861.00/5741: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain ( Davis )21

6222. American representatives in Eastern Siberia have recently reported conversations with Japanese representatives which may be summed up as follows:

“Japanese troops cannot guard the railway under existing conditions. Something must be done to get the confidence of the masses. This might be accomplished by means of a parliament of the self-governing bodies in Siberia. America and Japan should quickly formulate a plan of economic relief else there will be great suffering this winter. It will be impossible to succeed with Koichak as his name is discredited.”

These conversations were reported at length to Ambassador Morris at Tokio and I telegraphed him November 19th in part as follows:

“… It is highly desirable that Koichak remain as the head of any Siberian government. His presence will give continuity to our policy and maintain the force and validity of the democratic assurances given by him in the notes exchanged with the heads of the principal Allied and Associated Governments last May. I still have confidence in his personal integrity and disinterested patriotism. He is favorably disposed toward the United States. He has, however, yielded to what may have been an unfortunate necessity of accepting the cooperation and support of corrupt and unenlightened reactionaries and his present failure is to be attributed largely, I believe, to their presence in his government. There is, of course, on our part the readiest response to the Japanese suggestion that the future government of Siberia include the Zemstvos and other organs of local self-government [Page 482] and be made to rest upon the consent of the masses of the people. Popular contentment is obviously a condition precedent to the development of a capable government and the continuance of the railway operation plan and other economic assistance in which Japan and the United States are cooperating.

With the foregoing considerations in mind I desire you to discuss informally with the Japanese authorities the grave situation which has arisen in Siberia and to make it clear to them that the United States would welcome a solution by which Kolchak would remain at the head of the Siberian government but would have associated with him elements truly representative of the people instead of the reactionaries whose presence has stultified his efforts up to the present. It is not the purpose of this Government to depart in any way from its principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of Russia. It desires above all that the Russians should be allowed to work out their own political destiny in their own way. If it does not appear that it would be acceptable to the Siberian people to have Admiral Kolchak continue at the head of their government, this Government desires that none of its agents should do anything to defeat that will. It is desired only that Japan should know that in view of the relations which have existed in the past between Kolchak and the Allied and Associated Governments and in the interest of securing as orderly a succession of government as possible, it would welcome a solution of the present difficulties through a reorganization of the Kolchak government along democratic lines rather than a complete break with the past, …

The suggestion that Japan is prepared to cooperate with the United States for the economic relief of the people of Siberia is very gratifying and any official suggestion of this kind which may be made should meet with encouragement on your part. For your entirely confidential information I may inform you that I shall shortly recommend to the President that he in turn recommend to Congress, possibly in a special message, first, the continuance of American participation in the Inter-Allied Railway plan, second, the organization of a so-called Russian Bureau, Incorporated, having a capital fund of one hundred million dollars and an emergency fund of twenty-five million, the functions of which would be first, to extend emergency relief in appropriate cases, and, second, to revive normal economic life by financing shipments of manufactured necessities to Russia against exports of raw materials.”

Morris telegraphs November 24 that on the preceding day Viscount Uchida22 sought an interview with him on the Siberian situation: …

“He told me that the Cabinet had recently discussed the critical conditions in Siberia but had reached no conclusion pending a personal and informal exchange of views between us. He explained that the Ministry faced the necessity of formulating a definite Siberian policy and in particular, referred to Viscount Kato’s23 [Page 483] recent criticism and the determination which Kato made for the withdrawal from Siberia of a substantial portion of the Japanese troops. I asked him if Kato’s statement was not made for political reasons. He thought not, as Kato had then weighed his words carefully because, as a responsible party leader, he might at any time be called upon to form a Ministry. He then gave me a detailed description of military conditions in Siberia as reported to the Cabinet by the general staff which indicated that there were some twenty thousand Bolsheviks organized in bands operating between Omsk and Irmen [Irkutsk?]; and that there were some seventeen thousand east of Baikal, chiefly along the Amur Railway. He then stated that the retirement of Kolchak to Irkutsk had greatly heartened all Bolshevik elements east of Omsk and that Japan could not view the continued eastward advance of the Bolsheviks without concern. If the Bed Army should reach the Baikal and come in contact with Japanese troops it would be serious; if, on the other hand Japan should withdraw it would mean the surrender of Eastern Siberia to Bolshevism and would create at once a serious menace to Korea, Manchuria, and indirectly to Japan itself. He then outlined the three possible plans of action: First, entire withdrawal which seems to him impossible; second, the sending of reenforcements at once in such quantities as effectively to crush Bolshevism now; third, the maintenance of the status quo while awaiting developments, only sending such reenforcements as future commercial pursuits might imperatively require.

After repeating that I was expressing simply my personal view I stated that in the first place I thought we should avoid all participation in local intrigues and continue earnestly to support Kolchak. I told him that I had reason to believe that my Government fully shared this view. In the second place, I was personally convinced that Japan and the United States should maintain their present force to protect and continue railway operations, and that I had no reason to believe that the United States contemplated the withdrawal of its troops. Finally, I emphasized my personal conviction that some comprehensive plan of economic relief must be undertaken by our two Governments, acting in the closest cooperation. Without such relief I was certain that the population would become increasingly restless and antagonistic, and that there would be no limit to the number of additional troops required.

I expressed appreciation of Japan’s natural fear of the spread of Bolshevism in Eastern Siberia and the dangerous propaganda which might follow among the masses of China, Korea and possibly to a limited degree in Japan.

Viscount Uchida expressed satisfaction that our personal views were so fully in accord, and stated that he intended to discuss the subject further in a Cabinet meeting. If the Cabinet approved he proposed to instruct Ambassador Shidehara to discuss the entire subject with you in the hope that our Governments might be able to agree on a united policy. He suggested that it might be wise for our two Governments to inquire of Great Britain and France what effect their present policy toward Russia would have on the situation in Siberia.”

[Page 484]

Please take an early opportunity of discussing the Siberian situation with the Foreign Office and let me know the probable future course of the British Government with respect to that region.

Repeat to Ambassador at Paris from whom I should like to have a similar report relating to the attitude of the French Government.

  1. See last paragraph for instructions to repeat to Paris.
  2. Viscount Yasuya Uchida, Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Viscount Takaaki Kato, leader of the Kenseikai party; representative of Japan near Admiral Kolchak.