Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/28
Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House, Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Friday, May 23, at 4 p.m.
United States of America
- President Wilson.
- M. Clemenceau
- Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
- M. Orlando
- United States of America
|Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B.||Secretary.|
|Professor P. J. Mantoux||Interpreter.|
1. Information From Germany Mr. Lloyd George read a communication which had been circulated by the Secretary-General from Marshal Foch, the gist of which was that the Germans would not sign a peace from Germany of violence, and were preparing a new war, especially against the Poles; that negotiations had been carried on with the Soviet with satisfactory results; and that German noncommissioned officers, who had volunteered to help the Bolshevists, would be collected at Konigsberg. (W. C. P. 838.)
He also read a telegram he had just received from Cologne, where the British representative had had an interview with the Burgomaster just returned from Berlin. The trend of this information was that the German Government would refuse to sign the terms, but that after the advance, the hopelessness of the situation would be realised, and peace would be signed under protest.
2. Proposed South German Confederacy M. Clemenceau handed to M. Mantoux, who read it, an interview between the French General Desticker and Dr. Heim, the Bavarian Deputy, which took place at Luxemburg on 19th May, 1919, in the course of which, Dr. Heim urged that the tendency of the Treaty of Peace was to assist the domination of confederacy North Germany, which was Protestant and Socialistic, and dangerous, instead of promoting what he urged would be a better policy, namely, the formation of a separate Catholic, and consequently Anti-Bolshevik Confederacy in South Germany. (Appendix 1).[Page 900]
3. The Clauses in the Austrian Treaty of Peace (The Naval Clauses for inclusion in the Treaty of Peace were initialled.
Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to forward them to the Secretary-General, for the information of the Drafting Committee of the Peace Conference.)
4. Withdrawal of French Divisions From Italy M. Clemenceau said that he had information that Italian public opinion was very bitter against France. It was a fact, the reasons of which he did not wish to discuss. M. Barrère, the French Ambassador at Rome, who was notoriously a firm friend of withdrawal Italy, had sent him very unpleasant despatches within the last few days. The Marseillaise had been whistled down in Turin, and officers insulted in other places. M. Barrère had made representations to the Italian Government, and suggested that they ought to interfere, in order to stop the storm of abuse in the Press. Today, M. Barrère reported that French officers had been so seriously insulted at Milan that they ought no longer to be left there. There were altogether 1,200 French soldiers at Milan. M. Clemenceau had asked the French War Office if they could not be withdrawn, and had received the reply that Milan was the base of the French troops in Italy, and if the base was withdrawn, the whole of the troops must be withdrawn also. He did not like to do this without consulting M. Orlando. He felt it was dangerous to withdraw, because it would indicate a separation between France and Italy. On the other hand, if he did not withdraw, there was the risk of a very serious incident. He could not take the responsibility of risking such trouble. Today, there was to be a solemn demonstration in the French Chamber and Senate to celebrate the fourth anniversary of Italy’s entry into the war. This had the full approval and support of the French Government. It was at this very moment that these insults to French officers were taking place. He did not accuse the Italian Government, as he knew that M. Orlando had no part in the matter.
M. Orlando said he greatly regretted that he could not deny that the state of feeling in Italy was one that gave cause for anxiety. There were signs of exasperation, partly due to war weariness, and partly to anxiety created by the fact that the questions most interesting to Italy had not yet been settled, and the people could see no way out. Hence, there was a certain mania that Italy was being persecuted. The Government, of course, had nothing to do with these movements, which had latterly been turned against the Italian Government itself. This was the reason of his recent journey to meet his colleagues. On this occasion, he had been told that the situation within the last few days was somewhat better, and that there was a certain calm. He had, at M. Clemenceau’s request, made enquiries about the alleged incident at [Page 901] Genoa, and had been told by the Prefect that there was nothing in the allegation. This was the first he had heard of these latter incidents, and he had not heard of M. Barrère’s representations to the Italian Government. He was informed by Count Aldrovandi that no despatch on the subject had come from the Italian Foreign Office.
M. Clemenceau said that M. Barrère had mentioned the probability that this information might have been kept at Home, and had asked M. Clemenceau to speak to M. Orlando about it.
M. Orlando said he would make enquiry, and give a reply at once. He learned of these incidents with the greatest sorrow and regret.
M. Clemenceau asked that no time might be lost, as he ought to take away the troops at once, if there was not to be a serious incident. In reply to Mr. Lloyd George, he said that he saw no particular object in leaving the French troops in Italy, except that the moment was inopportune to take them away. It would also involve the withdrawal of the two Italian divisions from France.
M. Orlando said that he believed there was only one brigade of French troops and one brigade of British troops now in Italy.
