Foreign Relations of the United States : 1918 The Conclusion of the Peace of Brest Litovsk
The Consul General at Moscow (Summers) to the Secretary of State

File No. 861.00/1211

The Consul General at Moscow (Summers) to the Secretary of State (1)

No. 244

Moscow, January 1, 1918.

[Received March 2.]

SIR: I have the honor to report to the Department in regard to political developments in Russia during the last third of December. The outstanding event of this period was the seizure of the banks, which has been reported to the Department. The domestic situation has not progressed toward a solution. The country seems to be waiting for the resumption of the peace negotiations. During the pause at Brest Litovsk there have been developments of symptomatic importance at Petrograd, where there is a constant interchange of views between Maximalist leaders and various official and semiofficial delegations representing the Central powers.

On December 30 Commissar Trotsky (Bronstein) issued by wireless telegraph an appeal to "All Nations and the Governments of Allied Countries," which is given as follows in the gazette of the Moscow Council of W[orkmen's] and S[oldiers'] Deputies of this date: (2) .

In anticipation of this appeal, the Council of the People's Commissars on December 28 published the following resolution or decree:

Considering that the council is based on the principle of the international solidarity of the proletariat and fraternity of the laboring masses of all countries; that only on an international scale can the war against war and imperialism be waged to a victorious conclusion; the Council of the People's Commissars deems it necessary to go to the assistance of the radical international workingmen of all countries, quite regardless of whether these countries are at war with Russia, are the allies of Russia, or are neutrals. To this end the Council of the People's Commissars resolves to appropriate for the needs of the revolutionary international movement, and to place at the disposition of the foreign representatives of the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs the sum of 2,000,000 rubles.

It was inevitable that there should be opposition on the part of diplomatic representatives of interested countries to the departure of foreign representatives of the council armed with such instructions and equipped with funds to be used in interference in their domestic affairs. The council therefore tried to enforce the issue of visas to its representatives by threatening reprisals with respect to foreigners desiring to leave Russia and by making difficulties for couriers of foreign powers.

In spite of the declarations of the Maximalist leaders that the German and Austrian answers to the declaration of the Russian delegation afforded the basis for beginning peace negotiations, it soon became apparent that the Maximalist leaders were far from united in this view. Meanwhile actual negotiations were transferred to Petrograd, where German commissions began arriving. In order duly to impress them with the firmness of the Maximalist regime and to meet their demand for the convocation of the Constitutional Convention to ratify the proposed peace and to sanction the Maximalist seizure of power, the Maximalists arranged a popular demonstration in Petrograd on Sunday, December 31. The opposition press in Moscow reports that one regiment refrained altogether and others, partly, from participation, and that women and striplings formed a large proportion of the civilian contingents. The first German delegation to arrive reached Petrograd on December 26, under the leadership of Vice Admiral Baron Kaiserling and two other naval officers. They came as representatives of the German General Staff to consider along with representatives of the Russian Naval Staff the cessation of the naval war between the two countries. Vice Admiral Baron Kaiserling had served as naval attache in the German Embassy at Petrograd. They were announced as the vanguard of a larger commission, embracing thirty-three other persons, including Count Mirbach, former Counselor of Embassy at Petrograd, and the Austrian Prince Hohenlohe, as well as representatives of Bulgaria and Turkey. It was stated in the gazette of the Moscow Council of W[orkmen's] and S[oldiers'] Deputies that this commission would consider with Russian representatives questions growing out of the terms of armistice arranged at Brest Litovsk; and that a joint commission was to discuss the terms of a commercial treaty between Germany and Russia, the renewal of relations between Russia and the Central powers in general, and the exchange of prisoners of war. Up to December 28 fourteen members of the larger delegation had arrived at Petrograd. Baron Kaiserling was quoted in the newspapers as being agreeably surprised by the evidences of good order and com. parative abundance of food supplies that he had observed, while deprecating the view that Germany was suffering or that the dis. cipline of the German Army and people had been in any wise shaken.

One of the opposition newspapers to-day states that five other German delegations are awaited in Petrograd to work in favor of peace in Petrograd, Odessa, Berdichev, Minsk and Focsani, Rumania. This statement needs confirmation.

