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. 763.72119/1072
The Ambassador in Russia (Francis) to the Secretary of State


PETROGRAD, January 3, 1918, midnight.

[Received January 6, 5.17 a.m.]

2187. For the President:

I cabled Secretary Lansing in my 2166, December 29, 10 [11 ] p. m., requesting that you or he address some communication to the Russian people explaining why it is impossible or inexpedient for the Allied countries to join in the peace negotiations begun between Russia and the Central Empires and adjourned for ten days to enable Russia's allies to participate. It was my conviction at that time that the Allies Would not respond and that separate peace between Russia and the Central Empires was a foregone conclusion. Such an eventuality now seems less probable, in fact exceedingly doubtful, because (Germany notwithstanding her agreement to negotiate separate peace with no annexations, no indemnities, is with characteristic evasion endeavoring to forestall the untrammeled self-displeasure [self-determination of] the people of Courland, Lithuania and other sections of Russia now occupied by German invaders, by claiming that inhabitants of those sections have already expressed their desire to become German provinces. Such claim was set forth in the first of the sixteen articles of peace proposed by the Central Empires. The peace commissioners of the Soviet government readily saw the German chicanery in this article, discussed it at length and made a counter-proposal which the Austro-German peace commissioners said they would be compelled to refer to their respective governments before replying thereto. Adjournment was then had for ten days. Commissioners of Soviet government returned to Petrograd accompanied by representatives of fifteen broken and depleted armies, and made report to a joint meeting of the Central Committee, of the People's Commissaries [sic] with the Petrograd Soviet and with the Committee on Army Demobilization.

The Russian Army wearied with three years of horrible struggle and looking forward with relief and joy to a cessation of hostilities, almost within their grasp, were so open to doubt in feeling by this German move that their representatives in the Petrograd meeting, of [with] practical unanimity, courageously asserted their willingness and determination to continue the struggle rather than yield to the unjust demands which the Central Empires sought to impose. The resolutions passed by the joint meeting above described were trans-mitted in my cable 2178 to the Department.

Having received no reply to suggestion in my 2166, I now respectfully request that you reiterate in some public manner the noble expressions of your address to the United States Senate of January 22 last. Assumed message was delivered and promulgated before America entered the war, but it portrayed in impressive terms the kind of a peace that would be enduring, the kind of a peace all just-minded and right-feeling peoples could join in a league to enforce. That was the same kind of a peace that Russia championed after the revolution of March last and the same kind of a peace that the Soviet government of Russia and the worn soldiers of this afflicted country feel is now jeopardized by German trickery.

I am not suggesting the formal recognition of any government in Russia that is not founded upon the will of the free people of this great country. My cables to the Department bear testimony to my opinion of any power established by force among a people who had made wise provision for the organization of a government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed. It is our duty, however, to use any legitimate means to combat the merciless methods of an unscrupulous enemy whose success would be a catastrophe to civilization and a manifest injury to mankind.

The psychology of war justifies and demands the repetition of the noble humanitarian thoughts expressed in your great message to the Senate. Failure to reiterate those sentiments at this juncture may possibly cause Russia to take a step which will not only sacrifice the gains of the revolution, but would be a stain upon her honor which the efforts of generations could not eradicate. The tired people of this country will not fight for territory, they need status quo ante; nor for commercial advantage, for their enormous resources will insure commercial prosperity for years to come. Nor will they fight for treaties made by governments they had overturned, but they possibly will struggle for a democratic peace, for the fruits of the revolution, if appealed to by a country whose unselfish motives they recognize as they do ours.

There are numerous parties in Russia and many plans as to the future welfare of these peoples, and also several would-be governments, but all are advocating provisional government [sic] and doing so for the reason, as they claim, that Russia by occupation [exhaustion can] fight no more. In my judgment the only hope for Russia remaining in the war is from the failure of the separate peace now being negotiated by the Soviet government with the Central Empires. Consequently we should spare no effort to bring about such a consummation. Such a communication as you, and you only can make, whether it prove successful or not, will make a deep impression on the heart of Russia and will demonstrate again what is universally admitted, and that is that your utterances concerning the object of this war and the enduring peace that should follow it, together with the armament limitation which will be realized if such peace is secured, mark a new era or an end of warfare and throw a new light on the relations of governments and peoples finally. If Germany will slight a democratic peace it spells German defeat and the world is safe for democracy.


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