File No. 861.00/3220

The Chargé in Russia (Poole) to the Secretary of State


572. Signing of the armistice has created some uncertainty among the American and French troops. The reasons heretofore assigned for their presence in north Russia no longer seem valid to them. If they are held here there must be an early and authoritative statement of motives as already suggested in my telegram 553 of November 6, 7 p.m.1 Officers and men inquire why military operations are necessary against the Bolsheviki. The situation is aggravated by the British, The military attaché will telegraph the War Department concerning the situation of our troops vis-à-vis the British military authority. There is in addition a suspicion that the British may be “imperialistic” and that American forces are possibly being used toward ends which do not accord with our own ideas. News of the impending return of General Poole tends to confirm this view.

Concerning possible withdrawal of American troops it is to be observed, contra, that we have an obligation to the inhabitants of this region who would be exposed, if we withdrew, to severe Bolshevik reprisals and that we have an even more important obligation to all Russia to protect her from economic exploitation by creditor nations which may find themselves with a freer hand now that peace has come. Whether or not the information of the French Ambassador communicated in No. 571, November 12, 8 p.m.,2 is correct, it must be foreseen that any Russian government of the near future will be weak and therefore liable to incur unwise obligations heavily mortgaging the capital wealth of the country and it is by no means certain that nations whose losses in Russia have been more considerable than ours will find it easy to forego the opportunity of obtaining concessions or establishing spheres of influence. The interests of Russia and the ultimate interests of her creditors demand an unhampered reconstruction of the national economy. To this end both have need, but above all Russia, of the friendly offices of a disinterested third party. It is difficult to see how the United [Page 568] States can avoid the obligation of this role in view of our professed friendship for the Russians and their special confidence in us and our ideals. [We?] will not even fulfil it if we withdraw our troops and leave the field free to our less disinterested associates. One feature of the north Russian situation is the influence which Ambassador Francis has exercised in favor of square deal and I feel sure the presence of an American force here has been an essential factor in his success.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed; it contained the report of a Soviet offer of payment of interest on loans in return for recognition (File No. 861.00/3223).