860c.00/31: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Commission to Negotiate Peace

3443. For Polk and repeat to London for Ambassador’s information.

Your 4575, October 8, 3 a.m., last sentence.57 In connection with the exchange of notes with Admiral Kolchak, the President and the heads of the other principal Allied and Associated Governments, the President informed Mr. McCormick58 last June in response to an inquiry made by the Russian Ambassador, Mr. Bakhmeteff, at the time that, while he desires the maximum of autonomy and self-government for the Baltic Provinces he does not understand that at this time any commitment has been made as to their independence but that on the contrary the sovereignty of Russia remains unimpaired. On this basis the Department has addressed a letter to the Lithuanian National Council in New York the essential parts of which follow:

“As you are aware, the Government of the United States is traditionally sympathetic with the national aspirations of dependent peoples. On the other hand, it has been thought unwise and unfair to prejudice in advance of the establishment of orderly, constitutional government in Russia the principle of Russian unity as a whole.

Accordingly, when the President, in common with the heads of the other principal Allied and Associated Governments, proffered Admiral Kolchak aid in bringing about in Russia a situation conducive to the establishment of orderly, constitutional government, it was especially stipulated, inter alia, that failing an immediate agreement between Lithuania and the new Russian Government, an arrangement would be made in consultation and cooperation with the League of Nations and that pending such an arrangement Russia must agree to recognize Lithuania as autonomous and to confirm the relations which might exist between the de facto government of Lithuania and the Allied and Associated Governments.

[Page 724]

It is believed that this arrangement assures the autonomous development of Lithuania, together with the other nationalities comprised within the former Russian Empire, and wisely leaves to a future natural adjustment the determination of the relations which shall exist between them and the new Russian Government.”

The Russian Ambassador here deprecates the policy of Great Britain which he believes encourages too much the nationalist movements in the Baltic Provinces. He argues that these States cannot be made an effective barrier against German penetration into Russia; the effective barrier is Russia itself and the wisest policy would, therefore, be to protect the integrity of Russia supporting the Russians rather than the separatist movements. In this way he argues that the Baltic problem would be simplified by the recognition of Kolchak and I am disposed to share the Ambassador’s views.

You will observe that the above quoted letter is in keeping with the line of policy suggested and is a logical step toward recognition of Kolchak. I should be glad to have your views as promptly as possible.

  1. “Although the British Government has already recognized the de facto independence of Lithuania and the other Baltic states and has dealt with them as such, I am in doubt whether this is an opportune moment for us to consider such recognition, involving as it does the question of the partitioning of Russia. Polk” (File no. 861c.00/31.)
  2. Vance McCormick, chairman of the War Trade Board.