Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/12

BC–6A

Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Tuesday, January 21, 1919, at 15 Hours

  • Present
    • America, United States of
      • President Wilson.
      • Mr. R. Lansing.
      • Mr. A. H. Frazier.
      • Colonel U. S. Grant.
      • Mr. L. Harrison.
    • British Empire
      • The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George.
      • The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour.
      • Lt-Col. Sir M. P. A. Hankey, K. C. B.
      • Mr. E. Phipps.
      • Major A. M. Caccia, M. V. O.
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau.
      • M. Pichon.
      • M. Dutasta.
      • Berthelot.
      • Captain A. Portier.
    • Italy
      • Signor Orlando.
      • His Excellency Baron Sonnino.
      • Count Aldrovandi.
      • Major A. Jones.
    • Japan
      • Baron Makino.
      • His Excellency M. Matsui.
      • M. Saburi.

Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux.

1. Situation in Russia M. Clemenceau said they had met together to decide what could be done in Russia under present circumstances.

President Wilson said that in order to have something definite to discuss, he wished to take advantage of a suggestion made by Mr. Lloyd George and to propose a modification of the British proposal. He wished to suggest that the various organised groups in Russia should be asked to send representatives, not to Paris, but to some other place, such as Salonica, convenient of approach, there to meet such representatives as might be appointed by the Allies, in order to see whether they could draw up a programme upon which agreement could be reached.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that the advantage of this would be that they could be brought straight there from Russia through the Black Sea without passing through other countries.

M. Sonnino said that some of the representatives of the various Governments were already here in Paris, for example, M. Sazonoff. Why should these not be heard?

President Wilson expressed the view that the various parties should not be heard separately. It would be very desirable to get [Page 648]all these representatives in one place, and still better, all in one room, in order to obtain a close comparison of views.

Mr. Balfour said that a further objection to M. Sonnino’s plan was that if M. Sazonoff was heard in Paris, it would be difficult to refuse to hear the others in Paris also, and M. Clemenceau objected strongly to having some of these representatives in Paris.

M. Sonnino explained that all the Russian parties had some representatives here, except the Soviets, whom they did not wish to hear.

Mr. Lloyd George remarked that the Bolsheviks were the very people some of them wished to hear.

M. Sonnino continuing, said that they had heard M. Litvinoff’s statements that morning. The Allies were now fighting against the Bolsheviks, who were their enemies, and therefore they were not obliged to hear them with the others.

M. Balfour remarked that the essence of President Wilson’s proposal was that the parties must all be heard at one and the same time.

Mr. Lloyd George expressed the view that the acceptance of M. Sonnino’s proposals would amount to their hearing a string of people, all of whom held the same opinion, and all of whom would strike the same note. But they would not hear the people who at the present moment were actually controlling European Russia. In deference to M. Clemenceau’s views, they had put forward this new proposal. He thought it would be quite safe to bring the Bolshevik representatives to Salonica, or perhaps to Lemnos. It was absolutely necessary to endeavour to make peace. The report read by President Wilson that morning went to show that the Bolsheviks were not convinced of the error of their ways, but they apparently realised the folly of their present methods. Therefore they were endeavouring to come to terms.

President Wilson asked to be permitted to urge one aspect of the case. As M. Sonnino had implied, they were all repelled by Bolshevism, and for that reason they had placed armed men in opposition to them. One of the things that was clear in the Russian situation was that by opposing Bolshevism with arms they were in reality serving the cause of Bolshevism. The Allies were making it possible for Bolsheviks to argue that Imperialistic and Capitalistic Governments were endeavouring to exploit the country and to give the land back to the landlords, and so bring about a reaction. If it could be shown that this was not true and that the Allies were prepared to deal with the rulers of Russia, much of the moral forces of this argument would disappear. The allegation that the Allies were against the people and wanted to control their affairs provided the argument which enabled them to raise armies. If, on the other hand, the Allies could swallow their pride and the natural repulsion which they felt [Page 649]for the Bolsheviks, and see the representatives of all organised groups in one place, he thought it would bring about a marked reaction against Bolshevism.

