File No. 861.00/3072

The Consul at Moscow ( Poole ) to the Secretary of State

Sir: I have the honor to furnish herewith, for the information of the Department, a translation of a report on the external relations of the Soviet republic made by the Commissar for Foreign Affairs at a meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. September 2.

It is interesting to recall the circumstances of the departure of the Allied Ambassadors from Vologda in connection with the Commissar’s confession in the second paragraph of his report that 300 German soldiers in civil attire were admitted to Moscow to guard the German Embassy. One of the reasons given by the Ambassadors for their refusal to come to Moscow was the reported presence of enemy troops in the city. Acting at Mr. Francis’s direction I inquired at the time of the Commissar for Foreign Affairs respecting the truth of these reports and was given the most solemn assurances that they were quite unfounded.

This incident reveals what has always seemed to me the fundamental reason for the failure of all the attempts of the Allies to maintain working relations with the Bolshevik government, namely, complete bad faith on the part of the latter. The impossibility of [Page 582] depending upon the accuracy of any statement of the Commissar for Foreign Affairs and the absence of any assurance that a promise once given would be fulfilled undermined the structure of even our informal relations and foredoomed to failure all attempts at practical cooperation.

I would also invite the Department’s attention to the paragraph dealing with Ukrainian relations, which discloses the extent of the German territorial aspirations in south Russia and the Caucasus.

The following passage is so important that I quote it in the body of the despatch:

It must be added that our attitude is entirely different with regard to the American citizens, to whom these measures did not extend, because, although the United States Government was compelled by its Allies to agree to participate in intervention, so far only formally, its decision is not regarded by us as irrevocable. It must also be noted that the policy of Japan is not noted for its solidarity with the other Allied powers, which could be seen from the statements of the Japanese representatives in Russia.

The attempt to separate the United States and Japan from the other Allies and to embroil these two with each other has been a leitmotiv of Bolshevik foreign policy as has been frequently remarked from this office. I trust that I have only been fulfilling the desire of the Department in pursuing the policy laid down by Mr. Summers of counteracting in every way possible the impression of divergence in the councils of the Allies which the Bolsheviki have aimed to give to the Russian public.

I have [etc.]

DeWitt C. Poole, Jr.
[Enclosure—Translation—Extract]

Report of the Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs ( Chicherin ) as published in “Izvestia” September 3, 1918

The moment when the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs made its report to the Fifth Congress of the Soviets coincided with the tragic death of Count Mirbach. The fact that this action did not call forth any complications in the relations between Germany and Russia and did not even lead to the breaking off of negotiations of a political and financial nature shows that not only we, but also the Germans, wish most seriously to maintain friendly relations. This tendency of the German policy, combined with the firm decision of the majority of the Russian laborers to maintain peace, assisted us to overcome the numerous difficulties in the relations between the two parties.

After the murder of Mirbach the German Government wished to introduce a battalion of German soldiers into Moscow to guard the German Embassy. When we refused the Germans were content to introduce 300 German soldiers into the building of the Embassy without uniform. They also demanded that several houses in the vicinity should be evacuated and occupied by guard of Russian soldiers, numbering 1,000 men. This proved of the greatest difficulty us it was impossible to find suitable accommodation for the people who were [Page 583] to be evacuated. At the same time the Embassy was always informing us that they had news of attempts which were being prepared against them. There was a mysterious attack on the fence of the garden once during the night. By special wish of the counselor of the Embassy, Dr. Riezler, the new German Ambassador was met at Kuntsevo and brought to Moscow by automobile. Dr. Riezler wished the fact to be known only to the members of the Council of People’s Commissars. During his ten days’ stay in Moscow Helfferich was almost entirely shut up in his house, until he was called to take part in the conference at Berlin, after which the Embassy left for Pskov via Petrograd and finally settled in Revel. The Embassy stated that it had left so as to avoid any complications which might have arisen if another attack had been made on the Embassy or the Ambassador. The Germans were also continually protesting against the fact that Russia had not sufficiently punished the persons guilty of Mirbach’s death. The Germans also imagined that the Moscow government was supporting the strike of the railroad men in the Ukraine. The Germans also protested against the agitation among German prisoners of war in which official Soviet workers often took part. Lenin’s open letter to the American workmen was also supposed to have had a bad influence on the Germans as he speaks of the German imperialism as the “robbers’” imperialism. These accusations are generally brought under point 2 of the Brest treaty which prohibits each of the parties to agitate among the people of the other party. In reality we do keep to this point and if any organ of the Soviet authority violates this rule we take measures against it. We have taken strong measures against the assassins of Mirbach. We consider it impossible to officially support the Ukrainian strike which is against the German Government. Yet certainly we could not prohibit private persons to collect for the strikers or for them to spread revolutionary ideas. Some of the German demands surpass anything that the Peasant-Workman Russia can do. Misunderstanding can arise by reason of the different form of the two governments. The wish of both parties to live in peace, notwithstanding all misunderstandings, cannot be more clearly expressed than in the fact that negotiations regarding the agreement continued and terminated on August 27, when three treaties were signed.

