Paris Peace Conf. 180.03501/56
Notes of a Meeting of the Heads of Delegations of the Five Great Powers Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, Thursday, 18 September, 1919, at 11 a.m.
- United States of America
- Hon. F. Polk
- Mr. L. Harrison
- British Empire
- Sir Eyre Crowe
- Mr. H. Norman
- M. Pichon
- M. Dutasta
- M. Berthelot
- M. de Saint Quentin
- M. Scialoja
- M. Barone Russo
- M. Matsui
- M. Kawai
- United States of America
|United States of America||Mr. C. Russell|
|Italy||M. de Carlo|
The following were also present for the items with which they were concerned.
- United States of America
- General Bliss
- Hon. H. Gibson
- Lt. Col. Greene
- Major Tyler
- Mr. A. Dulles
- British Empire
- Hon. H. Nicolson
- General Gough
- General Sackville-West
- Colonel Kisch
- Captain Abraham
- Marshal Foch
- General Weygand
- M. Tardieu
- M. Laroche
- M. de Montille
- Colonel Castoldi
- M. Galli
- M. Dell’Abbadessa
M. Pichon said that M. Clemenceau would not be able to attend the meeting and that he had asked him to make his excuses for him.
I. M. Pichon said that he thought the question should be examined at once. He did not think it necessary to read the two letters which Mr. Barnes had sent to M. Clemenceau on September 12 and September 17. (See Appendix “A”.) Admission of German and Austrian Delegates to the International Labor Congress at Washington
Mr. Polk said that Mr. Barnes had concluded his letter of September 12 by saying that, as M. Clemenceau had learned on the preceding day, Mr. Polk had refused to involve his Government, although on the previous day he had given both M. Clemenceau and Mr. Barnes to understand that this accomplishment was within the range of possibility. He did not believe that this statement was quite correct. He had talked that morning with M. Clemenceau, who agreed with him. He did not think that it was the duty of the American Government to invite the German and Austrian delegates to attend the Conference at Washington. He thought that if the Council maintained its resolution of September 11,1 and if the German and Austrian delegates were invited to take part in the work of the Congress, the American Government would be entirely prepared to facilitate their voyage and accord the necessary passport facilities, in order that these delegates could go to Washington in anticipation of being invited to attend the Conference. Mr. Barnes had not exactly understood him when he said that the American Government were prepared to invite the delegates.
M. Pichon said that the American Government was ready to facilitate the journey of the delegates and that the American Government would inform the two countries in question.
Mr. Polk said that the American Government would do this if the Council entrusted them with this task and they would not do it on their own initiative. When the question had previously been discussed, the Italian delegate had raised the question of an invitation. M. Clemenceau had energetically refused to agree that this invitation should be sent in the name of the Council and Mr. Balfour and he had held the same view. What Mr. Barnes asked was that the American Government take the responsibility for this invitation and communicate it to the German and Austrian delegates. He felt that this could only be done if the American Government were requested by the Council to do so.
M. Pichon said that Mr. Polk had stated what had occurred. The Conference had rejected the proposal of M. Scialoja and had taken the resolution which was still in force. The question now was whether [Page 256] the American Government would consent to inform the German and Austrian delegates that they could go to Washington, that the necessary arrangements for the journey would be made and that they should await the decision of the Congress at Washington, which alone was able to decide as to whether or not they were to be admitted.
Mr. Polk said that he did not wish to continue a discussion which concerned only a question of form. He was ready to inform the German and Austrian delegates unofficially in the name of the American Government, that they would receive every facility for their journey. He thought the time might be saved if Mr. Barnes, Mr. Gompers and their French and Italian colleagues informed the German and Austrian delegates unofficially that they would undoubtedly be permitted to participate in the Conference.
Sir Eyre Crowe said that he agreed with Mr. Polk that it was simply a question of form. He desired to say, however, that Mr. Barnes, in his letter of the 12th September, proposed simply that the decision taken by the Council on the preceding day be communicated to the German and Austrian Governments through the medium of the Secretariat General.
