Read NANSEN PLAN TO FEED RUSSIA of The Bullitt Mission to Russia, free online book, by William C. Bullitt, on ReadCentral.com.

Meanwhile Mr. Hoover and Mr. Auchincloss had the idea of approaching peace with Russia by a feeding proposition, and they had approached Mr. Fridjof Nansen, the Arctic explorer, and got him to write and send the following letter to the President. You doubtless have seen his letter to the President.

PARIS, April 3, 1919.

MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: The present food situation in Russia, where hundreds of thousands of people are dying monthly from sheer starvation and disease, is one of the problems now uppermost in all men’s minds. As it appears that no solution of this food and disease question has so far been reached in any direction, I would like to make a suggestion from a neutral point of view for the alleviation of this gigantic misery on purely humanitarian grounds.

It would appear to me possible to organize a purely humanitarian commission for the provisioning of Russia, the foodstuffs and medical supplies to be paid for, perhaps, to some considerable extent by Russia itself, the justice of distribution to be guaranteed by such a commission, the membership of the commission to be comprised of Norwegian, Swedish, and possibly Dutch, Danish, and Swiss nationalities. It does not appear that the existing authorities in Russia would refuse the intervention of such a commission of wholly nonpolitical order, devoted solely to the humanitarian purpose of saving life. If thus organized upon the lines of the Belgian Relief Commission, it would raise no question of political recognition or negotiations between the Allies with the existing authorities in Russia.

I recognize keenly the large political issues involved, and I would be glad to know under what conditions you would approve such an enterprise and whether such commission could look for actual support in finance, shipping, and food and medical supplies from the United States Government.

I am addressing a similar note to Messrs. Orlando,
Clemenceau, and Lloyd George. Believe me, my dear Mr.
President,

Yours, most respectfully,

FRIDJOF NANSEN.

His Excellency the PRESIDENT,
II Place des Etats-Unis, Paris.

Senator KNOX, I think that was published in nearly all the papers.

Mr. BULLITT. Yes. In it he proposed that a commission should be formed at once for the feeding of Russia, because of the frightful conditions of starvation and so on. Col. House decided that it would be an easier way to peace if we could get there via the feeding plan, under the guise of a purely humanitarian plan, if we could slide in that way instead of by a direct, outright statement inviting these people to sit down and make peace. Therefore he asked me to prepare a reply to the Nansen letter, which I have here.

PARIS, FRANCE, April 4, 1919. Suggested reply to Dr.
Nansen by the President of the United States and the
premiers of France, Great Britain, and Italy:

DEAR MR. NANSEN: It is the earnest desire of the allied and associated Governments, and of the peoples for whom they speak, to assuage the distress of the millions of men, women, and children who are suffering in Russia. The associated powers have solemnly pledged their resources to relieve the stricken regions of Europe. Their efforts, begun in Belgium and in Northern France during the course of the war, now extend to exhausted peoples from Finland to the Dalmatian coast. Ports long idle are busy again. Trainloads of food are moved into the interior and there are distributed with an impartial hand. Industry is awakened, and life is resumed at the point where it was broken off by war. These measures of relief will be continued until nations are once more able to provide for their needs through the normal channels of commerce.

The associated peoples desire and deem it their duty similarly to assist in relieving the people of Russia from the misery, famine, and disease which oppress them. In view of the responsibilities which have already been undertaken by the associated Governments they welcome the suggestion that the neutral States should take the initiative in the matter of Russian relief and, therefore, are prepared to state in accordance with your request, the conditions under which they will approve and assist a neutral commission for the provisioning of Russia.

The allied and associated Governments and all Governments now exercising political authority within the territory of the former Russian Empire, including Finland, together with Poland, Galicia, Roumania, Armenia, Azerbaïdjan, and Afghanistan, shall agree that hostilities against one another shall cease on all fronts within these territories on April 20 at noon; that fresh hostilities shall not be begun during the period of this armistice, and that no troops or war material of any kind whatever shall be transferred to or within these territories so long as the armistice shall continue. The duration of the armistice shall be for two weeks unless extended by mutual consent.

