Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/40


Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Saturday, February 15, 1919, at 3 p.m.


America, United States of British Empire France
Mr. R. Lansing The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, O. M., M. P. M. Clemenceau
Mr. House The Rt. Hon. W. C. Churchill, M. P. M. Pichon
Mr. L. Harrison Lt. Col. M. P. A. Hankey, K. C. B. M. Dutasta
Mr. Norman M. Berthelot
M. de Bearn
Italy Japan
M. Sonnino H. E. Baron Makino
M. Crespi H. E. M. Matsui
Count Aldrovandi
M. Bertele
Joint Secretariat
America, United States of British Empire France
Lieut. Burden Major A. M. Caccia, M. V. O. Captain Portier
Italy Japan
Major Jones M. Saburi
Also Present
America, United States of British Empire France
Gen. T. H. Bliss Gen. Sir H. H. Wilson, G. C. B., D. S. O. M. Alby
M. Bertin
Major Aublet
General Cavallero

(Present During Discussion of Question I “Syria”)

France Lebanese Delegation
Captain Coulondre Daoud Bey Mammom
M. Gout Negile Bey Abdel Malek
Abdel Halim Hajjar
Interpreter:—Professor P. J. Mantoux.
[Page 2]

1. M. Clemenceau having declared the Meeting opened, asked that the Members of the Lebanese Delegation should be admitted.

Syrian Question (Daoud Bey Mammom, President, Negile Bey Abdel Malek, Druse Delegate, and Abdel Halim Hajjar, Mussulman Delegate, then entered the Council Chamber.)

M. Clemenceau called on Daoud Bey Mammom to make his statement.

Daoud Bey Mammom then read the following statement:—

(a) Statement by Daoud Bey Mammon, President of the Great Administrative Council of Mt. Lebanon “Our Delegation holds its mandate from the Great Administrative Council of Mount Lebanon, our national Parliament, elected on democratic bases by the suffrage of the whole nation of Lebanon.

In the fullness of its rights, the said Council has nominated the Delegation of which I am the President, and on behalf of which I am now speaking, to place before the Peace Conference, the claims of the nation of Lebanon.

Mount Lebanon has always been autonomous. Its autonomy has been maintained under Arabian, Turkish and Egyptian domination. At times it has even appeared as possessing a complete independence, which was recognised by Turkey itself.

Consequently [sic] to the incidents of 1860, Europe has sanctioned this autonomy and gave it, through the 1861–1864 treaty,1 with her guarantee, a modality, a form which is special, but definite. One only bond of vassalage bound it to Turkey. Now, as a consequence of the fall of the Sublime Porte, Lebanon finds itself independent, with a National Government and an elected Parliament. Its wish is to recover, together with the recognition of its independence, its historical and natural frontiers which had been encroached upon by the Turks.

The territories within the said frontiers are necessary to our existence; without them, no commerce, no agriculture is possible for us and our populations remain under obligation to emigrate; the mere closing of our frontiers, through administrative measure would drive us, as has been during this war, to actual starvation.

Besides the great majority of the populations living on these territories also ask to be attached to Lebanon. Their wishes are to be found in petitions addressed to the French Government.

By giving them over to us, the Conference will perform a deed of justice and reparation, while according to the principle of the peoples’ own wish.

In the course of this war, by the part it has taken in it, Lebanon has acquired claims on the goodwill of the Entente. The participation, however modest, has been none the less actual.

[Page 3]

From the very beginning of the war, the people of Lebanon have not feared, in spite of the worst reprisals which their isolation could bring on them, to take side resolutely for France and her Allies. They offered themselves by thousands to go and fight for a common ideal on the battlefield of Europe, but special circumstances and the assurance which was given them, that they would eventually [be] made use of on the spot, made it impossible for them to bring about their plan. Nevertheless, a certain number of them, joining their foreign brothers, went at once to enlist individually in the French Army, and later, in the American Army, distinct contingents, definite units were even constituted, which took part in the liberation of their country and have thus, still more officially, taken part in the war.

As for the sacrifices Lebanon made because of its having from the first taken side with the Entente, they are plain to everyone.

Over half its population was wiped out through exile, hanging and systematic famishing at the hands of the Turks. With due proportion, this country is among those which suffered most owing to the attitude it adopted and preserved until the end.

The Government of Mount Lebanon, enlightened by experience, its soil having been trampled on for over half a century through the numerous and consequently rival influences, and having realised the immense harm caused to the country and with a view to obtain a much desired union as well as preserve its dignity, intends to avoid in future the errors of the past.

Conscious of the inability of the country, especially at the start, to develop its resources unaided, deprived as it is of financial means, and technical advisors, the Government has sought the collaboration of a great power. One only could be thought of, France. Her liberal principles, her time honoured traditions, the benefits Lebanon never failed to receive from her in hard times, the civilisation she diffused throughout made her prominent in the eyes of all the inhabitants of Lebanon. Consequently the Administrative Council faithfully expressing public opinion, unanimously requested the collaboration of France.

In our opinion such a collaboration does not imply the least abandonment of our rights, the slightest abdication of our independency. The help thus given us will be that of a long experience, sparing us the mistakes which a newly-born community is unavoidably liable to make, giving us an umpire whose decisions will be accepted by the various groups in our country, and lastly safeguarding our independency from any possible attempt.

We must say a few words about our relations with Syria.

Between the two countries interests are closely connected. Syria requires our ports and mountains, we require her plains. Absolute separation would be detrimental to either. And yet Lebanon could [Page 4] partake of the Syrian integrality, while retaining a distinct personality, only under the condition that Syria should profit by the same French collaboration. Lebanon would prefer the danger of its isolated position to the double peril of being drawn into the track of a country deprived of Government traditions and much less advanced in its evolution, or to be the possible sufferer in the quarrels that would unavoidably arise from a dual collaboration.

