Press Release Issued by the Department of State, March 21, 1923

In response to the delegation of the Women’s Committee for Recognition of Russia, which was received today by Secretary Hughes, the latter said:

Ladies: It gives me great pleasure to receive you, and I want you to know that I deeply appreciate the sincerity and the earnestness with which you speak. I know how deeply interested you are in promoting the cause of peace and I can assure you that I am profoundly in sympathy with your desires and aims. I have done the best that I could in the discharge of my official responsibilities to serve that cause which is very close to my heart.

“In speaking to the representatives of your general organization last May, I voiced the concern which we felt for the welfare of the people of Russia. The evidence of the last year, as we have become even more intimately acquainted with the great distress into which they have been plunged, has intensified that feeling. The constant and dominant thought in our minds is ‘How can we help that stricken people?’

“So far as charity is concerned, it has been poured out lavishly. I do not think that any fairminded person can doubt the heart of the American people and our desire to give relief. But, as you have pointed out, charity is not enough. The problem is far deeper than that. It is an economic problem, and humanitarian interests, however keen they may be, cannot escape the underlying and controlling facts. Not only do we not desire to interfere with the internal concerns of Russia; not only do we recognize the right of the Russian people to develop their own institutions, but such interference would be futile. The salvation of Russia cannot be contrived outside and injected”. Russia’s hope lies in Russia’s action. It is absolutely impossible to deal with matters which are in the control of the Russian people and which, until they are adequately dealt with, furnish no ground for helpfulness, no ground for Russian recuperation.

“Russia needs industry and trade, but industry and trade cannot be created by any formal political arrangements. However important may be the facilitation of the transactions of industry and trade through political arrangements, still those arrangements do not create the transactions or supply the essential basis for them. You can’t support what does not exist. We have in the case of Russia the need of investment. It would not help the Russian people to encourage adventurers, or those who would wish to go into Russia for [Page 756] the purpose of exploitation. The benefit to Russia, through which her productivity can be increased and the basis of industry and trade provided, must come from those who make a permanent investment in Russia, who are there to see their transactions through on a basis of permanent relations, and who consequently so far as they are foreigners, can be assured before they will contemplate such investments that these will be secure and worthwhile. The conditions, which would invite the foreign assistance which you point out is so necessary, are in the control of the Russian authorities. They cannot be in the nature of things supplied from the outside.

“Now I may say that there is a good deal of fallacy in what is said about trade between Russia and other nations. Of course, other peoples are trading with Russia and our people are trading with Russia. Trade is going on, so far as it can go on, but it is relatively insignificant. If you will examine statistics you will observe that it makes very little difference whether or not any particular government has recognized the Soviet authorities with respect to the actual trade that is being conducted. If Russia buys she must be able to have something to buy with; that is, she must produce so that she can buy.

“I am glad to note that agricultural conditions in Russia have somewhat improved, because agriculture is basic in Russia. There is hope in that fact, but agricultural conditions are still far from what they should be. The conditions of industry and transportation are most lamentable. If you need to know what those conditions are I refer you to the Soviet authority, Mr. Rykoff, and his statements last fall, which no doubt are accessible to you and the analysis of which I think will correct some of the rather optimistic statements that you have made. There have been changes in laws and methods. I would be the last to decry them. It is not a pleasure to me to look into the conditions of Russia and find them unsatisfactory. It would be the keenest delight to me to find that they were quite the reverse. On the other hand, it serves no useful purpose to take these changes that have been made and exaggerate their effect or misconceive the result of them. They are far from adequate to create the conditions which would support industry and trade in Russia. If you will examine Mr. Brandenburgsky’s analysis of the civil code and the changes in laws which have been recently made, you will find indubitable evidence of the unsatisfactoriness and inadequacy of those changes. He, as you no doubt know, had a good deal to do with the preparation of these laws. The reason Russian stocks are decreasing, the reason that they have this progressive impoverishment is that they have not yet supplied what is essential. And when I speak of what is essential, I am not referring to anything that anybody on the outside of Russia, least of all ourselves, artificially sets up. We are pointing to the conditions of helpful intercourse in the world as it exists. If there were any need of a demonstration of the essentiality of those conditions, the Russian experience would certainly give it.

