Paris Peace Conf. 180.03801/5


Notes of a Meeting Held in M. Pichon’s Room, Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Friday, January 16, 1920, at 10:30 a.m.

  • Present
    • America, United States of
      • Hon. Hugh Wallace
    • Secretaries
      • Mr. Harrison,
      • Mr. Winthrop.
    • Great Britain
      • Mr. Lloyd George
    • Secretaries
      • Sir Maurice Hankey,
      • Mr. Leeper.
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau
    • Secretaries
      • M. Dutasta,
      • M. Berthelot,
      • M. Arnavon,
      • M. Massigli.
    • Italy
      • M. Nitti
    • Secretary
      • M. Trombetti
    • Japan
      • M. Matsui,
    • Secretary
      • M. Kawai.

Interpreter: M. Mantoux

The following were also present for items in which they were concerned:

  • Great Britain
    • Mr. Wise,
    • Mr. Philip Kerr.
  • France
    • M. Cambon,
    • M. Kammerer.
  • Italy
    • M. della Torretta.

Mr. Clemenceau stated that, before taking up the Agenda, he would remark to the Prime Minister of Great Britain that he had had a conversation with Mr. Ignace on the preceding day on the subject of the guilty parties to be surrendered by Germany. He had noticed that whilst Great Britain asked France to reduce the number of guilty parties which she claimed, the British were increasing theirs. Such a procedure was not equitable. He therefore proposed that Mr. Ignace have an interview with the British Lord Chancellor and that as soon as an agreement between them had been reached, they should give the Supreme Council the benefit of their conclusions. 1. Surrender of Guilty Parties in Execution of the Treaty With Germany, Art. 228

Mr. Clemenceau said that, with regard to the re-opening of certain trading relations with Russia, Mr. Berthelot would give them an exposé.

Mr. Berthelot commented upon the report of the committee appointed to consider the re-opening of certain trading relations with Russia, dated January 15, 1920. Appendix “A”. 2. Re-opening of Certain Trading Relations With the Russian People

[Page 864]

He added that the representatives of the Russian Cooperative Organizations had met the representatives of the Great Powers two days before and also on the preceding day at two different times; and the Commission thus composed had agreed on the draft which had been circulated.

As had been brought out by the Premier of Great Britain the Commission had recognized that it would be important to be able to trade directly with the Russian peasants in the whole of the interior of Russia; that would be the best way were it successful, to ruin Bolshevism; it would also be remedy for the fall of exchange, as well as to reduce the prices of important products, such as foodstuffs, cereals, etc.

The difficulty of the question lay in that, while refusing to negotiate with the Bolsheviks—a course which would seem to recognize the Bolshevist Government—and while refusing to enter into direct relations with the Bolshevists, there still remained to be found a way of obtaining their assent.

In theory, the argument to put forward in order to obtain that assent, should be that means of living would thus be given to the populations in interior Russia which the Bolshevists were incapable of giving them for the reason that, as Mr. Lloyd George had said it, the Bolshevists could only pay with paper money which had no value, and the peasants were in need of clothing, shoes, medicines, which the Allies alone could give them.

It was therefore not absolutely impossible, in theory, for the Soviet people to say that they would let a certain quantity of wheat, flax, wool or coal go out in exchange for whatever products their populations could get in return. It was, however, to be noted that they would in that case reach another conclusion; they could not send Allied officers or individuals to Moscow to treat with the Soviets; that would be an indirect method of recognition. But the Co-operative Organizations which had offices in London and Paris, as well as in many of the Russian towns, might try and arrive at a direct understanding with the Soviet Government in order to obtain the authorization to export products which those co-operatives themselves could sell. It had indeed been agreed that those organizations would attempt to adopt that system, and the Council would be kept informed. The report which had been distributed and was the result of an unanimous agreement, explained how the system would operate: a direct purchase from the Bolshevists, such purchases, however, being made by the Co-operative Organizations in Russia.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he was in complete agreement on the general terms of the report which had been circulated and explained; he would, however, suggest some slight changes thereto.