We ardently desire to strengthen the various ties which join us and our neighbours. This wish will be accomplished when the new Government of Syria gives satisfactory tokens of vitality, ability and tolerance. The only means to this end seems to reside in entrusting one Power only with this collaboration.[”]

M. Clemenceau then called on Negile Bey Abdel Malek to speak.

Negile Bet Abdel Malek, then read the following statement:

(b) Statement by Druse Delegate “As a Druse Delegate, I beg to be allowed to add a few words to the declaration which has just been made on behalf of the whole delegation, in order to render more precise the sentiments of my fellow believers.

We ardently wish for our country to be independent under recognition of our rights and prerogatives. On the other hand we know the advice and experience of a friendly and unbiased power to be necessary to our evolution.

With the conviction that any Government based on theocratic principles, while putting us in danger of being absorbed in a majority of a sectarian nature, would be particularly detrimental to us, we ask that the necessary help should be given us by a power whose liberalism and spirit of tolerance would constitute a guarantee to us.

Moreover we are anxious to see Lebanon partake of the Syrian integrality, while retaining a distinct personality, in order that the bonds should be tightened, which must of necessity bind her to Syria and that those of us who live there could come in close contact with their fellow believers. In order to achieve this result we are of the opinion that the collaboration of France, especially qualified to conciliate the various tendencies and interests non [now] existing side by side, must not be confined to Lebanon, but must extend to the whole of Syria. On this unity of collaboration it will depend that our national aspiration come to reality.[”]

M. Clemenceau next called on Abdel Halim Hajjar to address the Conference.

Abdel Halim Hajjar, Mussulman Delegate, read the following statement:—

“The claims that our delegation has been entrusted with defending before the Peace Conference in the name of the people of Lebanon have been clearly explained by our President.

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As a Mohammedan Delegate, I wish to make more precise, on certain points, the sentiments of my fellow believers.

(c) Statement by Mussulman Delegate We are of opinion that it is necessary for our country to be helped by a friendly power in order to achieve its full development.

On the other hand, we are convinced that such a help would only completely satisfy our aspirations, if it made itself felt within recognition of our independence and in the direction of a democratic Government, free from any religious and theocratic form. The spirit of liberalism and religious tolerance in France prompts us to trust this power and beg for its help.

We are moreover convinced that France’s collaboration must extend to the whole extent of the Syrian territory. We are of opinion that the unity of collaboration is necessary to the evolution of the various groups of which it is constituted towards the national unity of the country.”

(The Delegates, having been thanked by M. Clemenceau for their statements, then withdrew.)

2. Mr. Lansing said that he had certain additional remarks to offer in regard to the question which had been discussed the previous day, relating to the passage of troops and supplies through Holland.2 He would call on General Bliss to make a statement on his behalf.

Passage of Troops and Supplies Through Dutch Territory: General Bliss said that after referring to the documents in the American archives relating to this question, he found that he had yesterday correctly stated the facts of the case. The question of the passage of troops and supplies through Holland had first been mentioned in a letter addressed by General Pershing to Marshal Foch on January 15th last. In that letter General Pershing had submitted a request that all the Allied Armies of occupation should obtain, firstly, the right to transport supplies of all sorts through Holland, including gasoline, oil, etc., but not including military munitions, and, secondly, the right to withdraw their forces, military equipment and supplies via Rotterdam. (a) Concessions Granted by Holland to U. S. A.

When the question had been taken up with Holland, sufficient stress had not been laid on the second point, and, therefore, the Government of the United States had taken up the question direct with the Dutch Government, through their representative at the Hague. As a result of the latter démarche, on the 15th February a telegram had been received by the American Headquarter Staff stating that the two requests made by the United States of America had been accorded by the Dutch Government, namely: the transport of supplies (not including material of war) through Holland, and the withdrawal by [Page 6] the Rhine of troops and war material. The American Government thus obtained permission to use Rotterdam as a base for the supply of materials, but the American Government was not thereby accorded the right, desired by Great Britain, of conveying troops and munitions of war through Holland to Germany. Consequently, no precedent had been created, and the demands of the Allies in this respect could not be based on the concessions already accorded to the United States of America.

(b) Draft Telegram to Holland Mr. Balfour remarked that nothing could be clearer than General Bliss’ statement—it was clear that the concessions made by Holland to America were less than Great Britain demanded. On the other hand, the British authorities held that it would be impossible for them to maintain their forces in the occupied areas along the Rhine unless the right of importation was granted, as well as that of exportation. He did not himself feel competent to argue how far that necessity existed, but he would call on the British Chief of the Imperial General Staff to put the military case to the Conference.

General Sir Henry Wilson said that the British authorities wanted permission to bring troops up the Rhine as well as down the Rhine. The congestion on the railways was such that it was impossible either to demobilize or to forward reliefs to the British forces on the Rhine. The British had some 70,000 to 80,000 young troops to send to the occupied areas, and unless this could be done, it would be impossible for the British troops to be ready to march into Germany should the necessity arise.

Mr. Lansing said he appreciated the situation in regard to the replacement of troops. Everyone was anxious to aid in every way to make it easy to send troops. The last two paragraphs of the draft,3 however, were so worded as to give the impression that something was being asked as a matter of right, whereas it was not a matter of right. The paragraphs appeared to contain a threat, and, therefore, in his opinion, required some amendment.

