File No. 861.00/2299

The Consul at Archangel (Cole) to the Ambassador in Russia (Francis)

Sir: I have the honor to request your attention to the following considerations regarding intervention in Russia by the Allies, considerations which lead me to fear and be apprehensive of such an intervention:

1. Intervention will begin on a small scale but with each step forward will grow in scope and in its demands for ships, men, money and materials.

To hold Archangel a part of the Archangel-Vologda Railroad must be held. As the River Dvina diverges to the east from the railroad line a part of the river must be held. The right flank toward Petrozavodsk must also be held. If the munitions evacuated toward the interior from Archangel are to be salved by force the railroad to and beyond Vologda must be held and the river to and beyond Kotlas. This means not the mere occupation of Archangel but an expedition into the interior of Russia. It means establishing and maintaining telegraph, telephone, wireless, railroad, river, White Sea water, sledge, automobile and horse communication with repair shops, hospitals, food warehouses, munitions trains, etc., etc. All of these things must be brought here in ships from Europe or America and maintained entirely by Allied means as the Russians can not be depended on to work willingly or, if at all, effectively. They work for themselves neither willingly nor effectively. Still less so will they work for others.

If intervention develops normally and according to its own inner necessities it will eventually result in establishing a new “Russian front” in place of the one ruined by the revolution. This front will lie somewhere north of Moscow, somewhere east of Petrograd [Page 478] and somewhere west of the southern Ural Mountains. This time, however, the front will not be maintained by Russia with the Allies’ help, but by the Allies without Russia’s help and perhaps even against a large part of Russia’s active or passive resistance.

In any case there are neither coal nor iron nor factories to work either coal or iron, nor is there wheat, in that part of Russia that will lie behind the new Allied front in Russia. If there had been any of these things Germany would have treated the north of Russia as she has treated the fruitful Ukraine, and the iron-bearing and coal-producing Donets Basin long ago.

Count the number of fighting men necessary to hold a front from Finland to the southern Urals. To this add the number of artisans, transport workers, etc., including the men to load and unload and run ships between New York or London and Russia and you will have the personnel needed for intervention. Then count the number of ships needed to support every hundred men at the front or in the rear of an army, and you will have the man power and ship power that intervention will cost—the approximate drain on our present none-too-great power needed in France.

Add to this that once launched there is no stopping such an expedition at any moment. The Dardanelles expedition was withdrawn almost in a night, but it never went more than a few miles inland and never operated over a front of more than a few miles. An expedition into Russia could not be withdrawn in a night or a week or a month—especially after Archangel freezes and the neck of the White Sea clogs up with ice.

The Murman Railroad communicates with Vologda only via Zvanka (which is practically Petrograd) and which will by the time of an intervention be in German or Finnish hands. Further, in winter, which will arrive before an expeditionary force could more than get started, the Murman line from Kandalaksha to Murmansk is the only way in and out of Archangel except the always possible but always difficult and dangerous passage of theneck of the White Sea by ice breaker. And navigation in the White Sea itself in winter must be maintained by ice breakers. Furthermore, from Kandalaksha to Murmansk, in fact for its whole length, the Murman Railroad has an open and exposed flank for it runs its entire length parallel to the Finnish frontier.

2. The ground for landing an interventionary force has not been properly prepared. The north of Russia is nowhere near as pro-Ally as it might be. Before talking business with a Russian you have to sit down to a glass of tea with him, preferably, if you are proposing the business, at your expense. The Russian native population in the north should be given “baksheesh “before it is asked to assist [Page 479] an interventional force. A few food ships should have been sent with no conditions or demands attached to them except that a fair exchange of the food for local produce or money be arranged.

3. Intervention in the north of Russia will mean that we must feed the entire north of Russia containing from 500,000 to 1,500,000 population, depending on the area of territory embraced in the intervention—perhaps even more if the intervention grows like a snowball, as I am convinced it will, at first anyway. The moment that any move is made at Archangel that the Soviet government can interpret as intervention or hostility, that thin stream of food that is now trickling into Archangel will cease abruptly. Then the Allies will be forced either to feed that entire population of Archangel Province and the region embraced in the intervention, or else to see thousands starve to death. If the intervention is withdrawn the moral obligation to feed will remain as the thin thread now uniting Archangel in this sense with the rest of Russia, once broken, can not soon be reestablished.

4. Intervention can not reckon on active support from Russians. All the fight is out of Russia. The Russians have definitely “quit “. In fact they “quit” last spring before June. The only men who will fight are a few Red Guards and Red Army men, and their best stomach for fighting is against the bourgeois in their own land. Some Russian officers and bourgeois volunteers would undoubtedly rally to an Allied anti-Soviet movement but more for their pocket-books than for Russia or for hate of Germany. If nearer, they would, and have, rallied to Germany.

I believe every hope based on raising volunteers among the Russians to support an Allied army in Russia against Germany is doomed to complete and utter disappointment. Few men will be so raised and they will fight worse than indifferently.

The bulk of the population is indifferent to everything except their stomachs (bank accounts, wages or food). It cares more for food than for Russia, more for sugar than for independence, more for bread than for national pride.

