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NARKOMINDEL STATEMENT ON SOVIET RELATIONS WITH SWEDEN AND NORWAY

Pravda, 15 January 1940

The attention of the Soviet Government has recently been drawn to certain events which have occurred in Sweden and Norway. Newspapers close to the Governments of the two countries, and certain official persons, with the concurrence and support of the Swedish and Norwegian authorities, have instituted a widespread campaign against the USSR and are engaging in actions incompatible with the policy of neutrality announced by the Governments of both countries.
In this connexion the Soviet Government instructed its ambassadors in Sweden and Norway to make appropriate representations to the two Governments.
On 5 January the Soviet ambassador in Sweden, Comrade Kollontai, handed to the Swedish Foreign Minister, M. Günther, a statement in the name of the Soviet Government in which it was said:
Throughout December persons and papers hostile to the Soviet Government, led by the Social-Demokrat, a newspaper close to the Government, conducted an intolerable campaign against the Soviet Union, which might be explained only if Sweden were at war with the USSR or were preparing for war with the USSR.
The ambassador's statement noted further that space was found in the Swedish press for outright appeals for war against the Soviet Union, and demands for armed intervention by Sweden in the war on the side of the Ryti-Tanner Government against the USSR.
In this campaign it was calculated that provoking complications between the USSR and Sweden would meet with no opposition from the Swedish Government. Moreover, certain official persons are openly taking part in the organization of military assistance for the Ryti-Tanner Government; up to forty-seven recruiting stations were opened in Swedish towns by 7 December, under the patronage of the Swedish authorities. The number of 'volunteers' recruited runs into thousands. According to information of 28 December up to 10,000 of such 'volunteers' have arrived in Finland from Sweden. Later it was reported that two corps of 'volunteers' had arrived in Finland from south and central Sweden, under the command of General Ernst Linder.
To this campaign in the Swedish press, to the call for hostilities against the USSR, and the open organization of 'volunteer detachments' with the co-operation of the Swedish authorities, should be added the direct supply of arms from Sweden to the Ryti-Tanner Government, and permission for the passage through Sweden to Finland of all kinds of military supplies.
The Soviet ambassador's statement to the Swedish Foreign Minister ended as follows:
The Soviet Government directs the attention of the Swedish Government to the facts enumerated above and to the actions of the Swedish authorities directed against the USSR. The Soviet Government thinks it timely to point out to the Swedish Government that these actions are not only inconsistent with Sweden's policy of neutrality, but may also lead to undesirable complications in the relations between Sweden and the Soviet Union.
On the same day the Soviet ambassador in Norway, Comrade Plotnikov, also handed a statement on behalf of the Soviet Government to the Norwegian Foreign Minister M. Koht, in which it was stated:
Of late certain circles in Norway close to the Government, and the Norwegian press, have been conducting a wholly intolerable campaign against the Soviet Union which can have no other result than to damage and complicate relations between the USSR and Norway.
The statement pointed out that together with outright calls for war against the Soviet Union, the Norwegian press also publishes demands that the Norwegian Government should give military support to the Ryti-Tanner Government against the Soviet Union. Certain official persons, such as M. Hambro, President of the Storting, Captain-General Orflit, and others, are assisting the campaign and even taking an active part in it. Recruiting committees are openly set up in Norway for inflaming the war on Finnish territory against the USSR. There is information to the effect that a special division of 'volunteers' for Finland is being formed in the countries of the Oslo group. At the same time, under the patronage of the Norwegian authorities, the Ryti-Tanner Government is being supplied with arms from Norway and various kinds of war material are passing through Norway to Finland.
The Soviet ambassador's statement to the Norwegian Foreign Minister ended with the following words:
The Soviet Government directs the Norwegian Government's attention to these facts and to the actions of the Norwegian authorities directed against the USSR. The Soviet Government can no longer refrain from stating that the said actions are not only grossly inconsistent with the policy of neutrality proclaimed by the Norwegian Government, but may also lead to undesirable complications and injure normal relations between the USSR and Norway.
On 6 January the Norwegian Foreign Minister M. Koht transmitted to Comrade Plotnikov, Soviet ambassador in Norway, the Norwegian Government's reply. In this it is stated that the accusations advanced against the Norwegian Government of the violation of neutrality are based upon incorrect information. Attacks on the Soviet Union in the Norwegian press originate with private persons and are not approved in responsible quarters. As to the organization of recruiting committees in Norway, the Norwegian Government gives them no co-operation whatever. Recruitment for military service under foreign States is forbidden by law and therefore will not be allowed. Nor are the Norwegian authorities assisting the dispatch of arms or military supplies to Finland. If individuals voluntarily cross the frontier to take part in the war, that, in the opinion of the Norwegian Government, does not represent a violation of neutrality. Nor does the transit of arms through Norway contradict international law. However, so far as the Norwegian Government is aware, up to the present war material has not been transported through Norway to Finland, while the private export of such supplies from Norway is taking place only on the most insignificant scale.
The Norwegian Government's reply ends with the assurance that it has so far maintained and intends in future to maintain the neutrality which it proclaimed in regard to the wars of foreign States. The Norwegian Government hopes that relations between the USSR and Norway will continue to be 'friendly'.
On 10 January the Swedish Foreign Minister M. Günther also replied to the Soviet ambassador's statement. In this reply the Swedish Government states that the Swedish people have a warm sympathy for Finland which finds its expression in the press. However, Swedish constitutional law provides against abuse of the freedom of the press, in particular insults to foreign Powers and their representatives. In the Swedish Government's opinion, neither its attitude to the press, nor its actions in any other respect, give the Soviet Union any grounds for accusations against Sweden. The accusations advanced rest at bottom on inaccurate information. In particular, the assertion about the recruitment of Swedish volunteers does not correspond with the facts. The recruitment of volunteers is undertaken on private initiative only, and their number does not agree with the figures cited by the Soviet Government. Swedish official bodies are not co-operating in the recruitment of volunteers, nor are officers or other ranks of the Swedish army taking part as volunteers in the Finnish war.
The transport to Finland of various kinds of goods exported from Sweden or passing through Sweden in transit from other countries cannot give rise to objections. Sweden is trying to maintain its commercial relations with other countries. Finland may import from Sweden and receive in transit through Sweden various goods for which there is a demand in Finland. The Swedish Government does not consider it possible to change this situation and put difficulties in the way of trade between Sweden and Finland.
The Swedish Government's reply in conclusion expresses the hope that
the above considerations will remove any misunderstanding between Sweden and the USSR and prove to the Soviet Government that it has no grounds for accusing the Swedish Government. The Swedish Government is not conducting an aggressive policy towards the USSR, and is anxious to avoid any misunderstandings whatever in the relations between the two countries.
The reply given by the Norwegian Government and particularly that by the Swedish Government, cannot be regarded as wholly satisfactory. The Governments of Norway and Sweden do not dispute all the facts demonstrating their violation of the policy of neutrality. Such an attitude on their part conceals dangers. It shows that the Swedish and Norwegian Governments are not putting up the necessary resistance to the activities of those Powers which are trying to drag Sweden and Norway into war against the USSR.

Source: Soviet documents on foreign policy. Selected and edited by Jane Degras, Volume III, 1933-1941. Geoffrey Cumberlege, Oxford University Press, 1953.

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