Paris Peace Conf. 180.03201/29

FM–29

Notes of a Meeting of the Heads of Delegations of the Five Powers Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Wednesday, July 2, 1919, at 3:30 p.m.

  • Present
    • America, United States of
      • Hon. R. Lansing.
    • Secretary
      • Mr. L. Harrison.
    • British Empire
      • The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, M.P.
    • Secretaries
      • Mr. H. Norman.
      • Sir P. Loraine Bt.
    • France
      • M. Tardieu.
    • Secretaries
      • Capt. de St. Quentin.
      • M. de Beam.
    • Italy
      • M. Tittoni.
    • Secretaries
      • M. Paterno.
      • M. Bertele.
    • Japan
      • H. E. Baron Makino.
    • Secretary
      • M. Kawai.
  • Also Present
    • America, United States of
      • Prof. Coolidge.
      • Dr. R. H. Lord.
      • Mr. A. W. Dulles.
      • Major D. W. Johnson.
      • Mr. Whitehouse.
    • British Empire
      • Mr. A. Leeper.
      • Hon. H. Nicolson.
      • Maj. Temperley.
    • France
      • M. Laroche.
    • Italy
      • Comte Vannutelli-Rey.
      • Colonel Castoldi.
    • Russia
      • M. Maklakof.
Joint Secretariat
America, United States of Lieut. Burden,
British Empire Capt. Abraham,
France Capt. A. Portier,
Italy Lieut. Zanchi.
Interpreter—Prof. P. J. Mantoux.

1. M. Tardieu explained that M. Pichon was unavoidably prevented from attending the meeting. He asked Mr. Lansing to take the chair.

Question of Bessarabia Mr. Lansing asked M. Tardieu to take the chair himself.

[Page 9]

M. Tardieu did so. He said that he had been asked to open the discussion on Bessarabia by explaining the views of the Committee which had studied the question. He read the Report made by the Committee:—

“The Committee, after taking into consideration the general aspirations of the population of Bessarabia and the Moldavian character of that region from the geographical and ethnical points of view, as well as the historical and economic arguments, pronounces itself in favour of joining Bessarabia to Rumania.

It considers that this measure should be effected in a form which will safeguard the general interests of Bessarabia, more especially as concerns its relations with the neighbouring countries, and which will guarantee the rights of minorities in conformity with the provisions of the League of Nations.”

Since the Committee had reported, a protest had been received from M. Tchaikowsky1 on behalf of the Russian Committees in Paris, protesting against any annexation by Roumania, and stating that Russia could not recognise any such act, and further alleging that the Roumanian troops had behaved in a very arbitrary manner in the country. M. Tchaikowsky ended by demanding a free plebiscite.

Mr. Lansing said that the practical question was to know whether a decision regarding Bessarabia could find a place in any of the Treaties of Peace.

Mr. Balfour pointed out that he had made the same remark on the previous day. He had thought it was important to do all that was necessary to complete the Treaties first. M. Clemenceau, however, had thought the Bessarabian question pressing and had therefore urged that it be taken up. Mr. Lansing, however, had pointed out that no resolution could be adopted on the subject, and this statement had not been met by any dissent.

Mr. Lansing observed that the powers accorded to him as plenipotentiary were limited to the negotiation of Peace. They did not enable him to deal with a conflict between two friendly Powers. President Wilson, no doubt, might have been able to deal with such a question. He himself was not in that position.

M. Tardieu said that it had been decided on the previous day to hear a Russian and a Roumanian representative. They had been asked to come, and each would doubtless say what he thought should be the frontier line in Bessarabia. Should the two agree, which he admitted was not likely, Mr. Lansing would not be placed in the difficulty to which he alluded. Should they not agree, the Council would then be forced to see what further action could be taken. He would point out, however, that it was difficult to make a Treaty with Roumania if one [Page 10]of her frontiers were left gaping. He suggested that M. Maklakof should be heard.

Mr. Lansing agreed to this, but pointed out, however, that if any resolution were asked for, he could not take any share in it. He had given this warning in order that no false impression should be produced.

(At this stage, M. Maklakof entered the room, and was asked by M. Tardieu to express his views on Bessarabia.)

