Secretary of State Robert Lansing to United States Ambassador to Japan Roland S. Morris
S E C R E T.
M E M O R A N D U M.
September 30, 1918.
The text that follows is a copy of a telegram sent by the State Department of the United States to Ambassador Morris at Vladivostok1 in reply to a cablegram from him urging that assistance be given to the Czechs in European Russia2 and has been transmitted to Commander, U. S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters by the Navy Department3 for his information, as to the United States’ policy in Russia and with directions to transmit to the U. S. S. OLYMPIA such parts as may be pertinent.4 The Navy Department directs that the contents of this message be not divulged to other Governments:
TEXT OF MESSAGE.
1. Your suggestion that General Graves5 establish himself at Omsk or any other point in the far interior must be disapproved because, strong as our sympathy constrains us to every possible sacrifice to keep the country on the Volga front out of the hands of the merciless Red Guards,6 it is the unqualified judgment of our military authorities that to attempt military activities West of the Urals is to attempt the impossible. We mean to send all available supplies that we can spare from the Western Front as fast as possible for the use of the Czecho-Slovak Forces but we cannot undertake to send them west of the Urals.
2. So far as our cooperation is concerned we must frankly say that the Czech Force should retire to the Eastern side of the Urals to some point at which they will be certain to have access to supplies sent from the East, preferably where they will be in a position to make it impossible for the Germans to draw supplies of any kind from Western Siberia but in any case where they can make themselves secure against attack.
3. With the deepest regret, but with perfect realization of compelling facts, we must, in frankness, say that our assistance cannot be given in the carrying out of any other program. All that some in authority expected to happen upon the sending of Allied and American troops to the Northern port7 has failed of realization. This Government cannot cooperate in an effort to establish lines of operation and defense through from Siberia to Archangel.
4. However, we are giving General Graves authority to establish his Headquarters as some such place as Harbin, provided the Chinese Government interpose no objection, so that he can be in touch with an open port during the winter and can make the best use of his force to carry out the plans for safeguarding the rear of the Czecho-Slovaks. We have asked the Chinese Government if there would be any objection to this plan. Peking, will be directed to advise you of the answer.
5. You may use the foregoing information as you think best in advising those in authority over Civil and Military matters representing other Governments at Vladivostok.
6. Treat in the strictest confidence the following:
We have no sympathy with the idea and purposes of the Allies regarding military movements in Siberia and on the Volga front. We do not think they are practical or that they are based upon good military judgment. Therefore, while we have not stated that we do not care to set the limit of the actions or to define the policy of our associates, at this time we are not prepared and it is not our intention to follow their path and it is not our desire that our representative be influenced by their continual representations as to facts and plans for action which seem to us imaginary and impossible. Instruct the Military, Naval and Civil authorities representing the United States Government there that they are expected to be guided wholly and absolutely by the policy of this Government as it is here expressed notwithstanding any pressure to the contrary.
7. For your information there follows the text of a cable I am to-day sending to Mr. Francis at Archangel8 and which with the first part of this telegram is being sent to London, Paris, Rome Tokyo and Peking, for information of the Governments of those places:
“As it is, in the opinion of the Government of the United States, plain that no gathering of any effective force by the Russians is to be hoped for, we shall insist with the other Governments so far as our cooperation is concerned that all military efforts in Northern Russia be given up except the guarding of the ports themselves and as much of the country round them as may develop threatening conditions. We will of course do our utmost to send supplies but cannot undertake general relief, and must presently of course be cut off from Archangel by the ice and able only to go to Murmansk. You are advised that no more American troops will be sent to the Northern ports”.
8. The course which you have followed is most earnestly commended. It has the entire admiration of the President who has characterized it as being thoroughly American. I highly approve of your actions. They have been very consistent and have been guided by a very sound judgment exercised under the most trying and complicated circumstances. This course which the Government of the United States is following is not the course of our free choise but that of stern necessity. Circumstances in European Russia which have thrown the country into one of the saddest periods recorded in all history, and our separation from the scenes of bloodshed and anarchy by the intervening hostile territory render any effort which this Government could make to bring succor to the distressed people of Russia inadequate and impracticable. We are constrained consequently to come to a decision which this message will convey to you.9
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 1: On 4 September Morris, the American Ambassador to Japan, had been ordered by the State Department to go to Vladivostok, “confer with leading Russians and with Allied civil and military representatives, and to report to the State Department ‘how the purpose of the United States to aid the Russian people, as expressed repeatedly in public statements by this Government, may best be furthered under the conditions which you will find to exist there.” Wilson Papers, 49: 507n. The order to Morris is in FRUS 1918, Russia, 2: 366.
Footnote 2: The telegram, dated 23 September 1918, is in FRUS, Russia, 2: 387-90.
Footnote 3: VAdm. William S. Sims.
Footnote 4: U.S.S. Olympia was part of the allied force occupying Murmansk and Archangel.
Footnote 5: Gen. William S. Graves was the commander of an American expeditionary force of two regiments sent to Vladivostok in August 1918 from the Philippines. The United States Navy in the Pacific, 1909-1922: 382.
Footnote 6: Red Guards were paramilitary volunteer formations created to protect the new Bolshevik government in Russia.
Footnote 7: That is, Murmansk where an allied force, including the U.S.S. Olympia, had been sent.
Footnote 8: David R. Francis, the American ambassador to Russia.
Footnote 9: On the same day, Sims sent a note to British Foreign Secretary A. J. Balfour conveying the information found in this memorandum. DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.