5. The Socialist Revolutionists, Mensheviks, and Cadets who now advocate intervention are discredited officeholders seeking to regain power. They were only able to “lead” the people when they advocated peace (no more fighting), anti-imperialism (an excuse to desert from the front), and socialism (an excuse to raise wages indefinitely or to steal land or property belonging to others—such is the ignorant peasant’s understanding of it). The very men who now pray for our bayonets to restore them to power are the ones who did more than even the Bolsheviks to ruin the Russian front and the Allies’ common cause in Russia. They are more [Page 480] responsible than the Bolsheviks for the present terrible struggle in France. The B[olsheviks] did not ruin the army, they merely swam into power on the ruination of the army.

The Socialist Revolutionist, Menshevik, and Cadet “intellectuals” will never rule Russia. Their place is around the steaming samovar, not in the halls of government. Their invitation to enter Russia is not an invitation from the Russian people. They misjudge the temper of the Russian people to-day as badly as they did a year ago.

6. On the other hand, the men who do rule Russia, however badly it is done, are the small Bolshevik leaders, who will always and everywhere oppose intervention. These men, not the “intellectuals,” will direct Russian public opinion. They are coming more and more to see that Germany is the real enemy of Russia, not the so-called imperialist Allies. The attacks on the “imperialists of all nations” are becoming more and more phrases of habit, mere sops to the necessity for impartiality, and are losing their characters of being believed in either by those who repeat them or by those who hear them. In this sense the landing of Japanese at Vladivostok set back the progress of pro-Ally sentiment in Russia many months without adding anything tangible to the strength of our moral or political position. The same will be just as true, although on a more grandiose scale, of any intervention through Archangel, or deeper intervention through Vladivostok or Harbin.

The small Bolshevik leaders are becoming more and more anti-German. “Give the devil enough rope and he will hang himself.” That is what Germany began at the robber’s peace signed at Brest, what she has been doing in the Donets region, in the Crimea, and now, again, in the Ukraine (Skoropadski). The same is true of her action in Finland, Lithuania, Esthonia and Poland. Intervention will give many the chance to say that the Allies are no better than Germany, whereas, like Caesar’s wife, we should be above suspicion even.

7. No child can ever be convinced that it is spanked for its own benefit. The mass of the Russian lower classes still believe in the Bolsheviks. Intervention will alienate thousands of anti-German Bolsheviks and we shall merely gain the support of discredited “intellectuals” and bourgeois. The bourgeois will soon tire of us if we do not restore their bank accounts.

8. Every foreign invasion that has gone deep into Russia has been swallowed up. The Germans know this and have only taken the nearest and most fruitful regions, avoiding the unproductive north. If they advance farther it will only be to their own ruin unless they come as allies to help the Soviet government against [Page 481] the Allies. If we intervene, going farther into Russia as we succeed, we shall be swallowed up.

9. I can not see that the fundamental situation in Russia is changed even if it were proven that Lenin, Trotsky, Sverdlov, etc., drew monthly pay checks from the Berlin treasury. Whether intentionally or unintentionally everything that they or any other socialists in Russia have done has redounded to the advantage of Germany and our disadvantage, beginning with order No. 1 on the second day of the revolution. But the future of Russia is still in the Russian people, and it is of them we must think, of obtaining their lasting good will. Unless we are to march to Moscow and depose Lenin it is of little importance whether he be a German agent or not. If he is a German agent nothing would please him better than an intervention as he could at once throw himself into an open alliance with Germany. It is vitally important to the Allies, for the sake of the future (I hold that the present holds no military profit for us in Russia, see paragraph 4), that any cooperation between Russians and Germany be clandestine and contraband and attained either by the use of brute force by Germany, against Russia’s will, or by German bribery and Russian treachery. It should have no possibility of a color of justification due to action by the Allies.

Intervention will not strengthen Russia against Germany, for, as said, it will only force the Bolshevik government into Germany’s arms, commercially, financially, and militarily, and worst of all will establish, de facto, a friendly cooperation between the official Russian government and Berlin. If the war ends in less than victory in the west, such an alliance will be fatal to all our hopes for the great future in Russia. If the war ends in victory, such an alliance could never be entirely undone and for years would be a brake on our work in Russia.

10. Intervention will not engage three Germans in Russia to every one Ally. As at Saloniki, Rumania and Italy, and even in Russia, Germany will have the inside communication line while we must move in ships on the outside line. The front that will grow up will be infinitely nearer Berlin than London or Paris or New York. If the ships and men and auxiliary services for the new front be counted, it will be found that intervention will use three Allied war-power units to Germany’s one.

11. Intervention will belie all our promises to the Russian people made since October 26, 1917.

12. We will lose that moral superiority over Germany which is a tower of strength to us everywhere, because we shall have descended [Page 482] to using Germany’s own weapons; namely, intervention and force.

13. We shall have sold our birthright in Russia for a mess of pottage. The birthright is the future friendship and economic cooperation with a great and free democracy controlling untold riches. The pottage will be the recovery of a few thousand tons of materials that we once gave to Russia after deciding we could ourselves do without them, the temporary control (for we do not intend annexation) of some hundreds of square miles of forest and barren northern tundra, trackless and as yet unproductive, a new front to drain our none-too-great resources for the war, and the thanks of a few discredited politicians without constituents.