Even the numerous incidents on the frontier have not changed the will of both countries. About the time of Mirbach’s murder a detachment of German cyclists was captured at Vederin by Red Guards, yet the left Social Revolutionists captured and killed them all. The Social Revolutionary Party has organized several incidents. Disturbances took place in Orsha not long ago and Helfferich was obliged to wait until all was quiet once again. Incidents on the line of demarcation often lead to serious repressions on the part of the Germans. Violations of the line of demarcation were very frequent both from the side of the Germans and also from the side of the Ukrainians. On August 4, the Germans fired at the villages near Rylsk. The violation was especially noticeable after harvest. The Germans often advanced to requisition cattle and grain. Recently there have been cases when Germans have crossed the line of demarcation and occupied villages. A squadron of cavalry of Von der Goltz occupied a village to the west of Evstratovki. The life on the line is in constant danger, as the Germans often advance. In some places they take seven eighths of the harvest.

It must be noticed that since the Brest treaty was signed the Germans have advanced considerably to the east in many points. For settling these conflicts it was decided to establish special commissions consisting of representatives of [Page 584] Russia and Germany. In this way it will be possible to settle all misunderstandings arising on the spot.

Serious friction arose between us and the Germans in the Baltic Sea, where the Germans accused us of laying new mines and where they were prepared to remove them even in the interior waters of the Finnish Gulf to a point of three miles from our shore. The arrival of the German ship Anna Hugo Stinnes in Petrograd loaded with coal and its return loaded with our goods establishes the exchange of commodities between the two countries, which is the best guarantee of peaceful relations. The German Government was seriously displeased by our decree of July 15, which made it rather difficult for persons living in territory now occupied by the Germans to change their citizenship. A special agreement will be made with Germany in this matter.

The Turkish Army has lately been advancing on our territory. Notwithstanding the frequent promises of the German Government the Turkish Army has now advanced to Baku, which fact led to the temporary victory of the lourgeoisie and compromisers. With the ignorant sailors of the Caspian Sea they treacherously called the English to Baku. However, they [the English] will not be able to defend Baku from the advance of the Turks if our negotiations with Germany will not lead to the retreat of the latter army. We shall send troops to Baku to drive out the English as well as the Turks.

Notwithstanding the friction of the Germans with our Government we were able to attain some agreement, but the Ukrainian-German government continues to propose impossible conditions. Negotiations are continuing as the Ukraine demands great territories to be surrendered. The so-called political frontier, which Germany demands for the Ukraine, passes by Kursk not far from Voronezh and encloses a large part of the Donets Basin, leaving us a territory of 12 per cent of the production of the basin. At the same time negotiations are taking place in Kiev between numerous representatives of People’s Commissariats and various supply and purchase committees regarding a goods exchange. The chief difficulties are the outward obstacles which do not permit the Ukraine to give us grain for textiles of which she is in great need. The final obstacle for any sort of political agreement lies in the fact that the Hetman government entered into negotiations with the so-called Don government of Krasnov and refused to establish the eastern frontier of the Ukraine where it borders, with the Don region.