[Page 865]

In paragraph No. 8, for instance, he would prefer that the word “Bolshevists” should not appear; also, on the first page where it was stated that “for reconstructing trading relations with the whole of Russia, he would propose that the following be substituted: “With the Russian people”.

It was important that the Powers should be shown to be sympathetic towards the Russian peasants.

On the whole, he was in complete agreement and thought the report which had been signed by the representatives of France, Italy and Great Britain was a good one.

Mr. Nitti said that he had no remarks to make.

Mr. Matsui approved it, but said that he would reserve his Government’s approval.

Mr. Wallace said that he would refer the resolution to Washington.

It was decided:

to refer the question to the Commission which had drawn up the report for the latter to carry out the terms of the agreement approved.

Mr. Wallace and Mr. Matsui would refer the resolution to their Governments for instructions.

In the discussion which followed:

Mr. Kammerer stated that the first thing to be done would be to notify the decision of the Council to the Co-operative Societies. They should, for the present, not go any further, and await the sending of the necessary telegrams.

Mr. Lloyd George wished to ask what would be communicated to the Press.

Mr. Clemenceau replied “as little as possible”.

Mr. Kammerer remarked that they should indeed avoid that the Bolshevists consider the action taken as a starting point for raising the blockade.

Mr. Lloyd George replied that there was no blockade. But, as a matter of fact, it was impossible to keep silent on their decision which would necessarily be revealed by the action of the Co-operative organizations.

Mr. Clemenceau asked Mr. Berthelot to prepare a draft communiqué for the Press.

Mr. Berthelot later read a draft communiqué to the Press concerning the Russian question.

Mr. Lloyd George said that if he understood it well, it had been told them that the Russian Co-operative Societies would not like to appear as if they were taking the initiative in those operations. On the other hand, as the Government of the Soviets was not to participate [Page 866] or intervene, it would be well, perhaps, to state that they acted under the influence of the situation which it had brought about.

Mr. Clemenceau said that, on the other hand, he would prefer that they did not refer to the “regime of anarchy”, and that they substitute the following words therefor: “the regime of interior disorganization then existing in Russia”.

He asked Mr. Berthelot to kindly prepare a final draft and submit it to the Council at the afternoon meeting.

(See Appendix “B”, French press communiqué; Appendix “C”, Anglo-American press communiqué.)

Mr. Clemenceau asked Mr. Cambon to give an exposé of the situation. 3. The Question of Georgia and the Azerbaidjan

Mr. Cambon stated that Mr. Phillip Carr [Kerr], Marquis della Torretta and himself had got in touch on the preceding day with the representatives of Georgia and the Azerbaidjan.

He had informed those gentlemen that according to the decision of the members of the Council of Three [Ministers?]1 the Supreme Council of the Allied Governments had recognized the Governments of Georgia and Azerbaidjan as “de facto” governments. They had then asked them whether they had any questions to put.

The representatives of Georgia were Messrs. Tseretelli and Avaloff; the representatives of the Azerbaidjan were Messrs. Dopchbacheff and Mageramoff, who had spoken in turn.

These gentlemen had first thanked them for the “de facto” recognition of their Governments, but they had gone further: They asked that nothing be placed in the way of the course they were following in order to be completely separated from Russia, and they asked for the assistance of the Powers on financial, military and political grounds so as to liquidate their original situation. They had then put questions to the representatives of Georgia and the Azerbaidjan concerning their interior situation and the danger which might threaten them on the part of former Russia. They had appeared more generally pre-occupied concerning Denikin’s intentions than those of the Bolshevists; but the actual condition of Denikin’s army re-assured them completely on their countries’ future for the time being.

Mr. Phillip Carr [Kerr] had put questions to them on the military situation of both Republics and their answers had not been very definite. They had then pressed them further, and the representatives of Georgia had declared that they could put 50,000 men in the field, and those of the Azerbaidjan approximately 100,000.

Mr. Clemenceau thought that extremely doubtful.

[Page 867]

Mr. Lloyd George remarked that they made very good fighting troops, as they were mostly Tartars.

Mr. Cambon went on to say that their army was composed first, of a regular army with officers, and even ex-General officers of the Russian Army, and second, of a national guard.

