Paris Peace Conf. 180.03801/8


Notes of a Meeting Held in M. Pichon’s Room, Quai d’Orsay, Paris, Monday, January 19, 1920, at 10:30 a.m.

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

Interpreter: Mr. Mantoux

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

  • Great Britain
    • Adl. Beatty
    • Marshal Wilson
    • Mr. Vansittart
    • Mr. Carr.
  • France
    • Mr. Cambon
    • Marshal Foch,
    • Gen. Weygand,
    • Mr. Laroche,
    • Mr. Kammerer,
    • Mr. Hermite,
    • Mr. de Montille
  • Italy
    • Gen. Cavallero,
    • Col. Castoldi,
    • Mr. della Torretta
  • Japan
    • Mr. Sawada.

Mr. Clemenceau: The first question that arises is that of the telegram that ought to have been sent dealing with the arrangement with the Russian Co-operatives. That telegram has not been sent. Why? 1. Commercial Policy With Russia

Mr. Kammerer: We were waiting for instructions on the point. Last night Mr. Berthelot told me that the telegram could be sent. I stated that, for my own part, we had no objection to its despatch.

Mr. Clemenceau: Were you in a position to raise objections to the despatch of that telegram?

Mr. Kammerer: Not at all, but I had to say that I had not any instructions and that I was awaiting them. In any case the telegram is ready and is going to be sent.

[Page 890]

Mr. Nitti: To arrange the details of execution of the question in the best way possible, it would be well to send it to the Supreme Economic Council.

Mr. Lloyd George: I am in entire agreement. All that ought to be done by the Economic Council and not by the Foreign Ministers.

Mr. Clemenceau: We are then agreed upon that.

It was decided:

that economic questions involving the commercial policy of the Allies in Russia should be dealt with by the Supreme Economic Council.

Mr. Wallace would refer the present resolution to Washington for the instructions of his Government.

Mr. Clemenceau: We will go on to the Caucasian question. I think that Marshal Wilson or Marshal Foch ought first to be heard.

Marshal Foch: A question on this subject was put to the Interallied Military Committee at Versailles: the committee pronounced an opinion. It is to that opinion that I am now going to refer. 2. Situation in the Caucasus

Mr. Clemenceau: You mean, I take it, the pronouncement of the 12th January: that has been circulated; everybody here knows it; have you nothing to add to that? (See Appendix “A”).

Marshal Foch: No, Mr. President, I have nothing to add unless it be that since that time the situation cannot have appreciably changed, that in any case, if it has changed, that can only be to our disadvantage, and consequently that the restrictions we formulated are perhaps even more justified at the present moment.

Sir Henry Wilson: I also am in the position of having nothing to add.

Mr. Lloyd George: What is necessary at the very outset is to collect all available information so as to be in a position to discuss the matter profitably later on.

Mr. Clemenceau: We are agreed.

Mr. Lloyd George: The military advice, if I have understood it correctly, is that no barrier, consisting of less than three divisions would be effective against the Bolsheviks; and Lord Beatty could not send his sailors unless there were already assurance of such effective military measures.

Lord Beatty: I have nothing to add to that statement of the situation.

Mr. Lloyd George: The situation may be regarded from another point of view. With the object of holding up the Bolsheviks, would it be any good to supply the Caucasian Republics of Azerbaidjan, Daghestan and Georgia with guns and war materiel? And if so, ought it to be done immediately?

[Page 891]

Marshal Foch: That question is very difficult to answer from here. Only an officer on the spot would be in a position to say what effective force those countries can muster and whether therefore it is worth while supplying them with anything whatsoever.

Mr. Clemenceau: Does the Marshal suggest entrusting such a mission to an Allied general?

Marshal Foch: There is an English general with Denikin and the French general Mangin is also there.

Mr. Lloyd George: But what I want now is military advice. We have already been asked to send material to those tribesmen. I want to know if that is militarily expedient.