The allied and associated Governments propose that such of these Governments as are willing to accept the terms of this armistice, shall send not more than three representatives each, together with necessary technical experts, to Christiania, where they shall meet on April 25 with representatives of the allied and associated Governments in conference to discuss peace ’and the provisioning of Russia, upon the basis of the following principles:

1. All signatory Governments shall remain, as against each other, in full control of the territories which they occupy at the moment when the armistice becomes effective, subject to such rectifications as may be agreed upon by the conference, or until the peoples inhabiting these territories shall themselves voluntarily determine to change their government.

2. The right of free entry, sojourn, circulation, and full security shall be accorded by the several signatories to the citizens of each other; provided, however, that such persons comply with the laws of the country to which they seek admittance, and provided also-that they do not interfere or attempt to interfere in any way with the domestic politics of that country.

3. The right to send official representatives enjoying full liberty and immunity shall be accorded by the several signatories to one another.

4. A general amnesty shall be granted by the various signatories to all political or military opponents, offenders, and prisoners who are so treated because of their association or affiliation with another signatory, provided that they have not otherwise violated the laws of the land.

5. Nationals of one signatory residing or detained in the country of another shall be given all possible facilities for repatriation.

6. The allied and associated Governments will immediately withdraw their armed forces and further military support from the territory of the former Russian Empire, including Finland and the various Governments within that territory shall effect a simultaneous reduction of armed forces according to a scheme of demobilization and control to be agreed upon by the conference.

7. Any economic blockade imposed by one signatory as against another shall be lifted and trade relations shall be established, subject to a program of equitable distribution of supplies and utilization of transport facilities to be agreed upon by the conference in consultation with representatives of those neutral States which are prepared to assume the responsibility for the provisioning of Russia.

8. Provision shall be made by the conference for a mutual exchange of transit and port privileges among the several signatories.

9. The Governments which have been set up on the territory of the former Russian Empire and Finland shall recognize their responsibility for the financial obligations of the former Russian Empire to foreign States parties to this agreement and to the nationals of such States. Detailed arrangements for discharging these obligations shall be agreed upon by the conference, regard being had to the present financial situation of Russia.

10. The conference shall be competent to discuss and determine any other matter which bears upon the provisioning of Russia, the problem of establishing peace within the territory of the former Russian Empire, including Finland, and the reestablishment of international relations among the signatories.

Mr. BULLITT. I also prepared at the orders of Col. House--

Senator KNOX. What attitude did you take toward the Nansen proposal?

Mr. BULLITT. At first I opposed it. I was in favor of the original plan.

Senator KNOX. You were in favor of the original plan?

Mr. BULLITT. I was in favor of direct, straightforward action in the matter. However, I found that there was no use in kicking against the pricks, that I was unable to persuade the commission that my point of view was the correct one. Therefore at the request of Col. House I wrote out a reply to Dr. Nansen, in which I embodied a peace proposal so that it would have meant a peace conference via Nansen, which was what was desired.

Senator BRANDEGEE. Was that letter delivered to Nansen?

Mr. BULLITT. No. I gave this reply of mine to Col. House. Col. House read it and said he would approve it, but that before he gave it to the President and to Lloyd George as his solution of the way to deal with this Russian matter, he wished it considered by his international law experts, Mr. Auchincloss and Mr. Miller, and it was thereupon turned over that afternoon to Mr. Auchincloss and Mr. Miller. Does the Senator desire this document?

Senator KNOX. I do not regard it as material. It was not accepted?

Mr. BULLITT. It was not accepted. What happened in regard to this was that Mr. Auchincloss and Mr. Miller, to correct its legal language, produced a proposition which was entirely different, which left out all possibility of the matter coming to a peace conference, and was largely an offer to feed Russia provided Russia put all her railroads in the hands of the allied and associated Governments. I have that as well.

Senator BRANDEGEE. Do you object to having that put in the record, Senator Knox?

Senator KNOX. No.

Senator BRANDEGEE. I would like to have that put in.