Mr. Balfour expressed a doubt as to whether the last two paragraphs were really open to that interpretation. He did not pretend to judge international questions, but the appeal made was not to the technicalities of international law, but to the consideration of a situation without precedent. To obtain a durable peace an armistice had been made, which Germany had accepted. The armistice involved the necessity of moving troops, and this could not be done unless the Dutch yielded on the point in question. Should the Dutch entrench themselves behind the duties of Neutrals and refuse to facilitate a military action by nations, who, as a matter of fact, were still belligerents, he could give no good answer. But he would [Page 7] appeal to the Dutch to take a broader view. It was true the Allies were not at peace with Germany, but if Holland wished to facilitate an early peace, it could do so by helping in the manner suggested. Consequently he did not think the Allies went beyond the moral principle of the matter in telling the Dutch that “the matter was so grave and urgent that the Five Powers must express the earnest hope that the Netherland[s] Government will consider the question of giving their immediate consent; failing which the responsibility for the state of things which might ensue, and which might endanger both the general peace and the flow of food and supplies into the countries of Western Europe, will fall upon the Netherlands Government”.

This message only stated the fact that if the Dutch adhered to their view, a very serious situation would thereby be created.

M. Sonnino pointed out that the vital question had not yet been put to the Dutch. Holland had accorded to the Americans the right of passage for supplies, and she would no doubt extend the same right to all the Allies. But, in regard to the transport of troops, the question had still to be put to Holland. Should Holland refuse, it would be difficult to see how pressure could be applied without violating those very principles for which the Allies had fought, namely, the integrity of neutral territories. The only reason that could be given for putting pressure on Holland was “Necessity”, but no neutral need recognize that reason. The humanitarian side of the question, namely, the transport of food and other supplies, had been accepted by Holland. But as regards the military question, it would only be possible to urge the reasons given by Mr. Balfour, that is to say, that a refusal would result in a prolongation, of the war. It would, however, be impossible to go beyond that, though possibly in international law some distinction did exist between the transport through neutral territory of troops, arms, munitions and supplies.

Mr. Churchill wished to insist on the practical side of the question. If 80,000 troops could not be sent by the Rhine route, a lesser number of troops would have to be maintained in the occupied territories, and the promises made to Marshal Foch would not be fulfilled. That would be the inevitable result. The Dutch Government had in principle accepted all that was asked for. It did not object to troops being sent down the river, why should it, in logic, object to troops being allowed up the river? The principle was, therefore, already accorded. Obviously the Allies could not go to war with Holland on that question, but she would, by her refusal, have placed herself in antagonism with the Allies, a position which she could not well afford to maintain.

Mr. Balfour thought that he could perhaps suggest certain slight alterations in the last two paragraphs of the draft despatch, which would meet Mr. Lansing’s difficulties.

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M. Clemenceau said that, for his part, he would be sorry to see any toning down of the text of the telegram. As Mr. Churchill had said, Holland could not appeal to the question of principle, because she had already allowed troops to be moved in the opposite direction. The fact could not be overlooked that Holland had allowed 2/300,000 Germans to cross the province of Limburg. These 300,000 Germans would now have been prisoners of the Allies but for the action of the Dutch. Holland greatly feared the consequences of the act she had thus committed. She feared the Allies might call her to account, especially in view of the claims to Limburg so ably set forth a few days ago by M. Hymans.4 It would not be necessary to pursue the argument, but it should not be lost sight of. Holland would not forget it. About a fortnight ago influential members of the Dutch Government, in conversation with members of an Allied Government, whose names need not be mentioned, had displayed considerable anxiety about Limburg, and had begged that Holland should not be made to pay for her act. They had even offered to bring a certain person to Paris to give evidence on the subject before that Conference.

It would not be necessary to recall the incident in writing to the Dutch Government, but he thought that in the present state of mind of the Dutch, the demands of the Allies would quickly receive satisfaction. For that reason he (M. Clemenceau) strongly supported Mr. Churchill’s proposal, and asked his colleagues to do the same. The question was a serious one. It was well known how great were the difficulties, and the congestion of traffic in the North. It was not intended to commit any warlike act. It was not intended to reinforce the Allied troops in Germany. It was merely intended to substitute units in order to carry out certain demobilisation arrangements. He (M. Clemenceau) therefore urged that the text proposed be adhered to. Should Holland refuse, the Allies would be in a position to bring forward further arguments, without actually resorting to threats. The Dutch felt guilty and feared the consequences. And, when the time for making territorial adjustments came, there would be ample opportunities for obtaining satisfaction. But he thought that a simple and rather discreet allusion to the Limburg incident would suffice to obtain the desired concessions.

Mr. Lansing held that his reason for objecting to the despatch being sent was that it constituted an admission that the Limburg act was right, since the Allies proposed to do the same.

Mr. Balfour replied that he could not accept Mr. Lansing’s contention for two reasons. Firstly, the substantial reason, that the course proposed by the Allies would cause no injury to Germany, whereas the act of Holland had caused an injury to the Allies by [Page 9] depriving them of 300,000 prisoners. Secondly, a request was being made to Holland, whereas the Limburg act had been carried out by the Dutch on their own authority.

Colonel House enquired what alterations Mr. Balfour proposed to make in the draft telegram.

Mr. Balfour said that he had made certain alterations in the last two paragraphs of the telegram, which would now read as follows:—

“In these circumstances the five Powers, sensible of the solemn duty which lies upon them to see that their efforts directed to the speedy conclusion of a durable peace for the benefit of the whole community of nations, earnestly request the Netherlands Government to cooperate with them to this end by facilitating in every way the movements of troops and supplies across Dutch territory strictly for the purpose agreed upon with the German Government under the terms of the Armistice.

