File No. 763.72/5425
The Ambassador on Special Mission to Russia ( Root ) to the Secretary of State
[Received June 20, 21, and 24. 1]
8. Party all well. Mission received Friday evening by Premier and Council of Ministers composing entire Provisional Government. Mission introduced by Ambassador Francis; address by mission to Government made by Ambassador Root; reply in behalf of Government made by Tereshchenko, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Address and reply will be cabled. Conversations with heads of separate departments regarding needs have begun. Arrangements made under which General Scott of military staff is about to visit General Staff and front and Admiral Glennon of naval staff to visit Black Sea and Baltic Fleets and Archangel. We were met at Harbin by a delegation from the Chinese Foreign Office, charged to accompany us to the Manchurian frontier, as a mark of courtesy. They brought pressing [invitation from] Wu Ting-fang, Minister for Foreign Affairs and acting Prime Minister, to visit Peking on our return. The Rumanian Minister has presented urgent invitation that we visit [Rumania]. If, as seems probable, the mission visits Kiev and Odessa, a visit to Rumania would require only a slight detour and may think it worth while. They are suffering under great misfortune and need encouragement and help. They have probably about 250,000 effectives. Thomas, French Minister of Munitions, has been to Jassy and makes a good report of their military condition. It may be important to keep up that end of the Russian line and for the United States to know what is necessary for that purpose.[Page 121]
We shall probably finish here in from ten days to two weeks more. Important, therefore, that question of visiting Japan, which we talked about in Washington, and these invitations from China and Rumania be decided speedily. As to China and Rumania we will reply here when advised of your wishes. If we are to visit Japan of course original communication between Foreign Offices will be necessary.
Conditions here critical. General St. Petersburg opinion very pessimistic; industrial and financial conditions bad; Provisional Government seems secure; no visible agitation against it at present. Government very confident of pulling the country through. Fundamental military trouble is: soldiers have interpreted new freedom as meaning that every man could do as he pleased to refuse spoken orders from anyone. Accordingly authority of officers has been repudiated and military discipline has practically failed. The soldiers do not understand at all the importance to their country of maintaining the war and all along, the line have simply been unwilling to fight. [Demoralization] has been aided by a tremendous German propaganda through fraternization of troops at the front and thousands of German agents throughout the country who swarmed across the border immediately after the revolution. They are aided by the extreme socialists who are for peace at any price and very active. Still there are some evidences of returning discipline. Some organizations have declared in favor of fighting and strong effort is proceeding quietly to induce troops to obey an order to advance. Minister of War has issued order warning deserters to return under penalty of loss of right to vote and participate in the distribution of land. We think the people of Russia, particularly the soldiers, are going to decide whether Russia stays in the war and we have got to get at them in some way. Communications to the Government do not reach the real difficulty. The mission is taking steps for the immediate distribution of information which will cost about $100,000. Please call Secretary McAdoo’s attention to conversation with Mr. Bertron and me before we left Washington.
On this subject it will not belittle us to draw immediately $100,000. We all agree that the business of disseminating information should be taken up on a much larger scale. At least $5,000,000 could be expended to the greatest advantage in this way. That would be less than the cost of maintaining five American regiments and the chance of keeping 5,000,000 Russians in the field against Germany is worth many times five regiments. It will mean a supply of newspapers, printing and distribution of posters, leaflets and pamphlets, employment of numerous lecturers and moving pictures to go about the front. This work to be done with the approval of Russian Government and not to be conducted in the name of the United States. We particularly recommend the establishment upon [Page 122] the Russian front of Y.M.C.A. stations similar to those on the French and English fronts, until recently on the Austrian front, just beginning on the Italian front, and in Mesopotamia, and along the lines planned for the American Army as authorized in Executive order signed by the President on April 27, 1917. These establishments have reading rooms, provisions for reading aloud to illiterate soldiers, lecture rooms, and temporary arrangements for moving pictures. There are two thousand of these establishments with the British Army all thronged by soldiers. They afford opportunities for access to the minds of the soldiers. These should be financed by the United States but that fact probably not made public until after they are established and understood. Mott thinks he can obtain twenty Americans now in Europe to inaugurate plan promptly pending the securing and training adequate number. Same sort of work is now being done on considerable scale in prison camps with great success. Very desirable indeed to send here immediately as many moving pictures as possible showing American preparation for war, battleships, troops marching, factories making munitions, and other things to carry to the mind the idea that America is doing something. These poor fellows have been told that no one is really fighting except Russian soldiers and they believe it. The British have recently been sending out similar moving pictures with very good effect, but everything has been done on too small a scale to deal with the great masses of people who must be assimilated. I am [of opinion] Washburn’s health is such that it would have [fatal effect to] consign [assign him to] publicity work here. Admirable as he would be we have no right to ask him to commit suicide. Please say to the President that we have found here an infant class in the art of being free containing one hundred and seventy million people and they need to be supplied with kindergarten material; they are sincere, kindly, good people but confused and dazed. Say to him also that his message about the aims of the war was highly satisfactory to everybody here who really wanted to continue the war against Germany and unsatisfactory to all pro-Germans and internationalists.
- In three sections.↩