File No. 861.00/1096

The British Embassy to the Department of State

No. 112


The British Embassy have received a telegram from the Foreign Office stating that recent changes in Russian conditions suggest to His Majesty’s Government the necessity for a change in Allied policy.

A few weeks ago there appeared to be no political or military forces in Russia, outside the area ruled by the Bolsheviki, which could or would do anything to aid the cause for which the Allies are fighting. The whole country presented a spectacle of unredeemed chaos.

Now, however, local organisations appear to have sprung up in south and southeast Russia which, with encouragement and assistance, might do something to prevent Russia from falling immediately and completely under the control of Germany. Amongst these the most important are the various Cossack organisations to the north of the Caucasus, and the Armenians to the south. The former control the richest grain-growing districts of the country and almost all the iron and coal. The latter, now that the Russian Army has ceased to count, will supply the chief bulwark against the Turanian movement.

The advantage of assisting them is, therefore, obvious, but the difficulty is how this shall be done. They cannot be reached effectively by the Baltic or Black Sea, nor through Persia and the south. The Siberian Railway is the one remaining line of communication possible. The British General Staff are strongly of opinion that this line ought to be used and that it could be used if the Japanese would give their assistance. At first sight the great length of the line to be guarded might seem to prohibit the scheme, but a different view is taken by the professional advisers of His Majesty’s Government.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the scheme is practicable from a military point of view; that the Allies are prepared to invite the Japanese as their mandatories to undertake it; and that the Japanese are ready to accept the invitation; it might perhaps be argued that such a scheme, even if successful, would do more harm [Page 36] than good to the Allied cause in Russia. It would involve the temporary control by foreigners of many thousands of miles of Russian railway, and those foreigners would be drawn from the very nation by which Russia was defeated within recent memory. It might be thought that Russian susceptibility would be deeply wounded by such a project. AH the information, however, which His Majesty’s Government have been able to collect, appears to indicate that the Russians would welcome some form of foreign intervention in their affairs, and that it would be more welcome in the shape of the Japanese, engaged as mandatories of the Allies with no thought of annexation or future control, than in the shape of the Germans who would make Russia orderly only by making it German.

The difference from the Allied point of view is very great indeed. While the war continues, a Germanised Russia would provide a source of supply which would go far to neutralise the effects of the Allied blockade. When the war is over a Germanised Russia would be a peril to the world. His Majesty’s Government think that the scheme outlined above is the only way of averting these consequences and provides the only machinery by which such militant forces as southeast Russia still possesses, may be effectually aided in their struggle against German influences on the west and Turkish attacks on the south.

His Majesty’s Government desire, therefore, to press the scheme on the favourable consideration of the United States Government, and would request an urgent decision as events are moving rapidly in Russia.