3. Editorial Note

Ambassador on Special Mission to Russia Elihu Root and other members of the Mission continued to urge the Department of State to conduct propaganda in Russia. On July 2, 1917, Mission member Samuel Bertron wrote from St. Petersburg to Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo at noon: “It is the unanimous opinion of commission that an extensive educational publicity campaign be undertaken in Russia with the approval of Russian Government and to be supervised by Ambassador Francis in order to offset extensive and very dangerous German propaganda. This is absolutely essential in our judgment and even though costly is the best possible contribution that America can make.” (Telegram 12; Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, volume I, page 128) Three hours later, Root wrote from St. Petersburg: “I beg you to realize that Germany is now attacking Russia by propaganda and is spending millions, at least a million dollars monthly, to capture the minds of the Russian people. Germany expects to succeed; can be prevented only by active and immediate counter attacks by the same weapons.” (Telegram 13; ibid., pages 128–129)

The August 1917 report of the Mission included a supplement entitled “Plans for American Cooperation To Preserve and Strengthen the Morale of the Civil Population and the Army of Russia.” Portions of the report and supplement are ibid., pages 147–153. Chairman of the Committee on Public Information George Creel responded to the proposals in the report in a letter to President Woodrow Wilson on [Page 8] August 20. Creel summed up his recommendations for Russia at the conclusion of his letter:

“With regard to administration, I do not think that the State Department should have anything to do with it at all. The work lies entirely within the province of the Committee on Public Information, and would be merely an extension of activities already under way. I have not included Russia in my foreign campaign out of a desire to learn the findings of the Root Commission, but with its work concluded, I see no reason for further delay.

“While not yet ready to present a detailed plan, it is my thought to ask Charles Edward Russell to act for the Committee in Russia. He knows more about the Russian situation than any other, and in addition to his sympathy and understanding, he is one of the best newspapermen in the country and a writer of rare ability.” (Papers of Woodrow Wilson, volume 43, pages 529–530)

On October 29, Secretary of State Robert Lansing informed Ambassador to Russia David Rowland Francis that President Wilson, pursuant to the report of the Root Mission, had authorized the establishment of “(1) a war cable service from New York to Vestnik Agency, Petrograd, approximately 1,000 words daily, service already begun; (2) moving-picture service on large scale, 75,000 feet of films already prepared will be shipped shortly with machines and operators; (3) possible encouragement of lecture bureau and pamphlet lecture program on large scale; (4) extensive Y.M.C.A. program, 200 secretaries in all, of whom 70 already in Russia or en route.” He continued: “Sisson, representing Bureau of Public Information, now sailing for Petrograd to study conditions and report regarding immediate realization of three features as enumerated. He represents Creel, who has been personally charged by President with direction of this undertaking. Y.M.C.A. program under exclusive control of Mott at New York. Sisson should be assisted in every way to make his work effective and insure sound understanding on his part of existing conditions.” (Telegram 1808; Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, volume I, pages 214–215)