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103/111937-39

The German Ambassador in the Soviet Union to the Foreign Ministry

secret Moscow, January 8, 1940—4:41 p.m.
most urgent Received January 8, 1940—9:05 p.m.
No. 47 of January 8

With reference to your telegrams No. 10 of January 3 and No. 42 of January 6.
After 5 weeks of attack the Red Army in Finland has so far nowhere achieved victory worth mentioning. The slow progress of the Red Army and the occasional setbacks are the result of the skillful opposition of the Finns, difficulties of terrain and climate, and above all very considerable faults of Soviet organization, particularly as regards equipment and provisioning. Nevertheless there can be no doubt of the ultimate victory of the Red Army in this fight. It is merely a question of time, the approximate length of which it is impossible to predict.
The situation came about owing to the fact that the Soviet Government was not sufficiently prepared for such a war, since it had expected Finland, just as the Baltic countries, to yield finally to its demands. A misjudging of the situation on the part of the Finnish Government caused the Soviet Government to feel obliged to use force in order to avoid a loss of prestige after it had laid down a definite minimum program in Molotov's speech before the Supreme Soviet on October 21.
The war against Finland was from the very beginning unpopular with the population of the Soviet Union. The fear of war, which has always been strong among the masses here and which had temporarily been diminished by the conclusion of the Non-Aggression Pact with Germany, has been given a new impetus by the Finnish conflict. This sentiment is strengthened by the absence of victories at the Finnish front, increasing supply difficulties, reports about imminent price increases, and the large number of Red soldiers with frozen limbs who are crowding the provincial hospitals.
I see confirmation of the existing difficulties in a statement by Molotov, with whom I had a conversation yesterday during the conference session and who spoke in connection with the Finnish conflict about a serious situation, the strength of the Finnish fortifications and the unfavorable effects of the severe cold.
When I asked how the Soviet Government regarded the possibility of support by third states, especially Sweden and Norway, Molotov said that the Soviet Government was aware of the danger that would arise if England and France should use Sweden and Norway for their own ends and had therefore warned the two Governments on January 5 and 6 through appropriate notes. In these notes the Soviet Government had reproached Sweden and Norway for tolerating hostile actions directed against the Soviet Union and incompatible with the neutrality of these two countries and had pointed to the possibility that complications might arise. The Norwegian Government had answered at once, protested its determination to maintain strict neutrality, and laid the blame for certain happenings in Norway on private groups as well as the opposition press. No official written reply from Sweden had yet been presented, but in accepting the note Günther had already given a similar tentative answer by word of mouth.
Moreover, the Soviet Government expected that Germany would use her influence with Sweden in a suitable manner.
When I remarked that the Finns could not in the nature of things expect ultimate victory and would therefore probably be ready to enter into negotiations with the Soviet Government, Molotov did not, interestingly enough, make an entirely negative reply but answered with the words that it was "late, very late" for this and that it would have been better for the Finns to accept the Soviet demands in the first place.
Settlement of the Soviet-Finnish conflict would in my opinion foil British intentions, afford the Soviet Union considerable relief, and if it came about with our help would mean a great gain in prestige for Germany apart from other advantages, for instance undisturbed deliveries of ore from Sweden. However, to begin with, the following questions, still completely open at present, arise in this connection:

1. Does the prestige of the Soviet Union permit taking up negotiations at all in these circumstances ?
2. What conditions will she set in this event?

There is no doubt in my mind that, if such a possibility does exist or should arise, the person of Tanner, who is here considered the "evil spirit" of the past negotiations, will disappear from the scene,

Schulenburg


Source: Documents on German foreign policy 1918-1945. Series D. Volume VIII. No. 513. Washington, Department of State, publication 5436, 1954.

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Finland in the Soviet foreign policy 1939-1940