M. Berthelot pointed out that it had been said that the notification in question should be communicated unofficially. Any communication from the Secretariat General would, of necessity, be official.
Mr. Polk said that the American Delegation were prepared to make this communication, if they were directed by the Council to do so.
M. Scialoja said that he thought it would be desirable to add to the communication that the American Government were prepared to facilitate the journey of the delegates, who should go to Washington before the opening of the Congress, in order that if they were permitted to participate, the work of the Congress should not be delayed. He considered it important that the workmen of the Allied and Associated Countries should be able to say to their colleagues that the Council had not wished to make this invitation official, but that it had taken every precaution unofficially to ensure its decision being communicated to the German and Austrian delegates.
(It was agreed that the American Delegation should be requested in the name of the Conference to communicate to the German and Austrian Delegations the decision of September 11, 1919, regarding the admission of German and Austrian delegates to the International Labor Congress at Washington.)
II. M. Pichon said that on the preceding day General Weygand had been asked to prepare a text of a note to be addressed to the German Delegation. Draft Note to the German Delegation Relative to the Evacuation of the Baltic Provinces
General Weygand then read the draft of the note. (See Appendix “B”.)[Page 257]
Mr. Polk said that the note provided for the evacuation not only of German units, but also of individual Germans, who, after being demobilized, had joined Russian units. He thought that the Allied and Associated Powers would be taking a risk in making a demand which the German Government might not be able to fulfil. He did not know what the United States Government would be able to do, if a situation arose where American citizens had enlisted in Mexican and Cuban units. He felt considerable doubt as to the legal obligations of the Germans in this matter.
General Weygand said that he had received documentary proof to show that the German Government encouraged enrollment of Germans in Russian military units, and paid them by giving them land in Russia. This land did not belong to the German Government and the position of that Government was clearly illegal. General Gough was present and could give the Council much interesting information.
Mr. Polk said that he had also received the same information as to the action of the German Government. He thought that action, such as had been described, could be provided against in the future. But he did not know whether the Council could demand that the Germans now there could be given up. It was a complicated legal question and he would be very glad to hear the views of M. Berthelot and M. Fromageot.
M. Berthelot said that entire companies had passed into the Russian Army. The draft could however be modified, so that note would be taken of Mr. Polk’s remarks.
Mr. Polk said that the question was one of international law, so far as facts were concerned. Mr. Paderewski had shown him documents which proved that these acts were abetted by the War Office at Berlin. He was satisfied with General Weygand’s draft in many respects, but he thought the text too broad.
M. Pichon asked Mr. Polk whether he would be prepared to accept the draft in principle. It would be given to M. Fromageot, who would revise it from a legal point of view.
Mr. Polk said he was prepared to do this, if M. Fromageot collaborated with Mr. James Brown Scott.
Sir Eyre Crowe asked whether the military authorities thought that the threat in the last paragraph of the note was strong enough to have the desired effect.
Marshal Foch replied that he did not think so. It was the fourth communication on this subject, which had been made to the German Government. He saw no reason why it should be treated differently from the others. He suggested that the Council hear the opinion of General Gough.
Mr. Polk asked whether Marshal Foch thought that the threat to use Polish troops would have the desired effect.[Page 258]
Marshal Foch said that it was not only the question of the use of Polish troops; that the Allied Governments should bring pressure to bear with all their power and all their troops. Thus, there would be a beginning of action and the Allied and Associated Powers would be quite ready to march forward if the necessity therefor should arise.
Mr. Polk said that there was a threat of military measures in the last lines of the draft note. There were objections to sending this fourth note, and he thought that the end desired could be accomplished by bringing economic pressure to bear. He was ready on his part to inform the German bankers that they would not be permitted to borrow money in the United States.
Marshal Foch said that he had nothing to say in regard to this suggestion.
(At this moment General Gough entered the room.)
M. Pichon said that the Council would be grateful if General Gough expressed his views on the subject of the Baltic Provinces.