The matter is so grave and so urgent that the five Powers must express the earnest hope that the Netherlands Government will see the necessity of giving their immediate consent; failing which the responsibility for the state of things which may ensue and which may endanger both the general peace and the flow of food and supplies into the countries of Western Europe, will fall upon the Netherlands Government.”

He suggested that the text of the telegram as amended should be accepted.

Mr. Lansing said he would accept the telegram as amended.

M. Clemenceau laid particular stress on the fact that he accepted the amendments introduced by Mr. Balfour with regret, and wished that his regrets should be recorded.

Baron Makino pointed out that this was the first time he had seen the draft telegram. He was only too ready to associate himself with the Allies, but before engaging his Government he would like to obtain the views of his military advisers.

M. Clemenceau held that the matter was one which called for immediate action. He thought, therefore, the four Powers should act at once without awaiting the results of Baron Makino’s reference to his Government.

Baron Makino agreed to this procedure being followed.

It was agreed that the four Allied and Associated Powers (United States of America, British Empire, France and Italy), should forward the following despatch to their representatives at the Hague for presentation to the Dutch Government:—

“The four Allied and Associated Powers consider it of vital importance in the interests of the general peace which they are earnestly striving to conclude at the earliest possible moment, that the preliminary arrangements already entered into with the enemy to this end, shall be effectually carried out.

Those arrangements provide, among other things, for the occupation [Page 10] of the German territories left of the Rhine by Allied and Associated troops, and necessarily cover all measures which are essential for the purpose of effecting and maintaining such occupation, including the actual transport of the troops and supplies to their destination.

Owing to the extreme congestion of the railways in Belgium and Northern France the most serious difficulties are being encountered in carrying out the arrangements which have been agreed upon by both parties and which cannot be allowed to fail except at the risk of gravely imperilling the early establishment of a satisfactory peace.

A ready means exists to meet this difficulty; and that is the utilisation of the communications by rail and by water across Holland.

The German Government having assented to the arrival of the troops on German territory cannot be, and in fact are not, interested in the routes to be followed in journeying to the Rhine, and no question of an infringement of any rule of neutrality therefore arises out of the transit of the troops across Dutch territory.

In those circumstances the four Powers, sensible of the solemn duty which lies upon them to see that their efforts directed to the speedy conclusion of a durable peace for the benefit of the whole community of nations, earnestly request the Netherlands Government to co-operate with them to this end by facilitating in every way the movements of troops and supplies across Dutch territory strictly for the purposes agreed upon with the German Government under the terms of the Armistice.

The matter is so grave and so urgent that the four Powers must express the earnest hope that the Netherlands Government will see the necessity of giving their immediate consent; failing which the responsibility for the state of things which may ensue and which may endanger both the general peace and the flow of food and supplies into the countries of Western Europe, will fall upon the Netherlands Government.”

3. M. Clemenceau suggested that General Alby or General Wilson should, in the first place, give some explanation regarding the military situation in Russia.

The Policy of the Allied and Associated Powers in Russia: (a) Military Situation in Russia Mr. Churchill agreed and asked that General Alby be permitted to make his statement.

General Alby then read the following statement:—


Northern Front (Archangel Region and Murman Region)

The Bolshevik forces, assuming a vigorous offensive have forced the Allied contingents to fall back considerably between the Vologda railway and the Dvina. Although the British C.-in-C., General Ironside, states that he is master of the situation, the latter continues to be rather disquieting and reinforcements have had to be hastily brought up from the Murman district. Their arrival to the South of Archangel can only be late and scattered, owing to the distance and the difficulties of communication.

The following forces are now on this front, viz:—

Archangel region Murman region
Allies 15,000 13,000
Bolsheviki 21,000 3,000

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Western Front (Baltic, Lithuanian and Polish Regions)

In the Petrograd region and on the Finnish frontier, the Bolshevist forces are few in number and not of much military value. General Mannerheim5 considers that he can easily take Petrograd unassisted, if the Allies were prepared to support him and to provision the city.

In Esthonia the Bolsheviki, after having taken nearly the whole of the country, have suffered an absolute defeat. Local contingents, reinforced by Russian and Finnish volunteers, have thrown them back beyond the Narva and beyond Valk.

In Courland and Lithuania the Bolsheviki, having taken Riga, Evinsk and Vilna, are marching on Kovno and Grodno and approaching the German frontier. It appears to be certain that they are working in agreement with the Germans, following close on the heels of their retreat, without hastening it. The Germans are now [not?] only supplying them with arms and war material, but are preventing the local (Lithuanian and Polish) contingents from defending their country.

Further South, the Bolsheviki have taken Pinsk and are advancing on Brest-Litovsk.

The following forces are now on this front, viz:—

Petrograd-Esthonian region Courland-Lithuanian
Anti-Bolsheviki 32,500 ?
Bolsheviki 20,000 55,000


Southern Front (Ukraine Don-N. Caucasus-Caspian)

In the Ukraine, the Bolsheviki are advancing rapidly and without difficulty, and have already taken Kieff, Harkoff, Ekaterinoslav, and a large portion of the Donetz: They may soon meet the Franco-Greek troops occupying Odessa and Herson. The Ukrainian (Vinichenko-Petloura) Directorate, whose contingents have mostly dispersed or gone over to the Bolsheviki, is about to take refuge in Galicia.

Further East, the left wing of Krasnoff’s troops—which have hitherto fought well against the Bolsheviki near Veronej and Tsaritzin—has had to fall back on Novo-Cherkask and Rostoff (which are now threatened), in order to avoid being caught in the rear by the Bolshevist advance in the Donetz region.

