m. Molotov made the categorical statement that the Soviet air force had not bombed civilian populations or unfortified cities and that it had no intention of doing so. He seemed to be in some doubt as to whether to rest upon his oral reply or to make a written acknowledgement of the message.
I took the opportunity to inquire as to the Soviet Union's objectives in the existing conflict, to which he replied that those objectives had been fully set forth in his speech reported in the Embassy's telegram No. 965, November 30, 1 a. m. He then stated that the Soviet Government had exercised great patience and restraint in the course of the recent negotiations and was convinced that had Paasikivi been the chief Finnish delegate and in control of the negotiations a satisfactory solution would readily have been arrived at but that Tanner had been truculent and irreconcilable. He added that Tanner had now been put at the head [sic] of the Finnish Government and that it was impossible for the Soviet Government to treat with any government headed by him.
I then asked him whether this meant that the Soviet Government would be prepared to treat with a Finnish government headed by Paasikivi to which he replied by asking me whether I had as yet learned of the constitution of the government referred to in my 990, December 1, 8 p. m. He intimated very clearly that the Soviet Government would be willing to negotiate with the Kuusinen government but not with the existing government in Helsinki,
As the result of my conversation I gained several impressions, among which the most outstanding are the following:

1. That the present objectives of the Soviet Government in Finland while not publicly told transcend those put forth in the course of the negotiations and may be evaluated with a fair degree of accuracy from Molotov's speech, the inspired pronouncement of the Finnish Communist Party referred to in my No. 986, December 1, 4 p.m. followed by the setting up of the Kuusinen government, and Molotov's expression to me of a willingness to treat with that government but not with the government in Helsinki and that these objectives are (a) to achieve by means of its armed forces the physical seizure of the strategic positions in Finland now desired by the Soviet Government ostensibly for the purpose of defense but actually for the purpose of attaining a dominant position in the Baltic, and, (b) to establish in power the Kuusinen government or another regime which will be subservient to the Soviet Government.
2. That the Soviet Government does not desire the mediation of a third party.
3. That the action of the Soviet Government in precipitating a war with Finland was occasioned by a desire to liquidate the Finnish question at the earliest possible moment in order to be free to meet possible developments in the Balkans and the Black Sea area or perhaps to strengthen its position vis-à-vis Germany.

Steinhardt


Source: Foreign relations of the United States. Diplomatic papers. 1939. Volume I. General. (CONCERN OF THE UNITED STATES OVER SOVIET DEMANDS ON FINLAND AND THE OUTBREAK OF THE WINTER WAR). Department of State 1956, publ. 6242. (University of Wisconsin Digital Collections)

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