Mr. Tseretelli had especially insisted on the fact that he considered that the troops they had then under arms were sufficient to defend both Georgia and Azerbaidjan against a possible invasion, should an offensive come either from the former armies of Denikin, or the Bolshevists, but it would be impossible to arouse the military feeling of their populations to make an offensive warfare, that is to say, a war which would not be solely in defence of the Caucasian territory.

The two Republics had sufficient men to put in the field, but what they lacked was arms and munitions, and they asked the Allies to supply them with such.

Besides, as Denikin’s army had at a previous time re-established the Russian authority in Daghestan, i. e. in the mountainous districts north of the Caucasus, those representatives had asked them that the Council should recognize “de facto” the Republic of the Daghestan so as to constitute a kind of buffer between the threats from the north and the Republics of Georgia and the Azerbaidjan.

Mr. Cambon wished especially to point out the different point of view of the representatives from the two Republics: the representatives of Georgia, on account of their geographical position, were of the opinion that the most important menace against their independence would come from the Russian or Bolshevist Armies, which would follow the shores of the Black Sea, and thought that they would have nothing to fear on the Caspian Sea. On the other hand, however, the representatives of the Azerbaidjan, which was bounded by the Caspian Sea, had declared that the danger lay in that direction: if the Bolshevists pursued the rest of the army of Volunteers (Denikin’s Army) up to the town of Derbent, Bakou would be in dire straits. Once in possession of that town, the situation in the Caspian would be extremely dangerous. There were also some Bolshevist ships in the Caspian Sea which were then ice-bound, and other ships which belonged to Denikin. It was to be feared that the crews of the latter would go over to the Bolshevists at the first opportunity. There was also in the Caspian a ship flying the British flag, but this seemed manifestly insufficient to have the slightest influence.

What he had just said summarized briefly the conversation they had had with the representatives of the two Republics.

Mr. Lloyd George remarked that, as a matter of fact, there were four states in that country; Azerbaidjan and Daghestan were Musulman territories, as he thought; and Georgia and Armenia were [Page 868] Christian, although he was not quite sure to which confession they belonged.

Mr. Clemenceau said that the representative of Armenia had told him that he was a Gregorian, but he had been unable to explain to him what that meant.

Mr. Lloyd George said that it was evident that the recognition “de facto” of the Daghestan which was asked of them might be as wise a step as that of Georgia and Azerbaidjan, especially on account of its buffer position between the North and the latter Republics; what they knew of the history of those countries showed the difficulties which had impeded the Russian armies in their march through the Caucasus. They were not asked for troops: That was a satisfactory point, and he thought that they might try to supply them with arms and munitions. The Caspian Sea fleet was in the hands of Denikin, and they had better send out 1500 sailors and ask Denikin to hand over his ships to them. They also had four British battalions at Bakou which might either remain there, if that proved to be useful, or be withdrawn. He was strongly in favor of the Daghestan’s recognition: that step would give great satisfaction to the Mohammedans, as it would mean two Mohammedan Republics in that part of the world. The Allies also had plenty of munitions which they might send. The difficulty lay in finding transport for arms and munitions to be sent into these Republics.

Mr. Clemenceau remarked that he thought most of it had gone to the Soviets through Denikin’s army.

Mr. Lloyd George said that they might at least send a lot of clothes, etc.

Mr. Clemenceau said that it would be well to examine this question further.

The meeting then adjourned.

Appendix A to ICP–18

Report of Committee Appointed To Consider the Reopening of Certain Trading Relations With the Russian People

The Committee understands that it has been instructed to consider the practical details of a scheme for reconstructing trading operations with the Russian people without recognising officially the Bolshevist Government, and that in particular it is to examine how far it is possible for the cooperative organisations to assist in this process.

The following outline proposals, which are made after taking into consideration the suggestions put forward by M. Berkenheim2 are [Page 869] recommended for adoption by the Conference on the assumption that direct communications between Allied countries and territories occupied by Bolshevist forces are practicable.

