The United States of America and the Polish Question. June–December 1941
The U.S.A. did not react unambiguously to the German attack launched against the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. In the same month, the Department of State, which had already considered such an eventuality, claimed that the Soviet Union did not share its principles. This is why directives formulated in case of war stressed that no promises or obligations should be formulated in relation to Moscow. Immediately after the outbreak of the German–Soviet war President Roosevelt, who had contributed to the official recognition of the Soviet Union and was free of all prejudices, was inclined to support the opinion that the Soviet Union deserved to be helped. On the other hand, he was well aware of the fact that American anti–communists remembered the German-Soviet alliance and would criticise such assistance. Consequently, the President attached special importance to the statement made on 23 August by the Polish prime minister, General W. Sikorski, announcing a new stage in relations with the Soviet Union. The willingness to embark upon cooperation, expressed by the Polish government, and certain gestures made towards the Soviet Union (such as the Ciechanowski letter about freedom of religion) which cast a favourable light on Russian policies, made it possible to carry out a positive verification of the new ally, now entering the world of values represented by the Atlantic Charter. The constructive policy of the Polish government allowed the President to force through an aid programme, and to overcome the resistance of American society. Polish politicians, who had at their disposal certain assets, proved incapable of taking advantage of the existing circumstances, and were either unable or did not even try to benefit from the offered chance, however modest, to exert pressure on Washington while signing the Sikorski–Mayski agreement, or from participation in the Moscow conference held in October 1941. The President's interest in Polish questions reached its peak during the period preceding the inclusion of the Soviet Union into the Lend Lease programme. Not without reason did the President, fearing negative reaction on the part of public opinion, intervene in Moscow (November 1941), thus making it possible for Prime Minister W. Sikorski to go to the Soviet Union where, thanks to American support, he could successfully propose the evacuation of Polish armed forces. Once the Lend Lease programme encompassed also the Soviet Union, the period in which Poland could be of use for U.S. objectives came to an end. For the Polish government it denoted the onset of a stage when the American policy could play a positive role in tackling the most important question of the still unresolved eastern frontier.
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