File No. 763.72/11416
The Chargé in the Netherlands ( Kirk) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 14, 11.05 a.m.]
4403. Following summary of Payer’s speech, Stuttgart, September 12:
Depression in Germany is not due so much to the recent reverses in the west as to the prospects of a fifth winter of war, but this affects all combatants alike. The loss of millions of men, the innumerable other burdens of war all have to be borne in common. Germany’s debt has reached a fabulous height. All combatants must recognize, if they are not blind, that the [more the] larger European nations continue to tear each other to pieces the more will [Page 305] wise and more calculating nations enrich themselves at Europe’s expense. The question as to how long it will be before a military-decision is reached depends upon which combatant can carry on the longest financially, economically and politically.
The Entente are relying upon America, which nation is certainly [proving] a serious and increasing burden for Germany. Germany’s enemies forget that hundreds of thousands of Americans on west front will not counterbalance millions of Russians, Serbians and Roumanians [who] have been put out of action, and territory gained by Entente in past weeks is only part of territory conquered by Germany. The submarine war had not been so rapid nor so effective as was previously calculated. But there is no object in disputing now who was to blame. Germany’s enemies at all events were not able to make good their losses in tonnage. Robbery of neutral tonnage by Entente cannot be repeated, and with transport of troops from United States, need of ships for maintenance of troops will grow. Destruction of ships desperate for England after the war, as vessels constructed during war to replace losses will belong to America. Germany’s enemies have begun to suffer unexpected lack in material; foodstuffs are scarce everywhere, but already things appear to have turned in Germany’s favor. In the east the world has again been opened for Germans, her only care is to carry on war on hostile soil with conviction that Germans are the attacked.
Germany is strong enough even in midst of war to settle its political divergencies. Prussian electoral reform no longer Prussian but German question, and further delay in its solution is unseemly. If Committee of Upper House does not pass equal suffrage the Government will order dissolution.
Turning to question of peace he said, it would not be made by governments alone but in cooperation with whole of peoples and must be a lasting peace, therefore not a peace of conquest. Such a peace necessarily requires return to status quo ante. This everywhere possible except in east. The old Russia could have remained alive if it had succeeded in making lives of its oppressed peoples bearable by federal reorganization; it broke down because it could not hold together internally. Germany’s victories and those of her allies have now given subjects of the huge Empire chance to free themselves. Germany cannot help to set up old order again or deliver up Kingdom of Poland to Russia nor help compel Finland go back under Russian yoke. She cannot place treaties with Ukraine, Russia and Roumania before Entente for its approval or alteration. Elsewhere territorial possessions of before the war can be restored.
First condition for Germany and her allies must be that all territory she had August 1, 1914, must be restored; [she] must therefore in first place receive back colonies. Idea of exchange for reasons of suitability need not be excluded. As soon as peace is concluded Germany can evacuate the occupied districts. When matters have gone so far she can evacuate Belgium also. When Germany and her allies are again in possession of what belonged to them, when they are certain that in Belgium no other state can be placed in better position than they, then Belgium may be given back without a charge on it and without reservation. Necessary understanding between Belgium and Germany will be easy because their economic [Page 306] interests run parallel in many ways. Germans have no reason to doubt that much discussed Flemish question will be settled justly. It is hypocrisy to call Belgium innocent victim of German policy. Belgian Government (Belgian people are not concerned) took lively part in England’s policy of isolating Germany.
There remains question of indemnities. If Germans had been allowed to go on with their work peaceably there would have been no war, therefore question is not whether they should pay but whether they shall receive compensation for damage caused to them. They are convinced that, as the innocents attacked, they have right to material compensation, but to carry on war till they get this would cause damage that could not be replaced by money, therefore even with favorable military situation they prefer renounce this claim.
Nations call for prevention of damage after war, for a league of nations, for international courts of arbitration, above all for agreements for simultaneous disarmament. Enemy Governments made this their cry. Germany desires to cooperate; she had idea of league of nations long before England and France, desired agreements for disarmament regulating things equally and applying to naval forces as well as land. Following same idea, she demands freedom of seas and sea routes, open door in oversea territories, protection of private property on seas. In negotiations about rights of small nations she willingly supports laws which will free countries oppressed by England. Impossible preliminary conditions for peace negotiations must not be made. Germany laughs at view that she must repent and ask for mercy before she is admitted to negotiations. Mutually with others she will protect world peace from danger in future. In Germany itself all that can be done to advance peace is to facilitate tedious and difficult negotiations with Austria-Hungary and neighboring countries in east, and oppose attempts of enemy to suppress thought of peace in Germany. This can be more easily accomplished as people are becoming united regarding peace aims, namely, peace of understanding without annexation and indemnity. Meanwhile the will to destroy on part of Germany’s enemies must be opposed to the end.