“I recognize fully the distinction between matters exclusively of economic import, and the question of diplomatic relations. As I said to the representatives of your organization a year ago, the fundamental question in the recognition of a government is whether [Page 757] it shows ability and a disposition to discharge international obligations. Stability, of course, is important; stability is essential. Some speak as though stability was all that was necessary. What however would avail mere stability if it were stability in the prosecution of a policy of repudiation and confiscation? In the case of Russia we have a very easy test of a matter of fundamental importance, and that is of good faith in the discharge of international obligations. I say that good faith is a matter of essential importance because words are easily spoken. Of what avail is it to speak of assurances, if valid obligations and rights are repudiated and property is confiscated? This is not a question of the rich or of the poor. It’s a question of principle. Only the other day I had a letter stating the case of two American women who had been living in Russia and invested all their savings in Russian securities, and they are poor people, dependent, and they are very anxious to know whether these securities will have any recognition.

“Our own government, after the first revolution, loaned about $187,000,000 to Russia. I may say that we were the first to recognize the Kerensky Government; that government did not profess a policy of repudiation. Now what did the Soviet authorities do? In their Decree of January 21, 1918, they made this simple statement: ‘Unconditionally, and without any exceptions, all foreign loans are annulled.’

“What was loaned to Russia out of our Liberty Bond proceeds, and the war loans obtained by Russia before the revolution to enable Russia to continue the war were simply annulled! Now the United States is not a harsh creditor. The United States is not seeking to press debtors who cannot pay beyond their means. But indulgence and proper arrangements are one thing, repudiation is quite another. I have yet to hear of any change in this announcement of the Soviet authorities. Suggestions which have been reported have always been coupled with impossible qualifications. This strikes at the heart of some of the suggestions which you have made in the interest of the principles of religion, which we all have at heart—good faith is the very essence of brotherly kindness. There is no hope for the success of your gospel—our gospel—of brotherly kindness in a world of hatred and in a world which is not animated by the sincerity of good faith.

“Here is a simple test. We have in this case no need to speculate, as of what avail are assurances when we find properties taken, without compensation or restoration, obligations repudiated,—properties of all sorts, the investments of one of our great life insurance companies, for example.

“Not only would it be a mistaken policy to give encouragement to repudiation and confiscation, but it is also important to remember that there should be no encouragement to those efforts of the Soviet authorities to visit upon other peoples the disasters that have overwhelmed the Russian people. I wish that I could believe that such efforts had been abandoned. Last November—last November Zinoviev said: ‘The eternal in the Russian revolution is the fact that it is the beginning of the world revolution.’ Lenin, before the last Congress of the Third Internationale, last fall, said that ‘the revolutionists of all countries must learn the organization, the planning, [Page 758] the method and the substance of revolutionary work.’ ‘Then, I am convinced,’ he said, ‘the outlook of the world revolution will not be good but excellent.’ And Trotsky, addressing the Fifth Congress of the Russian Communist Youths at Moscow last October—not two years ago, but last October—said this: ‘That means, comrades, that revolution is coming in Europe as well as in America, systematically, step by step, stubbornly and with gnashing of teeth in both camps. It will be long protracted, cruel and sanguinary.’

“Now I desire to see evidences of the abandonment of that policy. I desire to see a basis for helpfulness. We want to help. We are just as anxious in this Department and in every branch of the Administration as you can possibly be, to promote peace in the world, to get rid of hatred, to have a spirit of mutual understanding, but the world we desire is a world not threatened with the destructive propaganda of the Soviet authorities, and one in which there will be good faith and the recognition of obligations and a sound basis of international intercourse.”