The Secretary of State to the Japanese Ambassador (Shidehara)

The Secretary of State presents his compliments to His Excellency, the Japanese Ambassador, and has the honor to transmit to him herewith a memorandum representing the situation in Siberia.



The Government of the United States has given the most careful consideration to the subject matter of the communication from the Japanese Government which was read to the Secretary of State by the Japanese Ambassador on the 8th day of December,29 and [Page 488] which concerns the recent unfavorable developments of the military situation with which Admiral Kolchak’s forces have been confronted, and which proposes three alternative courses for the Allied and Associated Powers to take.

The Government of the United States agrees that for it to send a reinforcement of sufficient strength and to act on the offensive in cooperation with anti-Bolshevik forces is impracticable.

The Government of the United States believes that for it to continue to participate in guarding the districts now under Allied military protection is also under present conditions impracticable, for the reason that an agreement to send reinforcements to such extent as may be required, with a view to maintain the status quo, might involve the Government of the United States in an undertaking of such indefinite character as to be inadvisable. The amount of reinforcement which might become necessary for the execution of such an agreement might be so great that the Government of the United States would not feel justified in carrying it out.

Consideration has been given, therefore, to the alternative presented by the Government of Japan of entire or partial withdrawal. It will be recalled that the purposes of the expedition as originally conceived by the United States and expressed in an Aide Memoire handed to the Japanese Ambassador at Washington, July 17, 1918,29 were, first, to help the Czecho-Slovak troops, which had, during their retirement along the Siberian railway, been attacked by the Bolsheviki and enemy prisoners of war in Siberia, to consolidate their forces and effect their repatriation by way of Vladivostok;30 and, second, to steady any efforts at self-government or self-defense in which the Russians themselves might be willing to accept assistance.

Not only are the Czecho-Slovak troops now successfully advancing into Eastern Siberia, but an agreement has been effected between the Governments of Great Britain and the United States providing for their repatriation from Vladivostok. American vessels will begin to arrive at that port by February tenth and a contingent of more than 10,000 Czecho-Slovak troops can be immediately embarked. It is expected that evacuation will proceed rapidly thereafter and from that date the first purpose for which American soldiers were sent to Siberia may be regarded as accomplished.

With respect to the second purpose, namely, the steadying of efforts at self-government or self-defense on the part of the Russians, the Government of the United States is impressed with the political instability and grave uncertainties of the present situation in Eastern [Page 489] Siberia, as described in the Aide Memoire presented by the Japanese Ambassador, December 8, and is disposed to the view that further military effort to assist the Russians in the struggle toward self-government may, in the present situation, lead to complications which would have exactly the opposite effect, prolonging possibly the period of readjustment and involving Japan and the United States in ineffective and needless sacrifices. It is felt accordingly to be unlikely that the second purpose for which American troops were sent to Siberia will be longer served by their presence there.

In view then of the fact that the main purposes for which American troops were sent to Siberia are now at an end, and of the considerations set forth in the communication of the Japanese Government of December 8, which subsequent events in Eastern Siberia have strengthened, the Government of the United States has decided to begin at once arrangements for the concentration of the American forces at Vladivostok, with a view to their embarkation and departure immediately after the leaving of the first important contingent of Czecho-Slovak troops, that is to say, about February tenth.

Careful consideration, has also been given to the possibility of continuing, after the departure of the American troops, the assistance of American railway experts in the operation of the Trans-Siberian and Chinese Eastern Railways. It will be recalled that it is expressly stipulated in the plan for the supervision of these railways which was submitted by the Japanese Ambassador at Washington, January 15, 1919,31 that the arrangement should cease upon the withdrawal of the foreign military forces from Siberia and that all foreign railway experts appointed under the arrangement should then be recalled forthwith. The experience of recent months in the operation of the railways under conditions of unstable civil authority and frequent local military interference furnishes a strong reason for abiding by the terms of the original agreement. Arrangements will be made accordingly for the withdrawal of the American railway experts under the same conditions and simultaneously with the departure of the American military forces.

The Government of the United States desires the Japanese Government to know that it regrets the necessity for this decision, because it seems to mark the end, for the time being at least, of a cooperative effort by Japan and the United States to assist the Russian people, which had of late begun to bear important results and seemed to give promise for the future. The Government of the United States is most appreciative of the friendly spirit which has [Page 490] animated the Government of Japan in this undertaking and is convinced that the basis of understanding which has been established will serve in the future to facilitate the common efforts of the two countries to deal with the problems which confront them in Siberia. The Government of the United States does not in the least relinquish the deep interest which it feels in the political and economic fate of the people of Siberia nor its purpose to cooperate with Japan in the most frank and friendly way in all practical plans which may be worked out for the political and economic rehabilitation of that region.

It is suggested that the Government of Japan may desire to communicate to the other principal Allied and Associated Governments the substance of the Aide Memoire of December 8. This Government will likewise make known to them the substance of the present communication.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, vol. ii, p. 287.
  3. For papers dealing with the evacuation of the Czechoslovak forces, see pp. 561 ff.
  4. Not printed.