General Gough said that in his opinion the greatest danger in Northern Russia was the German danger. It was far more serious than the danger of Bolshevism. There was no doubt that there was a military plot in this region, and that General von der Goltz was at the head of it. The plan consisted in colonizing the Baltic States and raising a strong Russo-German Army, which would be outside of the territory of the Allies, and, in a certain degree, independent of the German Government. The persons responsible for this movement aimed at joining certain Russian parties, who were represented by General Yudenitch,2 or if not by General Yudenitch himself, then by persons surrounding him. A great many people were ready to accept the German authority, as they considered it a means of regaining their rights and privileges at Petrograd, and in the surrounding regions. The German authorities did not hesitate to make promises to these people in this sense. If the Allies permitted this force to become constituted, the first result would be destruction of the happiness and liberties of the people of the Baltic Provinces. Then, the independence of Finland would be threatened. If the Allies permitted this plot to succeed, a series of murders and fighting and a state of tyranny would result, in the Baltic Provinces and perhaps in Russia. These peoples, instead of being given peace, would be given a sword. There was also a great danger that this Russo-German force would some day be used against the Allies themselves. It was not impossible, in view of the demobilization of the Allies, that the Russo-German forces would outnumber the Allied forces in a few years, [Page 259] and a very grave menace for Europe would consequently result. He believed that the Allied and Associated Governments should insist upon the immediate withdrawal of the German Military Government and of the German forces. It would next be necessary to establish order and to lend assistance to the Governments of the Baltic Provinces, not only in giving them money, but in lending money, to let them pay for the goods which they would need from the Allied and Associated Powers. In other words, commerce should be restored. The Baltic peoples were rich enough to pay. He added that the peoples of the Baltic Provinces were well disposed toward the Allies. They differed very radically from the German and Russian population as well as from their own aristocracy, the Baltic barons, who were the descendants of the former German conquerors. The great middle class population was well disposed toward the Entente and had a cordial hatred of Germany. If the Allies assisted them in organizing, there would be a barrier, not only against Germany, but against Bolshevism as well. These people were radicals and democrats, but had no liking for Bolshevism. They would not accept Bolshevism, unless they were overrun by Germany or deserted by the Allies. In the latter event, they would undoubtedly prefer Bolshevism to German rule. If the Allied and Associated Powers established peace and restored the prosperity of the Baltic peoples, it would be possible to give these peoples a free hand as regards Central Russia, and even to authorize them, if they wished it, to make peace. The Bolshevik danger was nowhere more threatening than in the interior of Russia, and the populations of these districts were desirous of resuming trade relations with the Baltic populations. Such relations would have a desirable effect.
Sir Eyre Crowe said that the question before the Conference was to consider the best means of compelling the German Government to withdraw its troops from the Baltic Provinces. It had been said that the German authorities favored the enrollment of their demobilized soldiers in Russian units. He wished to know what power the German Government had over the army of General von der Goltz, and its commander. He questioned whether Germany had really disarmed. He asked whether, if the demobilization should take place on the spot, it would not facilitate enlistments into Russian units.
General Gough replied that the army of General von der Goltz would obey the orders of his [its?] commander. It was not a fact that the German Government had no authority over these troops, nor that they had favored demobilization on the spot and filled the country with military workmen. The Letts would murder these workmen, if they were left alone. The Germans in Latvia were soldiers. They were not demobilized and obeyed the orders of General von der Goltz. [Page 260] They could impose themselves on this region only by force. It had been intended to found colonies of these men in the Baltic Provinces, but this had not as yet been done.
Sir Eyre Crowe asked whether the orders of General von der Goltz would also be obeyed by isolated soldiers in Russian units.
General Gough said that he believed that they would. He held this opinion on account of a similar case, which had occurred previously. When the Germans had evacuated Riga, they had provoked numerous conflicts. There existed at that time a Landwehr battalion composed of 9000 men, of whom 5000 were Germans. The Commander, Fletcher, was a German, as were most of his officers. In spite of protest from certain persons in the Baltic Provinces, it had been possible to send Fletcher, his officers and men, to Mitau, to join their army, and Fletcher himself had returned to East Prussia. Today this Landwehr battalion was commanded by a British officer, Colonel Young, and there was not a single German in it. There was nothing to be feared on that side. It would be enough if the Germans left the country and the Lettish Government were thoroughly installed, so as to be able to ward against any dangers. There was no doubt of the fact that no German civilian could remain in these regions after the German army had left. They would be massacred by the population immediately.
