By Eric Vandenbroeck 23 June 2018

British Imperial Agents invade Russia

As explained in the previous part despite rhetoric to the contrary, it made no Imperial difference whether Russia was governed by a monarch, a Democrat, or an ideologue. Imperial paramountcy required stability, and planning for stability required dependable information. It was within this context that Mia devised its methods of dealing with the Russian problem. As General Poole reported, the policy to be adopted as regards British influence in Northern Russia through ports of Murmansk and Archangel, should, I consider, be ample control as to whether or not German capital dominates Russian Companies formed to organise dockyards at Murmansk."1 In 1918, the temptation to acquire de facto control, the cheap MIO way, was "not unreasonable''-it was irresistible.

The public assumption that the military phase was the first and not the second involvement of Imperials in North Russia was encouraged by the timing of events-but that was synchronicity only. It appeared that Russian withdrawal had subsequently made an Allied military substitution the primary objective. Financial and intelligence considerations aside, the military scheme employed to accomplish what was in fact perfectly justifiable and publicly announced military objectives also offered an opportunity to assimilate a kind of organized guerrilla warfare into the regular army system.

Imperial involvement in North Russia, initially to create an intelligence base operating with Russian permission, and later by the imposition of a military base operating without that permission, was merely a way of realizing Imperial ambitions without necessarily provoking predictably infeasible and costly full-scale military intercession. It was the least amount of involvement required to do the job.

According to the post-war internal evaluation of the effectiveness of the intelligence services the total number of agents employed by the GHQ Services during the war was roughly 6,000.2

Under prevailing circumstances, which involved an absence of secure access and an absence of secure control over the single remaining, telegraphic/wireless nexus for the northern European region, it was determined that a small group, heavily laden with signals experts and supported with a minimal number of what were essentially garrison troops, could secure the area and have an intelligence effect far in excess of their numbers and far superior in result to military intervention. The original MIO mission in the north was, in fact, to establish a signals intelligence support group, which was meant not only to guarantee Imperial access but also to serve as a relay for intelligence gathered within Russia and the surrounding areas to London, where it would serve as an informed and reliable basis for further action. Without such signals intelligence presence, the War Office was blind. When Henry Wilson declared that the reasons which originally led to the despatch of Allied troops to North Russia were, to maintain communications with the patriotic and Anti-German elements in Russia, he meant it literally.

As the secret post-war MI8 explanation had it, these access points to intelligence networks were the " Special routes, established because it was obviously desirable to avoid, as far as possible, routes passing through the territory of neutrals where the connecting lines were worked by a non-British staff and were liable to be interfered with by a neutral Government, or tapped in the interests of the enemy."3

What the Intelligence Operation metamorphosed into

With the anticipated disappearance of the German menace, Colonel Steel wrote that our original pretext for intervention in Russia, i. e., the encouragement of continued military resistance to the Central Powers, vanishes. From the purely military point of view, there is no longer any immediate object to be gained by the retention of forces in Russia.

The paper developed its theme by maintaining that if the intervention was to continue, it had to be directed either against Bolshevism or towards eliminating every trace of German influence in Russia. Steel went on to argue that no great help could be expected from an effective action in the north since communications were "too exiguous" and the population was both scanty, and had shown no marked response to the Allied call to them to rise against Bolshevik oppression. Not only that, "It is in the North that Bolshevism has its stronghold, and where, according to Mr [Bruce] Lockhart, it is growing stronger every day."

Steel proceeded to torpedo his case with his next point, which tried to present a case for continuing the intervention in the north: "One factor stands out - we cannot desert and hand over to the vengeance of the Bolshevists the population which we have taken under our protection." Here was a fine contradiction. The population of the region was on the one hand largely hostile, but it was still worthy of British protection against the vengeance of the very people it supported.

The reason for Steel's confusion is apparent. He wanted the Allies to stay in Russia; the whole policy of intervention had owed a lot to him over the preceding year, but now he was fishing for justification for it. The real reason behind his support for intervention is found in the third paragraph of his paper: "From the military point of view we have to consider this point in connection with the defense of India and our position in the East."

