269 Mr A. T. Stirling, External Affairs Officer in London, to Lt Col W. R. Hodgson, Secretary of Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 164 LONDON, 21 September 1938

View held here is that attitude is still the same. Some days after communication reported to you in my telegram No. 141 [1] French Minister for Foreign Affairs [2] saw M. Litvinov [3] himself at Geneva. On 14th September he told British Ambassador at Paris [4] that 'a new factor in situation was M. Litvinov's attitude at Geneva on 11th September when M. Litvinov had indicated that Soviet Government would in the event of German aggression on Czechoslovakia consult Council of League and not act directly in defence of that State.' (2) Views of British Ambassador Moscow [5] regarding Russian attitude are as follows: On 14th September he said that he inclined daily more to the view that in present crisis rulers of U.S.S.R. might welcome outbreak of a conflict between Germany on one hand and Great Britain, France on the other for reason that in their view such a conflict would be to free U.S.S.R. from menace of an over-strong Germany. He by no means excluded possibility that Soviet Government would take part on side of Great Britain and France but he was inclined to believe that they would only take part in so far as this could be done without risk of putting undue strain on internal structure of Russia. For this reason and also for purely practical reasons he considered it improbable that Soviet Government in the event of their intervening on behalf of Czechoslovakia would however at the outset at any rate do more than send portion of their air force to assistance of Czechs and possibly operation of their submarines against German shipping in Baltic. As regards their land forces he conjectured that they would at most concentrate troops on their western frontier. Such limited action would be unlikely to disturb internal equilibrium of the country.

Ambassador reports Soviet press further information Mr Chamberlain's visit to Hitler has been extremely unfavourable but it has given no indication what Soviet attitude would be in the event of German attack on Czechoslovakia 'an aspect which it studiously avoids'.

STIRLING

1 Document 250.

2 Georges Bonnet.

3 U.S.S.R. People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs.

4 Sir Eric Phipps.

5 Viscount Chilston.

[AA : A981, CZECHOSLOVAKIA 18, ii]