760j.67/57a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Belgium (Whitlock)

4. Please deliver following to His Excellency Paul Hymans, President of the Assembly of the League of Nations.

“Your telegram of December 26, 1920,44 transmitting a message received by the Council from the British Government, concerning [Page 925] Armenia, stating that Armenia is reported to be under the control of Soviet Russia, and suggesting that the President instruct the American High Commissioner at Constantinople to take up the matter with the Allied High Commissioners, has been received and read with interest by the President, who instructs me to reply as follows:

The President does not deem it practicable to instruct the American High Commissioner at Constantinople to act for him in this matter. As was stated in my telegram of December 16 [15], 1920,45 he has chosen the Honorable Henry Morgenthau, who has been prepared to act for him in such steps as may be taken. Before instructing him to proceed, however, the President has been awaiting the definite assurances and information from all the principal Powers interested as requested in his cable of November 30, 1920,46 defining the conditions under which he would endeavor to mediate.

The message from the British Prime Minister transmitted by you on December 26th would seem to indicate the impracticability or futility of the President’s addressing himself, at least in the first instance, to the Armenians and Kemalists. The President is inclined to share this view and to feel that no solution can be had without first getting at the source of the trouble.

Pending receipt of information and assurances requested by the President in his telegram of November 30, 1920, it is deemed wise to state the problem as the President views it, its causes and possible remedies. It would appear that the immediate cause of trouble in Armenia and Turkey has been the Treaty of Sevres. Admittedly, this was a difficult question with which to contend, but the Treaty was drafted by the Allied Powers and the trouble has arisen over the failure of certain factions to accept this Treaty, and of the Allies to enforce it. This is a question over which the President has no control, and any measures which he might take or recommend in this direction would be dependent upon the hearty cooperation and support of the Allied Powers.

The British Prime Minister calls attention to the report that Armenia is under the control of Moscow, from which it appears that another complication has developed. The dependence of Armenia on Soviet Russia is another situation over which the President has no control and he sees no action he could take to free Armenia without the moral and diplomatic support of the principal powers which holds promise of bringing peace and accord to the contending parties.

There is bitter distrust and fear of war along all the Russian borders. It seems futile to attempt to bring peace to the Caucasus, if the result is merely to free the forces there engaged for new campaigns on other sectors of this long front. The distressful situation of Armenia is but one detail of this vast Russian problem, and the President most earnestly urges his conviction that it is only by a general and comprehensive treatment of the whole problem, only by full and generous cooperation of the principal powers, that a hopeful approach to the pacification and independence of Armenia can be found.

[Page 926]

The attitude of the President towards those now in power in Russia has been frequently and clearly expressed. He regards the Bolsheviki as a violent and tyrannical minority, by no means representing the real desires and purposes of the Russian people. But he has never believed that the problems raised by this coup d’état could be solved by military action from outside. He now hopes that the recent tragical events on the Polish front and in the Crimea have convinced all the world that armed invasion is not the way to bring peace to the people of Russia.

The rapidly shifting events of recent months have only strengthened his conviction that the Russian Revolution, beneficent in its main purposes, must be developed to a satisfactory conclusion by the Russians themselves. Help may from time to time be given from outside and voluntarily received, but attempts at military coercion can but end in disaster.

There are elements in the present situation which give added hope to projects of pacification. All the world is weary of war, and the conviction grows among the peoples of all countries that the military method offers very little promise of solving the grave problems of reconstruction which face us. There is at present no overt civil war in Russia. It is now a problem of the relations between Central Russia and the surrounding smaller national groups.

The unrest and instability along the border are caused by bitter and mutual distrust. The struggling new nationalities, which were formerly part of the Russian Empire, are afraid to disarm and return to the works of peace because they distrust the Bolsheviki and fear new aggressions. The Soviets contend that they are afraid to demobilize because they fear new attacks.

The great impediment to peaceful reconstruction in these troubled border territories, the imminent danger of new hostilities, is caused by the utter confusion between offense and defense. Unless this distinction can be clearly defined, there is not only small hope of peace, but no hope of a clear perception of who is responsible for new wars.

It is therefore the thought of the President that the present moment offers a peculiarly pressing challenge to an attempt at general pacification on the Russian borders along these lines. Such an attempt seems to the President the logical outgrowth—in fact, the only logical development—of the request to mediate in the Armenian conflict, and he feels bound in conscience once more to call this matter to the attention of the Associated Nations.

It is obvious to all that these small struggling border states will not attack Great Russia unless encouraged by promise of support from the stronger powers. The President therefore believes that the sine qua non of an attempt at pacification must be a public and solemn engagement among the Great Powers not to take advantage of Russia’s stricken condition and not to violate the territorial integrity of Russia nor to undertake themselves any further invasions of Russia, nor to tolerate such invasions by others.

Such a public agreement would in effect say to those now in power in Russia: ‘You are not menaced from outside. The Great Powers [Page 927] have voluntarily guaranteed you from attack. You can have peace if you want it.’

The responsibility for any new war which might break out on the Russian border would then be clearly placed.

If the principal powers represented on the Council of the League find themselves in accord with the President in this matter and will assure him of their moral and diplomatic support he will instruct his personal representative, Mr. Morgenthau, to proceed at once on his mission.”

Mail to London, Paris and Rome for their information.