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Art. 11.-RUSSIAN DIPLOMACY BEFORE THE WAR. 1. Diplomatische Aktenstücke zur Geschichte der Entente. politik der Vorkriegsjahre. Herausg. von B. von Siebert, ehemaliger Sekretär der Kaiserlich-Russischen Botschaft in London. Berlin & Leipzig: De Gruyter, 1921.
2 Aus den Geheim-Archiven des Zaren; ein Beitrag zur Frage nach den Urhebern des Weltkrieges. Von M. Pokrowski, Volkskommissar für Schul- und Bildungswesen in Moskau. Berlin: Scherl, 1919.
3. Kriegsursachen; Beiträge zur Erforschung der Ursachen des Europäischen Krieges mit spezieller Berücksichtigung Russlands und Serbiens. Von Dr M. Boghitschewitsch, ehemaligem Serbischen Geschäftsträger in Berlin. Zürich: Füssli, 1919.
THOSE who have occupied themselves in investigating the causes of the war will know that a peculiar importance attaches to the actions and wishes of the Russian Government; and it is on this point that the controversy, which is being continually kept alive in Germany, especially turns. It is not merely the general mobilisation of the Russian forces at the end of July, but the whole course of Russian policy during the previous years, which has to be considered. The case, as put by the more responsible German writers, is that, while it may doubtless be true that Sir Edward Grey did not himself desire war, he allowed himself by the Entente with Russia to be entangled into a position in which it was within the power of the Russian Government at any time to provoke a war, from which, when it had once begun, Great Britain could not stand aloof. This criticism has received influential support here, as for instance from Lord Loreburn; and it is one which cannot be neglected by any one who wishes to get at the real truth. It might quite well be that the British Government, while honestly using every method to keep peace, had put itself in a position in which all its efforts were necessarily frustrated. In these circumstances, anything which will throw light upon Russian policy in the years before the war is important.
Of such revelations we have had many. One of the
first acts of the new Bolshevik Government, after the Revolution of November 1917, was to publish in the pages of the 'Pravda' selections from the secret documents which they had found in the archives of the Russian Foreign Office. The object was avowedly to persuade the world that the responsibility of the war rested not merely with the German Government, but with those of all the nations of Europe, and to stir up public feeling against the capitalist system, of which war, as they represented, was the inevitable outcome. Since that time these disclosures have been the basis and text of nearly all that has been written on the origins of the war by critics of the Allies. Here was to be found, as it seemed, a convenient escape from the charge that the sole responsibility rested upon Germany. Even if the adverse view generally taken of the acts and motives of the former German Government were maintained, it was something if it could be shown that they were not alone in their crimes and in their blunders.
The importance of this aspect of the controversy was increased by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, for in it the sole responsibility of Germany for the war is asserted; and this is made the basis on which the demands of the reparation chapter are justified. Anything therefore is seized on by the German Government and the German nation which will tend to alter this view; and the German case on Responsibilities, as presented to the Conference, was largely based on these Russian documents.
It is much to be regretted that it has always been impossible to procure a complete and systematic collection of all the papers originally published by the Bolsheviks. We have had to depend on the quotations and selections made in controversial writings. It was, however, from the beginning quite obvious that these formed very unsatisfactory material on which to base an historical judgment. They were merely isolated documents chosen for propaganda purposes out of a great mass of material; and any one who has studied these matters knows how misleading any conclusion may be unless one has the whole correspondence before him. For this reason we welcome a new and important publication, which appeared during the summer of last
year in Germany, containing a great mass of Russian diplomatic correspondence between the years 1908 and 1914. We have here for the first time, not merely in extracts, the whole working of the Russian diplomatic machine, the secret telegrams and despatches interchanged between the Government at Petrograd and the Ambassadors in London, Paris, and Rome.
