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168 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram S76 LONDON, 28 April 1943, 5.30 p.m.


[The Soviet Union severed diplomatic relations with Poland on 25
April. The dispute had its origin in the question of Poland's
eastern frontier: Poland insisted on the border established in
1921 by the Treaty of Riga after the Polish-Soviet war of 1919-20,
which had remained the boundary until 1939, while the Soviet Union
claimed the border of 1939, which approximated the Curzon Line
drawn twenty years earlier and which was closer to the
ethnographic divide. This disagreement was still unresolved in
April 1943 when the Germans released details of the discovery in
Katyn Forest, near Smolensk, of the remains of 4600 Polish
officers who the Germans alleged had been murdered by Soviet
authorities at some stage after the Soviet occupation of eastern
Poland in 1939. The Polish Govt immediately asked the
International Red Cross to investigate the matter, whereupon the
Soviet Govt severed relations on the grounds that the Polish
action gave credence to the German allegations and was an action
unbecoming an ally.]

Soviet-Polish dispute. You will have seen Dominions Office
background telegram April 23rd (D.238) [1] and a further telegram
is being sent you today. [2]

My own personal impression of this most regrettable happening is
that whatever the merits of the case may be-and in this connection
it has to be borne in mind that the Poles no less than the
Russians are ruthless where human life is concerned-the Polish
Government acted most unwisely in invoking the aid of the
International Red Cross.

Our short term aim must be to close this breach in the United
Nations solidarity as rapidly as possible in order to deprive
German propaganda of the fruits of its victory and to reduce the
risk of internal divisions of public opinion of the U.S.S.R.

especially in the United States. If Stalin is to be persuaded to
resume his suspended relations with the Poles, both British and
American action will be necessary and the President has made a
good start by sending a most understanding telegram to Stalin.

Even if we can re-establish a facade, however, there remains a
much greater fundamental problem. The U.S.S.R. is still, I
believe, acutely suspicious of the Western powers and fears that
she will be excluded from the post-war comity of nations. In this
atmosphere we can only expect a progressive deterioration of
relations between the Soviet and the British and Americans. The
only way to obviate this is to make a bold approach to the
political problems of the post-war world, particularly Europe, and
for the British and Americans to work out with the Soviet as soon
as possible the broad principles of the future political set-up.


1 On file AA:A989, 43/715/5/2, i.

2 See circular cablegram D247 of 28 April on the file cited in
note 1.

[AA:A989, 43/715/5/2, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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