The problems posed by British rule in India and by her position in the Middle East have been touched. upon several times. At their roots lay two factors: the possession of a global empire and the real reason for the war, which was the struggle for world supremacy between Britain and Germany. The British Empire lent considerable prestige to the country, and while in many respects it was a source of strength, the World War had also shown it to be a potential weakness. The latter point was driven home most strongly in the Second World War. It was the danger to the Empire in the East that conditioned much of British thinking towards Russia, Bolshevism, and intervention.

Certainly, the Bolsheviks had not made themselves any friends among the higher British political echelons with their attempts to foment risings in the East against the colonial overlords. In turn, this meant not just the Bolsheviks, but Bolshevism and then Communism were enemies to be destroyed in the eyes of those echelons. The great struggle between the capitalist powers of the West and the Soviet Union was initially drawn in great part from this perspective. Western propaganda endeavored to portray the Bolsheviks as allies of the Germans, and all sorts of nonsense about German troops fighting alongside the Bolsheviks in Siberia was pedaled to the public of the capitalist world.

Writing in 1920, Keyes had this to say about the accusations that Denikin's White Army was no better than the Bolsheviks in humanitarian terms: Over three hundred British officers have been in South Russia during Denikin's campaign, and, though many may have been disillusioned by the corruption and incompetence which nullified the gallantry and devotion of the original volunteer army, most have been able to see beneath this and to realise, that, with all their failings, these people have been fighting in defence of Christian civilisation against the most damnable evil the world has ever seen, and, incidentally, have been acting as an outpost of the British Empire in the East.

That the Bolsheviks were regarded as a threat to Western civilization, as the British elite understood "civilization", is beyond doubt. This theme was harped upon with increasing frequency throughout 1918. This served as an additional justification for intervening in Russia. It was pressed by General Poole as early as 13 February in a letter to Colonel Byrne and more strongly in his Report on Visit if British Military Mission to the Volunteer Army: "The successful movement in South Russia is the only spontaneous Russian effort to maintain the principles of order and civilisation against the menace of Bolshevism."

It was a view shared across Intelligence circles. When the Director of Naval Intelligence retired in November 1918, he addressed a short farewell speech to the members of Room 40. According to his biographer, its last words were: Above all we must thank God for our victory over the German nation; and now I want to give you all a word of warning. Hard and bitter as the battle has been, we have now to face a far, far more ruthless foe, a foe that is hydra-headed, and whose evil power will spread over the whole world, and that foe is Russia.

These facts did not incline the British authorities to regard the new regime in Russia with any degree of friendliness. The destruction of the Eastern front, regarded as essential for victory in the war with Germany, occasioned understandable feelings of betrayal.

Restoring the Eastern front and defending the British Empire in India might be considered compelling reasons for intervention in Russia at this point, although Steel has been seen to have dismissed restoring the Eastern front as a pretext. Yet did intervention offer any realistic prospect of renewing the war in the east when many of the Russian people had no will to fight the Germans? Did the intervention draw a single German division from the Western front? Germany continued to maintain thirty-five-and-a-half divisions in the east irrespective of the Allied intervention, and they never required a single company of reinforcements from the Western front. To argue that the Eastern front was a necessity when the Allies could look forward to the prospect of millions of fresh American troops on the Western front simply neglects the conditions faced by the Central Powers in 1918. In these terms the intervention can be seen as an enormous gamble; it was one that failed.

Alternatively they could have gently encouraged the Bolsheviks in their passive resistance to Germany, a form of resistance that led, in part to the German divisions being tied down in the east, as Lenin had informed them would happen. However, they would have been able to exert little control over this and to do nothing if the strategy misfired. Moreover, the Allied military experts looked askance at the idea, conditioned as they were to dealing with formed armies of massed divisions and artillery. The military experts were part of the problem, as much as the politicians. The soldiers required political leadership, but the political leadership of the Allies, and notably the British, was divided and uncertain. After the decision of 3 December 1917 the military experts, especially the Intelligence officers, had been given their head and they committed their countries to a greater extent than the political leadership calculated.