Marshal Foch: I am entirely without information as to whether those populations are ready to receive materiel and to employ it to advantage or whether all that we might send would not simply fall into the hands of the Bolsheviks.

Sir Henry Wilson: In the meeting that took place the day before yesterday and at which we examined the defence of the Batoum-Baku line, the conclusion was reached that unless the British Navy effectively held the Caspian, that line could not be effectively defended: and, inversely, that unless there existed the means of defending that line, it was impossible to send Naval forces into the Caspian. For that matter, unless the Caspian is occupied and held, Baku will certainly fall.

Mr. Lloyd George: I take it then to be Sir Henry Wilson’s advice that we ought not to send war materiel to those peoples to help them to defend themselves against the Bolsheviks.

Sir Henry Wilson: That, Sir, is undoubtedly my opinion if the Caspian is not effectively held by the British Navy—I should then send nothing.

Mr. Winston Churchill: I entirely agree with Sir Henry’s opinion on that point. Indeed, if the Caspian were not held, all that we might send would almost immediately pass into the hands of the Bolsheviks.

Lord Curzon: I should like to add a word. If, as General Wilson says, an Allied military expedition could not succeed, then obviously we ought not to send one, but the present question it seems to me, is not so comprehensive. I have been speaking with the representatives of the Caucasian republics who are at this moment in the adjoining room. They have told me already that the Bolsheviks will attack them; they are anxious to defend themselves, provided we supply them with food, arms and munitions. So supplied, they believe that the danger could be averted. Without supplies, their fall, they say, is inevitable. In any case I suggest that we take no decision upon the matter without first of all hearing them.

[Page 892]

Marshal Foch: I repeat my question: can we inform ourselves sufficiently here? I am willing to accept the discussion which ought to be profitable, but I think that we cannot have really adequate information unless we send actually on to the spot a representative of the Allied Powers.

Mr. Clemenceau: The reason for your remark is, I believe that you did not quite understand what has just been said, to wit, that the representatives of the republics of the Caucasus are at present within the building and that it would be possible to hear them now.

(The representatives of the Republic of Georgia, Messrs. Tsheidze, Tseretelli and Avaloff and of Azerbaidjan, Messrs. Topchibacheff and Magaramoff, were then introduced.)

Mr. Clemenceau: Gentlemen, the Conference has been discussing the urgency of sending to Georgia, Daghestan and Azerbaidjan food, arms and ammunition. We are told that you can give us information about an intended Bolshevist attack upon your people and of the means at your disposal for defence. We wish to know if at this juncture you would be in a position to exploit the help that we might be able to send you. We are quite disposed to do something effective but we want to know the present state of your countries and whether such aid would be effectively used against the Bolsheviks, or whether it is more likely to happen, as it did with Denikin, that the Bolsheviks would be strong enough simply to capture from you the materiel sent and thus to make matters worse.

Mr. Tseretelli: I speak in the name of the Georgian Delegation as well as in that of the Delegation of Azerbaidjan. We are equally likely to be attacked by the Bolsheviks but we do not know whether we shall be or not. Were we helped by the Entente, the Bolsheviks might hesitate to attack us. In any case, we need the material assistance of the Great Powers if we are to defend ourselves.

Mr. Clemenceau: Am I to understand that you are asking us to send troops also?

Mr. Tseretelli: That would be better still; but the mere fact of being protected on the sea and receiving the arms, munitions and food we require, would be an invaluable help. The state of mind of our people is such that, should the Bolsheviks attack, and if at the same time we received the material support of the Entente, we hope to defeat every attack. But such material aid is necessary immediately. We would like in any case to point out that the present situation in the Caucasus is dangerous from the point of view of the morale of the populations. When Denikin was in our land, our despairing peoples fought his troops by every means in their power, and a current of sympathy with the Bolsheviks appeared. Today, our people see their independence recognized and we are convinced that [Page 893] all the forces of the Highlanders will be used to resist a Bolshevist invasion and to defend our independence. It is under those circumstances that we build so much hope upon receiving help from the Supreme Council. We do not wish war: we are even ready to come to an agreement if that were possible, with the Bolsheviks, but only upon the condition that they also recognize our independence.

