File No. 763.72114/2984½

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


5724. Your 7562, October 30.1 The project heretofore discussed with the American Red Cross for the relief of Russian prisoners of [Page 637] war in Germany has now taken specific form and, unless Russia determines to proceed with the practically unrestricted exchange of prisoners of war which seems to be contemplated or rendered possible by the reported action of the Copenhagen conference, in which event this Government will not proceed with the relief project at all, the American Red Cross desires and this Department believes that it should be permitted to proceed to put the project into execution, the guaranties mentioned below which it is fully understood are conditions sine qua non being first secured. The substance of the project, which in all its stages is to remain subject to the right of the American Government to require its abandonment, is as follows:

The relief is to extend and to be limited to Russian prisoners of war in the hands of the Central Powers who are actually suffering from wounds, disease or other substantial disablement which is due to or increased or rendered chronic by undernourishment. The number of such is temporarily assumed to be 250,000, and relief will be strictly confined to that number or less. Actual number is to be determined (as well as the location and distribution of the individuals to be relieved) in the first instance by a canvass of the open prison camps and hospitals by neutral secretaries of the Y. M. C. A. in Germany and Austria, and later by a more thorough and complete survey by inspectors to be procured by the administrative committee mentioned below and to be responsible to the Spanish Embassy in Berlin. The purchase and shipment of food in the meantime is to proceed upon the assumption that the number to be relieved is 250,000, but the food is not to be forwarded from the port of debarkation into Germany or Austria-Hungary except as advices concerning the preliminary canvass are received from the Y. M. C. A. agents in Germany. It is estimated that the food, which will consist of three or four articles such as war biscuit, fat-backs, flour, and possibly relatively small amounts of sweets, will not amount to more than a maximum of 3,000 short tons per month.
It is assumed that the money to pay for the purchase, shipment, handling, and distribution of the food will be supplied to Russia by the United States and charged against loans to that country, and by the Russian Embassy will be turned over to the American Red Cross for disbursement. The United States Treasury has assured the Russian Embassy of a credit for use in this work during the balance of 1917 of $4,000,000.
The work will be controlled by an administrative committee consisting of a nominee of the American Red Cross who will be the chairman and executive thereof, a representative of the Russian Ambassador in Washington, probably Mr. Vladimir Buimistroff, the head of the Embassy’s Department of War Relief, and a representative of this Department, each of whom will be subject to change. [Page 638] The Russian representative’s assent is to be requisite generally but not in detail to the determination of the nature of the relief and the appropriation of funds. The work in Europe will be carried on by representatives of the Russian Central Committee for Prisoners of War in Petrograd, but subject to such oversight and control on the part of the administrative committee as will enable it to certify to this Government that the project is being carried out efficiently and in accordance with the plan here outlined. The American Red Cross expects to appoint a representative to make his headquarters probably in Copenhagen but to keep in close touch with London, to supervise all work at the European end and to maintain the necessary cooperation with the Y. M. C. A.; such representative to have power over matters of administration but not over matters of agreements or policy unless specifically authorized.
As long as shall prove practicable, supplies will be shipped to Copenhagen in boats chartered and used exclusively for the purpose. Food will be shipped thence in bulk to German and Austrian prison camps. All or parts of the shipments will be diverted to other practicable ports if either the British or American Government so requires.
No shipments will be made until guaranties on the part of Germany and Austria-Hungary are assured to the following effect:
Ships carrying these supplies, identified in some agreed manner, not to be sunk.
Supplies not to be expropriated, damaged, diverted or unreasonably delayed.
An agreed minimum ration to be furnished by Germany regardless of this relief.
The supplies to be forwarded direct to hospital, prison and other camps and to be received and distributed by prison committees under the supervision of neutral inspectors to be secured or approved by the administrative committee—possibly Y. M. C. A. workers supervised by inspectors attached to the Spanish Embassy in Berlin. These workers will also be charged with the duty of keeping track of conditions in the various camps and of increasing and diminishing the supplies shipped to given camps as the number of incapacitated in such camps may increase or diminish.

A. C. Harte, the International Secretary of the Y.M.C.A., for whose cooperation the American Red Cross is arranging, believes [Page 639] that through Y.M.C.A. representatives in Germany and Austria-Hungary informal but definite assurances that these guaranties will be given can be secured very expeditiously. It is quite manifest that, if this work is to be undertaken at all, it should be put in process of execution as quickly as possible, both that the relief contemplated may be afforded and in order that the maximum of satisfaction and encouragement may be given to Russia. It is therefore of great importance that we should be informed as quickly as may be of the views of the British Government. It has already assented in principle to this scheme of relief. This Department greatly desires to ascertain with as little delay as possible whether the British Government approves the plan outlined and will assist in facilitating the concrete operation of this specific project assuming that the various conditions mentioned are distinctly agreed to and are observed.

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