(The document referred to is here printed in full, as follows:)

(AUCHINCLOSS-MILLER PROPOSAL)

Draft of proposed letter to be signed by President Wilson
and the prime ministers of Great Britain, France, and Italy
in reply to Mr. Nansen’s letter:

DEAR SIR: The situation of misery and suffering in Russia which is described in your letter of April 3 is one which appeals to the sympathies of all peoples of the world. Regardless of political differences or shades of thought, the knowledge that thousands and perhaps millions of men, and above all of women and children lack the food and the necessities which make life endurable is one which is shocking to humanity.

The Governments and the peoples whom we represent, without thought of political, military or financial advantage, would be glad to cooperate in any proposal which would relieve the existing situation in Russia. It seems to us that such a commission as you propose, purely humanitarian in its purpose, would offer a practical means of carrying out the beneficent results which you have in view and could not either in its conception or its operation be considered as having in view any other aim than “the humanitarian purpose of saving life.”

It is true that there are great difficulties to be overcome, political difficulties owing to the existing situation in Russia, and difficulties of supply and transport. But if the existing de facto governments of Russia are all willing as the Governments and peoples whom we represent to see succor and relief given to the stricken peoples of Russia, no political difficulties will remain as obstacles thereto.

There will remain, however, the difficulties of supply and transport which we have mentioned and also the problem of distribution in Russia itself. The problem of supply we can ourselves safely hope to solve in connection with the advice and cooperation of such a commission as you propose. The problem of transport of supplies to Russia we can hope to meet with the assistance of your own and other neutral Governments.

The difficulties of transport in Russia can in large degree only be overcome in Russia itself. So far as possible, we would endeavor to provide increased means of transportation; but we would consider it essential in any such scheme of relief that control of transportation in Russia, so far as was necessary in the distribution of relief supplies, should be placed wholly under such a commission as is described in your letter and should to the necessary extent be freed from any governmental or private control whatsoever.

The real human element in the situation, even supposing all these difficulties to be surmounted, is the problem of distribution, the problem of seeing that the food reaches the starving, the medicines the sick, the clothing the naked. Subject to the supervision of such a commission, this is a problem which should be solely under the control of the people of Russia themselves so far as it is humanly possible to put it under their control. It is not a question of class or of race or of politics but a question of human beings in need, and these human beings in each locality should be given, as under the regime of the Belgian relief commission, the fullest opportunity to advise the commission upon the methods and the personnel by which their community is to be relieved. Under no other circumstances could it be believed that the purpose of this relief was humanitarian and not political, and still more important, under no other conditions could it be certain that the hungry would be fed. That such a course would involve cessation of hostilities by Russian troops would of course mean a cessation of all hostilities on the Russian fronts. Indeed, relief to Russia which did not mean a return to a state of peace would be futile, and would be impossible to consider.

Under such conditions as we have outlined, we believe that
your plan could be successfully carried into effect and we
should be prepared to give it our full support.

Senator KNOX. What I am anxious to get at is to find out what became of your report.

Senator FALL. I should like to know whether Col. House approved Mr. Auchincloss’s and Mr. Miller’s report, or the report of the witness.

Mr. BULLITT. I should like to have this clear, and if I can read just this one page I shall be greatly obliged. On this proposition I wrote the following memorandum to Mr. Auchincloss [reading]:

APRIL 4, 1919.

Memorandum for Mr. Auchincloss:

DEAR GORDON: I have studied carefully the draft of the reply to Dr. Nansen which you have prepared. In spirit and substance your letter differs so radically from the reply which I consider essential that I find it difficult to make any constructive criticism. And I shall refrain from criticizing your rhetoric.

There are two proposals in your letter, however, which are
obviously unfair and will not, I am certain, be accepted by
the Soviet Government.

1. The life of Russia depends upon its railroads; and your demand for control of transportation by the commission can hardly be accepted by the Soviet Government which knows that plots for the destruction of railroad bridges were hatched in the American consulate in Moscow. You are asking the Soviet Government to put its head in the lion’s mouth. It will not accept. You must moderate your phrases.