The Allies founded their hopes on the domestic opposition to the Bolsheviks uniting to overthrow Lenin and his colleagues, but for that they found that the opposition parties demanded direct Allied support, military support, not merely advisers and money. It was expected that the Russian opposition parties would join the intervention with a large-scale rising against the Bolsheviks, and it would be an understatement to describe the prospect as beguiling. Civil war was an inevitable part of this scheme, though it is more than probable that the Allies did not consider that it would last long, descend to the depths it did, or cost so many lives. Allied to this was the poor performance of the then embryonic Red Army against the Germans when the Brest-Litovsk negotiations had broken down. This helped to create the illusion that military success in Russia would be swift and easy, and would not require large forces that the Allies could not spare.

The military group supplementing the Poole Mission was assembled on 26 August 1918 but did not leave until 17 September, arriving at Murmansk on 26 September.4 Consul Lindley described this group as the one which would prevent the extermination of those "anti-Bolshevik organizations" which "our agents and the French fostered and financed." The fear now was that if the Bolsheviks were "given sufficient time they may succeed as the French terrorists succeeded in creating ... a really serious fighting force, which it would be about impossible to overthrow with forces operating from such unsuitable bases as Vladivostock and the Arctic Coast and exposed to the menace of a sudden attack by German troops."5

By the time this soldierly group left for North Russia the original limited intention of the mission had been completely subsumed within its military incarnation. They were now engaged in the attempt to pat the once only lightly regarded contingency planning into effect. While Dunsterforce as a training group had had some legitimate hope of contacting indigenous alienated nationalities which might be used in an imperially sponsored guerrilla action, and while Vladivostok thought they ln light still connect with the Czechs, the one possibility of successful recruitment was completely absent at Murmansk/Archangel. North Russia was the ideal spot for an intelligence operation; it was far less than ideal as a recruiting center. The local inhabitants regarded the Imperials as substantially an alien force invading enemy territory' and the potential trainees were local people, passively neutral or sullenly against them.6 Without local support, North Russia intervention had 110 hope.

Military intervention, unlike intelligence intervention, depended on persuading a British government composed of Imperialists, and bureaucrats to agree that active involvement was now necessary beyond the persuasive and commercial re-enforcement which had served as long as there were Russian internal controls. This was the strategic measure demanded by the military situation 7 -which required troops to be made available to secure the area, and to carry out all the other objectives which later served as the public rationale for intervention -linking with the Czechs, interdicting munitions, and re-constituting the Eastern Front.

The pressure on the Imperial government by intelligence agencies and politicians, and the fluctuation in and the paucity of reliable information about what Bolshevism in the north and south intended, were exacerbated by escalating internal Russian supply and transport problems. The fear was the misuse of supplies, not their adequacy-and the men on the scene were finding as little success in correcting that problem as those in Whitehall were finding in confining the intervention to its original intelligence purpose.

The moment that the British intervention in the north was augmented by troops who were neither committed to nor knowledgeable of that intelligence objectives-mid-year, 1918-the northern intervention lost its original purpose without gaining a satisfactory substitute. The intelligence-operations which were meant to guarantee and safeguard communications capability became merely another military incursion of dubious utility.8

The British Banking scheme to control Russia's economy

When I mentioned in p. 1 that while the rescue of the Czechs was the agreed Allied aim for the Siberian intervention, the other collateral target for some was financial gain, this is well illustrated by the events surrounding the Economic Mission the British sent to Russia in July 1919. The Mission ostensibly had economic goals. One of the duties of the Mission was to examine the banking scheme that had been operated by Terence Keyes, the political officer attached to the British Embassy in Russia. The banking scheme initially was thought of following when the Volunteer Army, the Cossacks and the other anti-Bolshevik groups in south Russia became allies under duress. Thus something big was required to raise an army and finance "what must develop into a civil war" (British Library, Keys Collection, Add Mss Eur F131/12(a) p. 26.)

And as the Assistant Foreign Secretary Lord Robert Cecil explained:

It has been intimated to us confidentially that President Wilson is in favour of the provision of Allied support for the above elements, and that while he has no power to lend money directly to such un-organized movements, he is willing to let France and England [sic Britain] have funds to transmit to them if they consider it desirable.