The Volunteer Army alone has been able to maintain its position favourably in N. Caucasus, but General Denikin, who has just become C.-in-C. of all the anti-Bolshevist Russian forces in South Russia, will now be obliged to use them for reinforcements to strengthen Krasnoff’s seriously threatened left wing.

On the Caspian, the British—who have taken Baku and Krasnovodsk (the Trans-Caspian railhead)—appear to have assured naval supremacy by means of their armed steamers. They are trying to get into touch with the anti-Bolshevist Cossacks in the Urals, via Gourioff. The Bolsheviki have, on the other hand, taken Astrachan, on the mouth of the Volga.

The following forces are now on this front, viz:—

Allies 130,000 { 156th French Division 10,000 } The 7,000 remaining men of the Division are about to be transferred.
Bolsheviki From 180,000 to 200,000.

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The Allies could, however, bring up to this front:—

2 French Divisions (from Roumania) } About 100,000
2 Greek Salonika
1 Italian Division Bulgaria
1 English Salonika

and also various Roumanian divisions, now doing nothing in Bessarabia and Roumania, which could furnish a further 100,000 men.


Eastern Front (Urals and W. Siberia)

The Siberian victory at Perm was not followed up. The Red armies again resumed the offensive on the entire front, and, by taking Orenburg, were able to separate Doutoff’s6 Cossacks from the bulk of the Siberian Army and to link up with the Soviet forces from (in?) Turkestan.

The situation is causing General Janin7 anxiety. The Siberian troops are insufficiently trained and their moral[e] is weakening. The officers are poor or undisciplined.

The best elements (the Czecho-Slovaks) had to be sent to the rear to rest and to guard the Trans-Caspian railway, which was threatened by Bolsheviki in Siberia.

The forces now opposing each other on this front (excluding Turkestan) are as follows:—

Allies 120,000
Bolsheviki from 130,000 to 140,000


To sum up, the Red forces are at present advancing on all fronts, with the exception of Esthonia. By these successes the Bolsheviki are gaining:—

very decided moral advantages;
a very considerable amount of supplies, (agricultural products in the Ukraine and in Turkestan, and minerals in the Donetz).

These successes are due to:—

the superiority of the Red armies both as regards men and matériel.
their undoubted improvement as regards organisation and discipline.
lack of cohesion in the opposing forces, which are badly equipped and of poor moral[e].
systematic propaganda for which no expense is spared, and which everywhere precedes military action.

There are, however, irremediable sources of weakness in the Red Army, such as:—

The lack of any nobler feeling, terror and the hope of loot being the only means of making the men obey orders.
A High Command and General Staff of very unequal quality, with gaps in various ranks and services.
Very inadequate communications.
Insufficient technical equipment (heavy artillery, aircraft, &c.), owing to lack both of experts and of raw materials, which renders manufacture or even repairs impossible.

[Page 13]

Thus the Red Army owes its success to the fact that, up to the present, it has never encountered adversaries superior to it as regards either numbers, supplies, or moral[e].

Being better officered and equipped, even though numerically inferior, regular Allied troops would easily defeat it. Such a success could be won at very slight cost, provided that powerful technical means (such as armoured cars and bombing aeroplanes) were employed, which equipment the Bolsheviki entirely lack and the action of which their unequal moral[e] would make it impossible for them to withstand.

(On the suggestion of M. Clemenceau, it was agreed that General Alby’s statement should be circulated to the Conference).

(b) Prinkipo Conference Mr. Churchill said that everyone there present knew the reasons which had led the Conference to adopt the policy of Prinkipo. Since then a month had passed and no decision which made any effect on the forces of the Allies had yet been reached. On the other hand, as General Alby’s statement had shown, very disastrous events had been taking place in Russia during that period. In his opinion, it was essential to try and bring the faction[al] war in Russia to an end, and Great Britain adhered entirely to the position previously taken up. But if Prinkipo was not going to come to anything, the sooner it could be got out of the way the better. At the present moment all military action was paralysed by suspense, and there was very grave danger that as a result, the Allied and friendly armies would gradually melt away. The British Government held the view that that process of disintegration was proceeding very rapidly, and that the existing friendly armies would probably be the last, which it would be possible to raise against Bolshevism. Consequently, it was essential, either to carry Prinkipo through to a definite result, or to get it out of the way. With this object in view he had drafted a wireless message which he submitted for discussion. This telegram would, he thought, have the desired effect of settling affairs within a certain limit of time. The effect hoped for would be either to bring about a discussion at Prinkipo and a cessation of fighting in Russia, or the field would be left clear for such action as the Allies might wish to take.

Mr. Churchill then read the following text of the draft telegram:—

“The Princes Island proposal of the Allied Powers has now been made public for more than a month. The Bolsheviks have replied by wireless on the 6th instant8 offering to meet the wishes of the Allied Powers as regards the re-payment of loans, the grant of concessions for mineral and forest rights, and to examine the rights of eventual annexation of Russian territories by the Entente Powers.

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The Allies repudiate the suggestion that such objects have influenced their intervention in Russia. The supreme desire of the Allies is to see peace restored in Russia and the establishment of a Government based upon the will of the broad mass of the Russian people.

It is solely with this object that the Princes Island proposal has been made. It is not essential to that proposal that any conference should be held or that representatives of the various Russian forces in the field should meet around a common table. But what is imperative is that fighting should stop and stop forthwith. The Bolshevik Government while verbally accepting the invitation to Princes Island have, so far from observing a truce of arms, taken the offensive in many directions and are at the present time attacking on several fronts. In addition they have called up new classes and expedited and expanded their military preparations.

