The Secretary of State to President Wilson

My Dear Mr. President: I have been considering the Russian situation and, although our information is meager and to an extent confusing, I have reached the following conclusions:

  • That the Bolsheviki are determined to prevent Russia from taking further part in the war.
  • That the longer they continue in power the more will authority in Russia be disorganized and the more will the armies disintegrate, and the harder it will become to restore order and military efficiency.
  • That the elimination of Russia as a fighting force will prolong the war for two or three years, with a corresponding demand upon this country for men and money.
  • That with Bolsheviki domination broken the Russian armies might be reorganized and become an important factor in the war by next spring or summer.
  • That the hope of a stable Russian Government lies for the present in a military dictatorship backed by loyal disciplined troops.
  • That the only apparent nucleus for an organized movement sufficiently strong to supplant the Bolsheviki and establish a government would seem to be the group of general officers with General Kaledin, the hetman of the Don Cossacks.

These conclusions present the problem as to whether we ought to take any steps to encourage the Kaledin party, and if so the nature of those steps.

I think that we must assume that Kaledin and his Cossacks know less about us and our attitude than we know about them, that through Bolshevik and German sources they are being furnished with false information and very probably have been told that we have recognized the Bolshevik Government and so are coming to the conclusion that further resistance is useless. Of course to have this [Page 344]group broken up would be to throw the country into the hands of the Bolsheviki and the Germans could freely continue their propaganda which is leading to chaos and the actual disintegration of the Russian Empire.

A possible way of checking this is to get a message through to Kaledin (probably via Tiflis and courier) telling the true state of affairs, and non-recognition of the Bolsheviki and our readiness to give recognition to a government which exhibits strength enough to restore order and a purpose to carry out in good faith Russia’s international engagements.

Whether such a communication is advisable is, I think, worthy of consideration, but if it is to be sent it ought to be done without delay as I am convinced that German intrigues and Bolshevik false representations will speedily impair the morale of Kaledin’s followers unless something is done to give them hope that they will, if their movement gains sufficient strength, receive moral and material aid from this Government. It seems to me that nothing is to be gained by inaction, that it is simply playing into the Bolsheviki’s hands, and that the situation may be saved by a few words of encouragement, and the saving of Russia means the saving to this country of hundreds of thousands of men and billions of dollars. I do not see how we could be any worse off if we took this course because we have absolutely nothing to hope from continued Bolshevik domination.

In regard to Kaledin and the Russian generals, Alexieff, Brousiloff and Korniloff, who appear to be with him or about to join him, I have inquired of Major Washburne, who knew them personally and more or less intimately. From him I gained the following:

Kaledin is a man of ponderous determination, who is unaffected alike by victory or defeat. He is a strong character who carried through his purposes regardless of opposition. As a commander he resembles Grant. He radiates force and mastery.

Alexieff is a modest, quiet man, but the most skillful strategist in Russia, if not in any of the allied countries. He listens patiently, talks little and reaches his decisions alone.

Brousiloff is the most brilliant general in the Russian armies and arouses the enthusiasm of the soldiers and his subordinates by his ability and forceful personality. As a strategist he is only second to Alexieff. While Kaledin is a man of the people, Brousiloff is of the aristocracy.

Korniloff is not the equal of any one of the three other generals in military skill or in personal popularity with the troops. He has, however, considerable influence with soldiers recruited in Siberia and Turkestan.

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The foregoing indicates the elements of strength in the military group which seem to be gathering about Kaledin, and which will in all probability obtain the support of the Cadets and of all the bourgeoisie and the land-owning class.

I would like to talk this matter over with you after Cabinet meeting tomorrow if that meets your convenience.

Faithfully yours,

Robert Lansing