Information coming from Petrograd to-day by telephone and telegraph shows that the German delegation has not restricted itself to the large field of activity outlined in the foregoing, but is in effect continuing the peace negotiations nominally interrupted at Brest Litovsk. At a joint meeting at Smolny Institute of the Central Executive Committee of the Council of W[orkmen's], S[oldiers'] and P[easants'] Deputies and the General Army Congress, one of the Russian peace delegation, Kamenev (Rosenfeld), made a detailed report on the course of the peace negotiations. He said that it was no secret to anybody that if the German imperialists still harbored illusions in regard to the continuance of the war, this could by no means be said of Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. Private discussions among themselves had no doubt delayed the progress of the negotiations. The answer of the Austro-German coalition was a decided victory for the October revolution.(3) During two conferences held during the interruption of negotiations at Brest Litovsk the German proposals were elicited in concrete form. These were:

1. Russia and Germany proclaim the cessation of the state of war between themselves. Both powers are resolved to live henceforth in peace and mutual friendship. Germany will be ready, under the condition of previously expressed complete mutuality with respect to its allies, as soon as peace is concluded and the demobilization of the Russian Army shall be effected, to evacuate its present positions and the Russian territories occupied, in so far as that will not contradict point No. 2.

2. Inasmuch as the Russian Government, in accordance with its principles, has already proclaimed for all the peoples, without exception, entering into the make-up of the Russian state, the right to self-determination even to entire separation; it takes note of the decision expressing the will of the people: of the desire of Poland, Lithuania, Courland and parts of Estland and Livland for complete national independence and for separation from the Russian state. The Russian Government recognizes that in the present conditions these declarations must be regarded as an expression of the popular will, and is ready to draw the conclusion logically resulting therefrom. Inasmuch as, in those districts to which applies the above-exposed decision, the question of evacuation is not such as to be subject to the terms of point No. 1, the time and the method of the declaration as to separation, on the basis of a plebiscite on a broad scale and with the exclusion of any sort of military pressure in any fashion whatsoever, which declaration is on the Russian side affirmed to be necessary, are left for consideration and determination by a special commission.

3. The treaties, agreements, etc., which were in force between the contracting parties upon the outbreak of the war, will come into effect again, in so far as they are not contradictory to changes that have taken place during the war in the possessions of both sides. Each side is obliged within three months of the signature of the preliminary treaty of peace to communicate the treaties, agreements, etc., or their separate stipulations, which, in accordance with point No. 1, should not come into effect. If it is a matter of the separate stipulations, the other side is given a further term of one month in which to denounce the treaty as a whole. Separate stipulations of treaties ceasing to be effective as soon as possible are to be replaced by new treaties corresponding to changed relations and views.

4. Each of the contracting parties will in no case act with respect to the subjects, ships or wares of the other side, in all questions of a legal or economic character, less favorably than to the subjects, ships or wares of any other state whatsoever not enjoying in the given case rights established by treaty.

5. The contracting parties are agreed that with the conclusion of peace the war shall come to an end also in the economic field. They will not participate directly or indirectly in any measures aiming to prolong hostile actions in the economic field, but, with all the means at their disposal, will, within their respective bounds, hinder such measures, even if they should proceed from the side of individuals or from any other source. On the other hand they will do away with difficulties interfering with the resumption of friendly business and commercial relations, and will facilitate the interchange of commodities between the two sides, particularly those exchanges equalizing surplus and deficit. During the transition period, necessary for the wiping out of the results of the war and the establishment of regular relations anew, in conceding limitations in their relations such as the prohibition of exportation, the regulation of importation, and the like, which during this period are inevitable, they will take care that this is done with tender regard for one another. On the other hand, in the course of this period, they will as little as possible burden the acquisition of necessary objects with import duties, and therefore will enter as soon as possible into negotiations to the end that the freedom from duties established during the war shall have a temporary wider extension. Furthermore they will at the same time organize the interchange of commodities to the widest extent possible. For this purpose there will be formed mixed commissions, which shall begin work as soon as possible.

6. The contracting parties as soon as possible will begin negotiations for the conclusion, in place of the treaty of commerce and navigation of 1902 [1894] and 1904, of a new treaty corresponding to the new circumstances.

7. Irrespective of the conclusion of a new treaty of commerce and navigation, the contracting parties concede to one another during twenty years after the conclusion of peace the rights of the most-favored nation. However neither side will claim participation in favors, wherever granted, in minor frontier relations, or that Russia may grant to countries on [its?] Asiatic border or to the independent states formed of the Russian state, or which Germany may show to Austria-Hungary, or to other countries now or in the future bound to it by a customs league, or to its colonies.