Deepest secrecy was essential, less because of the assurance Buchanan had given the Bolsheviks that the Embassy was not engaged in any counter-revolutionary plots - that seems to have been entirely insincere - but, because "The Allies could not back it openly, as this would have been an act of war against the Bolsheviks, which they were then unable to undertake." (British National Archives, FO171/3283, 1918 Russia File II, Cecil to Crosby, 2 January 1918, p.11. Oscar T.Crosby was with the US Embassy in Paris.)

The banking scheme was developed in collaboration with Karol Yaroshinsky, and the arrangement Keyes and his fellow conspirators reached to achieve the same ends but by indirect means was to establish a Cossack Bank with Anglo-French backing. Backed by five, later seven, of the major Russian banks, this is where Yaroshlnsky was to play the key role. He already owned enough shares to control three of these banks and was determined to group all of them under his wing. He needed money from the British and, ultimately, the Americans to achieve this.

Yaroshinsky (on an aside) was also well known to the Romanov family, having been a benefactor of the hospitals at Tsarskoe Selo set up under the patronage of Nicholas and Alexandra’s younger daughters Anastasia and Maria. Accounts vary, but he is said to have stumped up around 175,000 gold rubles (worth more than $ 3 million/ £ 2,175,000 today), which Anna Vyrubova passed on to Vsevolod Solovev to deliver to the family in Tobolsk, in his guise as a "fully accredited representative of various monarchist organisations, which trusted him because of Vyrubova’s recommendation" (Shay McNeal, The Secret Plot to Save the Tsar: New Truths Behind the Romanov Mystery, 2003).

Keyes was certainly thinking on a grand scale when he wrote:

We have the right to nominate our own directors and these banks with their 300 odd branches and their interests in numerous commercial and industrial! concerns offer us an unrivaled commercial intelligence system for investigating old and new undertakings. They offer us the means of setting on their feet such as our concerns as having suffered during the disorders, and of handing out loans and other financial interests. (British Library, Keys Collection, Add Mss Eur F131/12(a) p. 16, see also National Archives, FO371/3283, British British Ambassador in Russia George Buchanan to Foreign Office 28 December 1918.)

There was still another bonus. By controlling this conglomerate of banks, Britain, and to a lesser extent the Allies, would exclude the Germans and cripple their attempts to dominate Russia economically. And if the mechanics of the scheme had worked, it would have reduced the Russian Empire to the status of a satellite of the British Empire. An understanding of the mechanics of the scheme is necessary, for they were the means by 'which this goal was to be achieved.

Although working with the Embassy, Keyes was responsible to above mentioned General Poole and his approval was necessary for the scheme to go ahead. Thus Poole, Keyes, and Yaroshinsky met on 6 February 1918.

With the breakdown of the peace negotiations between the Bolsheviks and the Central Powers at Brest Litovsk in 1918, the armies of the latter advanced deep into Russia. The Bolsheviks had so undermined the Russian Army that little effective resistance was possible and German troops reached the outskirts of Petrograd. The British expected its imminent fall.

The whole plan was based on the expectation of imminent White victory in the Civil War, a prospect that appeared realistic at-that-time. It was felt to be vital to creating a powerful business organization that would take the lead in a systematic economic reconstruction of Russia, employing Yaroshinskv's financial influence and British finance, while supplanting German influence. 

The means were to be the re-establishment of those Russian banks that would be controlled by the proposed organization and the bringing of other Russian banks within its influence. This banking conglomerate would then finance and develop the various commercial and industrial enterprises that fell within its extensive orbit. Finally, it was planned 'to coordinate the numerous activities of the organization in such a way as to make it a permanent and powerful "factor in the political and economic life of Russia."9 This amounted to control of the entire Russian economy, with the clear implication that control of Russia's political life would follow (NLS, Steel-Maitland Papers, GD193/328, (6) Yaroshinsky (1919).

The Allies founded their hopes on the domestic opposition to the Bolsheviks uniting to overthrow Lenin and his colleagues, but for that, they found that the opposition parties demanded direct Allied support, military support, not merely advisers and money. It was expected that the Russian opposition parties would join the intervention with a large-scale rising against the Bolsheviks, and it would be an understatement to describe the prospect as beguiling. The civil war was an inevitable part of this scheme, though it is more than probable that the Allies did not consider that it would last long, descend to the depths it did, or cost so many lives. Allied to this was the poor performance of the then embryonic Red Army against the Germans when the Brest-Litovsk negotiations had broken down. This helped to create the illusion that military success in Russia would be swift and easy, and would not require large forces that the Allies could not spare.