2. When you speak of the “cessation of hostilities by Russian troops,” you fail to speak of hostilities by troops of the allied and associated Governments, a number of whom, you may recall, have invaded Russia. Furthermore, your phrase does not cover Finns, Esthonians, Letts, Poles, etc. In addition, you say absolutely nothing about the withdrawal of the troops of the allied and associated Governments from Russian territory. And, most important, you fail to say that troops and military supplies will cease to be sent into the territory of the former Russian Empire. You thereby go a long way toward proving Trotsky’s thesis: That any armistice will simply be used by the Allies as a period in which to supply tanks, aeroplanes, gas shells, liquid fire, etc., to the various antisoviet governments. As it stands, your armistice proposal is absolutely unfair, and I am sure that it will not be accepted by the Soviet Government.

Very respectfully, yours,

WILLIAM C. BULLITT.

Senator NEW. Otherwise you had no fault to find with it?

Mr. BULLITT. Yes. The morning after Col. House had told me he wished to submit this proposition to his international law experts, I came as usual to his office about 9.40, and Mr. Auchincloss was on his way to the President with his proposal, the Auchincloss-Miller proposal, as Col. House’s proposal. But I got that stopped. I went in to Col. House, and Col. House told Mr. Auchincloss not to take it up to the President, and asked me if I could doctor up the reply of Mr. Auchincloss and Mr. Miller to the Nansen letter so that it might possibly be acceptable to the Soviet Government. I thereupon rewrote the Auchincloss-Miller letter, but I was forced to stick very closely to the text. I was told that I could cut things out if I wished to, but to stick very closely to the text, which I did. I drew this redraft of their letter, under protest at the whole business. My redraft of their letter was finally the basis of the reply of the four to Nansen. I have both these documents here, my reply and the four took that reply and with the changes

The CHAIRMAN. What four the successors of the ten?

Mr. BULLITT. The successors of the 10, sir, took the reply--

The CHAIRMAN. Who were the four at that moment?

Mr. BULLITT. M. Orlando, Mr. Lloyd George, M. Clemenceau, and the President. This extremely mild proposition, which really had almost no chance of life, was, you will see, in no sense a reply to these proposals of the Soviet Government. This is my attempt to doctor up the Auchincloss-Miller proposition. In spite of every effort I could make to obtain definite action on it, the reply was made to me that this reply to the Nansen proposal would be a sufficient reply to that proposal of the Soviet Government. [Reading:]

DEAR SIR: The misery and suffering in Russia described in your letter of April 3 appeals to the sympathies of all peoples. It is shocking to humanity that millions of men, women, and children lack the food and the necessities, which make life endurable.

The Governments and peoples whom we represent would be glad to cooperate, without thought of political, military, or financial advantage, in any proposal which would relieve this situation in Russia. It seems to us that such a commission as you propose would offer a practical means of achieving the beneficent results you have in view, and could not, either in its conception or its operation, be considered as having any other aim than the “humanitarian purpose of saving life.”

There are great difficulties to be overcome, political difficulties, owing to the existing situation in Russia, and difficulties of supply and transport. But if the existing local governments of Russia are as willing as the Governments and the peoples whom we represent to see succor and relief given to the stricken peoples of Russia, no political obstacle will remain. There will remain, however, the difficulties of supply and transport, which we have mentioned, and also the problem of distribution in Russia itself. The problem of supply we can ourselves hope to solve, in connection with the advice and cooperation of such a commission as you propose. The problem of transport of supplies to Russia we can hope to meet with the assistance of your own and other neutral Governments. The problem of transport in Russia and of distribution can be solved only by the people of Russia themselves, with the assistance, advice, and supervision of your commission.

Subject to such supervision, the problem of distribution should be solely under the control of the people of Russia themselves. The people in each locality should be given, as under the regime of the Belgian Relief Commission, the fullest opportunity to advise your commission upon the methods and the personnel by which their community is to be relieved. In no other circumstances could it be believed that the purpose of this relief was humanitarian, and not political, under no other conditions could it be certain that the hungry would be fed.

That such a course would involve cessation of all hostilities within the territory of the former Russian Empire is obvious. And the cessation of hostilities would, necessarily, involve a complete suspension of the transfer of troops and military material of all sorts to and within these territories. Indeed, relief to Russia which did not mean a return to a state of peace would be futile, and would be impossible to consider.

Under such conditions as we have outlined we believe that your plan could be successfully carried into effect, and we should be prepared to give it our full support.