I went to see the Soviet Ambassador  at 7.0 p.m. and had a very
interesting conversation lasting an hour.
It began rather on the basis of a formal call, but soon developed,
and, although we also covered many specific points, it took the
form of a general discussion of the attitude of the British people
towards the Russians.
I began by telling Gusev that my Counsellor , who had just
returned from Australia, had reported to me that the Soviet
Minister, M. Vlasov, and his large staff had rapidly established
themselves in Australia and were very well known and liked there.
They had all made swift progress with the English language, had
established wide contacts and were getting about the country.
There was no doubt about the deep interest taken in the U.S.S.R.
by the people of Australia, and it seemed clear that the Russians
in Australia were getting on well with the Australian people. I
deliberately used the phrase 'our strange Australian people' and
was interested in the Ambassador's reaction to it. He immediately
raised the point of my use of the word 'strange'.
I then went on to explain that we were 'different' from the
British of these islands. We in Australia had long been a kind of
laboratory for social experiment, and we had succeeded in pulling
off, on a somewhat smaller scale, the same triumphs as the
Russians had done with their revolution. As a result of the
Australian Government's social experiments with the mass of the
people, we had succeeded, I thought, in breeding an intelligent,
thinking animal with much initiative. We believed that this was
the result of our social system.
I linked this up with the gratification which the Russians must no
doubt feel at the type of citizen they had evolved, citizens who
had saved their country by their resistance and fighting prowess.
I assured the Ambassador that he would soon begin to see, if he
had not already seen, reports from the Soviet Legation at Canberra
demonstrating a sympathetic understanding by the Australians of
the Russian people.
I then said to the Ambassador: 'I still have a feeling that you
Russians are looking at the English people with grave suspicion'.
Gusev protested that this was not the case, citing the constant
letters, cheques, etc. which he was receiving from sympathizers in
To this I replied that he probably attributed this to feelings of
gratitude rather than to any real understanding. To this Gusev
dissented. I therefore went on to say that while he, Gusev, and
other of his fellow countrymen who had had contacts with the
British might realise there was something deeper than gratitude, I
felt that in the minds of the general body of the people of Russia
there was a feeling of suspicion towards the British and because I
felt it was so essential that our two countries should work
together I proposed to tell him in the frankest terms how I saw
I pointed out that he must constantly bear in mind that the
English were the most quiet, orderly and peace-loving people in
the world, with generations of orderly and peace-loving people
behind them. One must not forget that they had the urge for better
conditions for the masses, but that they had always wanted to
achieve these in their own way, that is to say by evolution. It
was no use disputing the fact that the Russian revolution of 1917
had horrified the people of Great Britain. They had not realised
the extent of the evil conditions under Czars, or the cleansing
that was needed. All they saw of the revolution was the killing,
and it had shocked them. I believed that this reaction had been
the basis for the twenty years misunderstanding which had
prevailed between the two countries. But all this was now a thing
of the past-the U.S.S.R. had become an orderly nation, run on
orderly lines like the people of this island. The present wave of
enthusiasm for the Soviet Union was not merely inspired by the
gallant fight which the Russian people had put up. The people of
England had now begun to realise that the U.S.S.R. had achieved
what they themselves had been trying for.
I then went on to stress to him that why I had been so frank was
because of my deep conviction that it was necessary that if
anything was to be made of the post-war world, the British and the
Russian peoples must work together with sympathy and
understanding. I added that it was also necessary that Americans
should work with both of us. I pointed out to him that just as
some Russians were suspicious of British and American intentions
so were there elements in Britain and America that were suspicious
of the other country and some who were suspicious of Russia. I
then expressed the view, which I indicated was a personal one,
that I was convinced Russia wanted to play in the comity of
Nations in establishing a better world. In support of this
personal view I referred to the Russian record at the League of
Nations in some detail.
I then said that what had been achieved by the leaders in Russia
over the last 20 years showed that they were extremely intelligent
and able. I added that I was convinced those same leaders realised
deeply how preferable it would be for Russia to play her part as
one of the leading Nations in creating a new world rather than
revert to the position of almost outlawry which had existed prior
to the present war. I even touched on such dangerous topics as the
restoration of a cordon sanitaire.
The burden of my story was that acting together we could create a
good world. With misunderstanding the world would be a bad place
for all of us to live in. Gusev took all this very well and was
clearly interested and also a little surprised at my complete
I then went on to ask him how significant he thought the
developments in the Dnieper Bend and the Ukraine were. After a
pause he said they were most important. He added, however, that
they must be followed up. He said the weather this winter had been
very unfavourable but notwithstanding these adverse conditions
they had made great progress and they must not give the Germans
any let up now. He stressed that if there was any pause the
Germans would have an opportunity of reorganising their forces
behind the Bug and at the worst behind the Dniester and this would
give them an opportunity to prolong the war.
I then expressed to him my admiration for what the Russians had
achieved. I told him that no one had been surprised at the great
fighting qualities of the Russian soldiers. These qualities the
Russians had shown throughout history. What had surprised the
world was the amazing competence shown by the Russian Staff. I
said quite frankly that it was on the failure of the staff that
there had been grave apprehensions in all countries and I added
that I had little doubt that was the factor in respect to which
Hitler had made his miscalculation.
I asked Gusev how this miracle had been achieved. His reply was
that it was because young men were being given positions of
authority and he instanced the case of a Marshal in Russia who is
only 42. This led us on to a discussion of the whole system of
education that they have been trying to develop in Russia during
the past 20 years and I told Gusev the story Benes had told me of
the young General who took Benes  round the War Trophies
Exhibition in Moscow.
It was quite clear that this part of the conversation was very
agreeable to Gusev.
We then went on to the present United Kingdom and U.S.A. Bombing
offensive against Germany and Gusev was quite forthcoming as to
the tremendous effect it was having.
We next went on to the question of the contribution on land that
Britain and America could make. We did not directly refer to the
Second Front but it was not very far below the surface. I put in
some good propaganda on the difficulties of amphibious operations
and of how little they were recognised by great Continental
Gusev then asked me about developments in the Pacific and I was
able to give him a quite encouraging story showing what had been
achieved in New Britain, New Ireland and the Solomons, and how
something between 80,000 and 90,000 Japanese were now cut off from
any hope of relief or supply.
I then asked him whether he knew anything of the present position
of Japan and Germany-their relations-referring him to recent
developments in Tokyo. He said he knew nothing of them and had
We then went on to Finland-I said that the Russian terms had
created a very good impression in the world, that they were
regarded as reasonable and that the Finns would be well advised to
accept them. Gusev said he did not think the Finns wanted peace.
This I challenged and pointed out that I thought the present
position was due in considerable measure to the Finns' notorious
slowness in taking a decision and how history had shown that when
they did take a decision it was generally too late. I expressed
the hope that this would not be the case on the present occasion.
Gusev said that it would be fatal for the Finns if they did not
respond to the present Russian offer as the terms they would get
in any subsequent negotiations would be very much stiffer.
I then asked Gusev why he thought the Finns did not want peace and
added that I could see no possible advantage, they could gain by
not endeavouring to come to an arrangement with the Russians now.
I asked Gusev if he could see any possible advantage to them in
delay. To this at first he advanced no suggestions but eventually
said with rather a cynical look that he assumed they were relying
on the Americans to come to their assistance. I replied I could
hardly credit this. It was perfectly clear that Gusev's
observation was by way of being a gibe at the Americans.
The conversation was extremely interesting and on the whole I
think possibly useful. It may have sown some seeds that will bear
S. M. B.