M. Maklakof said that two memoranda had already been sent to the Peace Conference on the subject of Bessarabia; he would endeavour to give a gist of the argument. In the first place, he must point out that no portion of the domains of the Russian State could be disposed of by third parties without the consent of that State. Not even the Peace Conference could assume that power. He and his friends had no authority to speak for any constituted Government of Russia. He wished to make this point quite clear at the outset. As to the merits of the question, he would observe that there had never been any agreement between Roumania and Russia, authorising the former to demand Bessarabia. Roumania had entered the war on certain terms. These terms had not touched the question of Bessarabia. Roumania could therefore base no claim on any clause in any Treaty. Neither could Roumania claim the right of conquest. These two arguments being set aside, it was alleged that Bessarabia should go to Roumania by reason of the principle that peoples had a right to dispose of themselves. He would not discuss this principle, subject to limitations, though it might be. He would admit it, and he would further admit that if there were any Russian subjects of Roumanian nationality who wished to unite under one flag with the rest of their countrymen, Russia would be well-advised to permit it. Russia was big enough to make a sacrifice of this kind, but it was the very statement that Bessarabia desired to join Roumania that he challenged. Bessarabia was not a Roumanian country as a whole. Such demonstrations of a desire to join Roumania as had occurred among a portion of the population were mere camouflage. It was on the question of fact that he joined issue and refused to allow the legitimacy of the Roumanian claim. He would point out that the word Bessarabia was often wrongly used. He would not go back to remote antiquity. In the eighteenth century, Bessarabia had been part of Moldavia, which was then a Turkish province. The Christians in those parts had always been under the moral protection of Russia. In 1812, a few months before the Napoleonic invasion, Bessarabia became a Russian province, captured from Turkey. There were at that time some 300,000 inhabitants. At the present time there were some three millions. [Page 11]Over forty years later, the Crimean war had taken place and in the Peace of Paris,3 the territory captured from Russia had been restored to her, in exchange for small areas, and Ismail, and Akkerman had been added to Moldavia. The rest of the country, i.e. the major part, had remained Russian since 1812. Then, in 1878, at the Treaty of Berlin,4 the Dobruja had been added to Roumania, giving her access to the Black Sea, and territory twice as large as the portion of Bessarabia she had held. This small portion was given back to Russia to secure Russia’s access to the Danube. Ethnographically, the last census had not established a Moldavian majority in the country. There was no reason to allege that the statistics had been falsified in any manner. Parts of the country were completely Russian. There were, however, four districts in the centre which were mainly Moldavian. It was only in these districts that the question of a referendum arose. These districts might be united to Roumania should the population really wish it. He would not, in principle, raise any objection. The Roumanians, however, declared that Bessarabia had already expressed its will. This he denied. Immediately after the Russian revolution, municipalities elected by universal suffrage had been set up. They were the best organs for the expression of the popular will. They had not asked to be annexed to Roumania. These municipalities had since been dissolved by the Roumanians, and their representatives had protested against the Roumanian desire to annex the country. The vote, however, had since been secured from the Sfatul Tseri, which was an emanation of the Councils of Workmen and Soldiers, the latter largely composed of Moldavian deserters. This body had resolved to make Bessarabia part of a Russian Federated Republic. This was in December, 1917. In the following March, when Roumania had been forced to accept Peace, and M. Marghiloman5 was in power, this statesman had got into touch with the Sfatul Tseri and obtained from it a vote in favour of joining Roumania, with guarantees of local autonomy. When Roumanian troops had entered Bessarabia, invited to do so, he admitted, even by Russians, in order to re-establish order, the same body, at an interval of six months, had voted for annexation to Roumania, but out of 160 Members, only 46 had voted. It was a matter for surprise that a revolutionary assembly should have voted in favour of its inclusion in a Monarchy. The whole vote, he submitted, was open to suspicion. It had been given during a military occupation of the country, and it was a minority vote of an arbitrarily [Page 12]self-appointed body. If he believed that the people backed this vote, he might be disposed to acquiesce in it, but he felt quite sure that a free plebiscite would yield a completely different result. Therefore, he asked that there should be a proper consultation of the people. He reminded the Council that there had been a time when the catastrophe in Russia imperilled the success of the Allied cause in the War. If the War had ended disastrously, and Roumania had sought compensation from Russia for the losses brought upon her by Russia’s failure to continue the War, he would have understood the Roumanian claim. But Roumania had now come out on the side of the victors, among whom Russia was not. Roumania had got all she had fought for and all she had asked for before the War. Therefore, he protested with the greatest force against the claim now made by Roumania, especially as it was not founded, as alleged, on the desire of the majority of the population. Finally, he would say that if there were districts showing a small Moldavian majority, wishing to join Roumania, he would be disposed to let them go. As it was, he constantly received complaints even from Moldavians in Bessarabia, of the treatment they received at the hands of the Roumanians. The vote of the Sfatul Tseri was being used quite fallaciously to justify what a reasonably conducted plebiscite would undoubtedly upset. He pointed out that) similar votes had been obtained in Lithuania and in Latvia, in favour of annexation by Germany. Any decision annexing Bessarabia to Roumania would be a source of permanent grievance, and would do harm to Roumania, which would not be in a position to absorb an unwilling population. The most he could admit, was a plebiscite in the district in which the Moldavian population was predominant.

