ON THE FOREIGN POLICY OF THE SOVIET UNION
Report of Comrade V.M Molotov, Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars and People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs, at Sitting of Supreme Soviet of USSR on Oct. 31, 1939.
There have been important changes in the international situation during the past two months. This applies above all to Europe, but also to countries far beyond the confines of Europe. In this connection, mention should be made of three principal circumstances which are of decisive importance.
Firstly, mention should be made of the changes that have taken place in the relations between the Soviet Union and Germany. Since the conclusion of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact on August 23, an end has been put to the abnormal relations that existed between the Soviet Union and Germany for a number of years. Instead of enmity, which was fostered in every way by certain European powers, we now have rapprochement and the establishment of friendly relations between the USSR and Germany. A further improvement in these new, good relations found its reflection in the German-Soviet Treaty on Amity and the Frontier Between the USSR and Germany signed in Moscow on September 28. This radical change in the relations between the Soviet Union and Germany, the two biggest states in Europe, was bound to have its effect on the entire international situation. Furthermore, events have entirely confirmed the estimation of the political significance of the Soviet-German rapprochement given at the last session of the Supreme Soviet.
Secondly, mention must be made of such a fact as the defeat of Poland in the war and the collapse of the Polish state. The ruling circles of Poland boasted quite a lot about the "stability" of their state and the "might" of their army. However, one swift blow at Poland, first by the German army and then by the Red Army, and nothing was left of this ugly offspring of the Versailles Treaty, which had existed by oppressing the non-Polish nationalities. The "traditional policy" of unprincipled maneuvering between Germany and the USSR and of playing off one against the other has proved unsound and has suffered complete bankruptcy.
Thirdly, it must be admitted that the big war that has flared up in Europe has caused radical changes in the entire international situation. This war began as a war between Germany and Poland and turned into a war between Germany, on the one hand, and Great Britain and France, on the other. The war between Germany and Poland ended quickly owing to the utter bankruptcy of the Polish leaders. As we know, neither British nor French guarantees were of help to Poland. To this day, in fact, nobody knows what these "guarantees" were. (General laughter.) The war between Germany and the Anglo-French bloc is only in its first stage and has not yet been really developed. It is, nevertheless, clear that a war like this was bound to cause radical changes in the situation in Europe, and not only in Europe.
In connection with these important changes in the international situation certain old formulas - formulas which we employed but recently and to which many people are so accustomed - are now obviously out of data and inapplicable. We must be quite clear on this point, so as to avoid making gross errors in judging the new political situation that has developed in Europe.
We know, for example, that in the past few months such concepts as "aggression" and "aggressor" have acquired a new, concrete connotation, a new meaning. It is not hard to understand that we can no longer employ these concepts in the sense we did, say, three or four months ago. Today, as far as the European great powers are concerned, Germany is in the position of a state which is striving for the earliest termination of the war and for peace, while Great Britain and France, which but yesterday were declaiming against aggression, are in favor of continuing the war and are opposed to the conclusion of peace. The roles, as you see, are changing.
The efforts of the British and French Governments to justify this new position of theirs on the grounds of their undertakings to Poland are, of course, obviously unsound. Everybody realizes that there can be no question of restoring the old Poland. It is, therefore, absurd to continue the present war under the flag of the restoration of the former Polish state. Although the Governments of Great Britain and France understand this, they do not want the war stopped and peace restored but are seeking new excuses for continuing the war with Germany.