Mr. Polk asked whether the situation in Esthonia and Lithuania was different.
General Gough said that Lithuania had received more assistance from the Allies and was in a position to restore herself more rapidly. Esthonia, on the other hand, had been abandoned to the Germans for many months.
Mr. Polk asked General Gough what he thought would be the effect if the Allies used Polish troops to force the Germans to evacuate the Baltic Provinces.
General Gough replied that the use of Polish troops would lead to great confusion in the country and there would be ceaseless fighting. In his opinion, it would be advisable to search for other means, for the Allies ran the risk of seeing the Poles defeated and Poland reconquered by Germany. It was necessary to seek means of establishing peace and not of provoking new wars.
Mr. Polk asked General Gough whether he thought that economic pressure could be brought to bear.
General Gough replied that he thought this could be done, but both economic and moral pressure should be used at Berlin. If the German Government acted in good faith and really desired to withdraw these troops, there was nothing to prevent the evacuation of the Baltic Provinces. At the moment, the German Government was [Page 261] really waiting to see which was the stronger, the Peace Conference at Paris, or General von der Goltz. There was no doubt that a plot existed and that the German Government were the masters of its fate, for the German Government were in a position [to] recall General von der Goltz, if they wished to do so.
M. Matsui asked how large the German forces in question were.
General Gough replied that it was difficult to give the exact numbers. The Germans had organized a sort of military cordon which prevented contact with the populations of the regions which the Germans occupied. He believed that the army was composed of from 40,000 to 100,000 men. He believed that the latter figure was too high, but he was not sure. He called attention to the fact that the German forces in the Baltic Provinces were supplied by a railway crossing East Prussia and terminating at Mitau. It would be a simple matter to stop this traffic and thereby endanger the rationing of the German forces. On the other hand, the evacuation of the German troops could be effected by way of Riga, although the Germans alleged that this was impossible. In the Libau district there were five German ships, which could be used for this purpose.
Mr. Polk said that there was also at New York a number of German ships, which would be available.
M. Matsui asked whether there would be a danger of Bolshevism in these regions after the Germans had withdrawn.
General Gough said that this danger would not exist, because the population was anti-Bolshevist, and, furthermore, because the Bolsheviks were anxious to conclude peace with the Baltic Provinces, and were to recognize their independence up to a certain point. In any event, the Baltic Provinces were able to defend themselves by force of arms.
Sir Eyre Crowe said that if the German troops were dependent upon East Prussia for their supplies, the situation would improve after the ratification of the Peace Treaty, which provided for the occupation of Memel and the neighboring districts by Allied troops. The Treaty also provided for Interallied occupation of Allenstein. The army of General von der Goltz would consequently find itself isolated and without liaison with East Prussia, for it could communicate only with a small part of East Prussia, which would itself be isolated. He expected that the treaty would be ratified in about three weeks’ time and suggested that it might be advisable to await the ratification of the Peace Treaty.
General Gough said that this was the case, but that General von der Goltz was not a person who would ignore these facts, and it was quite likely that he had availed himself of the delay by organizing stocks of provisions and munitions which would enable him to maintain [Page 262] himself for several months. It would be preferable to act immediately, for delay gave the Germans two advantages:—in the first place, it constantly diminished the moral influence of the Allied and Associated Governments in the country, by showing that the decisions of the Conference were not obeyed; in the second place, it gave the Germans time to prepare an offensive, if they intended to make one, and to accumulate all that was necessary for this operation.
(M. Pichon thanked General Gough for his statements and General Gough then withdrew.)