(Mr. Philip Kerr entered.)
5. Russia President Wilson, at the request of his colleagues, read the attached draft despatch to Admiral Koltchak, prepared by Mr. Kerr, at the request of the Council. (Appendix II.) President Wilson expressed doubts as to whether the memorandum would be acceptable to General Denekin and M. Tchaikowsky.
Mr. Kerr said that both these de facto Governments had recognised Admiral Koltchak as the central Government of Russia.
Mr. Lloyd George suggested that a copy of the despatch might be sent to General Denekin and to the Archangel Government.
M. Clemenceau objected to the proposed abolition of conscription as one of the conditions.
M. Orlando agreed.
President Wilson said that although he had been in favour of it, he regretted that the Covenant of the League of Nations had not abolished conscription.
Mr. Lloyd George said that he did not wish to press the use of these particular words in this document, but he was convinced that somehow or other, conscription must be got rid of in Russia. Otherwise, he was apprehensive lest Russia might raise six millions of soldiers and, sooner or later, Russia might come into the German orbit.
President Wilson asked if Mr. Kerr was sure about the alleged declaration by Admiral Koltchak, recognising Russia’s debt as an obligation.[Page 902]
Mr. Kerr then read the following telegram from Mr. Klioutchni-koff1 to the Ambassador in Paris:—
November 27th, 1918.
Please communicate the following to the Government to which you are accredited.
“The Russian Government at the head of which stands Admiral Koltchak remembering that Russia always kept all her obligations towards her own people as well as other nations to which it was bound by conventions, presumes it necessary to announce in a special declaration that it accepts all obligations incumbing [sic] to the Treasury and will fulfill them in due time when Russia’s unity will be again achieved. These obligations are the following: Payments of interests, redemption of inner State debts, payments for contracts, wages, pensions and other payments due by law, and other conventions. The Government declares at the same time all financial acts promoted by the Soviet Powers as null and void, being acts edicted by mutineers.”
President Wilson observed that Lenin’s suggestion, that the Russian debt was our principal pre-occupation, had been resented.
Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that in this draft, it was only mentioned that Koltchak had made this statement, but it was not made a condition.
M. Clemenceau again earnestly asked that the reference to the abolition of conscription might be removed.
President Wilson asked if recognition of Admiral Koltchak depended on the conditions laid down in the despatch.
Mr. Kerr replied that it did not. Acceptance of these proposals was a condition of the continuation of assistance and no mention was made of recognition.
President Wilson pointed out that the versions which had previously been suggested, insisted not only on the free election of the Central Legislature, but also of regional bodies, for example, in the territory administered by Koltchak, Denekin and the Archangel Government.
Mr. Lloyd George said that para. 2 went as far in this direction as was now possible. To ask the Russian groups to hold elections in the middle of a war, when great confusion must prevail, would be to ask too much.
President Wilson suggested the substitution of the words “to promote elections” instead of “to permit elections.”
Mr. Lloyd George asked whether this was fair. Koltchak had latterly made a very big advance and there must be considerable confusion in his rear. In these circumstances, he could not fairly be asked to promote an election. It had not been found possible to [Page 903] hold an election even in the United Kingdom during the war. Much less was it possible in France or in Italy. In Russia a Constituent Assembly had been elected within the last two years or so by universal suffrage, and had only been got rid of by the Bolshevists, because it was not sufficiently extreme. Nevertheless, it had been a thoroughly democratic body.
M. Clemenceau said Russia should be allowed to choose.
Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that the memorandum permitted this. It provided that if an election could not be held, the Constituent Assembly should be summoned when Koltchak reached Moscow.
President Wilson pointed out that the memorandum could only with complete truth be applied to the British Government, which, he believed, alone had supplied Russia with munitions etc. The United States had only supplied the Czechs, but this supply had stopped. They had not furnished supplies to Koltchak.
M. Clemenceau thought that France had sent very little, mainly because Great Britain had to supply the shipping. He would like to make enquiries on this.
President Wilson suggested that the declaration might be made by the British Government only, since they alone were literally in a position to make this declaration, but it should be made with the avowed approval of the Associated Powers.
Mr. Lloyd George suggested that the difficulty might be surmounted by stating in the text that it was the British Government that had supplied more than £50,000,000 worth of munitions.
President Wilson explained that he was in an awkward situation. The British and French Governments had both dealt with Koltchak as a de facto, though not as a de jure Government. Meanwhile, the United States had looked on, and had only helped to guard the railway which was under an International Commission, of which an American engineer was President. His position, therefore, was very anomalous. He would like to consult Mr. Lansing on the subject of how the United States could associate themselves in this declaration without getting into a still more anomalous position.