Mr. Clemenceau: You would really sign an agreement with the Bolsheviks?

Mr. Tseretelli: Yes, on condition that they pledged themselves not to invade our country and that they did not try to introduce propaganda among our people. But I must repeat, if we were strong, and the Entente were to help us, the Bolsheviks would be obliged to recognize our independence and give up their attempts.

I should nevertheless like to point out that there are three Trans-Caucasian Republics—Georgia, Azerbaidjan and Armenia. We would like to know why Armenia has not received de facto recognition. That recognition would help us all and render easier resistance to any aggression whatsoever. But, in short, it is in immediate help that our hope of resistance lies.

Mr. Lloyd George: How many men can Azerbaidjan put into the field?

Mr. Magaramoff: A military law has been passed by our Parliament; assuming that we have the necessary arms and munitions, we shall be able to put into the field some 100,000 men.

Mr. Lloyd George: Have you the troops at the moment?

Mr. Magaramoff: We have a little army, in the command of a native Azerbaidjan general, about 50,000 strong, perhaps more, disciplined, but there are only from 10,000 to 12,000 of these men with arms.

Mr. Lloyd George: And in Georgia?

Mr. Tseretelli: We have about 16 battalions of regular troops, each 600 strong and nearly 15,000 men of the National Guard. These are well-disciplined troops. In a fortnight we could mobilize 50,000 men if we had the necessary arms and munitions. But on the other hand in a war for independence we could count upon the support of our whole people, among whom national enthusiasm runs very high. I am myself not a military specialist; but, if the Supreme Council wishes quite accurate information we can ask our Government by telegraph to supply it.

Mr. Lloyd George: Is compulsory military service the system obtaining in Georgia?

Mr. Tseretelli: Yes, and, in the Russian Army, Georgian officers were considered the best. Our troops too, were among the flower of the Russian Army.

[Page 894]

Mr. Lloyd George: Have the young men of Azerbaidjan received military instruction?

Mr. Magaramoff: There was no compulsory military service with us; but at the beginning of the war there were organized detachments of volunteers who distinguished themselves in the Iron Division. We had remarkable officers and generals. It was only two years ago that our Republic was constituted: henceforth all our youth must serve with the colors.

Lord Curzon: Reports that I have received say that a certain number of officers of Azerbaidjan are Turkish officers. Does the presence of these Turkish officers in the army leave us the guarantees necessary in a fight against the Bolsheviks?

Mr. Magaramoff: After the conquest of Azerbaidjan by Russia a great part of the population emigrated 25 years ago to Turkey. Later on, when the Turkish Army invaded the Caucasus, a certain number of its officers were natives of our country and of Daghestan. Among these, some 50 preferred to remain in Azerbaidjan but they are native Caucasians and we can be certain that they, like all our populations, will use their whole energy in fighting the Bolsheviks for the defence of our independence.

Mr. Topchibacheff: We, the inhabitants of Azerbaidjan, dread Bolshevism even more than do our Georgian neighbors. We have had an experience of it. The Bolsheviks occupied our country for four months. I myself, head of a Trans-Caucasian committee, was a prisoner with them for two months and a half.

The danger threatens us from two sides: from the north and from the Caspian. On the Caspian side we hope that the English, who have a naval base at Enzeli, will give us perhaps marines and, in any case, arms and munitions. As for the northern frontier, we believe that in order to protect the whole of Trans-Caucasia, and especially Azerbaidjan, it is expedient to recognize the Republic of the Highlanders, which would then form a buffer state against Bolshevik attacks. These Highlanders are indeed a very brave people.

Mr. Lloyd George: Did the fight against Denikin take place in Georgia or Daghestan?

Mr. Tseretelli: Denikin invaded Daghestan and the fight developed between the Highlanders and him. As for Georgia, it has always been threatened by Denikin; we displayed our sympathy with the Highlanders, who were defending themselves against him.

