Author(s): George Katkov
Source: International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 32, No. 2 (Apr., 1956), pp. 181-189
Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the Royal Institute of International Affairs Stable
Mr. Katkov's article says "The message was addressed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Baron R. von Kuhlmann, to an official who was to communicate its content orally to the Kaiser." - a separate reply document dated 4th December 1917 states "His Majesty the Kaiser has expressed his agreement with Your Excellency's expose concerning a possible rapprochement with Russia."
BERLIN, 3rd December I9I7.
Add A3 4486.
Tel. Hughes I.Z.
To Tel. No. I77I
The disruption of the Entente and the subsequent creation of political combinations agreeable to us constitute the most important war aim of our diplomacy. Russia appeared (to me)1 to be the weakest link in the enemy's chain. The task therefore was gradually to loosen it and, when possible, to remove it. This was the purpose of the subversive activity we caused to be carried out in Russia behind the front-in the first place (vigorcus)1 promotion of separatist tendencies and support of the Bolsheviki. It was not until the Bolsheviki had received from us a steady flow of funds through various channels and under varying labels that they were in a position to be able to build up their main organ, Pravda, to conduct energetic propaganda 2 and appreciably to extend the originally narrow basis of their party. The Bolsheviki have now come into power; how long they will retain power cannot yet be foreseen. They need peace in order to strengthen their own position; on the other hand it is entirely in our interest that we should exploit the period while they are in power, which maybe a short one, in order to attain firstly an armistice and then, if possible, peace.3 The conclusion of a separate peace would mean the achievement of the desired war aim, namely, a breach between Russia and her Allies. The amount of tension necessarily caused by such a breach would determine the degree of Russia's dependence on Germany and her future relations with us. Once cast out and cast off by her former Allies, abandoned financially, Russia will be forced to seek our support. We shall be able to provide help forRussia in various ways; firstly in the rehabilitation of the railways; (I have in mind a German-Russian Commission-under our control-which would undertake the rational and coordinated exploitation of the railway lines so as to ensure speedy resumption of freight movement) then the provision of a substantial loan, which Russia requires to maintain her state machine. This could take the form of an advance on the security of grain, raw materials, etc., etc., to be provided by Russia and shipped under the control of the above-mentioned Commission. Aid on such a basis-the scope to be increased as and when necessary-would in my opinion bring about a growing rapprochement between the two countries. Austria-Hungary will regard the rapprochement with distrust and not without apprehension. I would interpret the excessive eagerness of Count Czernin to come to terms with the Russians as a desire to forestall us and to prevent Germany and Russia arriving at an intimate relationship in convenient to the Danube Monarchy. There is no need for us to compete for Russia's good will. We are strong enough to wait with equanimity; we are in a far better position than Austria-Hungary to offer Russia what she needs for the reconstruction of her State. I view future developments in the East with confidence but I think it expedient for the time being to maintain a certain reserve in our attitude to the Austro- Hungarian Government in all matters including the Polish question which concern both monarchies so as to preserve a free hand for all eventualities. The above-mentioned considerations lie, I venture to believe, within the framework of the directives given me by His Majesty. I request you to report to His Majesty accordingly and to transmit to me by telegram the All-highest instructions.
K.1 Crossed out in the original.
2 The words 'to conduct energetic propaganda' written on the margin and inserted in the text.
3 An asterisk in the original text refersto a hand written marginal note saying: 'There is no question of supporting
the Bolsheviki in the future'. It remains doubtful whether these words were included in the text as telegraphed or whether they are of a later date.