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. 763.7211D/147C

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


THE HAGUE, March 19, 1918.

[Received 8.50 p.m.]

2159. Hertling's speech Reichstag:

When I first spoke here December 29 last I was able to inform Reichstag that Russian Government had communicated proposal to the various belligerents to open negotiations for armistice and general peace. We and our allies accepted proposal and soon sent delegates to Brest. The powers allied to Russia until then stayed away. The course of negotiations is familiar to you. You recall the endless speeches intended not so much for delegates assembled there as for general publicity and continually postponed realization of object for which we had to aim. You recall also repeated interruptions and resumption of negotiations. A point was reached where it was necessary to propose two alternatives. March 3 peace was concluded at Brest and on 16th ratified by authorized assembly at Moscow.(1) It is not my intention to deal with opinions expressed by enemy powers concerning peace with Russia where hypocrisy has become second nature and love of untruth grown to brutality; where they dare to speak of absolute unselfishness of their policy at very moment when they intend to put hand of oppressor on neutral country. Every effort to express oneself quietly, every serious speech, is bound to be in vain and if telegram from Washington thought fit to express sympathy of United States with Congress assembled at Moscow at this time asserting that Germany's forces had invaded Russia to put an end to struggle for freedom, I can put this also aside with the rest.(2) We never thought for moment and do not think of opposing just wishes of Russia, liberated from Tsarism. As I said in my speech last year, we wish that sorely tried country speedy return to calm and orderly conditions and deeply regret it if they seem to be in remote future and terrible conditions obtain in many places. Adverting to conclusion of peace itself, you have clearly seen that it contains no terms dishonorable for Russia, no heavy war costs and indemnities, no forcible annexation of Russian territory. If number of frontier countries have been separated from official federation, this is in accordance with will of those countries recognized by Russia. With regard to those countries, we take position already made perfectly clear that they may place themselves under powerful protection of German Empire and have form of government which suits conditions obtaining there and direction of their civilization, naturally, provided our interests are guaranteed. Courland is farthest advanced in development. As you know, authorized delegation of Courland appeared here a few days ago. It notified us of separation of that country from state with which heretofore associated and expressed wish for close economic, military, and political attachment to Germany. In reply, which Emperor ordered me as representative of Empire in international law to give, I recognized Courland's autonomy and took note with thanks and pleasure of desired close attachment of German Empire which accords with old civilization and relations extending back for centuries. However, I reserved final decision regarding political constellation until conditions there shall have become further consolidated and constitutionally authorized organs shall have defined their attitude. As regards Lithuania, a resolution was passed last year aiming at close attachment to German Empire in economic and military respect. I expect in few days a delegation from the National Council which is again to notify us of that resolution and then the recognition of Lithuania as an independent state will take place. We await with composure the further development of political affairs. With regard to Livonia and Esthonia, matters are somewhat different. These two countries are situated east of boundary agreed upon in peace treaty but are occupied by German police force pursuant to Article 6 of treaty with Russia until such time as security is guaranteed by institutions of the country itself and order is restored. Then the time will come for the political reorganization of these countries also. We hope and wish that they also will come to close and friendly relation with German Empire but of such a nature as not to exclude peaceable and friendly relations with Russia. A few words about Poland. Although it is not expressly mentioned in peace treaty, as you know it was the proclamation of two Emperors, November 5, 1916, which proclaimed to whole world autonomy of that country; it follows that further development of new state can only take place on ground of joint negotiations between Germany and Danube monarchy on one side and Poland on other. Recently proposals were made by Polish political circles for development of our future attitude and submitted to Government and members of Reichstag. We shall gladly examine them to see whether or to what extent they are compatible with the objects followed by both Governments and to what extent they can contribute towards permanent and good friendly relations with the newly formed state, our interests being guaranteed. If you approve of treaty submitted to you, and I do not doubt that you will, we hope in few days peace with Rumania will also be concluded and then peace is ready on whole eastern front. But that is not world peace. Not the slightest inclination is manifested in the countries of the Entente to cease warfare. Their will is to continue the terrible struggle until our destruction. We shall not lose courage. For this reason we are prepared for everything. Prepared to make further sacrifice in our absolute confidence in the splendid command of our army and in our heroic soldiers, but the responsibility falls on the attitude of our enemy.


(1) See footnote 2. Back

(2) See message from President Wilson to the people of Russia, ante, p. 395. Back

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