The Allied intervention

In the case of the Allied intervention in general, it was a given that nations working together have their own national interests. Each has its own strategic goals and, when there is resistance from allies, each goes its own way, usually secretly. Equally, each country may endeavor to change or pressure other allies to go along with them. Moreover, when individual national interests clash with the collective alliance goals, some will try to promote what they consider to be the only correct solution. Self-perceptions of power also play a role. Senior and junior allies may operate differently and for different reasons. The Great Powers, in trying to re-establish the Eastern Front in Russia in 1918, illustrated many of these things. A case-in-point was the United States, which first tried to prevent any Allied military intervention, and then, when that became inevitable, refused to cooperate with its Allies in Siberia and attempted to restrict US troop employment in North Russia. At a more strategic level, the US administration agreed to have Japan in overall command in Siberia, but then neglected to direct its own commander to submit to Japanese leadership.

Other Allies fared no better. Japan looked at intervention as a means to control Siberia for its own national purposes. It agreed to intervention originally and ostensibly to assist the Czech Legion to escape Siberia, but refused to send troops west of Lake Baikal to fight the Bolsheviks who were trying to prevent the Legion's exit. In addition, the Japanese actively supported rebels against the established anti-Bolshevik government of Admiral Kolchak, rendering impossible the avowed purpose of the operation. Japan consented to limit its troop strength to that of the US contingent but immediately sent double that number in order to dominate the Russian Maritime Provinces. This action alone spawned a heightened US distrust of its Asian Ally's intentions.

The Japanese ultimately aimed to create a buffer state between the Bolsheviks and China, specifically Manchuria. Initially imagined as a pan-Mongol homeland, the hypothetical buffer state lacked popular support among the Mongol peoples, which led the Japanese to scrap the plan. The idea of a buffer state was not abandoned, however. If the Russian Far East could be detached from the rest of Russia, it could be turned into a puppet state under local White forces. To that end, the Japanese began patronage of Cossack atamans, like Captain Semenov. The desire for an anti-Bolshevik state waivered as Kolchak grew stronger and looked as though he might be capable of reuniting Russia, but, with Kolchak’s demise and the collapse of the anti-Bolshevik front west of Lake Baikal, the idea regained its initial appeal. The Japanese attempted to consolidate political power in Siberia in the form of Cossack ataman warlords. Japanese patronage came in several forms, primarily funds, weapons, and ammunition. The Cossack atamans, for their part, generally followed the wishes of their patrons, as evidenced by Semenov’s opposition to Kolchak.10 The Cossack atamans of the Far East “maintained order” through ruthless and usually arbitrary brutality.11 The Japanese support of the Cossack atamans put them at odds with the American forces on the ground.12 The Japanese aims did not coincide with those of the other Allies’ and increased the friction between the United States and Japan.

Japan agreed to intervention originally and ostensibly to assist the Czech Legion to escape Siberia, but refused to send troops west of Lake Baikal to fight the Bolsheviks who were trying to prevent the Legion's exit. In addition, the Japanese actively supported rebels against the established anti-Bolshevik government of Admiral Kolchak, rendering impossible the avowed purpose of the operation. Japan consented to limit its troop strength to that of the US contingent but immediately sent double that number in order to dominate the Russian Maritime Provinces. This action alone spawned a heightened US distrust of its Asian Ally's intentions. Japan wished to control Siberia to counter the historic and ongoing US economic incursions into China. America's support of the ‘open door’ trade policy in China directly conflicted with Japan's wish to monopolize trade in its sphere of influence. This rivalry prevented the two nations from working together to establish a stable anti-Bolshevik government in Siberia, something Japan could not permit if it was to obtain the dominance it desired. But Japan was not the unified nation it appeared to be. The governing elite was divided over its approach to both Russia and the United States. Although the Army appeared to be in charge of Siberian operations, Prime Minister Terauchi and others were at odds with the General Staff and were able to resist enlarging Japanese military forces in Siberia late in 1919. There were conflicts in the Japanese government on how to work with the United States, but there was no consensus other than to allow the military to continue its operations in Russia. This was only one part of the chaotic nature of the Allied intervention.

