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Secretary of State Robert Lansing to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters


Cablegram Received   Y-16

                         September 27, 1918,

Origin:   Opnav Washington

     CS-  September 30

53 ARD              SECRET


2260 Following telegram sent by State Department to Ambassador Morris at Vladivostock in reply to cablegram from him1 urging assistance to check in European Russia is quoted for your information as to our policy in Russia. Transmit such parts as may be pertinent to USS OLYMPIA. Do not divulge to other Governments QUOTE Your suggestion that General Graves2 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 it is the unqualified judgement 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 Czecho Slovak Forces but we cannot undertake to send them west of the Urals. So far as our cooperation is concerned we must frankly say that the Czecho force should retire to the Eastern side of the Urals to some point at which they will be certain 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. With the deepest regret but with perfect realization of compelling facts we must 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 port has failed of realization. This Government cannot cooperate in an effort to establish lines of operation and defense through from Siberia to Arch angel.

     However we are giving General Graves authority to establish his headquarters at 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 China will be directed to advise you of the answer.

     You may use the foregoing information as you think best in advising those in authority of Civil and Military matters representing other Governments at Vladivostok.

     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.3 We do not think they are practical or that they are based upon good military judgement. 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 representation as to the facts and plans for action seems 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.

     For your information there follows the text of a cable <which> if am today sending to Mr Francis4 at Archangel and which with the first part of this telegram is being sent to London Eng, Paris, Rome, Italy, Tokyo, Japan and Peking, China 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 for 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 to go only to Murmansk. You are advised that no more American troops will be sent to the Northernports.

     The course which you have followed is most earnestly commended. It has the entire admiration of the President5 who has characterized it as being thoroughly American. I highly approve of your action. They have been very consistent and have been guided by a very sound judgement 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 choice 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 Signed Lansing UNQUOTE   15027 2260


Sent: 9:50 p.m. Sep 28, 1918

Recd: 6:50 a.m. Sep 29, 1918

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B

Footnote 1: United States Ambassador to Japan Roland S. Morris.

Footnote 2: Gen. William S. Graves, U.S.A.

Footnote 3: Allied forces in Siberia were operating at mixed purposes. The British and Japanese governments hoped to prevent the spread of Bolshevik forces into Siberia at the Ural Mountains. President Woodrow Wilson intended to support the mission in Siberia for the limited purpose of extricating Czech and Slovak troops who were at the time being used by the British to battle the Bolsheviks. Ian C.D. Moffat, The Allied Intervention in Russia, 1918-1920: The Diplomacy of Chaos (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015).

Footnote 4: United States Ambassador to Russia David R. Francis.

Footnote 5: President Woodrow Wilson.

Footnote 6: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.

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