8. Russia expresses its consent that the Danube commission shall be entrusted permanently with the administration of all the mouths of the Danube; and that this commission shall embrace only the representatives of the states of the Danube and the Black Sea, at the same time that the control of the Danube above Braila shall be entrusted to riparian states of this part of the river.

9. Military laws limiting the private rights of Germans in Russia and of Russians in Germany, as subjects of hostile states, are repealed. Private persons whose rights, as a result of such laws, have been infringed, must, as far as possible, be reestablished in such rights. As far as possible, they ought to receive proper compensation. Parcels of land, mining enterprises and shares in such that have been sold shall in any case be paid for, in so far as under the new Russian legislation the property concerned has (not?) become the property of the state. The amount of compensation in accordance with point 2 ( ?) will be determined by mixed commissions formed of representatives of both sides and of a neutral president.

10. The contracting parties will not demand compensation for their war expenses, that is for government expenditures in the conduct of the war, nor for losses resulting from the war, that is to say those losses that have arisen for themselves or their subjects through military action and military measures, including requisitions.

11. Each of the contracting parties replaces the losses caused its subjects during the war as a result of acts of violence contrary to international law on the part of the other side in respect to civilian subjects, particularly its diplomatic and consular representatives, touching their life, their health, or their property, or the diplomatic and consular premises. The amount of the losses will be determined in mixed commissions formed of representatives of both sides and a neutral president. (In this and other places the Russian text is doubtful, owing doubtless to translation from the German, and perhaps to intent.)

12. Prisoners of war and invalids of both sides are to be returned at once to their country. (Probably means only invalid prisoners of war.) The exchange of the remaining prisoners of war will take place as soon as possible at fixed times, to be arranged by Russo-German commissions. The question of repayment of funds expended in their maintenance, in case of disagreement in arriving at the amount of these funds, is to be passed for consideration to a commission with a neutral president.

13. Civilian subjects of both sides, interned of sent away from their homes, are at once restored to liberty and as soon as possible to their country, without charge.

14. Russian subjects of German descent, particularly so-called German colonists, may settle in Germany during the course of ten years, with the right to settle their estates and carry away their property.

15. Commercial vessels of one of the contracting parties, standing at the time of the outbreak of war in the harbors of the other side, and also prizes of both sides not yet adjudicated, are to be restored, or if that be impossible, compensation is to be paid.

16. Diplomatic and consular relations between the contracting parties will be renewed as soon as possible.

Kamenev (Rosenfeld) represented the German terms as acceptable, or at least as affording a basis for profitable negotiation. On the other hand Pokrovski and Pavlovich, two other leading members of the Russian delegation, are reported to have declared them utterly inacceptable.

One of the opposition newspapers of the better sort states that the German representatives declared that, inasmuch as Russia could not offer foodstuffs in exchange for German manufactures, for the present, if Russia would hand over its military stores Germany would immediately pay for them in manufactures.

The Petrograd Social Democratic newspaper Pravda declared the German assertion, without detail as to when or how the will of Poland, Lithuania, Courland and "parts " of Livland and Estland had declared their will to be annexed to Germany, that such decisions had been reached and announced and must be accepted by Russia as faits accomplis, was an unprecedented farce at the expense of Russia.

In an interview given another Petrograd newspaper, Nash Vek, Pavlovich declared peace was far removed. Pavlovich divided the peace negotiations into two periods, before and after the declaration of the Ukraine government that it would recognize no peace unless signed by Ukraine delegates. Before the Ukraine declaration was made the Germans had displayed a disposition to make concessions; but their tone had changed sharply at this time, Kuhlmann had made way for General Hoffmann, representing the annexationists, and asserting strategic reasons for delaying the evacuation of Russian territory until general peace is made. Kaledin or the Ukrainians might continue the war, and then the loss of such positions as Brest might be embarrassing. Pavlovich was quoted as saying no Russian Government would ever accept such terms as the Germans proposed.

The effort the Russian delegates to bring pressure to bear on the German Government in favor of certain German socialists, and especially to persuade the German Government to issue passports for the departure to Stockholm of certain independent socialists, was coolly rebuked by Count Mirbach, who declared this was a question of German domestic politics, with which he was not at all concerned.