The ruling circles of Great Britain and France have of late been attempting to depict themselves as champions of the democratic rights of nations against Hitlerism, and the British Government has announced that its aim in the war with Germany is nothing more nor less than the "destruction of Hitlerism." It amounts to this, that the British and, with them, the French supporters of the war have declared something in the nature of an "ideological" war on Germany, reminiscent of the religious wars of the olden times. In fact religious wars against heretics and religious dissenters were once the fashion. As we know, they led to the direst results for the masses, to economic ruin and the cultural deterioration of nations. These wars could have no other outcome. But they were wars of the Middle Ages. Is it back to the Middle Ages, to the days of religious wars, superstition and cultural deterioration that the ruling classes of Great Britain and France want to drag us? In any case, under the "ideological" flag has now been started a war of even greater dimensions and fraught with even greater danger for the peoples of Europe and of the whole world. But there is absolutely no justification for a war of this kind. One may accept or reject the ideology of Hitlerism, as well as any other ideological system; that is a matter of political views. But everybody will understand that ideology cannot be destroyed by force, that it cannot be eliminated by war. It
is, therefore, not only senseless but criminal to wage such a war as a war for the "destruction of Hitlerism," camouflaged as a fight for "democracy." And indeed, you cannot give the name of a fight for democracy to such actions as the banning of the Communist Party in France, the arrests of Communist deputies to the French parliament, or the curtailing of political liberties in England or unremitting national oppression in India, etc.
Is it not clear that the aim of the present war in Europe is not what it is proclaimed to be in official statements intended for the broad public in France and England. That is, it is not a fight for democracy but something else, of which these gentlemen do not speak openly.
The real cause of the Anglo-French war with Germany was not that Great Britain and France had vowed to restore the old Poland and not, of course, that they decided to undertake a fight for democracy. The ruling circles of Great Britain and France have, of course, other and more actual motives for going to war with Germany. These motives do not lie in any ideology but in their profoundly material interests as mighty colonial powers.
Great Britain, with a population of 47 million, possesses colonies with a population of 480 million. France, whose population does not exceed 42 million, is a colonial empire embracing a population of 70 million in the French colonies. The possession of these colonies, which makes possible the exploitation of hundreds of millions of people, is the foundation of the world supremacy of Great Britain and France. It is fear of Germany's claims to these colonial possessions that is at the bottom of the present war of Great Britain and France with Germany, who has grown substantially stronger of late as a result of the collapse of the Versailles Treaty. It is fear of losing world supremacy that dictates to the ruling: circles of Great Britain and France the policy of fomenting war with Germany.
Thus, the imperialist character of this war is obvious to anyone who wants to face realities and does not close his eyes to facts.
One can see from all this who is interested in this war, which is being waged for world supremacy. Certainly not the working class. This war promises nothing to the working class but bloody sacrifice and hardships.
Now judge for yourselves whether the meaning of such concepts as "aggression" and "aggressor" has changed recently or not. It is not difficult to see that the use of these words in their old meaning, that is, the meaning attached to them before the recent decisive turn in the political relations between the Soviet Union and Germany and before the outbreak of the great imperialist war in Europe, can only create confusion in people's minds and must inevitably lead to erroneous conclusions. To avoid this, we must not allow an uncritical attitude toward old concepts which are no longer applicable in the new international situation.
That has been the course of international affairs in the recent period.
I shall now pass on to the changes that have taken place in the international position of the Soviet Union itself. Here the changes have been no mean ones; but if we confine ourselves to essentials, the following must be admitted, namely, that thanks to our consistently pursued peaceful foreign policy we have succeeded in considerably strengthening our position and the international weight of the Soviet Union. (Prolonged applause.)
As I have said, our relations with Germany have radically improved. Here the development has proceeded along the line of strengthening our friendly relations, extending our practical cooperation and rendering Germany political support in her efforts for peace. The non-aggression pact concluded between the Soviet Union and Germany bound us to maintain neutrality in the case of Germany participating in a war. We have consistently pursued this course, which was in no wise contradicted by the entry of our troops into the territory of former Poland, beginning September 17. It will be sufficient to recall the fact that on that same day, September 17, the Soviet Government sent a special note to all states with which it maintains diplomatic relations, declaring that the USSR will continue its policy of neutrality in its relations with them. It is known that our troops entered the territory of Poland only after the Polish state had collapsed and had actually ceased to exist. Naturally, we could not remain neutral toward these facts, since as a result of these events we were confronted with urgent problems concerning the security of our state. Furthermore, the Soviet Government could not but reckon with the exceptional situation created for our brothers in Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia, who had been abandoned to their fate as a result of the collapse of Poland.