M. Clemenceau said that, in principle, he did not favour conversation with the Bolsheviks; not because they were criminals, but because we would be raising them to our level by saying that they were worthy of entering into conversation with us. The Bolshevik danger was very great at the present moment. Bolshevism was spreading. It had invaded the Baltic Provinces and Poland, and that very morning they had received very bad news regarding its spread to Budapest and Vienna. Italy, also, was in danger. The danger was probably greater there than in France. If Bolshevism, after spreading in Germany, were to traverse Austria and Hungary and so reach Italy, Europe would be faced with a very great danger. Therefore, something must be done against Bolshevism. When listening to the document presented by President Wilson that morning, he had been struck by the cleverness with which the Bolsheviks were attempting to lay a trap for the Allies. When the Bolsheviks first came into power, a breach was made with the Capitalist Governments on questions of principle, but now they offered funds and concessions as a basis for treating with them. He need not say how valueless their promises were, but if they were listened to, the Bolsheviks would go back to their people and say: “We offered them great principles of justice, and the Allies would have nothing to do with us. Now we offer money, and they are ready to make peace.”

He admitted his remarks did not offer a solution. The great misfortune was that the Allies were in need of a speedy solution. After four years of war, and the losses and sufferings they had incurred, their populations could stand no more. Russia also was in need of immediate peace. But its necessary evolution must take time. The signing of the world peace could not await Russia’s final avatar. Had time been available, he would suggest waiting, for eventually sound men representing common sense would come to the top. But when would that be? He would make no forecast. Therefore they must press for an early solution.

To sum up, had he been acting by himself, he would temporise and erect barriers to prevent Bolshevism from spreading. But he was not alone, and in the presence of his colleagues he felt compelled to make some concessions, as it was essential that there should not be even the appearance of disagreement amongst them. The concession came easier after having heard President Wilson’s suggestion. He thought that they should make a clear and convincing appeal to all reasonable peoples, emphatically stating that they did not wish to interfere in the internal affairs of Russia, and especially that they had [Page 650]no intention of restoring Czardom. The object of the Allies being to hasten the creation of a strong Government, they proposed to call together representatives of all parties to a conference. He would beg President Wilson to draft a paper, fully explaining the position of the Allies to the whole world, including the Russians and the Germans.

Mr. Lloyd George agreed, and gave notice that he wished to withdraw his own motion in favour of President Wilson’s.

Mr. Balfour said that he understood that all these people were to be asked on an equality. On these terms he thought the Bolsheviks would refuse, and by their refusal they would put themselves in a very bad position.

M. Sonnino said that he did not agree that the Bolsheviks would not come. He thought they would be the first to come, because they would be eager to put themselves on an equality with the others. He would remind his colleagues that, before the Peace of Brest-Litovsk was signed, the Bolsheviks promised all sorts of things, such as to refrain from propaganda, but since that peace had been concluded they had broken all their promises, their one idea being to spread revolution in all other countries. His idea was to collect together all the anti-Bolshevik parties and help them to make a strong Government, provided they pledged themselves not to serve the forces of reaction and especially not to touch the land question thereby depriving the Bolsheviks of their strongest argument. Should they take these pledges he would be prepared to help them.

Mr. Lloyd George enquired how this help would be given.

M. Sonnino replied that help would be given with soldiers to a reasonable degree or by supplying arms, food, and money. For instance, Poland asked for weapons and munitions; the Ukraine asked for weapons. All the Allies wanted was to establish a strong Government. The reason that no strong Government at present existed was that no party could risk taking the offensive against Bolshevism without the assistance of the Allies. He would enquire how the parties of order could possibly succeed without the help of the Allies. President Wilson had said that they should put aside all pride in the matter. He would point out that, for Italy, and probably for France also, as M. Clemenceau had stated, it was in reality a question of self-defence. He thought that even a partial recognition of the Bolsheviks would strengthen their position, and, speaking for himself, he thought that Bolshevism was already a serious danger in his country.