Mr. Lloyd George: Why did Denikin attack Daghestan?

Mr. Tseretelli: Denikin looked upon Daghestan and all Trans-Caucasia as Russian provinces. He judged it easier to invade those territories than to fight the Bolsheviks; it was against the peoples of the Caucasus that he turned the arms which were supplied to him to maintain the fight against the army of the Soviets.

[Page 895]

Mr. Lloyd George: For that attack had he great forces at his disposal?

Mr. Tseretelli: His forces were fairly large, how large I cannot say, exactly. Anyhow, he had to use a great many men in maintaining the strife of factions in which the Highlanders involved him. The fight lasted nearly a year: I do not know whether it is not still going on. We have no recent news. I believe that Denikin has issued an appeal to his troops. Whatever may be the number of his forces, they are disorganized and demoralized and are doubtless no longer worth very much.

Mr. Lloyd George: What is the Cossack’s attitude towards Denikin?

Mr. Tseretelli: According to reports we have received from Tiflis, confirmed by Mr. Bitch, president of the Kouban delegation, who is in Paris, great discontent reigns among the Kouban population; it is possible that the discontent is already receiving some direction. In the existing situation the Red Army is able to invade Kouban. But resistance to the Bolsheviks is being organized under the direction of Mr. Magaramko, the president of the Rada of Kouban. But it is still necessary to have the guarantee that it is not Denikin who will profit by the defeat of the Bolsheviks.

Mr. Lloyd George: How long has the Kouban Delegation been in Paris?

Mr. Tseretelli: For a year.

Mr. Lloyd George: Is there a separatist movement in Kouban?

Mr. Tseretelli: That is the political tendency of the Kouban Delegation, which is keeping in touch with its own country. That Delegation presented to the Conference a memorandum asking for recognition of the independence of the Kouban Republic.

Mr. Nitti: If I have properly understood Mr. Tseretelli, the real objective of Denikin’s army is the reconstitution of the old centralized Russia, rather than the defeat of the Bolsheviks; is Mr. Tseretelli quite sure about that?

Mr. Tseretelli: I am certain. I do not know Denikin’s personal ideas, but the unanimous opinion was that, had he managed to defeat the Bolsheviks, he would immediately have turned all his efforts towards the reduction of those nations whose independence has been proclaimed. That is not merely my conviction, it is that of all those independent states of which I speak and which defended themselves against him. It is the conviction also of our Azerbaidjan neighbors.

Mr. Nitti: Do you believe that the recognition of the Caucasian Republics, which exist already, or which will be recognized later could arouse the spirit of resistance in the country?

Mr. Tseretelli: I am convinced that that recognition will strengthen resistance to all aggression from whatever side the aggression comes. We entertain the high hope that after the first step [Page 896] which has just been taken, the Supreme Council will go to the full length of recognizing our Republics de jure. That is the hope that sustains the courage of our peoples and our Governments; our population will display all the more zeal as they know that this de jure recognition will come about.

As for Denikin’s policy, he has declared officially several times that he did not recognize the right of our nations to self-determination: in his eyes, we still constitute mere provinces of the old Tsarist Russia.

Mr. Magaramoff: The Georgian Delegate, in explaining the dangers that might menace his country from the direction of the Black Sea, has shown that on that side the Entente could send ships of war. But for us, on the Caspian, the situation is entirely different. Sending ships of war there cannot be thought of. There is a Bolshevist fleet to the North of Petrovsk and a small fleet of Denikin’s between Petrovsk and Baku; finally, at Enzeli, there is an English ship with some small gun boats.

Recently, the Azerbaidjan Government protested against the allocation of a fleet to Denikin; but, at the present moment the volunteer army is beaten and the crews of his fleet, who manifested sentiments of sympathy with the Bolsheviks, are going possibly to join them: hence will arise a danger for Baku and for the defence of all Trans-Caucasia. That is why we should be happy if the Conference would be good enough to take the necessary measures to prevent Denikin’s joining the Bolshevist fleet.