The Allied Governments should inform the cooperative organisations that they are prepared to permit the exchange of goods, on the basis of reciprocity, between all Russia and Allied and neutral countries, and should invite these organisations to export surplus grain, food and raw materials from Russia so as to provide exchange for clothing and other goods needed by Russia.
The cooperative organisations would then communicate by wireless with their headquarters in Moscow, and enquire whether the cooperative movement was prepared to undertake the responsibility for handling the export and import of goods and whether such exchanges were practically possible. Representatives of the Paris or London office of the Cooperative Organisations would at once proceed to Moscow to discuss details.
The cooperative headquarters in Moscow would ascertain whether it would be permitted to export grain, flax, etc., and whether transport and other necessary facilities would be afforded to it.
On receipt of a reply the cooperative headquarters would then communicate its decision to its Paris representatives.
If the cooperative headquarters are prepared to undertake the responsibility, M. Berkenheim and the other officials of the cooperative organisation would then be prepared to make definite contracts to supply grain, flax, etc., from Russia, provided that they were financed at the beginning up to 25% of the full value of the contracts either direct or through British French or Italian cooperative organisations or private traders.
The balance of the credits required, they would themselves provide from their own resources in London, Paris, etc., or by arrangement with the British French or Italian cooperative movement or private bankers or traders.
They would immediately proceed to start the shipment of goods purchased with these credits to the Black Sea or the Baltic ports any loss falling on them if the goods were confiscated or destroyed.
With regard to transport, the cooperative headquarters at Moscow would endeavor to secure at least four complete trains for use to and from the Black Sea ports. If this was impossible M. Berkenheim and his associates would utilise some of their credits for purchasing trucks and locomotives in allied countries. They would in any case send out a number of motor lorries to assist the railways.
As soon as it became clear that grain started to be moved out of Russia and that the Bolshevists were offering no resistance, the [Page 870] contracts would of course be considerably extended so as to cover the full amount of at least 1 million tons of grain which it is estimated can be exported within a reasonable time.
  • E. F. Wise
  • A. Kammerer
  • della Torretta

Appendix B to ICP–18

Draft of a Communiqué for the Press

The Supreme Council has taken up, and has attempted to remedy the cruel situation and isolated position of the populations in the interior Russia who are deprived of all manufactured products and supplies from abroad as a consequence of the profound internal disorganization reigning in Russia.

Qualified Representatives of the powerful Co-operative Societies whose organization and union extends to all the regions of Russia, and who have established a system of offices abroad, notably in London and Paris, have been in touch with the Council of the Allies. Their proposal to attempt to organize, apart from political interference, a regular exchange of merchandise (Russian cereals, food stuffs, and raw materials in exchange for clothing, shoes, manufactured products of all kinds, and medicines) has been taken up by the Supreme Council.

The humanitarian efforts in no way imply any modification in the policy of the Allies with regard to the Soviet Government. Only those directly concerned will, themselves, independent of any governmental action, endeavor to establish a current of exchanges which is essential not only for the well-being of the inhabitants, but for their very existence.

Appendix C to ICP–18

Press Communiqué re the Decision To Permit the Exchange of Goods on a Basis of Reciprocity Between the Russian People and Allied and Neutral Countries

With a view to remedying the unhappy situation of the population of the interior of Russia, which is now deprived of all manufactured products from outside Russia, the Supreme Council, after having taken note of the report of a Committee appointed to consider the re-opening of certain trading relations with the Russian [Page 871] people, has decided that it would permit the exchange of goods on the basis of reciprocity between the Russian people and Allied and neutral countries. For this purpose it decided to give facilities to the Russian Co-operative Organizations which are in direct touch with the peasantry throughout Russia so that they may arrange for the import into Russia of clothing, medicines, agricultural machinery, and the other necessaries of which the Russian people are in sore need, in exchange for grain, flax, etc., of which Russia has surplus supplies.

These arrangements imply no change in the policy of the Allied Governments towards the Soviet Government.

  1. CM–l, minute 5, p. 958.
  2. Alexander Berkenheim, Chief of the Foreign Directorate and Vice-president, All-Russian Central Union of Consumers’ Societies.