Subsequent events fully confirmed that the new Soviet-German relations are based on a firm foundation of mutual interests. After the Red Army units had entered the territory of the former Polish state, serious questions arose relating to the delimitation of the state interests of the USSR and Germany. These questions were promptly settled by mutual agreement. The German Soviet Treaty on Amity and the Frontier Between the USSR and Germany concluded at the end of September has consolidated our relations with the German state.
The relations between Germany and the other West European bourgeois states have in the past two decades been determined primarily by Germany's efforts to break the fetters of the Versailles Treaty, whose authors were Great Britain and France, with the active participation of the United States of America. This was what in the long run led to the present war in Europe.
The relations between the Soviet Union and Germany have been based on a different foundation, which has no interest whatever in perpetuating the post-war, Versailles system. We have always held that a strong Germany is an indispensable condition for durable peace in Europe. It would be ridiculous to think that Germany could be "simply put out of commission" and struck off the books. The powers which cherish this foolish and dangerous dream ignore the deplorable experience of Versailles, do not realize Germany's increased might and fail to see that any attempt at a repetition of Versailles in the present state of international affairs, which radically differs from that of 1914, may end in disaster for them.
We have consistently striven to improve our relations with Germany and have whole-heartedly welcomed similar strivings in Germany herself. Today, our relations with the German state are based on friendly relations, on a readiness to support Germany's efforts for peace and, at the same time, on a desire to contribute in every way to the development of Soviet-German economic relations to the mutual benefit of both states. Special mention should be made of the fact that the change that has taken place in Soviet-German political relations created favorable conditions for the development of Soviet-German economic relations. The recent economic negotiations carried on by a German delegation in Moscow and the present negotiations being carried on by a Soviet economic delegation in Germany are preparing a broad basis for the development of trade between the Soviet Union and Germany.
Permit me now to dwell on the events directly connected with the entry of our troops into the territory of the former Polish state. There is no need for me to describe the course of these events. They have been reported in detail in our press, and you, comrades deputies, are well acquainted with the facts. I shall only dwell on what is most essential.
There is no need to prove that at the moment when the Polish stale was in a state of complete collapse our Government was obliged to extend a helping hand to our brother Ukrainians and brother Belorussians inhabiting the territory of Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia. That is what it did. (Stormy, prolonged applause. The deputies rise and render an ovation.) When the Red Army marched into these regions, it was greeted with general sympathy by the Ukrainian and Belorussian population, which welcomed our troops as liberators from the yoke of the gentry, from the yoke of the Polish landed proprietors and capitalists.
As the Red Army advanced through these districts, there were serious encounters in some places between our troops and Polish troops and, consequently, there were casualties. These casualties were as follows. On the Belorussian front, counting both commanders and rank-and-file of the Red Army, we had 246 killed and 503 wounded, or a total of 749. On the Ukrainian front we had 491 commanders and rank-and-file killed and 1,359 wounded, or a total of 1,850. Thus the total casualties of the Red Army on the territory of Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine were: 737 killed and 1,862 wounded, or a total of 2,599. As for our trophies in Poland, they consisted of over 900 guns, over 10,000 machine guns, over 300,000 rifles, over 150 million rifle cartridges, over one million artillery shells, about 300 airplanes, etc.
The territory which has passed to the USSR is equal in area to a large European state. Thus, the area of Western Belorussia is 108,000 sq. km. and its population 4,800,000. The area of Western Ukraine is 88,000 sq. km. and its population 8,000,000. Hence, together, the territory of Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia which has passed to us has an area of 196,000 sq. km. and a population of about 13 million, of whom more than seven million are Ukrainians; more than three million, Belorussians; over one million, Poles, and over one million, Jews.
