File No. 861.00/1128

The Ambassador in France ( Sharp ) to the Secretary of State


3221. Referring to the Department’s No. 3181 of the 13th instant.1 Last night I had a long talk with Mr. Pichon concerning the situation to which reference is therein made. Upon explaining fully to him the position of our Government, point by point, he replied that [Page 51] while appreciating its viewpoint and recognizing that the Allies could not with propriety indorse any other position than that agreeable to our wishes, yet the gravity of the situation presented at this moment was very great. He likened it to a house on fire and expressed the hope that our Government would not defer action until it was too late to remedy the evil threatened by German occupation and pacification of Russia. He expressed the firm conviction that once Germany had taken possession of Petrograd, which he believed to be imminent, such order in Russian affairs would be restored by them as will enable them to be placed in an impregnable position.

He further ventured the interesting information that it was only contemplated to have Japan enter Siberia to take possession of the railroad after an amicable understanding had first been made with the Russian authorities. He did not however explain the manner in which such consent would first be obtained nor what particular governmental authority nor how acceptable to the mass of Russians would be such an arrangement even if entered into by the Bolshevik government. He was, however, very emphatic in expressing the belief that events might go to such an extent that Japan would feel called upon in the face of the threatened menace of German progress in Russian territory to undertake the initiative herself without the consent of the Allied powers. He said that Japan had already requested that whatever outside intervention was to be made in Russian affairs, she alone might assume the entire responsibility.

The telegraphic news published this morning to the effect that Trotsky and Lenin had accepted the German conditions of peace, if true, would seem to create a very serious situation which might render imperative the promptest and most united concert of action by all the Allies.

In a conversation this noon with Mr. de Margerie of the Foreign Office he said that it was his opinion that Japan might go so far as to deliver an ultimatum to the other Allied powers in which, on account of the menace to the ultimate security of her own interests, she would demand their consent to enter Siberia with her armies. He predicted the entrance of German troops into Petrograd within the next few days.

A number of the principal afternoon papers comment in leading editorials upon the gravity of the latest news from the East and unite in expressing the belief that the bars being let down, Germany is likely to set no limit to the extent of her advances in Russian territory, even to the occupation of Siberia and Vladivostok. Several of these journals point out the necessity of Japan’s active intervention and express the hope that America will no longer advocate further indulgence toward the Russian authorities. The denunciation of Trotsky and Lenin is very bitter in tone.

[Page 52]

While I cannot but believe that these views as expressed in the French press as to the danger of Germany’s extension of possession very far into the vast stretches of Russian territory are extreme, yet undeniably there would be practically universal satisfaction here if Japanese troops should now enter Siberia with the object of heroically restoring order and opposing her authority against that of Germany in affairs.

As opposing the problem of the added complications and possible dangerous consequences to follow after the war of Japanese occupation of such a vast Russian territory, it would seem fair to consider the [omission] fact that the Central powers, by such action, may come to feel for the first time the full weight of Japan’s part in the war. They would also have to face it in such a way as might force them to recognize a greater danger on their eastern front than even a united Russia in the first years of the war was enabled to threaten.

However, more authentic information as to the actual agreement between the Trotsky government and Germany, which should be known within the next forty-eight hours, may be necessary to confirm the wisdom of the position taken by the French Government as above outlined.


[For recommendations with regard to intervention, see telegrams from the Ambassador in Russia, No. 2400, February 21, 1918, and the Consul General at Moscow, No. 197, February 22, Volume I, pages 384 and 385.]

  1. See footnote 1, ante, p. 45.