M. Pichon said that he had received the amendments prepared by M. Berthelot based upon the observations of Mr. Polk.
M. Berthelot said that the article concerning the Germans isolated in the Russian forces could be changed so as to read as follows:
“mais encore à tous les militaires allemands en groupe ou même isolés, qui sur la suggestion ou avec l’appui des autorités allemandes, ont nominalement pris du service …”3
Sir Eyre Crowe asked whether it was proposed that this text be adopted. He found himself in a somewhat delicate situation, for the original proposal concerning the evacuation of the Baltic Provinces had come from his Prime Minister. It was Mr. Lloyd George, who had proposed that Polish troops be utilized.4 After these proposals had been made, it had been decided that a note should be prepared in this sense.5 The information, which had been given that day, showed that it would not be advisable to utilize Polish troops. The situation therefore was now quite different. If the Allied and Associated Governments did not add a threat and were not prepared to carry it out, the ultimatum would not be effective. Under these circumstances, he hesitated to agree to its being despatched. He asked whether it would not be more advisable to write a note to the German Government, saying that the Allied and Associated Powers did not believe the arguments which the German Government had used, that these Governments knew that the German Government were in a position to insist upon the evacuation being effected, and that they were convinced that the German Government could carry it out. The German Government should be further informed that as they had not effected the evacuation nor paid any attention to the previous notes of the Council, the Allied and Associated Governments proposed to sever all commercial relations with them and to decide upon other measures of a similar nature. In his opinion, it was advisable to make no further [Page 263] demands, but to put the German Government face to face with a fait accompli. Before deciding upon this course, it would be necessary for all the Governments to agree as to the steps which they were prepared to take. So far as he was concerned, he would be glad to consult his Government, for it was probable that there would be complications, so far as interrupting certain steps, which were already being taken, such as the repatriation of prisoners of war, was concerned, and he was not certain that the British Government would agree to the imposition of the blockade. If a decision were taken after forty-eight hours, the members of the Council would have an opportunity to consult their Governments and they could then decide upon the action to be taken.
Mr. Polk said that in awaiting this decision, he would confer with members of the American Delegation and have it made known to Baron von Lersner at Versailles, that the American Government would suspend all financial agreements.
(It was decided to postpone the decision concerning the despatch of a Note to the German Government, relative to the Evacuation of the Baltic Provinces, for 48 hours, in order to permit the various Delegates to consult their Governments as to the various means of pressure which could be brought to bear.)
(At this point Marshal Foch and General Weygand withdrew.)
III. M. Pichon said that the question had been raised on the preceding day and that Mr. Polk had then asked that it be postponed until the following day. Immediate Occupation of Western Thrace by Inter-Allied Military Forces
M. Tardieu read the draft resolution which he had prepared, which was worded as follows: “It is decided that the Bulgarian Government evacuate Western Thrace and the Strumitza Loop. General Franchet d’Esperey will give the necessary instructions for the evacuation and for the occupation of the evacuated territory by Greek troops, (in the region of Xanthi and Gumuldjina) and for the occupation of the remaining territory by Allied troops.”
Mr. Polk said that he believed that the line went too far. Xanthi and Gumuldjina were beyond the line. He could not agree to have Greek troops occupy regions other than those which were to be attributed to them by the Peace Treaty.
M. Tardieu said that he was of the same opinion.
Mr. Polk said that General Bliss and the American Delegation believed that the proposal was a dangerous one and that it would lead to incidents similar to those which had occurred at Smyrna. He thought that trouble in this region was bound to occur and that the Allied Governments did not have the troops at their disposal, which [Page 264] it would be necessary to send there. He objected to the entire proceeding and wished to protest and he would take no responsibility for what might happen for there would be no American troops in that country. He proposed that in the first place the territory should be occupied by French troops and that the Greek occupation should take place after the French occupation.
M. Tardieu said that General Franchet d’Esperey, whom he had consulted, did not believe that trouble would result. He thought, however, that the text of the draft resolution should be altered so as to be satisfactory to Mr. Polk.
Mr. Polk said that General Chretien6 held the same view that he did. So far as he was concerned he could only accept the proposal with the reserve already expressed and because of the fact that no American troops were to be sent. He asked whether it was proposed to maintain the local administration.
Sir Eyre Crowe thought it would be inadvisable for the Council to bind themselves, for the Bulgarians might refuse to take the responsibility.