The political significance of these events can scarcely be overrated. All the reports from Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia show that the population greeted their liberation from the yoke of the gentry with indescribable enthusiasm and rapturously hailed this great new victory of the Soviet system. (Outburst of prolonged applause.) The recent elections to the National Assemblies of Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia, conducted for the first time in the history of those territories on the basis of universal, direct and equal suffrage and by secret ballot, have shown that at least nine-tenths of the population of these regions have long been ready to rejoin the Soviet Union. The decisions of the National Assemblies in Lvov and Belostok, with which we are all now familiar, testify to the complete unanimity of the people's representatives on all political questions.
I shall now pass on to our relations with the Baltic countries. As you know, important changes have taken place here as well. The relations of the Soviet Union with Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania are based on peace treaties concluded with the respective countries in 1920. By these treaties Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania became independent states, and ever since then the Soviet Union has invariably pursued a friendly policy toward these newly created small states. This was a reflection of the radical difference between the policy of the Soviet Government and the policy of tsarist Russia, which brutally oppressed small nations, denied them every opportunity of independent national and political development and left them with most painful memories of itself. It must be admitted that the experience of the past two decades of the development of the Soviet-Esthonian, Soviet-Latvian and Soviet-Lithuanian friendly relations created favorable conditions for a further consolidation of political and all other relations between the USSR and its Baltic neighbors. This has been revealed too in the recent diplomatic negotiations with representatives of Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania and in the treaties which were signed in Moscow as a result of these negotiations.
As you know, the Soviet Union has concluded pacts of mutual assistance with Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania that are of major political significance. The principles underlying these pacts are identical. They are based on mutual assistance between the Soviet Union, on the one hand, and Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania, on the other, and they include military assistance in the event that any of these countries are attacked. In view of the special geographical position of these countries, which are, in a way, approaches to the USSR, particularly from the Baltic Sea, these pacts allow the Soviet Union to maintain naval bases and airdromes in specified points of Esthonia and Latvia and, in the case of Lithuania, the pact provides for the defense of the Lithuanian border jointly with the Soviet Union. The creation of these Soviet naval bases and airdromes on the territory of Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the stationing of a certain number of Red Army units to protect these bases and airdromes insure a reliable defense base not only for the Soviet Union but also for the Baltic states themselves and thereby contribute to the preservation of peace, which is to the interest of our peoples.
Our recent diplomatic negotiations with Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania have shown that we have sufficient confidence in each other and a proper understanding of the necessity of adopting these measures of military defense in the interests both of the Soviet Union and of these states themselves. The negotiations have fully revealed the desire of the parties concerned to preserve peace and safeguard the security of our peoples, who are engaged in peaceful labor. It was all this that insured the successful completion of the negotiations and the conclusion of the pacts of mutual assistance, which are of great historical importance.
The special character of these mutual assistance pacts in no way implies any interference by the Soviet Union in the affairs of Esthonia, Latvia or Lithuania, as some foreign newspapers are trying to make out. On the contrary, all these pacts of mutual assistance strictly stipulate the inviolability of the sovereignty of the signatory states and the principle of non-interference in each other's affairs. These pacts are based on mutual respect for the state, social and economic structure of the contracting parties and are designed to strengthen the basis for peaceful, good-neighborly cooperation between our peoples. We stand for scrupulous and punctilious observance of the pacts on the basis of complete reciprocity, and we declare that all the nonsense about Sovietizing the Baltic countries is only to the interest of our common enemies and of all anti-Soviet provocateurs.
In view of the improvement in our political relations with Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Soviet Union has gone a long way to meet the economic needs of these states and has concluded trade agreements with them. Thanks to these economic agreements, trade with the Baltic countries will increase several-fold, and there are favorable prospects for its further growth. At a time when all European countries, including neutral states, are experiencing tremendous trade difficulties, these economic agreements between the USSR and Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania are of great and positive importance to them.
Thus, the rapprochement between the USSR, on the one hand, and Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania, on the other, will contribute to a more rapid progress of agriculture, industry, transport and, in general, to the national well-being of our Baltic neighbors.
