Diary of the plenipotentiary representative of the USSR in Britain, I.M. Maisky

15 December 1939.
Secret

Yesterday the League of Nations excluded the USSR from its ranks.
The meetings began on December 9 - the Council convened under the chairmanship of the Belgian Count de Wiart. Holsti's complaint was heard and it was decided to refer the question of Finland to the Assembly. On the 11th, Monday, the Assembly sitted and therecthe same Holsti delivered a sharp philippic against the USSR, among other things quoting some phrases from M.M.'s [Litvinov] previous speeches in Geneva regarding Spain. There was almost no debate in the Assembly. Then they chose the "Commission 13" (in which only 4 out of 13 states maintain diplomatic relations with the USSR) to consider the issue. The commission sent a telegraph to the USSR and Helsinki with a proposal to provide explanations, and Butler, who represented England this time in Geneva, spoke out in the sense that 24 hours should be given to the parties. This was accepted. Comrade Molotov answered, of course, by refusing the offer of the League of Nations and referred to the motives set forth in his original telegram to the League of Nations on December 4. Then the "Commission 13" immediately adopted a resolution condemning the USSR. The Assembly approved the resolution by all, with 10 abstentions. At the same time, a new composition of the Council was chosen. The Portuguese submitted to the Assembly a proposal to excluse the USSR in the assembly. This proposal went to the Council. The Council adopted the exclusionthe with 7 votes, with 4 abstentions.
England and France conducted all in Geneva. The United States supported them by pressure on South Americans. The US representative was present as an "observer" at the meetings of League of Nations. It is said that Paul-Boncourt, who led the French delegation in Geneva, was personally opposed to exclusion, but it was not he who decided the question, but Daladier. Butler, apparently, was also not satisfied with the role that fell to his lot, but nevertheless he conscientiously drew the line of the cabinet. As a result, England and France played the unenviable role of the organizers of the new "anti-Comintern bloc" in Geneva. I do not think that they were lucky with this venture more than Germany. In the meantime, the spectacle of the "Western democracies", proudly marching at the head of such truly "frontline" powers as Portugal, Colombia, Argentina, Egypt and others against the USSR, is capable of clean out more than one "Leftist" brain. This is already felt, for example, in the correspondence of Vernon Bartlett from Geneva.
Here, in England, the reaction to the decision of League of Nations is still very restrained. In today's press, the exclusion of the USSR is pushed to second place. In "Time" there is not even an editorial on this subject. In "Daily Telegraph" and "Daily Herald" a line was taken in the spirit of Chamberlain's speech in parliament yesterday that the war is being waged with Germany and this should not be forgotten. "News Chronicle" is full of doubts about the "wisdom" of the decision, and "Manchester Guardian" directly calls it "unsuccessful". From Geneva, they report that yesterday, after the decision was made, Butler told a group of journalists that England voted for "exclusion" in the League of Nations, because here it was a "principle", but relations between England and the USSR as countries is "a completely different matter", and here he does not expect any special changes. In response to a question from one of the journalists, he even added that the trading offers made to me by Stanley in October were still valid. In general, it seems that the British government, after "offering the prayers to the principles" in Geneva, is ready to do "business" in London.
So, with the League of Nations over! There is nothing to cry! Perhaps this may even be advantageous to us.
Leaving Geneva in May, I expressed the hope that I would no longer have to decorate my special magnificent chambers of the "Palace of the Peoples". It seems like my hope has come true. In any case, I will never have to deal with this League of Nations!


Foreign policy documents RF, f. 017a, op. 1, p. 1, d. 6, l. 360—361.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Foreign policy documents. 1939. XXII: 2. Nr. 864. Moscow: Intl. relations, 1992. Computer assisted translation by Pauli Kruhse.

Rudolf Holsti's speech at the assembly of the League of Nations, 11 December 1939 (heninen.net)

Finland in the Soviet foreign policy 1939-1940