And after all, unless we are to invade the whole of Russia, we shall not have affected that part of Russia where the population is massed, namely the center and the south where the industrial, mining and agricultural strength of Russia lies.

I leave out of consideration the point of view which to my mind might justify intervention eventually; namely, that our policy in Russia must be to keep her ruined and keep her in a turmoil. This would prevent Germany’s making use of Russia just as after the revolution Germany prevented Russia’s being of use to the Allies by fomenting turmoil and ruin.

Now for what I believe to be the best way to meet Germany in Russia and give her battle.

Russia is for a long time definitely and finally out of the war. The Allies, therefore, in Russia, are in the economic struggle with Germany that has been called the “war after the war.” Thanks in part to Russia’s economic backwardness, thanks in part to the war itself, and thanks in part to the economic insanity of the Bolsheviks, Russia is down and out economically and financially—at Germany’s mercy now and for a long time to come. This is highly disadvantageous to the Allies, because now and in the future it strengthens Germany. Therefore it is our task to make Russia independent of Germany by sending her, so far as our own needs permit, what she needs for her factories (machines and materials), by sending her agricultural implements for her fields. If this latter leads to a surplus of grain, we should buy it for our own use to prevent Germany’s profiting thereby.

We can make more friends in Russia by the proper use of sugar, boots, fishnets, and machinery than by 200,000 or 500,000 troops (see paragraph 4, end).

Trade with Russia is possible through the various foreign trade councils and committees and other government organs. In fact these organs are advantageous to us, as they will guarantee distribution [Page 483] to the actual consumer as trade with private parties could not. Russia and the Bolsheviks want to trade with us. We need certain products Russia yet has in abundance. Above and beyond this, trade is necessary to help put Russia industrially on her own feet again and to prevent her sinking deeper into dependency on Germany.

This trade will take ships. But the sending of ships for trade can be stopped at any moment by a simple order from Washington. The stream of ships necessary to supply and support an interventional force, however, can not be stopped at will. The sending of ships must be continued until circumstances permit the force to be withdrawn. Ships must be sent in unusually large numbers to withdraw the force. And the development of the force will not depend on the number of ships available but on entirely other factors having no connection with the number of available ships. Trade, however, can be limited to the number of ships available at a given moment.

Further, in trade, the ships will be in use productively, bringing return cargoes, not unproductively.

In a word, intervention is sure to:

Go farther than at first planned involving unforeseen and difficult expenditures of ships, men, and materials;
Fail to reestablish Russia as a military factor in the war against Germany, because there is no fight in Russia except small, sporadic, class or party skirmishes;
Fail to divert large forces of men from the western front, as any force we can at present afford to send her can be met by a force drawn from within Germany, from other parts of Russia, or by reserves of the Landsturm class;
Fail to counteract German influence, if anything strengthening that influence except under and behind the guns of the interventional force itself;
Necessitate the feeding of from 500,000 to 1,500,000 people;
Be likely to make Russia—or the best part of Russia left now, the center—an ally of Germany for years to come;
Break our solemn promises to Russia not to interfere.

Continuing the present policy will:

Make us no new enemies in Russia except the bourgeois, who think it is our duty to save their bank accounts;
Continue the contrast between the Allies and Germany, the Allies putting up with injury (annulment of loans) and insult (publishing the secret treaties), without, like Germany, using brute force in retaliation;
Preserving our hard-pressed man and economic war-power from a drain whose extent it is impossible to foresee.

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Continuing our present policy of nonrecognition, but still engaging in as broad trade relations as our resources in materials and ships permit will:

Insure a return for the tonnage used.
Insure our ability to stop or divert the tonnage involved at any moment at our own will.
Fight Germany’s future economic supremacy in Russia at the most important moment of all; namely, when that economic supremacy is just in its first beginnings and before it can renew its strong hold on Russian economic life.
Help Russia to get somewhat on her own industrial and economic and financial feet, which is to my mind the supreme task of the moment, as otherwise we will always be at a disadvantage in Russia compared with Germany, and after the war German militarism, if not utterly broken, will have a limitless field for drawing resources from.

There is no greater danger in the world to-day than that Russia should become Germanized, except of course the danger that Germany should win on the western front. This policy of building up a strong and independent commercial, financial, and industrial Russia will be the task of the Allies’ whole policy in Russia in the future, and now is the time to begin.

The time for soldiers in Russia has gone beyond recall.

The Allies must fight Germany in Russia with merchandise.

Every consideration presented above as regards Archangel or intervention basing on Archangel, applies equally, to my mind, to intervention basing on Vladivostok.

None of the above considerations prejudice, to my mind, in the slightest, the necessity for having at once strong naval forces in the Archangel harbor, at Murmansk and in the White Sea to steady Russia and strengthen our hands here in general. This will help without injuring anything as intervention will. The naval force at all the points mentioned should be considerable.

I have [etc.]

Felix Cole