(M. Maklakof explained his views with the help of a map, and then withdrew.)

M. Tardieu suggested that M. Bratiano6 should only be questioned regarding the vote alluded to by Mr. Maklakof.

M. Tittoni said that the Council was in full possession of ethnical statistics and that it was unnecessary to hear M. Bratiano on that subject.

(At this stage M. Bratiano, M. Misu,7 M. Diamandy8 and M. Pellivan9 entered the room.)

M. Tardieu addressing Mr. Bratiano said that the members of the Council had studied the ethnological question thoroughly. They [Page 13]would like to know what degree of sincerity and authority M. Bratiano attributed to the vote obtained in the Sfatul Tseri.

Mr. Lansing interposed that it mattered little how that vote had been obtained. It was more important to know how the consultation of the people could be carried out in the future.

Mr. Balfour said that he thought the question put by M. Tardieu arose from the statement made by M. Maklakof.

M. Tardieu said that there was a connection between the two. He therefore asked M. Bratiano to reply.

M. Bratiano said that he believed the vote alluded to did express the will of the people and had been given in full freedom. He admitted the assembly was a revolutionary assembly but similar assemblies had expressed the will of the people in Poland, Czecho-Slovakia and elsewhere. The Roumanian occupation had found that assembly in power and in control of the country. Its authority had resulted from the various successive developments which had taken place in Russia since the downfall of Czarism. Mr. Lansing suggested a plebiscite. Bessarabia, he would point out, was a Roumanian country attached by force to the Russian throne for over 100 years. When Russian autocracy fell, Bessarabia had come back to Roumania. The Roumanians had been called in by the people and even by the only recognised Russian authority at the time, namely, the Ukrainian Government. Difficulties did not arise on the question of nationality. It was the social question that caused all the trouble. The Bolsheviks were dissatisfied with the Roumanian Government merely because it established Governmental order. The agrarian reforms introduced made the peasant pay for the land obtained by the expropriation of the land owners. The land owners on their side grumbled because they were expropriated.

Mr. Lansing said that he wished to put a plain question to M. Bratiano. Would he object to a plebiscite?

M. Bratiano replied that he did. He did so because the choice offered the people would be that between Bolshevism and order. It was dangerous to offer such a choice to a country on the border of disturbed Russia. Should the Roumanians withdraw their troops there would be endless tumult in the country.

Mr. Lansing asked whether M. Bratiano, if given possession of the country, would agree to a plebiscite in two years.

M. Bratiano said that he would not as only revolutionary agitation would result from the knowledge that a plebiscite would take place in that period.

Mr. Lansing asked whether M. Bratiano would object to a plebiscite at any other specified time in the future.

M. Bratiano said that he would object still more strongly, as it would only prolong the agitation. He further begged to be allowed [Page 14]to state that the possession of Bessarabia by Russia was now an anachronism. It had been for the Russian Empire a march on the road to Constantinople. It could no longer serve that purpose. Russia owed Roumania a great debt as being largely responsible for her misfortune. Circumstances pointed very clearly to the best way in which Russia could discharge that debt. It would be by the cession of Bessarabia.

(At this point the Roumanian delegates withdrew.)

2. The following nominations were madeitemAppointment of Commission To Supervise the Execution of the Treaty of Peace With Germany

United States of America. Mr. J. F. Dulles.
Great Britain. Sir Eyre Crowe.
France. M. Tardieu.
Italy. M. Scialoja.
Japan. M. Otchiai.

3. The following: nominations were madeitem— Appointment of Committee To Organise Reparation Commission Provided for in the Treaty of Peace With Germany

United States of America. Mr. J. F. Dulles.
Great Britain. Col. S. Peel.
France. M. Loucheur.
Italy. M. Crespi.
Japan. M. Mori.

