By Martin Kitchen
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Without even waiting for Government approval for this action he boarded a Soviet aeroplane at Urumtschi on the Mongolian border and flew to Moscow. By the time the Cabinet was informed of Cripps' whereabouts it was too late to stop him, so they could do nothing but wait for his report. 102 Cripps arrived in Moscow on 15 February and had a number of interviews with senior Soviet officials, including Molotov. He told the Cabinet that he was convinced that the Soviet Union was genuinely concerned to improve relations with Britain and that her alliance with Germany was based on convenience rather than conviction.
Molotov muttered that he found these ideas interesting, but that he had no time to discuss them any further, owing to other pressing engagements. He mentioned Soviet interests in Romania and his fear that the United States was unlikely to agree on a common policy in the Far East. 12 In his report of the meeting, Cripps suggested that American pressure could be applied to convince the Soviets to enter the war. Ambassador Kennedy quickly put an end to any such hopes by saying that the only thing his country could offer the Soviets were machine tools, a remark which infuriated Halifax because they were badly needed in Britain to increase industrial production.
This was hardly a promising background for top level discussions. One thing was clear: the Soviets, with their chronic shortage of foreign exchange, wanted a barter agreement. '7 Although the Foreign Office was fed up with the endless exchange of increasingly vituperative notes on Anglo-Soviet trade, they did not feel that Cripps was likely to do any better. Cripps was a very independent man who wanted to be much more than a mere executant of Government policy, and he had no time at all for the anti-Soviet Sir Stafford Cripps Goes to Moscow 31 faction within the Foreign Office.