Mr. Lloyd George said he wished to put one or two practical questions to M. Sonnino. The British Empire now had some 15,000 to 20,000 men in Russia. M. de Scavenius had estimated that some 150,000 additional men would be required, in order to keep the anti-Bolshevik [Page 651]Governments from dissolution. And General Franchet d’Esperey also insisted on the necessity of Allied assistance. Now Canada had decided to withdraw her troops, because the Canadian soldiers would not agree to stay and fight against the Russians. Similar trouble had also occurred amongst the other Allied troops. And he felt certain that, if the British tried to send any more troops there, there would be mutiny.

M. Sonnino suggested that volunteers might be called for.

Mr. Lloyd George, continuing, said that it would be impossible to raise 150,000 men in that way. He asked, however, what contributions America, Italy and France would make towards the raising of this army.

President Wilson and M. Clemenceau each said none.

M. Orlando agreed that Italy could make no further contributions.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the Bolsheviks had an army of 300,000 men and would, before long, be good soldiers, and to fight them at least 400,000 Russian soldiers would be required. Who would feed, equip and pay them? Would Italy, or America, or France, do so? If they were unable to do that, what would be the good of fighting Bolshevism? It could not be crushed by speeches. He sincerely trusted that they would accept President Wilson’s proposal as it now stood.

M. Orlando agreed that the question was a very difficult one for the reasons that had been fully given. He agreed that Bolshevism constituted a grave danger to all Europe. To prevent a contagious epidemic from spreading the sanitarians set up a cordon sanitaire. If similar measures could be taken against Bolshevism, in order to prevent its spreading, it might be overcome, since to isolate it meant vanquishing it. Italy was now passing through a period of depression, due to war weariness. But Bolsheviks could never triumph there, unless they found a favourable medium, such as might be produced either by profound patriotic disappointment in their expectations as to the rewards of the war, or by an economic crisis. Either might lead to revolution, which was equivalent to Bolshevism. Therefore, he would insist that all possible measures should be taken to set up this cordon. Next, he suggested the consideration of repressive measures. He thought two methods were possible—either the use of physical force or the use of moral force. He thought Mr. Lloyd George’s objection to the use of physical force unanswerable. The occupation of Russia meant the employment of large numbers of troops for an indefinite period of time. This meant an apparent prolongation of the war. There remained the use of moral force. He agreed with M. Clemenceau that no country could continue in anarchy, and that an end must eventually come; but they could not [Page 652]wait; they could not proceed to make peace and ignore Russia. Therefore, Mr. Lloyd George’s proposal, with the modifications introduced after careful consideration by President Wilson and M. Clemenceau, gave a possible solution. It did not involve entering into negotiations with the Bolsheviks; the proposal was merely an attempt to bring together all the parties in Russia with a view of finding a way out of the present difficulty. He was prepared, therefore, to support it.

President Wilson asked for the views of his Japanese colleagues.

Baron Makino said that, after carefully considering the various points of view put forward, he had no objections to make regarding the conclusion reached. He thought that was the best solution under the circumstances. He wished, however, to enquire what attitude would be taken by the representatives of the Allied Powers if the Bolsheviks accepted the invitation to the meeting and there insisted upon their principles. He thought they should under no circumstances countenance Bolshevik ideas. The conditions in Siberia east of the Baikal had greatly improved. The objects which had necessitated the despatch of troops to that region had been attained. Bolshevism was no longer aggressive, though it might still persist in a latent form. In conclusion, he wished to support the proposal before the meeting.

President Wilson expressed the view that the emissaries of the Allied Powers should not be authorised to adopt any definite attitude towards Bolshevism. They should merely report back to their Governments the conditions found.

Mr. Lloyd George asked that that question be further considered. He thought the emissaries of the Allied Powers should be able to establish an agreement if they were able to find a solution. For instance, if they succeeded in reaching an agreement on the subject of the organisation of a Constituent Assembly, they should be authorised to accept such a compromise without the delay of a reference to the Governments.

President Wilson suggested that the emissaries might be furnished with a body of instructions.

Mr. Balfour expressed the view that abstention from hostile action against their neighbours should be made a condition of their sending representatives to this meeting.

President Wilson agreed.