Negotiations with the Finnish government in Berlin have temporarily stopped. Finnish representatives demanded the entire coast from the Norwegian frontier, including Kola and Solovka to Alexandrovsk, then along the railroad to Lake Onega, along the lake to Lake Ladoga and further to the present frontier. Against evident facts the Finnish representatives insist that a state of war exists between Russia and Finland, drawing corresponding conclusions for retaining military booty. As result they demanded that all Russian military ships captured by Finland should be given to her gratis as well as all Russian military property. Finland likewise demanded that all the government property of Russia should be given to Finland gratis, excluding telegraph and telephone wires and land bought for money. The representatives also demanded that all obligations of Finland to Russia should be annulled, not only government debts, to which point we agreed, but that we should pay part of their military expenses, indemnification of losses caused by Russian troops after Finland’s independence was recognized. At the same time they refuse to pay losses of the Russian Government. As the Finns consider that there has been a state of war with Russia we attempted to agree on several points temporarily: establishment of a demarcation line, protection of private and property rights of citizens, to recognize in principle the rights of private persons to receive [Page 585] recompense for their losses. We proposed that these matters should be discussed by a commission formed of Russian and Finnish representatives, as well as the establishment of consulates, renewal of direct telegraph, postal, railroad and water communication and protection of trade. No answer was received for several days to our proposal and it was decided to postpone the work of the conference.

All the numerous above-mentioned causes of friction between Russia and Germany have not altered the tendency in principle to live in peace, and during negotiations regarding new agreements Germany was prepared to make some concessions. Parallel to this our relations with the Allies became worse. The successes of the Czechs, who acted under the protection of the Allies, as their political weapon against the Soviet, gave them the idea that the moment for liquidating the Soviet authority in Russia had arrived and that they would be able to form a pro-English bourgeois government, abolish the annulment of the loans and our other revolutionary legislation and form a new eastern front against Germany. The enormous Anglo-French counter-revolutionary intrigue, with its numerous branches and large sums of money, which was revealed to a certain extent by documents obtained, changed into an open attack for which preparation had been made in secret for a long period of time. Simultaneously with the murder of Mirbach, as though by signal, the following facts took place: The treason of Muraviev, bought by England and undoubtedly connected with an Anglo-French conspiracy, the White Guard rising in Yaroslavl and the rising in various points of the line of demarcation. The increase of underground work of the Anglo-French agents forced us to demand the departure of the Ambassadors from Vologda where a new “Yaroslavl” was being prepared. The news of the intended English expedition on the Murman forced us to demand some time before the withdrawal of the Allied military vessels; after the Anglo-French descent we made firm protests against this act of violence; we once more made a decided declaration that we considered the Kerensky convention regarding the compulsory service of Russian citizens in the English army invalid, and once more stated the criminality of Russian citizens’ serving in the French army; at the further advance of the Anglo-French, we issued an appeal to the toiling masses of England, France, America, Italy and Japan and we have already information that parts of it have filtered through to England and France. We are now issuing English and French literature which is intended to be distributed for the purpose of agitation among the soldiers of those countries who are advancing into our territory. The acts of violence of England and France and the discovery of their underhand intrigues and extensive counter-revolutionary plots have caused the internment of English and French citizens. At present negotiations are being carried on with regard to the departure of the Allied diplomats in exchange for Comrade Litvinov and other Soviet officials, and the departure of their military men in exchange for the return of our soldiers from France, which should take place under the control of the International Red Cross and three members of the Russian Red Cross, cessation of measures of reprisal on both sides, including the region of Czecho-Slovak occupation, and the permission for the citizens of both countries to return home, including Russian citizens serving in the British Army. It must be added that our attitude is entirely different with regard to the American citizens, to whom these measures did not extend, because, although the United States Government was compelled by its Allies to agree to participate in intervention, so far only formally, its decision is not regarded by us as irrevocable. It must also be noted that the policy of Japan is not noted for its solidarity with the other Allied powers, which could be seen from the statements of the Japanese representatives in Russia.

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On the whole, in spite of the great difference between the political organization of Russia and Germany and the fundamental tendencies of both governments, the peaceful relations between the two peoples, which has always been the object of our workmen and peasants’ state, is at present equally desirable to the German ruling circles. The close alliance between Russian and English capital, which rapidly developed in the few years preceding the war, is the reason for the present predominance of English orientation among the Russian bourgeoisie. The interests of the struggle against Germany, whom Anglo-French imperialism wants to compel to withdraw part of her forces from the west front by the establishment of a new eastern front, and the interests of the struggle against a class opponent who has been able to find expression in Soviet Russia, both demand intervention in Russia on the part of Anglo-French imperialism and the strangling of the Russian revolution. In turning our front against advancing Anglo-French imperialism, we declare, however, that the toiling masses of Russia are striving towards the maintenance of peace with all people and that we are ready at any moment to establish peaceful relations with the Allied people. Precisely in the interests of peaceful relations with Germany, did we sign those agreements which are to-day submitted to the Central Executive Committee for ratification.