XXXIX Neues Palais 17/XI/1904
Neues Palais 17/XI/1904
Your kind letter shows once more that the localisation of the actual war and the avoidance of a European war are the guiding principle of our mutual exertions. I take the liberty of abusing of your kind permission in our mutual interest to propose two changes; one is to modify my proposal, the other the final clause of yours.
It may be possible that the sentence "Afin de localiser la guerre Russo-Japanaise" if through the publication officially or by indiscretion secretly the contents of the treaty became known, could be interpreted by other Powers as meaning that the treaty was only valid only in case England went to war as Ally of Japan, i.e. directed as a menace of provocative meaning solely against her. In reality and practically it is so: but "Tout verité n'est pas bon a diré.1 We now see the British Public opinion in a state of nervousness nearly bordering on lunacy, of which it has just given us all some delightful proofs.2 It would in this mood look upon this treaty as a direct provocation and straightaway urge on the final catastrophe we both are trying to avoid or to postpone at least. Therefore I suggest a sentence used by yourself "afin d'assurer la maintien de la Paix en Europe", which would answer perfectly to our purposes and can on no account be looked upon as a provocation. We only think of ourselves and refrain from pointing with fingers at anybody (which besides is looked upon as a want of manners in society) Nobody -- with a clean conscience n.b.-- has any right to feel annoyed at such a treaty and it will be very difficult for the irate Jingoes in England to turn its conclusion into a "casus belli".
This change in the wording of the treaty, to my belief, necessitates a certain limitation of time. Either a short one with an abrogation limit, at any moment of year, or if you like it better a longer term. The prolongation would in case -- as I fervently hope -- the treaty meets the wishes of and proves a boon to the two nations, go on quite by itself automatically. This can be arranged exactly as you like it.
The next change refers to the newly added final clause of the treaty. It must be borne in mind that should you for instance wish the treaty to remain unpublished, indiscretions are possible -- walls have ears and diplomatists tongues that will wag -- under such circumstances the meaning put upon this sentence would be that I had precisely bound myself to help you to defend the Conquests of Russia which would tend to immediately replace Article I in a purely aggressive light. This would lead the whole political world to infer that we had instead of concluding a Defensive Alliance -- formed a sort of chartered Company limited for Annexation purposes, possibly involving secret clauses for the private benefit of Germany. The general mistrust ensuing would gravely imperil our mutual Situation, because Amerika would immediately join England -- which on no account must be allowed -- acting under the suspicion that Russia and Germany were on the move for aggressive operations to further selfish ends. But it will just be the main task of Russian and German diplomatists to stop America joining England. Should the Treaty become known either by official publication or indiscretions, Bülow in answering questions in Parliament -- must be able to declare that no secret clauses exist able to harm the defensive nature of the treaty or assuring Germany -- au détriment des autres3 -- anything else beyond the help in the Defence of the Peace of Europe, if it were endangered by anybody else. This is why I submit a different wording of the sentence. The ruling idea in it is the continuous polemic of the Russian Press in the last months against a Peace-Congress for mediation, like in I 878 of which your papers are afraid that it may be summoned together again -- and signs there are that some Powers are allready working in that direction, especially Paris and London -- and which would do everything in its power to bring the victors and vanquished to one and the same level and try to rob the former of their conquests and advantages as in 1878. Besides this sentence in its new form excludes all possibilities once for all for Germany ever beeing a party to such a Peace Con. gress, and at the same time robs all evil wischers and critics of the opportunity to suggest that we have any goal in view but that of preserving Peace without provocation. These are my two proposals I venture to submit to your kind approval, which I hope may be accorded to them; intending by them to avoid letting England take an active part in this war, and if possible to hinder America from joining her.
I dont know wether you think it necessary to communicate the secret Clause (III) to France? It is quite as you like; but I believe that the other articles will retain her from turning aside. Declassé4 I am sure will immediately find out the Anti-Congress tendency in the sense, and considering that he has allready opened negotiations between London and Paris and with other powers for the summoning of a Peace Congress for Meditation, he will be placed in a certain difficulty having to suddenly break off his negociations allready "entamées."5
Doubtless the French would much prefer any other grouping of Powers to that of the Alliance à trois as in r895, but the Russo-German Treaty once a fact our combined powers will enact a strong attraction on France, which you have allready foreseen in your telegram of October 28th when you say "After the arrangement is accepted by us, France is bound to join." Of course it will be the work of your diplomacy to make the necessary arrangements with France, Germany in the meantime remaining silently standing behind you. The Democratic Civilian and Freemasons, Declassé, Combes6 and Cie have as much to fear from victory as from rout, and the moment they are aware that France would be unable to remain neutral and under the necessity of choosing sides, they will do all within their power to restrain England from going to war. Last not least an excellent expedient to cool British insolence and overbaring would be to make some military demonstrations on the Persio-Afghan frontier,7 where the British think you powerless to appear with troops during this war; even should the forces at your disposal not suffice for a real attack of India itself they would do for Persia which has no army and a pressure on the Indian frontier from Persia will do wonders in England and have remarkably quieting influence on the hot headed Jingoes in London. For I am aware and informed that this is the only thing they are afraid of and that the fear of your entry into India from Turkestan and into Afghanistan from Persia was the real and only cause that the guns of Gibraltar8 and of the British Fleet remained silent 3 weeks ago! The Indian frontier and Afghanistan are the only part of the Globe where the whole of her Battlefleets are of no avail to England and where their guns are powerless to meet the invader. India's loss is the death stroke to Great Britain!
This is how I hope that our treaty will fullfill its tasks to preserve the Peace of Europe. Should the revised draft and the motives submitted meet with your approval the signing can be done immediately. I expect the Lambsdorff will receive your commands for the drawing up of formalities. God grant that we may have found the right way to hemm in the horrors of war and give his blessing to our plans. Believe me dearest Nicky, with best love to Alix
Ever your most aff-ate cousin and sincere friend
1. It is not good to tell the whole truth.
2. The British public was greatly aroused by the Dogger Bank incident, which was caused by the firing on British fishing boats by the Russian Baltic Squadron on its way to the Far East.
3. To the detriment of the others.
4. The French Foreign Minister, one of the creators of the Entente Cordiale.
5. Begun, initiated.
6. The leader of the anti-clerical party in France.
7. In a telegram to the Czar dated November 2nd, the Kaiser said: "From a reliable source in India I am secretly informed that expedition 'a la Thibet' is being quickly prepared for Afghanistan. It is meant to bring that country for once and all under British suzerainty."
8. The British concentrated an overwhelming fleet at Gibraltar after the Dogger Bank incident, ready to meet in case of emergency the Russian fleet upon its arrival in Mediterranean waters.