It is therefore necessary to fix a precise time within which the Princes Island proposal must be disposed of. Unless within 10 days from the 15th instant the Bolshevik forces on all fronts have ceased to attack and have withdrawn a distance of not less than 5 miles from the present position of their adversaries’ outpost lines, the Princes Island proposal will be deemed to have lapsed. If, however, within 5 days a wireless notification is received from the Bolshevik Government that they have so ceased attacking, so ceased firing and so withdrawn, and if this is confirmed by the reports received from the various fronts, a similar request will be addressed by the Allies to the forces confronting them.

It is in these circumstances only that a discussion at Princes Island can take place.”

Mr. Churchill, continuing, said that simultaneously with the above message, or something like it, he would propose the immediate setting up of an Allied Council for Russian affairs. This Council should have political, economic and military sections, with executive powers within limits to be laid down by the present Conference. In that way continuity of policy, unity of purpose and control would be obtained. He thought the council should get to work during the period before the Prinkipo proposal could be disposed of one way or another, for the proposed Council would be useful whatever happened in regard to Prinkipo. The Council would receive general directions from the Allied Governments in the light of what happened at Prinkipo, so that there would be no delay. But he laid stress on the fact that the military section should be formed and should get to work at once. If the Bolsheviks continued to attack and to drive back the Allied and friendly forces, a definite military policy would be required, and it would then be necessary to know what action was possible with the available resources. The military section of the proposed Council should, therefore, be asked at once to draw up a plan for concerted action against the Bolsheviks. The details in regard to the organization of the Council could naturally be worked out in a variety of different ways: But it was essential to have a body [Page 15] whose duty it would be to study the situation and to estimate the forces the Allies disposed of for the purpose of waging war against the Bolsheviks. Then, if the Prinkipo proposal gave no results, the Supreme War Council would be in possession of a definite war scheme, together with an appreciation of the situation and an estimate of the chances of being able to carry through to success the suggested plans. The Supreme War Council could then make their choice: either to act, or to withdraw their troops and leave everyone in Russia to stew in their own juice. But in any case, the Supreme War Council would have been placed in a position to enable) it to arrive at a decision. His proposal, therefore, contained two definite lines of action. Firstly, that a wireless message be issued with the object of bringing the Prinkipo proposal to an issue. Secondly, that a scientific and careful study of the situation be carried out in order to be ready with a plan of action in the event of the Prinkipo proposal falling through.

In conclusion he wished earnestly to bring the following facts to the notice of the Conference. A month ago a meeting had been held in London at which it had been decided that the Russian situation was so serious as to demand the immediate acceptance of a policy. A month had passed, and no decision had been reached. The situation in Russia did not brook delay. It was essential that some policy should be laid down. The alternatives were these—either to prepare some plan of military action in Russia, consistent with the resources available, or to withdraw the armies and to face the consequences of abandoning Russia to her fate. Before the war Russia was the counterpoise of Europe. Now the balance was maintained by large British and American armies. The British forces were being demobilised and the American forces were going home. He himself did not believe that Germany could resume war at the present moment, but he begged his hearers to consider what the position would be in five or ten years’ time. The population of Germany was twice that of France. The number of conscripts annually available would be almost three times as great. If, in addition, the Allies abandoned Russia to her fate, would it be possible to make sure that Germany would do the same? Would it be possible to make certain that Germany, either by alliance with the Bolsheviks or with the other parties at present friendly to the Allies would not in the near future become the supreme influence in Russia? It was only from Russia that Germany could derive those resources which she had lost through the loss of her colonies and through her defeat on the Western front. But should Russia fall into her clutches, Germany would thereby become stronger than ever. In his opinion Russia was the key to [Page 16] the whole situation, and unless she formed a living part of Europe, unless she became a living partner in the League of Nations and a friend of the Allied Powers, there would be neither peace nor victory. He would therefore implore the Conference to take up the Russian question and to pursue it unceasingly until a policy was agreed on. The terrible situation which faced the Allies in Russia compelled him to speak in very direct terms.

Mr. Lansing agreed that with a few changes in the text the message could be sent, but as regards anything like the formation of a policy or the creation of a Council, he thought no action should be taken until an opportunity for consultation had been given.

Mr. Churchill expressed the view that the creation of the Council might be postponed, but he considered it essential that the military section should forthwith be constituted.

M. Clemenceau agreed that the Supreme War Council could, without any inconvenience, call upon its military advisers to study the question.

Colonel House proposed that a decision in regard to the creation of a Council should be postponed until Monday next. He was willing to agree, however, to the immediate despatch of the proposed wireless.

Baron Sonnino pointed out that there were two questions to be decided. A military question and a question which entailed negotiations. As regards the military question he agreed that it was most urgent; that a policy was essential and that delay would be very dangerous. In his opinion it was not a question of what would happen in five or ten years’ time. The danger to be faced would have immediate reaction in all Allied countries.

M. Clemenceau asked that the military question should be considered at once as being most urgent.

Mr. House proposed that the military question should be adjourned until Monday, and that the Conference should confine itself to a consideration of the cable.

