The Ambassador in Russia (Francis) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary:I enclose translation of an editorial from the Petrograd Rjetch of April 14/27th which is thought by some to reflect the personal views of Professor Miliukoff the Minister of Foreign Affairs. You will observe it savors of criticism of President Wilson in that he after advocating “a peace without victory” now appears to join with the Allies in wishing a decisive victory. Furthermore in mentioning the President’s declaration concerning territorial questions it seems to draw the conclusion that the President classes Constantinople and the Dardanelles with the German colonies [Page 332]in Africa to the neglect of Russia’s claims to Constantinople. It asks what the President means by “all the principles of international policy must be revised” and by “It is inevitable that all nations should renounce their former outlook”. It also makes other insinuations but none of the expressions would be important unless they were thought to reflect the views of Minister Miliukoff. As I cabled the Department on May 1st in my No. 1240,19 there has been what threatened to become a serious difference in the Cabinet concerning the foreign or annexation policy of Russia at the end of the war. Miliukoff has favored Russia having Constantinople as was promised to the Imperial Government by the Allies before the Revolution. Kerensky however advocates the Dardanelles being neutral and free to all countries and is also opposed to annexation to Russian territory after the close of the war—many of the banners yesterday in the great Labor Parade contained inscriptions of “Peace with Victory but without annexation or contribution”. I learned in confidence yesterday that this difference in the Ministry had been adjusted and that in the near future a formal declaration of what Russia’s objects are in the war, would be made and I was given to understand that such declaration would be against annexation of territory. The Ministry was said to have been about equally divided on this question. Sir George Buchanan told me a few days ago that he was not expressing any opinion on the subject because the Allies had promised Constantinople to Russia before the Revolution and when Russia’s policy regarding Constantinople was well defined and well-known; he remarked however that he hoped or believed the result would be that the Dardanelles would be neutral.

The above was dictated May 2d, since which time there have been a number of important occurrences. On May 3rd or 4th, Miliukoff promulgated a statement without consulting the Workingmen’s and Soldiers’ Committee, and that statement aroused hostile demonstrations against Miliukoff, notwithstanding it only reiterated the declaration of the provisional Government of March 28/Apr. 10th. The offense seems to have been that the Provisional Government presumed to make a statement without consulting with and obtaining the consent of the Workingmen’s Committee. In the midst of these hostile demonstrations, I called upon Miliukoff, who was in a meeting of the Council of Ministers in the War Department and told him and Goutchkoff in effect that having risked my judgment in asking my Government to recognize the Provisional Government and having [Page 333]done all I could to assist the Ministry, I felt considerable official and personal responsibility concerning a stable Government in Russia and that if more satisfactory evidence were not given of such Government, I should feel compelled to advise my Government not to extend the aid which I had been continuously recommending. Goutchkoff seemed very much pleased at the statement and asked me if I would make it public, but before I could answer, Miliukoff remarked that he trusted there would be no occasion for me to do so at least none existed at that time. He said that he expected hostile demonstrations against himself at the meeting of the Ministry to be held that evening, May 3rd, at Marinsky Palace at 9 o’clock when there would be a conference with the Executive Committee of the Workingmen’s Committee; that his friends had desired to make a counter demonstration but he had advised against it. The conference did take place and at about 10 p. m. a large crowd including some soldiers in uniform and armed appeared in front of the Markinsky Palace, but the friends of the new government were there also and in larger numbers than its opponents. In response to loud calls for Miliukoff, Nekrasoff, Minister of Ways and Communications, appeared and addressed the crowd stating that the Government was confident of its position and would continue to direct affairs according to its best lights; that Miliukoff was in the meeting and was at that minute engaged in conference but would address the assemblage in a few minutes. Miliukoff appeared soon thereafter and was given an ovation; he spoke with more confidence and firmness than on previous occasions and was very much gratified at the reception his remarks met with. On his return to the Foreign Office after midnight, he found a crowd assembled there and made another talk. How much influence my talk with the Ministers had upon their assuming for the first time a rather independent position I cannot say but the report has gained circulation and credence that the stand taken by the Ministry was inspired if not demanded by the American Ambassador. I give you this for what it is worth and must rely upon your knowledge of my discretion in whatever I did or said. It seemed to me there was a crisis in the situation and I endeavored to meet it in the most effective manner. The following day, Friday, the hostile demonstrations continued for a few hours; in fact I passed one of these demonstrations on the Nevsky where there was a procession of workingmen, some of whom were armed and there was one black flag with an inscription anarchistic in tone. I communicated with Miliukoff by phone congratulating him on his success in the previous evening and was informed by him that an agreement had been reached with the Workingmen’s Committee which would be promulgated within a few hours. As the day [Page 334]wore on, friends of the new government and opponents of the anarchistic and extremely socialistic expressions of Lenin gained courage to such an extent that whenever a Lenin banner appeared on the streets it was captured and torn into shreds. On Friday evening late it became known that an agreement had been reached and the Saturday morning papers contained an explanatory note from the new government and also a proclamation from the Workingmen’s Committee advising its friends to refrain from congregating in crowds and from carrying arms. That proclamation contained only one objectionable paragraph and that was a statement that no troops other than the small squads for police duty could appear upon the streets without the written consent of the Workmen. The result however was that the streets have been extremely quiet since Friday night; the Provisional Government expresses great satisfaction with the situation and [is] entirely confident in the observance of its authority. I have cabled these developments from day to day. This despatch may not reach you for several weeks and will of course be stale when read. Changes follow each other with great rapidity. The effect of our prompt and first recognition of this government is still being felt and in my judgment the American Embassy is respected to a greater extent and has more influence with the Provisional Government and with the people generally than any other mission in Russia. I am giving you not only my personal convictions but the opinion of all so far as I am acquainted therewith.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . There are still a great many tons of supplies on the Eastern Border of Russia awaiting transportation into the country; if the same is granted by the new Government it will be attributable to the work we have hitherto performed and to the fact that the new Government is more considerate of human suffering than was the old. At the same time, no government can be blamed for refusing to transport supplies to prisoners of an enemy country if such accommodation jeopardizes its own defense. In other words the great congestion in freight existing on the Eastern Border of Russia must be relieved gradually, and the instinct of self-preservation will prompt the government to give precedence to its own necessities. I am much pleased that John F. Stevens is coming to Vladivostok to take charge of the terminals and I hope to be able to persuade the Government to extend his jurisdiction into the interior of the country.