Because of their ignorance of Bolshevik methods and goals, the United States saw the two Russian factions as equals in the struggle, but they viewed the anti-Bolsheviks as reactionaries ready to return to the tyrannical government of the Tsars. For this reason, the United States would not support Kolchak against the rebels in Siberia. National interests submerged the collective Allied goal. In Britain's case, it not only worked for its own interests, it also clashed with the interests of parts of its own Empire.

In its turn, France undermined the White Russian General Denikin in favor of the Ukrainian rebels, despite the agreed Allied aim. In addition, France assiduously worked at advancing any scheme that would ensure Russian payment of the enormous pre-war loans and massive war debts. This blinkered view of pursuing compensation by any means to the detriment of common goals steadily undermined collective Allied efforts to assist the Whites. These illustrate how national self-interest trumped many of the collective goals.

But the Alliance's strategic aims in Russia were also fluid. The Great War was the driving force until November 1918. Up to then, the Allies' intentions in Russia were to re-establish the Eastern Front to alleviate German pressure on the Western Front. The United States, however, did not accept this goal as achievable or necessary. But with the Armistice, even this goal was no longer relevant and the war on Bolshevism became one of many other reasons for intervention. Yet the Allies could not agree on one policy as it applied to Russia. Moreover, with the end of fighting in Europe, Russia lost strategic importance to the need to produce a peace treaty in Paris.

Significantly, Russia was intimately tied to the laborious and often bitter negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference. Even well after the Armistice, Allied soldiers were part of the continued fighting and turmoil across Russia. At Paris and in Allied capitals, there was fear that Russia could fall under the influence of Germany, despite the latter's defeat in Western Europe. Russia could not be separated from the larger subject of Germany and its place in Europe. Revolution and tumult were spreading in Middle and Eastern Europe and in Germany. So, while the negotiating Great Powers did not want Russia present at the Paris Conference, that nation could not be separated from their talks and decisions. Here was a major weakness of the Allied interventionist effort: without Russia in Paris, the Allied intervention was likely doomed to be piecemeal, and driven by individual self-interest. And Russia also had an impact on nations far from its shores.

There were smaller actions and other motives at play in these events, and mistrust often spread. In Canada, Sir Robert Borden at first urged his government to establish economic missions to accompany the Canadian contingent destined for Siberia, hoping to reap economic rewards. Based on the way Britain had acted during the Great War with respect to munitions orders, directing them to the United States and ignoring Canada's factories, he did not trust the British economic delegation to look after Canadian interests. For some Canadians in 1919, Russia offered the opportunity to help recoup the financial cost of the Great War and also keep the newfound Canadian industrial success going well into the 1920s. So Canada, like other nations, mixed too many expectations on a policy that should have been kept as simple as possible, given war's natural characteristic to be chaotic and uncontrollable.

Personalities had a major influence on the courses that nations followed. Individuals can often drive action or cause inaction. Politics and personalities cannot be ignored. Decisions, in turn, determine what will not be done as well as what is done. And people made these decisions. Strong-willed people are very important in a functioning alliance. In the Allied intervention in Russia, there were influential people at every level of decision-making. The strongest examples both in the actual events and in historical interpretation were David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, and Woodrow Wilson.

Although some American historians point their finger at Wilson for singlehandedly causing the failure of the Allied Intervention, more honestly it has to be laid at the feet of more than him. There were many others who had various shares in the cause of this failure, but besides Woodrow Wilson, another major contributor was British Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

George Kennan's conclusion - blaming Wilson for the outcome - is based more on American national centrism rather than detailed analysis: that is, Wilson was against both Russian factions equally because neither lived up to his idealistic version of the American dream. Initially, Wilson had fought against sending Allied troops into Russia from a sense of superiority combined with naïveté. He firmly believed that the Russian Revolution was based on a desire of a people to rid themselves of a tyrannical government and to establish democracy. Convinced to the point of unreason, he considered it immoral to interfere in the internal political struggles of the Russian people. The United States had to set an example to other nations, and therefore should not actively interfere on one side or the other of an internal political fight. Yet Wilson's view was, ironically, also anti-Bolshevik, although not to the point that he would allow the US military to assist either faction in Russia. He also deeply abhorred imperialism, and therefore he was suspicious and reluctant to act with an entity he naturally recoiled from, such as the British Empire or a reconstituted Russian one. He hoped to use the United States' strength to create a new international order free of war or revolution. It was one in which the United States would be the pre-eminent political and economic power.

