Foreign Relations of the United States : 1918 The Conclusion of the Peace of Brest Litovsk
The Ambassador in Russia (Francis) to the Secretary of State

File No. 763.72119/1070

The Ambassador in Russia (Francis) to the Secretary of State

[Telegram ]

PETROGRAD, January 2, 1918, 10 p.m.

[Received January 4, 4.21 p. m.]

2180. Peace negotiations resumed 8th and Trotsky wiring Germany suggesting continuance in neutral country. Peace commissioners reported last night to joint meeting which acted as advised in my 2178. Resolution adopted after several hours' discussion, Trotsky as usual dominating entire affair. Hitch apparently on section appertaining Courland, Lithuania, etc., Russian sections, which Germany claims have already expressed a desire to become German provinces. Soviet takes issue contending that peoples of said countries should be permitted to express by plebiscite their preference for Russia, Germany or independence unintimidated by presence of German or Russian soldiers, as otherwise bourgeoisie would control. Germany will yield this point but with reluctance, I think. Remainder of sixteen sections restore commercial intercourse between Russia and Germany absolutely without restriction. Consequently Germany will make satisfying peace if at all possible.

Question now is if separate peace cannot be prevented, whether we should assist Soviet to get most favorable terms or by masterly inactivity permit Germany to dictate her own terms. My 2172 was inclined to favor the latter policy but question has two sides. If we could aid Soviet we gain its good will and thereby have equal trade opportunity in Russia with Germany; it would be better than having ill will. Furthermore, if Germany is permitted to dictate humiliating terms to Soviet government latter might be so weakened thereby that monarchists would overthrow congress and if they should dominate would they not make Russia an ally of Germany against us ? Please give your opinion.

Surely our interest is to prevent separate peace and circumstances may arise which will require such prompt action on my part to accomplish such end that cannot wait replies. Of course would not presume to commit Department but might consider it advisable to commit myself to recommend assistance to de facto government on condition that negotiations absolutely terminate and such assistance be rendered for sincere vigorous prosecution of war. If Department thought otherwise, I would so inform Soviet government but unofficially. Am using Robins in these matters. Do you understand and approve?


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