Before examining the work, a word must be said as to its origin. Many questions are raised to which it is not easy to find an answer. The editor of the work is a Herr von Siebert, who was attached to the Russian Embassy in London for some years before the war. tells us that he had always intended to write a history of the events which he was watching, but he has now given up this intention and prefers merely to publish the documents on which such a history would have been based. But how has it come about that a former Secretary of Embassy finds himself in possession of copies of this great mass of secret material? It is not customary for men in this position to take away with them the confidential archives which pass through their hands. We note also that the book is published in Germany and in German. The originals of the documents were either in Russian, in French, or in English. Why take the trouble to translate them into German, a language which comparatively few people understand? May we not bring these facts into connexion with another statement-that even before the war the German Government regularly received copies of the correspondence between Petrograd and London? All that passed between M. Sazonoff and Count Benckendorff found its way to the Wilhelmstrasse :
'According to the disclosures of Prof. Schiemann, who recently died, a German diplomatist succeeded in 1908 in persuading a Russian official to keep on supplying him with copies of all the instructions which were sent from the Russian Foreign Office to the Ambassador, Count Benckendorff, in London. In this way more than a hundred documents from the years 1908 to 1914 came into the possession of the Berlin Foreign Office' (Süddeutsche Monatshefte,' Juli 1921, p. 5). The dates, it will be noted, precisely coincide with those of the documents published in this volume. It is Vol. 237.-No. 470.
to this that Bethmann Hollweg obviously refers in note to his own memoirs (p. 110):
'Prof. Schiemann has charged me in the press with wi holding from the Emperor important information as to t dangers of our situation. The charge fails. I never attempt to deceive the Emperor about our difficulties. Moreover, t essential facts from those reports of secret origin, with t translation of which Prof. Schiemann was officially charg were laid before the Emperor. In communicating informati from this source I indeed begged the Emperor to excuse from informing him as to their origin, and he fully agreed.
In these circumstances it is surely not improper suggest that the documents which Herr von Siebert publishing are, at least in part, those which have lo been in the possession of the German Foreign Office, a that he is acting now as their agent. On the other har we have to note that, so early as March 1921, very f extracts from these documents were published as pɛ of the anti-English propaganda in the press of t United States. An introductory note there states th they had come into the possession of the Bolshev Government, and implies that it is from the Bolshevi that the text has been obtained. The note, howev goes on to say that the British Government pa 2,500,000 dollars for their suppression. This is a sto which during recent months has repeatedly appeared anti-British propaganda; we are asked to believe th the Foreign Office, conscious that they would be co promised if the official correspondence became know instructed Sir George Buchanan to purchase the cop which the Russian Government had in their possessio and it is generally implied that Sir George Buchan did so. Of course the story is completely untrue; it a wanton fabrication, for which there is no authori of any kind. It is probably equally untrue that t American press got them from the Bolsheviks; it seer more probable that they come from the secret archiv of the German Foreign Office.
But if, as appears then to be probable, the Germ Government during the years before the war had se much of the confidential correspondence of the Enter Powers, and in particular that between Russia and tl
country, this is a matter of the highest importance towards an interpretation and criticism of the acts of the German Government. There was one conclusion which must have been forced upon them by it. England was not manoeuvring for war with Germany; on the contrary, in every crisis, as it came up, the whole efforts of the British Government were used towards finding a peaceful solution. To them at the time, as to us now, the most interesting parts of the correspondence are the letters in which Count Benckendorff attempts to explain to his Government the attitude of the British Government and the British nation towards the Entente and Russia. The whole may be summed up in a single phrase. After discussing the Haldane mission of 1912 he says: Germany remains always, if not the enemy, at any rate the danger. Germany is to blame that the fleets must continually be strengthened.' And again, a few weeks before, Sir Charles Hardinge said to him:
'I can only explain to you that according to our information in the Foreign Office, so long as there remains a question of naval armaments, the result, which in itself is desirable, of completely normal relations between Germany and England, will be unobtainable.'
It is this necessity of protecting herself against the menace of the German fleet which is the ultimate key to the whole of British policy; this it is which made the maintenance of the Entente with Russia so necessary. Of this Sir Edward Grey was so convinced that, as he explained on one occasion to Benckendorff, if the Entente broke down (and there were serious difficulties in Persia) he would himself resign; it would be the end to the whole of his career. But, as is pointed out again and again, and as becomes even more clear in the detailed handling of every separate point, England will not allow herself to be dragged into a conflict with Germany unless it is one arising either out of a case in which English interests, as in Morocco, are immediately concerned, or one in which Germany is clearly the aggressor. This latter point is explained in a letter written by Count Benckendorff during the time of the crisis arising out of the Balkan Wars. One of the conditions on which alone England would take part in a war, says he, was this: