123 F 84/16: Telegram
The Ambassador in Russia (Francis) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 2, 1916—8:15 a. m.]
526. Took charge 28th on arrival. Dearing2 had arranged with Foreign Office initial informal visits with Minister of Foreign Affairs and President Council of Ministers. Latter received me 3 o’clock afternoon 29th. He received me cordially; we exchanged views freely concerning relations between our countries, each expressing desire to promote existing friendly feeling. I expressed a desire and intention actively to endeavor to establish and foster direct commercial relations between the two countries without any intermediary whatever, in which he heartily concurred. Called on Sazonoff 6 o’clock, being accompanied by Dearing in both visits. Had conference hour and 20 minutes with Sazonoff, who was cordial, courteous, attentive, candid, responsive, but surprised me immeasurably when he said with the [apparent omission] positiveness that no commercial treaty can now be negotiated. I called his attention to Marye’s3 report that Russia had been awaiting advances from us for negotiating new treaties and expressed willingness and desire therefor. He admitted so telling Marye but said that was 6 months ago and subject was never broached again by Marye, that too late now because Allies had called an economic conference for June 1st Paris, and Russia will negotiate no commercial conventions with any country before that conference. He intimated that such conference might determine to establish different commercial relations with Allies, with friendly countries and with belligerents. He also insinuated that when commercial treaty is negotiated it would specially export [sic] to those countries which extend like favors to Russia in import duties. He furthermore stated in good spirit that the denouncing by us of the treaty of 18324 had created no resentment in Russia and had not interfered with the trade between the countries which he said would continue, he trusted, in the future as in the past. I said his position was surprising and disappointing to me to a degree and ventured further the statement that the principal object of my appointment as advised by yourself and President Wilson was to negotiate treaty on commerce and navigation. Attempted to impress him with friendly interest in Russia now cherished by our people with our appreciation of Russia’s manifestations of good will [Page 310]in the past and with expressed desire by our commercial classes to foster Russian commerce. He expressed gratification at such statements but remained firm in refusing consideration of the commercial treaty certainly until after the Allied conference at which Russia will be represented by comptroller of the Empire and four other potential [sic] officials. Expressed hope that my ambassadorial mission would prove agreeable and interesting and smilingly said duties of position would be sufficiently onerous without negotiating treaty. Said had heard rumor that my appointment was influenced by German sympathy and had questioned Bakhmeteff thereon but Bakhmeteff’s reply said such rumor groundless and consequently Government here wholly uninfluenced by rumor which he did not credit. Returned to Embassy at 7:30 p. m., and immediately sent a note to Sazonoff as per arrangement asking when Emperor would receive me. Sazonoff forwarded same to Emperor immediately and am expecting reply to-day. Hope Emperor will receive me before returning to front but if so such action will be almost unprecedentedly prompt. Sazonoff in conference with Dearing March 30th expressed no opposition to negotiations commercial treaty although Dearing says that cannot recall that he definitely expressed willingness therefor, while expressing disappointment that Marye’s negotiations had not been carried further. Consequently conclude Sazonoff’s opposition is the result of recent conferences with Allies. Respectfully suggest I have lost no time since arrival morning 28th.