105 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram 190 LONDON, 18 March 1940, 9.56 p.m.


The failure of the Allies to save Finland from having to capitulate to Russia and accept the penalty of the terms of peace has had most grave repercussions in all neutral countries, has created deep public anxiety here and has caused a serious political crisis in France.

So far-reaching may these consequences be that they compel an examination not only of the causes of the failure to aid Finland, but of the whole conduct of the war by the Allies.

FINLAND. The defence this week to attacks in the United Kingdom and French Parliaments will be that the Allies had forces available and were ready to despatch them, but were precluded from doing so by the refusal of Finland to appeal for assistance and of Norway and Sweden to agree to the transit across their territories. This explanation may meet political threat but will do nothing to restore the confidence of small neutrals and in my view is no answer to the charge.

The real answer is that the Allies failed to face the issue until too late and instead of from the day of Russian aggression starting organising to aid Finland and pursuing an active and intensive diplomacy in Norway and Sweden no serious consideration was given to the problem until the Supreme War Council on 5th February and both before and after that date our diplomacy in Scandinavia was feeble and hesitating.

It is not sufficient to appreciate the cause of the present failure, it is necessary to take steps to avoid a repetition and to prevent, so far as possible, the adverse effects to it.

In my view to do these things it is essential (a) to pursue a more active and determined diplomacy in all neutral countries; (b) to determine in advance, with the maximum practicable precision, the Allies' action in the light of all developments that can be forecast; (c) to create an efficient method for the direction of high policy of the war.

With regard to (a)-Scandinavia. Attitude of Norway and Sweden during the Finnish crisis was due to the fear of Germany and the conviction that the Allies were not in a position to afford them adequate assistance. Germany will now exploit the present position and intensify her efforts by propaganda, diplomacy and threats in order to bring Scandinavia under her dominance.

In view of the importance to the Allies of supplies and shipping from this source it is imperative that we should counter these efforts by propaganda, by material and financial assistance in their rearmament and by an active and robust diplomacy both officially and unofficially directed to showing that the Allies are in a position to provide adequate military assistance and that moral and economic interests of Scandinavia will be best served by dose co-operation with the Allies. Such a policy, pursued with imagination and force, should succeed as there is an overwhelming sympathy in Norway and Sweden with the Allies. At the moment both countries, rather less particularly Sweden, feel that they have let Finland down.

(end of part one. Part two follows in telegram No. 191).


[AA: A981, EUROPE 30, ii]