The principles of Soviet policy towards small countries have been demonstrated with particular force by the treaty providing for the transfer of the city of Vilno and Vilno Region to the Lithuanian Republic. Thereby the Lithuanian state, with its population of 2,500,000, considerably extends its territory, increases its population by 550,000 and receives the city of Vilno, whose population is almost double that of the present Lithuanian capital. The Soviet Union agreed to transfer the city of Vilno to the Lithuanian Republic not because Vilno has a predominantly Lithuanian population. No, the majority of the inhabitants of Vilno is non-Lithuanian. But the Soviet Government took into consideration the fact that the city of Vilno, which was forcibly wrested from Lithuania by Poland, ought to belong to Lithuania as a city with which are associated, on the one hand, the historical past of the Lithuanian state and, on the other, the national aspirations of the Lithuanian people. It has been pointed out in the foreign press that there has never been a case in world history of a big country handing over such a big city to a small state of its own free will.
All the more strikingly, therefore, does this act of the Soviet state demonstrate its good will. Our relations with Finland are of a special character. This is to be explained chiefly by the fact that in Finland there is a greater amount of outside influence on the part of third powers. An impartial person must admit, however, that the same problems concerning the security of the Soviet Union and, particularly, of Leningrad that figured in the negotiations with Esthonia also figure in the negotiations with Finland. In a certain sense, it may be said, that in this case the problem of the security of the Soviet Union is even more acute, inasmuch as Leningrad, which after Moscow is the most important city of the Soviet state, is situated at a distance of only 32 km. from the Finnish border. This means that the distance of Leningrad from the border of a foreign state is less than that required for modern long-range guns to shell it. On the other hand, the approaches to Leningrad from the sea also depend to a large extent on whether Finland, to which belongs the entire northern shore of the Gulf of Finland and all the islands along the central part of the Gulf of Finland, is hostile or friendly toward the Soviet Union.
In view of this, as well as in view of the present situation in Europe, it may be expected that Finland will display the necessary understanding.
What has been the basis of relations between the Soviet Union and Finland during all these years? As you know, the basis of these relations has been the peace treaty of 1920, which was on the pattern of our treaties with our other Baltic neighbors. Of its own free will the Soviet Union insured the separate and independent existence of Finland. There can be no doubt that only the Soviet Government, which recognizes the principle of the free development of nationalities, could make such a step. It must be said that none but the Soviet Government in Russia could tolerate the existence of an independent Finland at the very gales of Leningrad. This is eloquently testified to by Finland's experience with the "democratic" government of Kerensky and Tsereteli, not to mention the government of Prince Lvov and Milyukov, let alone the tsarist government. Doubtlessly this important circumstance might serve as a sound premise for an improvement in Soviet-Finnish relations, in which, as may be seen, Finland is no less interested than the Soviet Union.
Soviet-Finnish negotiations were begun recently on our initiative. What is the subject of these negotiations? It is not difficult to see that in the present state of international affairs, when in the center of Europe a war is developing between some of the biggest states, a war fraught with great surprises and dangers for all European states, the Soviet Union is not only entitled but obliged to adopt serious measures to increase its security. It is natural for the Soviet Government to display particular concern with regard to the Gulf of Finland, which is the approach to Leningrad from the sea and also with regard to the land border, which hangs over Leningrad some 30 km. away. I must remind you that the population of Leningrad has grown to 3.5 million, which almost equals the entire population of Finland, amounting to 3,650,000. (Lively animation in the hall.)
There is scarcely any need to dwell on the tales spread by the foreign press about the proposals of the Soviet Union in the negotiations with Finland. Some assert that the USSR "demands" the city of Vipuri (Vyborg) and the northern part of Ladoga Lake. Let us say for our part that this is a sheer fabrication and a lie. Others assert that the USSR "demands" the cession of the Aland Islands. This is also a fabrication and a lie. There is also prattle of certain claims that the Soviet Union allegedly has against Sweden and Norway. But such inexcusable prevarication simply does not deserve denial. (General laughter.) Actually our proposals in the negotiations with Finland are extremely modest and are confined to that minimum without which it is impossible to safeguard the security of the USSR and to put the friendly relations with Finland on a firm footing.
