No. 43 NAI DFA 219/4
Berlin, 30 September 1939
The latest Russo-German pact,1 resulting from the obliteration of Poland, must be considered as a success for both sides, in spite of the fact that British propaganda (as I hear it over the wireless) is naturally enough trying to show that all the gains have been on Russia's side.
The German newspapers this morning are jubilant at the final downfall of the British 'encirclement' plans. The man-in-the-street quite realises that Russia may in time prove to be a dangerous neighbour, but there is not the slightest likelihood of the Russians giving any trouble at the present time, nor is there any reason to suppose that they will turn against Germany before the war is over. Their pre-1914 frontier did, of course, reach further into Poland than the new one, but, as far as territory is concerned, they can occupy themselves elsewhere, where the neighbours are less powerful, as, for instance, in the Baltic. At some future time the Russians may be in a position to challenge German sea supremacy in the Baltic, now that they have secured bases in Esthonia; such speculations, however, have little practical value just at present.
I presume that you have seen in the press maps showing (1) the provisional demarcation line agreed on by the German and Russian armies, and (2) the frontier definitely fixed in the Moscow agreement. Under the second arrangement Germany retains control of the Vistula, a matter of great strategic importance in any eventual war between the new neighbours.
In terms of great elation the people here are being informed (as is usual on such occasions) that the settlement now reached will more or less last for ever, and that Germany and Russia are resolved for the future to settle all their differences by negotiation. War between them is said to be unthinkable. Economically, one country is the complement of the other, and the continuance of trade and industry are assured, so we are told. The joint declaration made by the two Governments regarding the continuance of the war is spoken of as a 'peace ultimatum'.
The man-in-the-street, though he is cut off from foreign propaganda, does not necessarily accept everything given in the press and wireless as Gospel truth. Gradually he is beginning to realise that the war may not, after all, be over in a few months. He had already had to suffer a severe rationing of food. It is worth while, however, noting a few things which he feels about the war:-
(1) The Russians will twist and turn according as they think their interests change, but there does not appear to be any plausible reason why they should come to the assistance of Great Britain and France.
(2) No matter how strong the British consider their Navy to be, it has been amply demonstrated that German submarines can do a lot of damage to British shipping. It will take more than declarations by Mr. Churchill to drive German submarines from the seas.
(3) The British blockade is, no doubt, a handicap to commerce, but now that new Russian and Eastern European avenues of trade have been opened up, the difficulties will be to a large extent overcome. Existing stocks of food and essential war materials are said to be sufficient to last for some years.
(4) The Allied Armies and Air Forces are not as well equipped as the German, nor can they put as many men in the field. It is not believed that the number of trained aircraft pilots available on the other side can be compared with the number actually on service here. In an effort to bring the war to a speedy conclusion, it is probable that mass air-attacks will be made on important centres in Great Britain and France.
(5) German Air Defence will be well able to deal with Allied attacks from the air.
(6) Allied attacks on the Siegfried Line will be unavailing.
(7) Nobody believes that the British attack is directed merely against Hitler and National Socialism. It is well known that Great Britain can never endure the thought that another nation should become stronger than herself, and that she should lose her position of world pre-eminence.
(8) If Germany loses this war, the consequences will be even graver than that of the last. Germany, as we know it, will disappear. It is ridiculous to expect a 'just peace' from any victor.
The appointment of a British special representative to Dublin is looked on by some newspapers as an attempt by the British to bring pressure to bear on Ireland. There is no suggestion, however, that we shall acquiesce in British demands. The attitude to us remains as friendly as ever.
Isolation makes me feel the lack of up-to-date Irish news, but the wireless news-bulletins from Athlone are a great help.
[signed] W. Warnock
The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.
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