M. Clemenceau suggested that the manifesto to the Russian parties should be based solely on humanitarian grounds. They should say to the Russians: “You are threatened by famine. We are prompted by humanitarian feelings; we are making peace; we do not want people to die. We are prepared to see what can be done to remove [Page 653]the menace of starvation.” He thought the Russians would at once prick up their ears and be prepared to hear what the Allies had to say. They would add that food cannot be sent unless peace and order were established. It should, in fact, be made quite clear that the representatives of all parties would merely be brought together for purely humane reasons.

Mr. Lloyd George said that in this connection he wished to invite attention to a doubt expressed by certain of the delegates of the British Dominions, namely, whether there would be enough food and credit to go round should an attempt be made to feed all Allied countries, and enemy countries, and Russia also. The export of so much food would inevitably have the effect of raising food prices in Allied countries and so create discontent and Bolshevism. As regards grain, Russia had always been an exporting country, and there was evidence to show that plenty of food at present existed in the Ukraine.

President Wilson said that his information was that enough food existed in Russia, but, either on account of its being hoarded or on account of difficulties of transportation, it could not be made available.

(It was agreed that President Wilson should draft a proclamation, for consideration at the next meeting, inviting all organised parties in Russia to attend a meeting to be held at some selected place, such as Salonica or Lemnos, in order to discuss with the representatives of the Allied and Associated Great Powers the means of restoring order and peace in Russia. Participation in the meeting should be conditional on a cessation of hostilities.)

2. Peace Conference M. Clemenceau considered it to be most urgent that the delegates should be set to work. He understood that President Wilson would be ready to put on the table at the next full Conference proposals relating to the creation of a League of Nations. He was anxious to add a second question, which would be studied immediately, namely, reparation of damages. He thought the meeting should consider how the work should be organised in order to give effect to this suggestion.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he agreed that these questions should be studied forthwith. He would suggest that, in the first place, the League of Nations should be considered; and that, after the framing of the principles, an international committee of experts be set to work out its constitution in detail. The same remark applied also to the question of indemnities and reparation. He thought that a Committee should also be appointed as soon as possible to consider International Labour Legislation.

President Wilson observed that he had himself drawn up a constitution of a League of Nations. He could not claim that it was [Page 654]wholly his own creation. Its generation was as follows: He had received the Phillimore Report,1 which had been amended by Colonel House2 and re-written by himself.3 He had again revised it4 after having received General Smuts’ and Lord Robert Cecil’s reports.5 It was therefore a compound of the various suggestions. During the week he had seen M. Bourgeois,6 with whom he found himself to be in substantial accord on principles. A few days ago he had discussed his draft with Lord Robert Cecil and General Smuts, and they had found themselves very near together.

Mr. Balfour suggested that President Wilson’s draft should be submitted to the Committee as a basis for discussion.

President Wilson further suggested that the question should be referred as far as possible to the men who had been studying it.

Mr. Lloyd George expressed his complete agreement. He thought they themselves should, in the first place, agree on the fundamental principles, and then refer the matter to the Committee. When that Committee met they could take President Wilson’s proposals as the basis of discussion.

(It was agreed that the question of appointing an International Committee, consisting of two members from each of the five Great Powers, to whom would be referred President Wilson’s draft, with certain basic principles to guide them, should be considered at the next meeting.)

3. Poland M. Pichon called attention to the necessity for replying to the demand addressed by M. Paderewski to Colonel House, which had been read by President Wilson that morning, and asked that Marshal Foch should be present.

It was agreed that this question should be discussed at the next meeting.

4. Disarmament Mr. Balfour called attention to the urgency of the question of disarmament, and said that he would shortly propose that a committee should be appointed to consider this question.

  1. David Hunter Miller, The Drafting of the Covenant (New York, 1928), vol. ii, P. 3.
  2. Foreign Relations: The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. i, p. 497.
  3. Ibid., p. 501.
  4. Miller, The Drafting of the Covenant, vol. ii, pp. 65–93.
  5. For General Smuts’ plan, see ibid., p. 23; for Lord Cecil’s memorandum, see Miller, My Diary, vol. iii, p. 85.
  6. Léon Bourgeois, former. French President of the Council of Ministers and former Minister for Foreign Affairs.