This situation is interesting to a degree and I could write at much greater length but have not the time to do so even if I thought you had the patience to read my detailed statement concerning conditions.

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I have had not a word or a line from the Department or any other source in reply to the resignation which I tendered by cable February 25th.20 May I expect one?

With kind personal regards [etc.]

David R. Francis

Don’t understand that I wish to be relieved, when I allude to the resignation—In haste—

D. R. F.

Editorial From the Petrograd “Rjetch” of April 14/27, 1917.

The Press has published declarations apparently made by President Wilson to Balfour, the head of the English Mission which has arrived in America. The full text of the declaration is unknown and the communications in the papers cause some doubt as to whether the declaration has been correctly reproduced. In any case the general trend of the declaration is probably correct as it corresponds with Wilson’s point of view concerning the problems of the war and in particular the problem of the future peace. President Wilson categorically declares a statement which can only be welcomed—that for humanity a lasting peace is of much greater importance than a peace concluded immediately with militaristic Germany. In other words, the President of the United States after rejecting “a peace without victory” fully joins in the views of the allies, that only a decisive victory can give a durable peace.

But what does he consider such a victory to be? Wilson’s reply to this question in the text given by the papers is very incomplete. Is the restitution of Alsace-Lorraine to the French necessary for a durable peace? The President replies that this question “is beyond the sphere of the international interests of America”. He holds precisely the same view concerning the question of Germany’s colonies in South Africa, which for an unknown reason he places in the same category as the question of Alsace-Lorraine. After Wilson’s declaration that the United States does not intend to take a stand on these questions any more than on “the other territorial questions” (the press does not say which territorial questions are meant), it becomes impossible to understand his declaration in its entirety to the effect that owing to America’s entering the war “all the principles of international policy must be revised” and that “it is inevitable that all nations should renounce their former outlook”. So simplified a view of the problems of international diplomacy would of course greatly simplify America’s problems. She would not have to consider which European [Page 336]agreements she would enter and which she would not. In substance it is not yet known whether America is a party to the allies’ agreement not to conclude a separate peace. Under these conditions the announcement of the papers that there is to be a formal diplomatic “conference” in Washington seems inaccurate or at least premature. We know nothing of the participation in this conference of the other allies besides the British and French missions which happen to be now in America.

With all his precaution concerning the questions “which do not concern” America, President Wilson made an exception for one of them,—the question of the Straits. He fears to take a stand concerning Alsace-Lorraine. Just as carefully he avoids possible English claims. But on the probable settlement of the question of Constantinople, Wilson considers it possible to express himself freely. In addition he alters his former point of view to our disadvantage.

We would not like to think that there is expressed here a supposition, quite unfounded assuredly, concerning the weakening of Russia’s role among the allies. We will not raise the question of the Straits in particular, but in any case the attitude toward this question should be the same as toward “the other territorial questions which do not concern America”.

These objections excepted, we fully endorse the humanitarian efforts of President Wilson to conclude an “eternal peace”. This problem must unquestionably be taken seriously. But as we have already had occasion to say more than once, the solution of the problem is indissolubly bound to those results of the decisive victory, which Wilson on the one hand will not consent to discuss, and on the other hand—with regard to Russia’s vital interests—discusses too carelessly.