Foreign Relations of the United States : 1918 The Conclusion of the Peace of Brest Litovsk
The Minister in the Netherlands (Garrett) to the Secretary of State

File No. 763.72119/1370

The Minister in the Netherlands (Garrett) to the Secretary of State


THE HAGUE, February 22,1918.

[Received February 23, 4.45 a. m.]

2061. Kuhlmann's Reichstag speech, 20th:

Peace with Ukrainia is first peace in this greatest war. Immediately after collapse rotten structure of Tsarism so heavily burdened with blame for world war, national aspirations were manifested in Ukrainia which aimed at stronger racial ties. When Ukrainian delegates at Brest saw Petrograd cabinet had no sincere peace policy, they established friendly relations with Central powers because they did not want to suffer under sins of Tsarism but sincerely desired peace.

Negotiations with them were not easy on account of impossible territorial demands, as is usually the case during rise of new nation. We left regulation of Russian frontier for some later time and confined ourselves to delimiting western frontier. The settlement has been particularly criticized by Poles. It would be wrong to think we were not aware at Brest of extraordinary significance of this frontier regulation. This frontier is of utmost value for Germany's foreign relations and affects momentous internal political interests as well as foreign political interests in Austria. Austrian Premier spoke at length on subject yesterday. I too must say that if peace with Ukrainia had failed owing to this question overwhelming majority of German people would have strongly disapproved attitude negotiators. Stipulations of treaty which leave details of frontier demarcation to commission show our interest in just arrangement. The frontier as now defined can be changed so that fullest consideration can be paid to ethnographic factors and wishes of population. Poles will also be represented in commission so that everything possible has been done to insure just settlement. Dispute concerning Kholm frontier brings danger that discussion of this treaty may lead to discussion of whole Polish problem and this seems undesirable at present time.

In addition to political considerations conclusion of treaty was prompted by consideration that from reliable information Ukrainia still possesses substantial stock grain and food and is able to dispose of some of it. Establishment regular commercial traffic with exchange of surplus grain fodder and raw materials in Ukrainia for our industrial products is very vital interest for us and still more Austria. There will therefore be consultation with Ukrainian government and adoption of joint measures with view to facilities especially respecting railway communication.

The substance of treaty can best be discussed in committee but I may say that this first peace treaty which will undoubtedly serve as model for later treaties fully insures reestablishment of legal relations. Critics of treaty seem to think it will impair or imperil conclusion peace with Bolshevist government. From intimate knowledge obtained in negotiations I can assure House this is certainly not the case. If there was any way at all to induce Trotsky to sign satisfactory peace instrument it was accomplished fact of signed Ukrainian treaty, and I still consider this treaty an important means for arriving at peace with Russian cabinet satisfactory to both sides.

Negotiations with Great Russia led to Trotsky's declaration which amounted to veiled rupture of relations. What followed is well known. Meanwhile new and important things have happened. In reply to new advance of German armies Petrograd cabinet sent wireless to German Government stating its readiness to sign peace under conditions proposed by delegations of Quadruple Alliance at Brest, and that reply to exact terms of German Government would be given without delay. This wireless communication cannot be for us a binding document in view of our past experiences, but we informed Petrograd government of receipt of wireless message and requested written confirmation which it promised to send immediately. However after our experiences with Trotsky and his cabinet I do not wish people to think we now have peace with Russia in our pocket. I should deplore any such impression principally because I wish to spare the sincere and upright love of peace of German people, which is fully shared by Government, any disappointment. Events will develop rapidly. We are exchanging views with our allies concerning this new fact and should arrive at result very soon. As far as can be seen at present there will be no material change of basis of negotiation.

To sum up situation, I should say prospects of peace with Bolshevist government have improved considerably with conclusion of Ukrainian peace, with military pressure we are now exerting, and with the disappointment of certain hopes on which Petrograd government undoubtedly laid great store. The hope may now be expressed that we are nearing the goal but we should not indulge in joy over great event of real peace with Russia until the signatures have been put to tile instrument. The impression which I gained was that public opinion received news of conclusion Ukrainian treaty with relief and joy as first step towards better future and reestablishment of general peace which we all hope for and expect to attain with quiet, clear, firm and determined foreign policy....


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