Having the United States participate in what the president saw as an immoral undertaking would undermine that nation's image as a ‘shining city on a hill’. Wilson firmly believed that the United States was divinely destined to lead the world to an orderly, liberal and capitalist international society. Yet this messianism, as US philosopher-historian Reinhold Niebuhr describes it, is a corrupt expression of man's search for the ultimate within the vicissitudes and hazards of rime.' Wilson's self-assurance in his own intellect, coupled with belief in his own moral superiority, made him impervious to differing rational argument. Wilson never recognized his own intellectual limits and never corrected his mistakes in Siberia. In one author's view, he had the mind of a country schoolmaster and the soul of an army mule. Wilson interpreted the First World War as a crusade to make the world safe for democracy, but first viewed that conflict as caused by trade rivalries, which the United States was supposedly above. Yet the US president was averse to intervening in Siberia because of trade disagreements with Japan. Moreover, his antipathy towards the military intervention ensured that US troops involved would be inadequate for the purpose.

He was not alone. While Wilson was central to retarding US participation in the intervention, Lloyd George almost single-handedly prevented the British from supporting the Whites effectively. Unlike Wilson, the British prime minister was the consummate politician who understood the need to keep his electorate happy while maintaining British prestige and pre-eminence internationally. Like Wilson, Lloyd George was a bit naive about Bolshevism, seeing it solely as a Russian problem. He did not understand Lenin's avowed goal of worldwide revolution. However, he did understand the danger to domestic peace and the desire of Great Britain's war-weary populace to return quickly to a normal, peaceful regime. British Labour's opposition to military intervention could have, in Lloyd George's mind, endangered the whole domestic political system and Britain's domestic tranquility. Lloyd George knew that Britain could not afford nor would undertake another major war, especially in Russia where the Bolshevik revolution at first seemed to dispose of a dictator and replace him with a popular government.

But early in the intervention debate, the British prime minister was supportive of military involvement when it appeared to be a way of easing pressure on the Western Front by re-establishing an Eastern Front. His acceptance increased dramatically in the spring of 1918 when it looked like the Germans' Michael Offensive would crush the Allies. And so Lloyd George accepted sending Allied troops to guard military stores at both Archangel and Vladivostok to prevent their capture by Germany. However, he became skeptical of intervention once the Armistice was achieved in November 1918. From then, he actively opposed the scheme in both the British Cabinet and at the Paris Peace Conference. Lloyd George remained fully sensitive to the manpower limitations of the British Army as well as the unaffordable costs any intervention would entail. As the head of a coalition government dominated by Conservatives, but with strong-willed Liberals as well, Lloyd George could not afford a single political failure that could be laid at his feet personally. Fully aware of this, he governed accordingly.

Ever the pragmatist, Lloyd George's greatest fear was unrest among the British population. Military intervention in Russia, in the view of the Labour Party and articulated by the Trades Union Congress, was cause for a General Strike. For this reason, Lloyd George could not risk openly supporting a full-scale intervention against the Bolsheviks. He maintained this stance despite overt pressure from Winston Churchill, the one man who consistently pushed for a military solution to the Russian problem. To add to the chaotic nature of British politics was the problem that Lloyd George never quite said "no" and never quite said "yes" perhaps to cause a delay in making any decision, thereby gaining time. But whatever the case, such overt inaction meant that ‘others’ like Churchill took action and were difficult to control. Nonetheless, it was Lloyd George's actions and inactions that prevented adequate British support for the anti-Bolsheviks and together with President Wilson ensured the failure of the intervention.