We began negotiations with the Finnish representatives, Messrs. Paasikivi and Tanner, sent for this purpose by the Finnish Government to Moscow, by proposing the conclusion of a Soviet-Finnish pact of mutual assistance approximately on the lines of our pacts of mutual assistance with the other Baltic states, but inasmuch as the Finnish Government declared that the conclusion of such a pact would contradict its position of absolute neutrality, we did not insist on our proposal. We then proposed that we proceed to discuss the concrete questions in which we are interested from the standpoint of safeguarding the security of the USSR and, especially, the security of Leningrad both from the sea - in the Gulf of Finland - and from the land, in view of the extreme proximity of the border to Leningrad. We have proposed that an agreement be reached to shift the Soviet-Finnish border on the Isthmus of Karelia several dozen kilometers further to the north of Leningrad. In exchange for this we have proposed to transfer to Finland a part of Soviet Karelia double the size of the territory which Finland is to transfer to the Soviet Union. We have further proposed that an agreement be reached for Finland to lease to us for a definite term a small section of her territory near the entrance to the Gulf of Finland, where we could establish a naval base. With a Soviet naval base at the southern entrance to the Gulf of Finland, namely, at Baltiski Port, as provided for by the Soviet-Esthonian Pact of Mutual Assistance, the establishment of a naval base at the northern entrance to the Gulf of Finland would fully safeguard the Gulf of Finland against hostile attempts on the part of other states. We have no doubt that the establishment of such a base would be in the interests not only of the Soviet Union but also of the security of Finland herself. Our other proposals, in particular our proposals as regards the exchange of certain islands in the Gulf of Finland, as well as parts of the Rybachi and Sredni peninsulas for territory twice as large in Soviet Karelia apparently do not meet with any objections on the part of the Finnish Government. Differences with regard to certain of our proposals have not yet been overcome, and concessions made by Finland in this respect, as, for instance, the cession of a part of the territory of the Isthmus of Karelia, obviously do not meet the purpose.
We have further made a number of new steps to meet Finland halfway. We have declared that if our main proposals are accepted, we shall be prepared to drop our objections to the fortification of the Aland Islands, on which the Finnish Government has been insisting for a long time. We have only made one stipulation: we said that we would drop our objection to the fortification of the Aland Islands on condition that the fortification is done by Finland's own national forces, without the participation of any third country, inasmuch as the USSR will take no part in it. We have also proposed to Finland to disarm the fortified zones along the entire Soviet-Finnish border on the Isthmus of Karelia, which should fully accord with the interests of Finland. We have further expressed our desire to reinforce the Soviet-Finnish Pact of Non-Aggression with additional mutual guarantees. Lastly, consolidation of Soviet-Finnish political relations would undoubtedly form a splendid basis for a rapid development of economic relations between our countries.
Thus, we are ready to meet Finland in matters in which she is particularly interested.
In view of all this, we do not think that Finland will seek for a pretext to frustrate the proposed agreement. This would not be in line with the policy of friendly Soviet-Finnish relations and would, of course, work to the serious detriment of Finland.
I must, however, inform you that even the President of the United States of America considered it proper to intervene in these matters, which one finds it hard to reconcile with America's policy of neutrality. In a message to Comrade Kalinin, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, dated October 12, Mr. Roosevelt expressed the hope that the friendly and peaceful relations between the USSR and Finland would be preserved and developed. One might think that matters are in better shape between the United States, and, let us say, the Phillippines or Cuba, who have long been demanding freedom and independence from the United States and cannot get them, than between the Soviet Union and Finland, who long ago obtained both freedom and political independence from the Soviet Union.