Mr. Lloyd George: Could you garrison Baku if you were given the arms? How many men could you find to defend that town?

Mr. Magaramoff: There is a strong garrison at Baku already.

Mr. Clemenceau: Of how many men?

Mr. Magaramoff: We do not know now, as for two months direct communications have been cut off. Within that time, the strength of the garrison may have varied. However, that may be, two months ago, there were 7,000 men in Baku, all natives of Azerbaidjan, of which state Baku is the capital.

Mr. Lloyd George: Why did Denikin not receive the support of the peasants in Ukrainia? Why did they abandon him?

Mr. Tseretelli: I think that Denikin was considered in Ukrainia the representative of the counter-revolutionary movement which was going to take the land from the peasants and restore it to the nobility. He was looked upon as a man who had placed the Ukraine under the yoke of a centralized government reminiscent of Tsarism. In fact, both from the social and from the national points of view, the peasants looked upon Denikin as the enemy.

[Page 897]

To avoid all misunderstanding, allow me to supplement what I said a little while ago. I spoke of Kouban. I am not qualified to make known here the aspirations of its population and I cannot say whether the separatist movement is very strong in that region or whether it is merely destined to avert the possibility of a civil war. In any case, I should not like to give the impression that the cause of Azerbaidjan and of Georgia ought to be considered from the same standpoint as that of Kouban. As you know, our populations are, from the national point of view, quite different. For centuries they have lived as independent states. I want it to be clearly understood that all I have said has merely the value to be attached to the information that can be given by a man who has read the newspapers. There is a Kouban Delegation in Paris; only that Delegation is in a position to speak precisely upon the national aspirations.

Mr. Winston Churchill: Was the Kouban Delegation regularly appointed by the Rada?

Mr. Tseretelli: Yes, and its president is the president of the Rada. He is Mr. Bitch, a man very well known in the Caucasian world. He has been here for nearly a year.

(At this point the representatives of Georgia and of Azerbaidjan left the Conference.)

Mr. Winston Churchill: Could Marshal Foch tell us whether he looked upon the question of the defence of the Caucasus as a problem standing by itself or as a part of the problem of the general defence against Bolshevism?

Marshal Foch: I have not considered the problem exclusively from the former point of view. To me it seems obvious that that question is part of the general problem of the defence against Bolshevism.

Mr. Winston Churchill: On which side are the forces at present threatening the Caucasus most formidable, Denikin’s or the Bolshevist?

Marshal Foch: I believe that Denikin’s forces may be considered so far reduced that in a short time they will not exist, but I have no precise information. I have still less information about the Bolshevist army; but it is beyond question that Bolshevism is in the ascendant, that it is led by a great number of German officers, who, having no occupation at home, are going to gain their living elsewhere. We can therefore count upon seeing it still carried on by its own momentum, I would not say victorious but at least penetrating various countries under different guises. In those circumstances, it is high time to establish, wherever we can, at least a barrier.

Mr. Winston Churchill: Does Marshal Foch consider Poland in danger? Is he aware of concentrations of Bolshevist forces in that [Page 898] direction? And assuming that Denikin’s forces disappear, does he think it probable that Poland will be attacked? In that case, when might the attack take place?

Marshal Foch: I do not know that Bolshevist concentrations or attacks are in preparation, but that is quite possible at some undefined future date. Considering the extent of their resources, that seems all the easier; the Bolsheviks are going to have at their disposal vast territories of enormous resources and also, as I already said, German officers who will imprint a military stamp upon bands hitherto rather loosely organized. There is therefore every reason for apprehension. I do not know that they are going to attack Poland but such an attack might well take place. When it does they may easily be strong enough to get the better of the Polish army. Were Russia to recover all its former vast area, any calamity is possible unless serious precautions are taken to meet it. In a word, it is necessary to confront a vast Bolshevist Russia with strong, united efforts. It is not by Poland alone that it must be resisted, but by every state which can collaborate in the effort.