Mr. Polk suggested that the matter be referred to the Central Territorial Committee.
M. Tardieu said that he proposed to suppress the last two lines of his proposition, from the words “by Greek troops”, and to add a second paragraph, which would be worded as follows: “This occupation will be undertaken first by Allied troops, who will be replaced by Greek troops in the zone indicated on the map enclosed herewith. The local administration will be continued.”
Sir Eyre Crowe asked whether the words “by Allied troops” meant that Greek troops would participate equally in the occupation of the other zone.
M. Tardieu said that this was not meant and that he referred to troops of the principal Allied and Associated Powers.
M. Soialoja said that it should be clearly understood that occupation by Greek troops was to be limited to the zone in question, and that these troops would not participate with the troops of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers in the occupation of the other zone.
Mr. Polk said that it was important that the line should be definitely established before it was brought to the attention of the military authorities.
M. Tardieu said that this matter could be left to the Committee. (After a short discussion, in the course of which Mr. Polk renewed his reservation and declared that the proportion of Greek troops [Page 265] appeared to him too great in proportion to that of the Allied troops, the following resolution was adopted:
- It was decided that the Bulgarian Government should evacuate Western Thrace and the Strumitza Loop. General Franchet d’Esperey should give the necessary instructions for this evacuation and for the occupation of the evacuated territory.
- The occupation should be effected by Allied troops.
- These troops might be Greek in the zone indicated in the map, attached herewith, when the Commander in Chief should consider it possible; the rest of Western Thrace should be occupied by Allied troops, other than Greek troops.
- The local administration would be continued.)
IV. M. Pichon said that the Conditions of Peace would be delivered to the Bulgarian Delegation on the Bulgaria following day at the Quai d’Orsay at 10:30 a.m. Delivered of Conditions of Peace to the Bulgarian Delegation
Mr. Polk said that representatives of the American Press had asked him whether they would be admitted to this ceremony.
M. Pichon said that the meeting would be different from those which had taken place with the German and Austrian Delegates. It had not been anticipated that representatives of the Press would be present. It had been intended to transmit the conditions of peace to the Bulgarians through the medium of M. Dutasta, the Secretary General of the Conference, without any ceremony of any kind. M. Stancioff, the Secretary of the Bulgarian Delegation, had said that he thought this procedure somewhat uncomplimentary to the Bulgarian Delegation. The Supreme Council had then decided that the delivery of the Conditions of Peace should take place at the Quai d’Orsay in the presence of the Council.
Mr. Polk said that he was willing to accept the opinion of the majority, but he wished to place himself upon record as saying that he believed that the Conference had throughout shown a tendency to ignore the presence of the other Delegations. He knew that the heads of some of these Delegations felt that they had been ignored. The Delegation of the Serb-Croat-Slovene State and other Delegations particularly interested, felt that the matter was one which concerned them very closely and that they should be present at the ceremony.
M. Pichon said that it would be possible to invite the Head of each of the Delegations.
(After a short discussion, it was decided to invite to the Ceremony of the Delivery of the Conditions of Peace to the Bulgarian Delegation:
Two Representatives of the Five Principal Allied and Associated Powers, and one Representative of each of the other Allied Powers wiio were signatories of the Treaty.[Page 266]
It was also decided that Representatives of the Press should be authorized to be present at the Meeting and that there should be five Representatives of each of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers and two of the other Powers.)
The meeting then adjourned.
- HD–52, minute 4, p. 185.↩
- Gen. Nicholas N. Yudenitch, commander in chief of the White Russian forces in the Baltic Provinces.↩
- “but also to all German military, in groups or isolated, who upon the suggestion or with the approval of the German authorities, have nominally taken service …” [Translation by the editors.]↩
- HD–53, minute 8, p. 211.↩
- HD–54, minute 1, p. 218; appendix B to HD–55, p. 241.↩
- Gen. Paul Chretien, of the French Army, Commander of the Allied forces in Bulgaria.↩
- HD–52, minute 4, p. 185.↩
- Translation from the French supplied by the editors.↩