M. Clemenceau said he would like time to consult M. Pichon. He again raised the question of the inclusion of the abolition of conscription among the conditions which he asked should be removed.
President Wilson suggested the phrase “limitation of armaments and of military organization”.
M. Clemenceau said he would accept that.
M. Orlando also accepted.
Mr. Lloyd George agreed to make this alteration in Mr. Kerr’s draft.[Page 904]
(The subject was adjourned for further consideration.)
6. Ports Waterways, and Railways in the Bulgarian Treaty (It was agreed that the Commission on the International Regime of Ports, Waterways, and Railways should be asked to prepare for consideration, clauses for insertion in the Treaty with Bulgaria.)
Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to notify the Secretary-General of this decision.
The Treaty With Bulgaria. The Position of the United States Representatives President Wilson said that he had instructed the representatives of the United States of America on the various Commissions, that as the United States of America was not technically at war with Bulgaria, strictly speaking, the American representatives ought not to sign the Treaty of Peace with that country. Since, however, through the operation of the League of Nations Covenant, which he presumed would be included in this Treaty, the United States became in some degree a guarantor of the results of the Treaty, the American plenipotentiaries would be entitled to sign, and on this understanding the experts had been authorised to take part in the various enquiries.
7. Military Clauses in the Treaty of Peace With Austria. Armaments of Small States President Wilson drew attention to the statement made by General Bliss at the morning meeting, which seemed to him to carry considerable weight.
M. Clemenceau agreed, but pointed out that it only affected one side of the question.
Mr. Lloyd George urged that the Great Powers should not allow the small States to use them as catspaws for their miserable ambitions. Prussia had begun just as these States were beginning, and at that time, had not a population as large as Jugo-Slavia. Peace had to be made with Austria. Were we to say that Austria was only to have a few thousand men and that Germany was only to have 100,000 men, and yet Czecho-Slovakia was to be allowed 1½ million troops, and Poland, who was insisting at this very moment against the decision of the Great Powers on embarking on imperialistic enterprises, an army of two millions? This was an outrage on decency, fair-play and justice. We ought to be fair even to the German people.
President Wilson agreed that the whole armaments question ought to be settled as a whole.
M. Orlando said he had been thinking the matter over. The consequences of the decisions taken now would be various and of very great importance. The reduction proposed by the military representatives at Versailles would bring the effectives of these States down to the same standard of military strength as Italy had had before the war. Czecho-Slovakia was to have 50,000 men; Italy’s peace effectives had been 180,000 men, although the Italian population [Page 905] was three times the size of that of Czecho-Slovakia. The numbers proposed by the military representatives at Versailles did not amount to disarmament. If compared with the numbers to be allotted to Germany, the Czech-Slovak army would be immensely larger in proportion, half, indeed, as large as the German army, although Germany was many times larger than Czecho-Slovakia. All the world must reduce their armaments.
M. Clemenceau said his view was that this was the most difficult question of all that had to be decided. He saw the point of what Mr. Lloyd George said, but he also saw the other side of the question. He thought they ought to hear what these small nations themselves had to say. At the very moment when they were being charged with part of the debt of Austria-Hungary, they would not be very well disposed towards the Great Powers if they were asked to reduce their armaments. One of the strongest guarantees against German aggression was that behind Germany, in an excellent strategic position, lay these independent States—the Poles and the Czecho-Slovaks. This fact would make it much harder for Germany to renew the policy of 1914. His Military Advisers were opposed to reducing the Polish army owing to the danger to Poland from Russia. The same applied to Roumania. After all that she had suffered would Serbia be content to be reduced to 20,000. The same applied to the Czechoslovaks and the Jugo-Slavs. While he fully recognised the force of Mr. Lloyd George’s remarks he did not quite see how this policy could be carried out.
President Wilson said he had added up the total figures proposed by the Military Representatives and they would only amount to 350,000 men for the whole of Eastern Europe.
Mr. Lloyd George said that the figures given by the Military Representatives were not really an indication of the strength of the armies proposed. Except in the case of Germany, Austria and Hungary, where only volunteer armies would be allowed, the figures would be practically annual figures. For example, if Czecho-Slovakia had an army of 50,000 men and this number was trained for a year, in 12 years she would have an army of half a million.
President Wilson said that he understood from his Military advisers that part of the plan was to limit military equipment.
Mr. Lloyd George pointed to the experience of Great Britain which had had very little military equipment at the beginning of the war, and said that it was very difficult to guarantee that these nations would not manage to provide themselves somehow with equipment.
(The question was adjourned.)
Villa Majestic, Paris, 23 May, 1919.[Page 906]