File No. 763.72/10680

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page)

No. 6059

Sir: I have received Mr. Laughlin’s telegram No. 287, July 12, 4 p.m.,1 transmitting to the Department substance of an informal communication you received from the Foreign Office, concerning the Armenian situation in the Caucasus.

I have also received two letters from Dr. G. Pasdermajian, special envoy at Washington of the Armenian Catholicos,1 pointing out the critical situation in the Caucasus; the advantages which the Allies might derive in preventing the Germano-Turks from occupying that country; the service which the Armenians and Georgians might render the Allies if properly assisted, and requesting the pecuniary assistance of the United States Government for that cause.

On the 16th of April the Department telegraphed the Embassy in Paris, asking to be advised of the attitude of the Allied War Council with regard to the matter.

The Department received General Bliss’ reply dated May 6 and 7. I send you herewith for your information and not for communication to the Foreign Office, copies or paraphrases of the above and other documents connected with the matter.1

For more than one reason the American people and Government are interested in the Caucasian situation, the Armenian question, and the condition of the Christians in the East.

For nearly a century the people of America have withheld no effort for the moral and educational welfare of the Christians within [Page 892]the Turkish Empire. In those countries there are several hundred American religious, charitable and educational institutions supported by American contributions, and whose work has been practically limited to the Christians.
The American people could not be indifferent at the treatment to which the non-Turks of Turkey, more especially the Armenians, were subjected since 1915. The American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief, whose charitable work has the President’s approval, appealed to the public, and has raised to date more than $11,000,000.
As one of the belligerents the United States Government is naturally interested in the steps which the German Government is taking with a view to acquiring a dominant position in the Near East.

After the Russian Revolution, Germany improved her position first in European Russia, then in Transcaucasia. She helped her ally Turkey not only to reoccupy the provinces of Trebizond, Erzeroum and Van, which the latter had hopelessly lost, but she even secured for her at Brest-Litovsk, the cession of the Russian provinces of Batoum, Kars, and Ardahan. The Germano-Turks without great difficulty invaded those provinces, occupied others and even entered Persian territory. In the eyes of Islam and of the people of the Central Powers, these Germano-Turkish advances constitute moral victories, at the same time giving the invaders strategic and material advantages. These advances may jeopardize the very existence of the Christians of those countries—whom the Germano-Turks may consider in the way of their ambitions and aspirations towards the East—and create serious difficulties for the Entente Allies.

While at Tiflis, Mr. Smith, the American Consul, drew the attention of the Department to the critical condition of affairs in the Caucasus and made certain definite recommendations which were brought to the attention of His Britannic Majesty’s Government. I am under the impression, however, that the Foreign Office believed that Mr. Smith merely desired to secure for the Armenians some assistance from the Allies (see your 8500, February 4, 3 p.m.,1 and the above-mentioned telegrams from Paris).

Mr. Smith’s aim, however, was not solely to help the Georgians and Armenians. He was anxious to warn the Allies of the danger in the Near East, and to induce them, in the interest of the Entente itself, to utilize these Christian peoples and their potential military [Page 893]force by properly leading and financing them in order to prevent the Central Powers from further improving their position in the Near East and in Asia.

The Department has no reliable detailed information as to the actual situation in the Caucasus. But that situation has entirely changed since Mr. Smith’s departure from Tiflis, inasmuch as Germano-Turks have gained further ground in the Caucasus and Azerbaijan, and British forces have advanced in Persia.

Judging from Dr. Kühlmann’s speech of June 24, as quoted by the Journal de Genève, the German Government has recognized the “independence” of Georgia. Dr. Kühlmann is reported to have stated that Georgia sent her Minister for Foreign Affairs to Berlin, with whom the Germans started “cordial” negotiations, and that, in order to have an exact idea as to the situation in the Caucasus, the Germans sent General von Krese to Tiflis on a diplomatic mission. Amid cheers, Dr. Kühlmann declared: “We wish the state of Georgia, its brave people, and its rich country a happy future. As far as we are concerned, we shall willingly do what depends on us to consolidate the good relations between Georgia and Germany.” The contrast, however, is significant when he speaks of Armenia. He says while new national groups of little importance were joining Georgia, “Armenia was undertaking its transformation into an autonomous state.” With the exception of that statement, Armenia and the Armenians seem to be entirely ignored.

The tone of the Turkish press also is significant. It speaks sympathetically of the Georgians, but in unfriendly terms of the “Armenian bands.”

Dr. Kühlmann’s statements, the tone of the Turkish press, and other facts seem to indicate that the Central Powers have succeeded in bringing the Georgians entirely under their aegis, while the Armenians remain outside of their pale, and, according to certain reports, keep up the struggle.

With the information contained in this instruction and the accompanying enclosures, you are requested to see Mr. Balfour, and to say to him that in view of the historic interest which the people of the United States have for the Armenians and the anxiety on their behalf, the Department would be grateful if it could be advised of the importance which His Britannic Majesty’s Government attaches to the situation in the Caucasus and would greatly appreciate being kept informed from time to time of the steps which are taken to preserve the cooperation of the Armenians in the Allied cause.

I am [etc.]

Frank L. Polk
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