M. Clemenceau said that he had been completely opposed to Mr. Lloyd George’s proposal, but he had accepted it in order to avoid the introduction of elements of discord into that Conference. But the fact must now be recognised that the original wireless message had not been a great success, either in Europe or elsewhere. The people whose greatest interest it would have been to support the proposals therein contained (he was now speaking of the Russian political refugees of all kinds who continually visited their offices, with petitions for guns, munitions and money)—those people had gone off in a bad temper, instead of taking the unique opportunity offered them by the Conference of indicting Bolshevism and its abuses before the whole world. These people had refused to go to Prinkipo, whilst [Page 17] the Bolsheviks had offered the Allies money. When people got into an awkward situation, they usually made an effort to get out of it. The Conference should not attempt to deceive itself, for that was what it was now trying to do. He thought that it should get out of its troubles as discreetly and as simply as possible. No further reference should be made to Prinkipo. He was not altogether opposed to Mr. Churchill’s draft message, but what was said in two pages could be put in ten lines. It would be very simple to summarise it. Personally, he would prefer to say nothing, but if the Conference insisted upon sending a message, it should be as simple as possible. Why should the whole world be told that this plan had failed. That was already known. Mr. Churchill had described the Allied situation in Russia as cruel and terrible, but he had described it truly. He himself agreed with all that Mr. Churchill had said; and he attached a great importance to the creation of the proposed Council. He did not favour the policy of leaving Russia to her own devices, because she would rapidly fall a prey to the Germans. He favoured the policy of encirclement: the policy of setting up a barrier around Russia. The results of such a policy would be that in the end the Russians would ask the Allies to intervene.

That very moment a telegram had been received to the effect that the Germans had, in spite of the orders issued, attacked the Poles on a wide front, and had already taken two towns. The Germans were endeavouring to meet Marshal Foch with an accomplished fact. He would speak of this matter again presently, because a decision would have to be taken. But he wished to mention it at once, because the Russian policy must be examined in its entirety and Poland was concerned in that policy.

He did not oppose the sending of a new message about Prinkipo. But he foresaw grave troubles, and a decision in regard to military policy in Russia should be reached without further delay. He himself was ready to make new sacrifices, but he did not court defeat in Russia, after having been victorious on the Rhine.

Mr. House thought the question to be decided was how to finesse the situation against the Bolsheviks. In England and America the Russian question had created a very serious situation and the Prinkipo proposal had produced a good effect in circles hostile to the Government. The point to be decided was how best to defeat the Bolsheviks and the German purpose. Unless tact were used, all people east of the Rhine might be thrown against England, the United States of America, and France. It was already being said that England and America were using France as an instrument for obtaining Anglo-Saxon supremacy throughout the world.

Mr. Balfour thought it was necessary to take steps to put the Bolsheviks in the wrong, not only before public opinion, but before [Page 18] those who held the view that Bolshevism was democracy gone astray with large elements of good in it. Personally, he thought Bolshevism was the worst form of class tyranny. M. Clemenceau held the view that public opinion in France was unanimous against Bolshevism, and that any truck with it meant trafficking with the powers of darkness. But other views existed and could not wholly be ignored. He himself had never been sanguine about the issue of the discussions at Prinkipo; but he had perceived certain benefits arising out of the Allies’ declaration of an endeavour to secure peace in Russia. In any case, the Allies had embarked on the Prinkipo proposal, and, if abandoned as M. Clemenceau had proposed, all the advantages gained by the original proposal would be thrown away. Therefore, it would merely be worldly wisdom, having once invested money in Prinkipo, to extract all that was possible from the debacle. He thought, therefore, some sort of message should be sent to the Bolsheviks, which would compel them either to cease hostilities or to refuse negotiations. Such a message would put the Bolsheviks on the horns of a dilemma, and at the same time place the Allies in a better position in regard to public opinion.

Mr. House said that he had never been in favour of the Prinkipo proposal, but it had been embarked upon, and therefore they must go along with it and, if eventually the Allies were compelled to embark on military operations, they would do so in a stronger and better position.

M. Clemenceau said that he knew quite well that his proposal to take no further action in regard to Prinkipo would not be accepted. For that reason he had suggested shortening and simplifying Mr. Churchill’s draft. He thought it right to mention that French opinion had throughout been unanimously opposed to the Prinkipo policy, and the protests had not been limited to France. A violent protest had been received from Admiral Kolchak, who had accused the Allies of having thereby practically disarmed his troops. Were not the Allies responsible to some degree for the recent failures in Russia? The soldiers in the line did not know whether they ought to fight or to await the next armistice. The Allies should not lose sight of that. He (M. Clemenceau) was not reproaching them, but it was nevertheless a fact.

As Colonel House and Mr. Balfour had remarked, the Allies had got into this Prinkipo business, and now they had got to get out of it. He merely asked them to get out of it in as simple a manner as possible. He had no objections to offer to Mr. Churchill’s draft, but he would like it to be made simpler and shorter.

M. Sonnino agreed that the Allies would have to get out of the Prinkipo business. He himself had been opposed to it from the commencement, and he had then expressed the opinion that the [Page 19] Bolsheviks would be the only ones to accept the Allies’ invitation, as it gave the Bolsheviks the means of enhancing their prestige. His predictions had come true, and today the Allies possessed good grounds for abandoning the whole project. It could truthfully be said that the Bolsheviks had ignored the Allies’ requests and had not ceased hostilities, and that the other Governments had not accepted the Allies’ invitation. The matter should therefore be ended. It was proposed to send another message, with a short time limit for reply, say ten or fifteen days. It was said that procedure would lead to no harm. But it would do harm, if by enhancing still more the prestige of the Bolsheviks, the Allies increased still further the state of demobilisation of the friendly Russian forces, and of the Entente troops operating in Russia. Mr. Balfour had said “We must compel the Bolsheviks to acknowledge their errors”. The Bolsheviks would never do that, and ten days hence the Allies would find themselves assailed by new and innumerable difficulties. The Bolsheviks would put forward many excellent reasons to prove that they had been compelled to attack in self-defence, and meanwhile the situation would have become worse, the Allies would have gained no benefits whatever, and the Allied troops would have become even more demoralised.