The forces that can be opposed to the Bolsheviks are those of scattered republics organized or unorganized. Passing from Azerbaidjan by the Caucasus there are Georgia, Bessarabia, Poland, Esthonia, Latvia,—all new states which might be placed in a very difficult situation if they were abandoned. If on the contrary they are taken in hand, it is possible to succeed in establishing a system of military forces powerful enough to hold Bolshevism in check.

Mr. Lloyd George: Do you propose a military entente between these different states with the object of attacking Soviet Russia, or, on the contrary, with the object of common defence in case the Bolsheviks attack?

Marshal Foch: The first thing to be done is to stop the advancing Bolshevism and to consolidate the states which have just been founded. It is a matter of establishing a defensive organization, a safety belt to protect Central Europe against the advance of the Bolsheviks. That is the goal to be reached first of all.

Mr. Lloyd George: You would not then propose equipping the Polish army to enable it to enter Russia?

Marshal Foch: No, and I go further still. Even if the Polish army were equipped it could not accomplish that task. If I were asked for my opinion I should only propose to realize an “entente” between Poland, Roumania, Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia and Finland. An entente in the first instance, political, with the object of arresting the progress of Bolshevism. That league the Trans-Caucasian countries would join and Bolshevism would thus be surrounded.

[Page 899]

Mr. Lloyd George: Do you know whether the Bolsheviks are preparing to attack those countries?

Marshal Foch: That one cannot know till after the event.

Mr. Lloyd George: Could you now mention a single one of those countries against which the Bolsheviks contemplate a military attack?

Marshal Foch: When that attack takes place, I shall be in a position to reply. I could not do so beforehand.

(At this point the military experts left the Conference.)

Lord Curzon: I should like to explain why, when recognition was given to Georgia and Azerbaidjan, it was not also given to Armenia. I myself was responsible for the original proposal that Georgia and Azerbaidjan should be recognized. Why I did not propose at the same time to recognize Armenia was that the question of Armenia had still to be decided by the Treaty of Peace with Turkey. It was felt that to give recognition at that time would be to anticipate the work of the Peace Conference. Nevertheless, there are now strong reasons for giving recognition to Armenia. The present Armenian state forms part of the old Russian Empire with its capital Erivan, just as did Georgia and Azerbaidjan. Moreover, the Armenian state is prepared to join in the defence of the Trans-Caucasian states against the Bolsheviks. Consequently, I think it would be just and wise to give it recognition on the clear understanding that that does not prejudice the ultimate delimitation of Armenia, the boundaries of which have still to be decided in the Treaty of Peace with Turkey.

Mr. Clemenceau: Are there any objections? As there are none, we therefore agree to recognize the Armenian republic on the condition just proposed by Lord Curzon.

Mr. Winston Churchill: The decision we have just taken being of a diplomatic and political nature, does not solve the military problem. The present situation of the Armenian republic, like that of the other Caucasian republics, remains precarious; attacked by Turks on the south and threatened on the north by the Bolsheviks, its complete extinction is a possibility to be reckoned with.

Mr. Lloyd George: I am informed that the United States Treasury has made a recommendation to Congress that the sum of 25,000,000 dollars should be allotted to Armenia. The recommendation has still to be considered by Congress and the Senate, but I understand that it will probably be adopted. That will be a very material help.

Mr. Wallace: I believe that Mr. Lloyd George’s statement is accurate.

Mr. Lloyd George: That is one very important matter settled. We have now to decide what support, if any, ought to be given to the Caucasian states. Marshal Foch has said that three divisions are necessary. The British Government cannot possibly spare these.

[Page 900]

Mr. Clemenceau: Neither can we.

Mr. Nitti: Italy too cannot send any.

Mr. Lloyd George: We must then find out whether we can send arms and munitions.

Mr. Winston Churchill: That question is bound up with the Caspian problem.