After debate, the Executive Committee of the Petrograd (council of W[orkmen's], S[oldiers'] and P[easants'] Deputies adopted the following resolution: (4)

In an interview in the Petrograd gazette of the Council Trotsky (Bronstein) is quoted as admitting that the peace negotiations would hardly be resumed at Brest Litovsk, and that the unacceptability of the German terms was evident; in accordance with this attitude and the resolution above quoted, the chairman of the Maximalist peace delegation has telegraphed to the delegations of the Quadruple Alliance, proposing the resumption of the negotiations at Stockholm. It was added that the first two paragraphs of the German proposals were regarded as contradictory to the principle of the self-determination of peoples.

It is stated by the Utro Rossii that Count Mirbach emphasized in his last talk with Trotsky (Bronstein) that Russia should exercise every effort to induce the Entente powers to take part in the peace negotiations, and to have added that a separate peace was hardly realizable at the present time. It thus appears to be agreed here that, as was pointed out in these despatches when peace was first proposed, it was easier for the Maximalists to offer peace than to obtain it from Germany. The results of the failure of the peace campaign are said to be already in evidence. The difference of opinion between the Maximalist leaders in regard to the acceptability of the German proposals is said to be shared by the bayonets upon which their power rests and by the workingmen in whose name they rule. It is reported that there is a deep and growing disappointment among the soldiers who know only that they have been promised peace. It is characteristic that when guards, both Red Guards from the factories and soldiers who were placed at Moscow banks, were asked what they expected to gain from the seizure of the banks, they answered invariably that they knew nothing about it and that all that they did know was that they had been promised peace and they supposed that everything that was being done was intended to promote peace and prosperity.

Resentment against Germany, naive but natural, is finding expression in the Maximalist official press. The position of the Maximalists is truly difficult, when they are confronted with the prospect of the resumption of hostilities by Germany, after they have destroyed the army, stopped the production of military supplies, begun the demobilization of munitions works, smashed the organization of the military industrial committee and the Federations of Zemstvos and Municipalities, disorganized industry, commerce and finance, and have opened internecine strife with the south and begun a desperate struggle for control of the railways with the General Railway Union. As to conditions on the front, it is stated by representatives just arrived at Petrograd that during the armistice the soldiers have in many places destroyed their winter shelters, broken down their own wire entanglements and left the line wholly unguarded.

German trade across the military lines has grown steadily during the armistice, but the Germans appear to have convinced themselves that there was no surplus available in the north for the supply of German armies on a large scale, and that there was no great hope of carrying on such trade in the southwest. It has been reported that railway tracks were being connected at Dvinsk, and even that there was passenger traffic on the Riga front. But these reports have to be discounted. There is no doubt, however, that the German delegations in Petrograd have been conducting themselves as if masters of the situation. For example, it is related and it seems to be true, that a part of the Petrograd telegraph office was placed at their disposal, and that they sent away the Russian telegraphers and began direct communications with Brest Litovsk.

In view of the growing importance of the Ukraine front, the note of the Ukraine government, above mentioned, deserves careful examination. It was approved and transmitted on Christmas Day.(5) The note was addressed to all belligerent and neutral powers and was as follows:

In the third proclamation of the Ukraine government on November 20 the Ukraine republic was proclaimed, and this act defined the international position of the republic. Striving to brine about the creation of a federal league of all the republics that have arisen until now on the territory of the former Russian Empire, the Ukraine republic in the person of the General Secretariat enters into independent international relations until such time as a general Russian federation shall be formed and the international representative functions shall be apportioned between the governments of the Ukraine republic and the federal government of the future federation. In connection therewith, the General Secretariat finds it necessary now to inform the powers and peoples of the world of the attitude of the Ukraine republic towards the peace negotiations beginning at Brest Litovsk between the representatives of the Council of People's Commissars and the representatives of the powers waging war with Russia.