The Conference wished to create a Council to draw up a military plan of action for these troops, and at the same time measures were proposed which would still further demoralise those same troops. Prinkipo had failed: there was no doubt whatever about that. Prinkipo had, however, proved to the world the friendly desire of the Allies to be at peace with Russia. The Prinkipo policy had been a failure, and the less said about it the better: and the proposed Council should now be asked confidentially to suggest other solutions.

He would accept the proposal to send another message, but the offer to meet at Prinkipo should not be renewed.

M. Clemenceau expressed his desire to support Baron Sonnino’s proposal.

Mr. Churchill said that Mr. Lloyd George was very anxious, should the Prinkipo policy fail, for the Allies to be ready with another policy. But the British Cabinet would never agree, having gone so far, to break off the Prinkipo policy without making it quite clear to the world that that proposal had been sincerely put forward and sincerely pressed, as long as any chance of its succeeding existed. He thought the dignity of the Conference demanded the acceptance of that procedure. The Conference had unanimously adopted the proposal which had been put forward by President Wilson himself. No one should be able to say “You made a false movement, and you abandoned it. The Bolsheviks were about to accept, and you withdrew.” [Page 20] The British Government wished it to appear that they had acted fairly by the Bolsheviks. He had put forward proposals for a military enquiry to be held, but he did not pre-judge the decision. It might be that as a result of that enquiry, no action might be found possible. But, in any case, until the military experts had reported, it would not be wise brutally to brush aside the Prinkipo proposal until alternative plans were ready.

M. Sonnino enquired what would be the result if the Bolsheviks stated that they would stop all hostilities and come to Prinkipo. In ten days’ time it would be impossible to ascertain whether hostilities had really been stopped. On the other hand, the effect would have been to disorganise still further the Allied forces in Russia. His thesis was this: The Bolsheviks had been given a period of time up to the 15th February in which to comply with the conditions contained in the original wireless. The Bolsheviks had not complied with those terms and conditions (the Bolsheviks had continued their offensive). Why, therefore, prolong by ten days the period already granted? The Bolsheviks could not do more than fail to comply, as they had done, with the conditions of the Allies, and in ten days’ time the Allies would be faced with the same situation; but with the additional disadvantage that their own forces would have become further disorganised. He begged the members of the Conference to realise what effect this policy would have, not only in Russia but in Allied countries. The prestige given to Bolshevism was a real disaster in its effect on Allied countries. Consequently, no good effect could be obtained by granting the Bolsheviks this added prestige. The Bolsheviks had been given a chance; why should they be given a second and a third and a fourth chance? He strongly opposed the sending of the proposed message.

Baron Makino said that he also had received messages from Siberia bearing out the statements made by M. Clemenceau as to the disastrous effect the original wireless had created in the minds of all friendly groups in Siberia. At the time that the invitation had been issued to the various groups in Russia, no such consequence had been anticipated. If now a second telegram were sent, it was most important that its intent and purpose should not be misunderstood by the friendly forces in Siberia.

Mr. Balfour wished to ask the military authorities a question of fact. It was being said that the Bolsheviks had pretended to accept, but they had not in reality done so, because they had not complied with the fundamental condition in regard to the cessation of hostilities. But had the Allied troops abstained from hostilities? Or, to put his question in another way: had all the Allied military operations been defensive in their character?

[Page 21]

Mr. Churchill pointed out that during the interval between the dispatch of the invitation and the present moment, the Bolshevik forces had made the most heavy attacks on all fronts.

Mr. Balfour expressed the view that a good many points of great difficulty had been raised that afternoon. He proposed therefore that the further consideration of the two questions: the dispatch of the message and the creation of a Council on Russian Affairs, should be adjourned till Monday afternoon.

(It was agreed to adjourn until Monday, 17th February, at 3 p.m., the further consideration of the two questions relating to the situation in Russia, namely:—

The wireless message in regard to Prinkipo, and
The creation of an Allied Council for Russian Affairs.)

4. M. Clemenceau asked permission to read the following telegram, dated Warsaw, February 14th, 1919, which had been received from M. Paderewski:—

Situation in Poland “German troops have commenced offensive on a large scale in German Poland. They have occupied the towns of Babimost and Kargowa. Their initiative will place them in an advantageous military situation before anticipated cessation of hostilities. Germans are making considerable use of asphyxiating gas. The Polish forces, numbering 25,000, only 10,000 being engaged, are insufficient to stop this offensive. The situation is grave. It is urgent that situation be placed immediately before Allied competent authorities.

(Signed) Paderewski.”

M. Clemenceau, continuing, said that he had prepared a draft reply which he submitted for the acceptance of his colleagues.

(It was agreed that the following telegram should forthwith be sent to Marshal Foch:—

“The Supreme War Council urgently draws Marshal Foch’s attention to the following message received from the Polish Government. It is evident that the Germans have hastened their offensive in order to present Marshal Foch with an accomplished fact.

The Supreme War Council holds the opinion that the line of demarcation between the German and Polish troops fixed by Marshal Foch must be maintained.”)

(The Conference adjourned to Monday afternoon, February 17th, 1919, at 3 p.m.)

February 16, 1919.

  1. British and Foreign State Papers, vol. li, p. 287 and vol. lxi, p. 1023.
  2. See BC–32 (SWC–8), vol. iii, p. 1040.
  3. For the text of the telegram as finally agreed upon, see p. 9.
  4. See BC–28, vol. iii, p. 963.
  5. Gen. Carl G. E. Mannerheim, Regent of Finland.
  6. A. I. Doutoff, Ataman of the Orenburg Cossacks.
  7. Gen. Maurice Janin, of the French Army, Supreme Commander of the Czechoslovak Army in Siberia.
  8. See telegram of February 4, 1919, from the Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs to the Principal Allied and Associated Governments, Foreign Relations, 1919, Russia, p. 39.