Mr. Lloyd George: That question does not quite arise at the moment but may be considered later on. I do not see that any harm can come of sending arms and supplies. Before the Bolsheviks can reach the Caucasus, they have to pass through the most productive provinces of Southern Russia; consequently they would have no need to capture any food we might send to the Caucasus. As for war materiel, the Reds already have so many rifles that the capture of 25,000 or 50,000 more would not make much difference: they have captured from General Denikin some 600 guns, many of them made in Great Britain and they have also captured some excellent tanks. In those circumstances, the danger from supplying a certain number of guns and rifles to the Caucasian states is not very great. These people claim that they can put up a good enough fight to impress upon the Bolsheviks that it is not worth their while to attack. The chances are, too, that the Bolsheviks do not want to wage a big fight in those regions except in order to secure Baku. For all these reasons, I am of the opinion to supply the Trans-Caucasian Republics with all the material aid asked for, on the express condition that the Caucasian states will resist the Bolsheviks and garrison Baku with all their strength.

Mr. Winston Churchill: I hope that any grant of arms to the Caucasian states will not be deducted from the final “packet” of supplies to be sent to General Denikin.

Mr. Lloyd George: I should like to point out that the final “packet” to Denikin is purely a British affair.

Mr. Clemenceau: Our immediate question is whether arms should now be sent or whether further enquiries on the spot should be made first of all. I myself agree with Mr. Lloyd George and I think that the Council has already sufficient information on the subject. Under these circumstances, I agree with Mr. Lloyd George’s proposal. That I think is the decision that ought to be communicated to the military experts by telling them we have decided to send war materiel to the Caucasus as quickly as possible; and they should be asked to deal with the question of quantity and the means of dispatch.

Mr. Lloyd George: I am in entire agreement.

Mr. Nitti: The Italian Government cannot undertake in this matter any engagement at all, either in men or arms, since to do so would be contrary to a law which has been passed in the Italian Parliament by all parties, including the Conservatives, almost unanimously. [Page 901] The gist of that law is that Italy can take no part in any intervention against de facto Governments, such as that of Russia. The object of the Italian Chamber is to prevent the Bolshevist Government from increasing its strength as a nationalist government. Unfortunately, the Bolshevist government has already assumed a sort of nationalist character.

Mr. Lloyd George: We are going to send that materiel to de facto governments; that cannot be regarded as intervention in Russian affairs, as assistance to Kolchak or Denikin might be.

Mr. Nitti: Intervention in favor of the one or the other is for us impossible. I must conform to the vote of the Italian Chamber.

Lord Curzon: If my information is correct, there is nevertheless a precedent for Italian intervention. Sometime ago, Italy sent arms to the Daghestan, whose cause found warm support in the Italian mission; on the other hand, my information is that much is hoped from the Italian aid at Baku and in the Daghestan.

Mr. Nitti: I cannot do anything officially. There are some Italian interests in Georgia and I believe that Italian volunteers have gone there. Probably I will be able to help this move; it will be impossible, however, to send regular troops, or even to send any materiel officially; if I did, I would have the Italian Government against me, even the Conservatives.

Mr. Lloyd George: It does not matter very much whether the arms are sent officially or unofficially, so long as they reach the Caucasian states.

Mr. Nitti: I may say very confidentially that I could supply arms and war materiel if Great Britain or France will take the responsibility of sending them.

Mr. Lloyd George: We agree.

Mr. Clemenceau: We decide then to accept in principle the supply of war materiel and food to the republics of the Caucasus and to refer to the military experts for their solution the problem just put.

Lord Curzon: Who do you mean by “military experts”?

Mr. Clemenceau: In practice that would be Marshal Foch and Field-Marshal Wilson, since officially we cannot include an Italian representative. If that is done, it ought to be possible to reach a conclusion within forty-eight hours.