Taking firm ground on the view that the present war is of infinite evil to all powers, particularly to the laboring classes of each state; that all belligerent powers ought to renounce aggressive aims and proceed at once to peace negotiations, the Ukraine Central Assembly, the parliament of the Ukraine republic, has found it necessary to pursue an active policy in the matter of the conclusion of peace. From the first days of the proclamation of the Ukraine republic, setting forth in the third general resolution of the assembly the necessity of immediate peace, the Ukraine Assembly found it necessary to proceed to an armistice. To this end representatives of the General Secretariat were sent to the southwest and the Rumanian fronts, now united in one Ukraine front, under the direction of the government of the Ukraine republic. Further, when the Council of People's Commissars, in agreement with the governments of the powers waging war against Russia, entered upon an armistice on all fronts of Russia, the General Secretariat sent its representatives to Brest Litovsk for purposes of information as to what was going on. In this connection the General Secretariat deems it necessary to point out that the representatives of the Council of People's Commissars, although informed that representatives of the government of the Ukraine were to arrive at Brest Litovsk to take part in the negotiations, signed the general armistice without any agreement with the government of the Ukraine republic. Now, when the Council of People's Commissars, in accordance with the last point of the general armistice, has begun peace negotiations at Brest Litovsk with representatives of the Governments of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria, the General Secretariat, in the name of the Ukraine republic, declares:

1. The entire democracy of the Ukraine power [nation] is striving for the cessation of the war throughout the world, for a peace between all the belligerent powers, for universal peace.

2. The peace concluded by all the pourers ought to be a democratic peace, must safeguard every nation unto the smallest, must guarantee to every power complete self-determination, restrained in its will by nothing and nobody.

3. For the establishment of the possibility of the actual expression of the will of the peoples suitable guaranties are necessary.

4. Equally no annexations are admissible.

5. Likewise and equally, in the interest of the laboring classes of all countries, contributions, no matter in what form, are inadmissible.

6. Small nations and powers ruined by the war, should be given material assistance in accordance with rules which must be elaborated in the peace congresses.

7. The Ukraine republic, having now upon its land the Ukraine front, and making its entry independently into the arena of international affairs in the person of its General Secretariat, which is bound to conserve the interests of the Ukraine people, ought to take part on a parity with other powers in all peace negotiations, conferences and congresses.

8. The authority of the Council of People's Commissars does not extend to the Ukraine republic, and therefore a peace that may be concluded as a result of negotiations with the powers at war with Russia, can become obligatory for the Ukraine only when the terms of peace shall be accepted and signed by the government of the Ukraine republic.

9. Peace in the name of the whole of Russia can be concluded only by a federal government, which must be recognized ("which requires the recognition of," seems to be the intent) by all the republics and politically organized territories of Russia; and, if such a government should not be formed in the early future then the only authority capable of concluding peace is the representative body of all these republics and territories.

Firmly supporting the demand for a universal, democratic peace, the General Secretariat, striving at the same time to hasten this general peace to the utmost of its power, and recognizing the great importance of efforts to speed its realization, finds it necessary to have its representatives in Brest Litovsk, hoping, at the same time, that the final peace will be crowned with an international congress, to which the government of the Ukraine republic summons all belligerent powers to take part.

In accordance with the plan worked out by the General Secretariat, the Ukraine Assembly at the same time authorized it to elaborate conditions of general peace and to convoke a congress rcpresenting all parts of Russia to take action upon the matter. Socialist Revolutionaries of the Ukraine offered an amendment to the effect that the Ukraine government should take in hand the creation of a federal republic, which should then be intrusted with the peace negotiations. The evidences of vanity to be found in the utterances of the Ukraine government should not, in the opinion of the undersigned, lead to inattention to it as a powerful factor in the reconstruction of Russia. On the surface at least, there are now no evidences of a tendency to look toward Austria-Hungary, for the sake, among other things, of reunion with the Ukrainians of Galicia and Transylvania. What would be the effect of a German offensive in the southwest on the political outlook of the Ukraine might depend on its success and extent, and in any case the question belongs rather to the sphere of problematic politics. As far as can now be ascertained, the Ukraine leaders are firmly attached to the idea of a Russian federal republic.

Domestic events in Russia will be made the subject of a second report dealing with the same period.

I have [etc.]


(1) In a covering despatch of Jan. 5 attention is called to this despatch, " which contains an interesting report prepared by Mr. D. B. Macgowan," Consul at Moscow. Back

(2) The appeal was dated Dec. 29 and was published in the Petrograd Izvestia Dec. 30. See the Ambassador's telegram No. 2163 of Dec. 31, ante, p. 405 Back

(3) November revolution, if the new-style calendar is used. Back

(4) Post, p. 419. Back

(5) Presented in the Rada Dec. 8/21. Back

127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.