Comrade Kalinin replied to Mr. Roosevelt's message as follows:
"I consider it proper to remind you, Mr. President, that the political independence of the Republic of Finland was recognized by the free will of the Soviet Government on December 31, 1917, and that the sovereignty of Finland was secured to her by the Treaty of Peace between the RSFSR and Finland of October 14, 1920. These acts of the Soviet Government defined the fundamental principles governing relations between the Soviet Union and Finland. It is in conformity with these principles that the present negotiations between the Soviet Government and the Government of Finland are being conducted. Contrary to tendentious versions spread by circles who are evidently not interested in European peace, the sole object of these negotiations is to consolidate the relations between the Soviet Union and Finland and to strengthen friendly cooperation of the two countries in the matter of safeguarding the security of the Soviet Union and Finland."
After this plain reply by the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, it should be quite clear that, granted good will, the Finnish Government will meet our proposals, which are minimal ones and which - far from militating against the national and state interests of Finland - will enhance her security and form a broad basis for the further extensive development of political and economic relations between our countries.
A few words about the negotiations with Turkey.
All kinds of tales are being spread abroad regarding the substance of these negotiations. Some allege that the USSR demanded the cession of the districts of Ardagan and Kars. Let us say for our part that this is a sheer fabrication and a lie. Others allege that the USSR has demanded changes in the international convention concluded at Montreux and a privileged position for the USSR as regards the straits. That is also a fabrication and a lie. As a matter of fact the subject at issue was the conclusion of a bilateral pact of mutual assistance limited to regions of the Black Sea and the straits. The USSR considered, firstly, that the conclusion of such a pact could not induce it to actions which might draw it into an armed conflict with Germany and, secondly, that the USSR should have a guarantee that in view of the war danger Turkey would not allow warships of non-Black Sea powers through the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. Turkey rejected both these stipulations of the USSR and thereby made the conclusion of a pact impossible.
The Soviet-Turkish negotiations did not lead to the conclusion of a pact but they did help to clear up or, at least, to explore a number of political questions of interest to us. In the present international situation it is particularly important to know the true face and policy of states relations with whom are of serious importance. Many things pertaining to the policy of Turkey have now become much clearer to us both as a result of the Moscow negotiations and as a result of the recent acts of the Turkish Government in the sphere of foreign policy.
As you know, the government of Turkey has preferred to tie up its destinies with a definite group of. European powers, belligerents in the present war. It has concluded a pact of mutual assistance with Great Britain and France, who for the past two months have been waging war on Germany. Turkey has thereby definitely discarded the cautious policy of neutrality and has entered the orbit of the developing European war. This is highly pleasing to both Great Britain and France, who are bent on drawing as many neutral countries as possible into their sphere of war. Whether Turkey will not come to regret it, we shall not try to guess. (Animation in the hall.) It is only incumbent upon us to take note of these new factors in the foreign policy of our neighbor and to keep a watchful eye on the development of events.
If Turkey has now to some extent tied her hands and has taken the hazardous line of supporting one group of belligerents, the Turkish Government evidently realizes the responsibility it has thereby assumed. But that is not the foreign policy which the Soviet Union is pursuing and thanks to which it has secured not a few successes in the sphere of foreign policy. The Soviet Union prefers to keep its hands free in the future as well, to go on consistently pursuing its policy of neutrality and not only not to help the spreading of war but to help strengthen whatever strivings there are for the restoration of peace. We are confident that the policy of peace which the USSR, has been consistently pursuing holds out the best prospects for the future as well. And this policy we will pursue in the region of the Black Sea too, confident that we shall fully insure its proper application as the interests of the Soviet Union and of the states friendly to it demand. (Applause.)
Now as regards our relations with Japan.
There has recently been a certain improvement in Soviet-Japanese relations. This improvement has been observed since the recent conclusion of the Moscow agreement as a result of which the well-known conflict on the Mongolo-Manchurian border was liquidated.