Failure, of course, was also due to purely Russian issues and the Allied leader's ignorance of Bolshevik goals. Lenin was a master at chaotic diplomacy. For instance, he kept the American Red Cross representative Robins and the United States convinced curing the Brest-Litovsk negotiations that he would accept Allied help against the Central Powers. This allowed the Bolsheviks to retain power in Moscow. He employed similar methods against Trotsky and other Bolshevik leaders to bolster his personal power. He used diplomatic confusion to gain time against German negotiations to delay or stop them from a resumption of fighting. And he was willing to cede Russian territory to ensure the Bolsheviks retained power in Russia, convinced that world revolution would eventually return all that was lost.

Even before Lenin attained power, other Russians made decisions that ensured the Bolshevik triumph. Without the lies and machinations of Vladimir N. Lvov, it is possible that Kerensky and General Kornilov would not have had their violent falling-out. If Kerensky and Kornilov had not become open rivals, it is possible that the Bolshevik revolution would have failed. And it was personal distrust, inflated egos and lies that caused the Kornilov-Kerensky schism.

Other White leaders also shared similar failings given their widely divergent political views and egocentric personalities. When coupled with their personal ambition and frequent infighting, it also led to turmoil and the final Red success. Denikin, a believer in a Great Imperial Russia, refused to ally with the Ukraine Nationalist Petlyura to fight the Bolsheviks in South Russia. In the Baltic, Yudenitch was an arrogant reactionary who alienated regional allies vital to his access. Consequently, they denied him support necessary for victory. In North Russia, Chaikovsky feared his own military leaders, continuously quarreled with Allied military commanders over political power and failed to persuade the people in North Russia to support him. Finally, Admiral Kolchak could not control his own forces and lost the confidence of the Czech Legion, the one capable military force on his side in Siberia. He also alienated the local population whose support he needed. In addition, the Japanese backed his Cossack opponents ensuring the White forces were divided.

Coupled with the incompetence of the White Russian leadership was the individual actions of Allied personnel on the spot in Russia. Whether it was L-S General Graves in Siberia refusing to cooperate with the Japanese Allied Commander-in-Chief Otani or British diplomatic representative Bruce Lockhart in Moscow striving to prevent Japanese intervention against the wishes of his own government, individuals enhanced the diplomatic uncertainty by their actions. British army leaders Ironside and Maynard in North Russia worked from the necessity to maintain a strong force and defeat the Reds, and in the case of Ironside link the North Russia army with Kolchak's Siberian army while being bombarded with contradictory orders from Churchill and Lloyd George over the Allied withdrawal. Both strove for offensive victory while trying to plan the evacuation of all Allies from North Russia. General Sir W. R. Marshall, in Mesopotamia, interfered with General Dunsterville's Caucasus intervention by first trying to divert Dunsterforce to face the Turks in Mesopotamia and then delaying the necessary support for Dunsterville in Baku until it was too late. General Gough over-stepped his authority by bullying Yudenitch into creating another White Russian Government for North-Western Russia and recognizing Estonian independence, which added to the diplomatic chaos in London and Paris. And General Knox wholeheartedly supported Admiral Kolchak up to the latter's ignominious rout from Omsk despite the blatant incompetence of the Russian military in the fight against the Reds and the complete inability of the White administration to govern the Siberian region. These individuals, while not the cause of the chaos, helped perpetuate and enhance it.

Complicating this was the vast distances between combat areas in Russia. This mixture of internal divisions and space prevented concentrated Allied military aid. Providing needed material to these diverse and distant areas was exacerbated by the Allies' chronic logistics and communications problem -lack of sufficient shipping, a single railway and the impediments of troops and politicians who had no desire to fight so far from home.

The revolutions in Russia caused international turmoil. No one knew where events were leading or what would occur next. Utter confusion reigned. From the end of 1917, events often forced governments and leaders to react even though they lacked both the time and the information to develop a comprehensive strategy. The various events in Russia stretched the already inadequate Allied resources beyond effective utility and created the illusion that they were separate and independent. In reality, they all impacted politically and militarily on each other.

 

For the footnotes which all consist of references to original documents you can write to me at: ericvandenbroeck1959@gmail.com

 

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