4. Mr. Balfour said that he had an explanation to make regarding the form in which the question had been put on the Agenda. He understood that the Committee on Greek Affairs had been unable to deal with the frontier between Greece and Bulgaria without knowledge of the ultimate border line between Greece and Turkey. It was for this reason that he had suggested that the Enos-Midia line be assumed provisionally as a frontier between Greece and the future territory of Constantinople. This could be used as a working hypothesis. Committee To Delimit the Frontiers of Bulgaria

M. Tardieu suggested that the Co-ordinating Committee on Territorial Affairs should be asked to deal with this subject and to hear the various experts dealing with the different frontiers of Bulgaria.

(It was finally agreed that the Co-ordinating Committee on Territorial Affairs should be asked to delimit the frontiers of Bulgaria and to make a report to the Council.)

M. Tittoni gave notice that Colonel Castoldi would take the place of M. Salvago Raggi on the Committee.

5. The following resolution was proposed by Mr. Lansing and adopted:—

“That the Secretary-General of the Peace Conference shall notify the Austrian Delegation that it will be allowed a period of not more than ten days, counting from the date upon which it will receive the last section of the Conditions of Peace, in which to make such counterproposals or observations as it may see fit.”Austrian Treaty: Resolution Proposed by the United States Delegation

[Page 15]

6. Mr. Lansing proposed the following resolution:—

“That the modifications which were made in the Conditions of Peace with Germany as a result of the German counterproposals or for any other reasons, shall, insofar as they may be applicable, be made ipso facto in the Conditions of Peace with Austria.”Austrian Treaty: Resolution Proposed by the United States Delegation

M. Tittoni said that he had a reservation to make. Germany had been given an option of furnishing labour as a means of reparation. Italy had a superfluity of labour and did not desire that labour be offered as a form of reparation.

Mr. Lansing suggested that, if this were the only reservation, the text proposed, together with M. Tittoni’s reservation, be sent to the Drafting Committee for suitable modification and incorporation in the Treaty.

(This was agreed to.)

7. Mr. Balfour observed that he had pointed out on the previous day that the frontier between Austria and Hungary required speedy attention. Austrian Treaty: Frontier Between Austria and Hungary

(It was agreed that the Committee newly set up to answer the Austrian notes regarding frontiers should endeavour to report on the following day.)

8. M. Tardieu pointed out that there was a clause in the draft Treaty with Austria requiring Austria to recognise “the following frontiers of neighbouring countries.” As it was not likely that these frontiers would be completely settled before the signature of Peace with Austria, it was desirable to alter the wording and to require the assent of Austria to frontiers to be fixed later by the Allied and Associated Powers. Austrian Treaty Recognition of Neighbouring Frontiers of Neighbouring States

(This was agreed to, and the question was referred to the Drafting Committee.)

M. Tittoni remarked that he assumed it was established that the ultimate decision regarding frontiers was a matter not for the League of Nations but for the present Conference of Allied and Associated Powers. He wished to make the same reservation as had been made by the Italian Delegation regarding the Treaty with Germany.

9. Mr. Lansing expressed the view that there should be a communiqué.

Mr. Balfour said that he understood the Council to be the lawful heirs of the Council of Four which had issued no communiqués. He suggested that this example be followed. Question of communication to the Press of the Proceedings of the Council

M. Tittoni said that he was indifferent.

M. Makino said that he agreed with Mr. Balfour.

[Page 16]

M. Tardieu asked Mr. Lansing if he insisted on his view.

Mr. Lansing said that he thought it was preferable to issue a communiqué, which could be made brief. His experience was that information always leaked out, through one Delegation or another. The Delegation most faithful to secrecy suffered.

Mr. Balfour said that if the communiqué was so judiciously framed as to contain no information, he was indifferent.

(After some discussion, it was decided that for the present no communiqué should be issued.)

(The Meeting then adjourned.)

Paris, 2 July, 1919.

  1. N. V. Tchaikowsky, President of the Russian Provisional Government of the Northern Region (Archangel) and a member of the Russian Political Conference at Paris.
  2. Treaty of Paris, March 30, 1856, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. xlvi, p. 8.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1878, p. 895.
  4. Alexandre Marghiloman, President of the Council and Minister of the Interior of Roumania, March 12 to November 9, 1918.
  5. Jean J. C. Bratiano, President of the Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Roumania; plenipotentiary to the Peace Conference.
  6. Nicolas Misu, Roumanian Minister at London, plenipotentiary to the Peace Conference.
  7. Constantin Diamandy, Roumanian Minister at Petrograd; plenipotentiary to the Peace Conference.
  8. Jean Pellivan, Director of Justice in Bessarabia.