Soviet-Finnish Talks. October – November 1939
In the autumn of 1939, the Soviet leadership tried to come to terms with the Finnish government in order to secure the north-western border. the country’s key political and economic centre of Leningrad was located a mere 32 km away from Finnish territory, putting it within the range of artillery.
Soviet-Finnish talks began in the Kremlin on October 12, 1939. Given their importance, J. Stalin and V. Molotov chose to participate in person. the Soviet side proposed signing a treaty of mutual assistance, yet the Finnish delegation dismissed the idea outright. the Soviet leadership then made new proposals, including the transfer of a number of islands in the Gulf of Finland along with parts of the Karelian Isthmus and the Rybachy Peninsula and the temporary lease of the Hanko Peninsula to the USSR. the USSR offered a territory twice as large in Eastern Karelia as compensation. the Finnish side also rejected these proposals, categorically refusing to discuss the Hanko Peninsula, where the Soviet Union wanted to set up a naval base controlling the entrance to the Gulf of Finland in order to protect Leningrad from the sea.
The unyielding position of the Finnish government during the Soviet-Finnish talks was based in part on its expectations of British, French and American aid. This made the negotiations a lot more difficult. the talks kept starting and stopping for a month before grinding to a halt on November 9, 1939.
In the conditions of impending war, the Soviet leadership realized that the security of the Soviet north-western border could not be assured by diplomatic means alone.