For several months or, to be more precise, in May, June, July, August and up to the middle of September, hostilities took place in Nomankhart district, which is adjacent to the Mongolo-Manchurian border, between Japano-Manchurian and Soviet-Mongolian troops. During this period all arms, including airplanes and heavy artillery, were engaged in action, and battles were sometimes of a very sanguinary character. This absolutely unnecessary conflict exacted rather heavy casualties on our side and casualties several times heavier on the Japano-Manchurian side. Finally Japan made proposals to terminate the conflict and we willingly met the wishes of the Japanese Government.
As you know, the conflict arise owing to Japan's endeavor to appropriate part of the territory of the Mongolian People's Republic and thus forcibly change the Mongolo-Manchurian border in her own favor. Such a unilateral method of action had to meet with a resolute rebuff and it has once again demonstrated its utter unsoundness when applied against the Soviet Union or its allies. Whereas, the example of luckless Poland has recently demonstrated how little the pacts of mutual assistance signed by some of the European great powers are sometimes worth (laughter), what happened on the Mongolo-Manchurian border has demonstrated something quite different. It has demonstrated the value of pacts of mutual assistance to which is appended the signature of the Soviet Union. (Stormy, prolonged applause.)
As for the conflict in question, it was liquidated by the Soviet-Japanese agreement concluded in Moscow on September 15 and peace has been fully restored on the Mongolo-Manchurian border. Thus, the first step was made toward an improvement in Soviet-Japanese relations.
The next step is the formation of a mixed frontier commission consisting of representatives of the Soviet-Mongolian and Japano-Manchurian sides. This commission will have to examine certain disputed questions regarding the frontier. There can be no doubt than if good will is displayed not only on our part, the method of business-like examination of frontier questions will yield positive results.
In addition, a possibility has been established of starting Soviet-Japanese trade negotiations. It must be admitted that the development of Soviet-Japanese trade is in the interests of both countries.
Thus, we have reason to speak of the beginnings of an improvement in our relations with Japan. It is difficult as yet to judge how far we may reckon on a rapid development of this tendency. We have not yet been able to ascertain how far the ground for it has been prepared in Japanese circles. For our part, I must say that we look with favor on Japanese overtures of this kind and we approach them from the viewpoint of our fundamental political position and our concern for the interests of peace.
Finally, a few words about contraband of war and the export of arms from neutral countries to belligerent countries.
The other day the note of the Soviet Government in reply to the notes of Great Britain of September 6 and 11 was published. Our note explains the views of the USSR on the subject of contraband of war and states that the Soviet Government cannot regard as contraband of war foodstuffs, fuel for the non-combatant population and clothing, and that to prohibit the import of articles of mass consumption is to condemn children, women, old people and the sick to suffering and starvation. The Soviet Government declares in this note that such questions cannot be settled by unilateral decision, as Great Britain has done, but must be settled by common consent of the powers. We expect that neutral countries, as well as public opinion in Great Britain and France, will recognize the justice of our position and will take measures to prevent the war between the armies of the belligerent countries from being turned into a war against children, women, old people and the sick. In any event, our country, as a neutral country which is not interested in the spread of the war, will take every measure to render the war less devastating, to weaken it and to hasten its termination in the interests of peace.
From this standpoint, the decision of the American Government to lift the embargo on the export of arms to belligerent countries raises justified misgivings. It can scarcely be doubted that the effect of this decision will not be to weaken the war and hasten its termination but, on the contrary, to intensify, aggravate and protract it. Of course, this decision may insure big profits for the American war industry. But, one asks, can this serve as any justification for lifting the embargo on the export of arms from America? Clearly, it cannot.
Such is the international situation at the present time.
Such are the principles of the foreign policy of the Soviet Union.
(Stormy, prolonged applause, passing into an ovation. All the deputies rise.)
Source: "Moscow News", editor-in-chief M.M. Borodin, publisher Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga, Moscow, November 6, 1939.
In Russian/По русски: Oldgazette.ru ("ПРОПАГАНДИСТ
И АГИТАТОР РККА" -
РККА, Moscow, nr 21, November 1939.)
Molotov addressing the Supreme Soviet on Oct. 31, 1939
Back to Finland in the Soviet foreign policy 1939-1940