It was decided:

that the Government of the Armenian State should be recognized as a de facto government on condition that this recognition in no way prejudges the question of the eventual frontiers of that state;
that the Allied Governments are not prepared to send to the Trans-Caucasian states the three divisions contemplated by the Interallied Military Council;
to accept the principle of sending to the Trans-Caucasian States arms, munitions, and, if possible, food;
that Marshal Foch and Field-Marshal Wilson are requested to consider of what these supplies should consist and the means for their dispatch.

Mr. Wallace will refer the present resolution to Washington for instructions.

Mr. Matsui also reserves the acceptance of his Government with regard to Paragraph 1.

Appendix A to ICP–21

[Report of the Interallied Military Committee at Versailles]

allied military committee
british section

The British Delegation has prepared a Memorandum* on the situation created in the Caucasus by the defeat of General Denikin’s armies, and of the measures to be taken to enable the Caucasian Republics to offer a resistance to the junction of the Bolshevik and Mussulman Forces across their territories.

After a preliminary examination of the question the Allied Military Committee is of the following opinion:—

If it has not been possible to overcome Bolshevism on its own soil, it should be possible to arrest it on certain dangerous routes such as that of the Caucasus.

With this end, the organization of a military barrier on the line of the Caucasus could well be considered.

In view of the unstable condition of the local Governments and of the immature condition of their military forces, this barrier should first of all be organized by European troops, whose strength might be fixed at two divisions.

Eventually these European troops could be relieved by local forces, as soon as the latter shall have been reconstituted, organized and provided with the necessary armament.

Beyond financial and material provision, this organization of the defensive barrier of the Caucasus would require time (a minimum of three months should be allowed).

It would be advisable, therefore, to undertake it without delay.

In the meantime the elements of General Denikin’s armies of the East which, in spite of their reverses, constitute the only force in these regions which has any military value, might advantageously continue the struggle with a view to denying to the Bolsheviks the [Page 903] approaches to the Caucasus and of allowing the necessary time for organizing the defensive barrier.

Consequently, without being able to foresee the period during which their resistance would be effective—probably not a long one—it would certainly be advisable to continue to give them material assistance within the scope of possible action by them.

The military barrier of the Caucasus should be strengthened and completed by the grouping under Allied command of as large a number of ships in the Caspian Sea as possible; thus ensuring the command of this Sea.

It is on these lines—according to the available information on the present situation—that the general conditions of defensive military action in the Caucasus should be drawn up.

If the Allied Governments consider it advisable to undertake such action, the question would remain of considering the possibilities of carrying it out and of examining the best means to that end.

F. Foch

President of the Allied Military Committee

C. Sackville-West

British Representative,
Allied Military Committee

Ugo Cavallero

Italian Representative,
Allied Military Committee

Annexure A

Note Prepared by British Delegation

Present situation caused by defeat of both Kolchak and Denikin.

Bolsheviks having failed to upset Europe have made agreement with Mussulmen to attack the East.

Owing to collapse of Denikin Trans-Caucasus becomes bridge which must be defended by Allies to prevent union of these two hordes.

It, including the Caspian and especially Georgia, is the natural barrier separating these two forces.

At present in consequence of impending advance of Red Army towards the Caucasus the situation in Georgia becomes complicated. Without effective aid Georgia, which is passing through painful economic crisis, will be unable to resist attack from both North and South and crushing of Georgia will have serious consequences for [Page 904] Allies. If Allies will help Georgia will have sufficient courage and strength to defend her frontiers.

As a preliminary measure and before considering the larger aspect of preventing Bolshevik invasion of the East certain steps can and should be taken:—

Recognition by Allies of Georgia and Azerbaijan (this has now been done).
Diversion of all stores, etc. now en route to Denikin, to these Republics and to Armenia.
Additional help by Allies to Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Military stores, especially cartridges and boots.
Provisions, especially bread.
Sufficient military assistance to secure Batum and Baku.
Denying of the Caspian and the fleet to the Bolsheviks. Denikin’s fleet must either be voluntarily sunk or secured for our own use.

  1. Annexure “A”. [Footnote In the original.]