INTERVIEW BY CHICHERIN ON PRESS INTERVIEW BY NOULENS, (THE FRENCH AMBASSADOR)
ON RUSSO-FRENCH RELATIONS
24 April 1918
Izvestia, 24 April 1918
I can as yet tell you nothing about the steps that will officially be taken by the Russian Government in connexion with the interview of the French Ambassador, Noulens, which appeared in the Russian press. But I can give you my own opinion of this interview in the most definite terms.
I cannot but express my deepest regret at the publication of such a completely intolerable interview, and I cannot but express the hope that the French Government will understand what unpleasant consequences it will in all probability have for the relations between Russia and France, in the event d the French Government's openly or tacitly supporting the attitude taken by M. Noulens.
However difficult the situation of the Russian people, however onerous the Brest-Litovsk peace may be, the Russian people and the Soviet Government nevertheless cannot in any circumstances allow official representatives of Powers to engage, with such cynicism, in the sharing out of its territory and in threatening the seizure by violence of Russian land, even if this is done under the cover of the usual politely diplomatic phraseology.
In the first place I cannot help being astounded at M. Noulens' complete ignorance, as shown in his statement, of the facts about which he was talking. Particularly strange is his assertion that Germany, by means of its prisoners, is trying to organize colonization centres in Siberia. American officers have just come back from Siberia, where they personally convinced themselves that no danger whatever threatens the Allies from the German prisoners of war. These officers have reported to Vologda and the results of their investigations cannot be unknown to M. Noulens. Why then does he venture to repeat assertions which have been categorically denied? In particular I cannot understand what he means by creating colonization centres in Siberia. Only those German prisoners of war will remain in Siberia, and in Russia in general, who are opposed in principle to German imperialism and who are unwilling to support it in any circumstances. It is precisely in regard to these prisoners of war, conscious internationalists, that we have received a number of protests from the German Government. These protests go so far as to demand a ban on their meetings and congresses, which is clearly contrary to the very principles of our regime.
Other assertions made by M. Noulens are equally strange; assertions by means of which he seeks tojustify theJapanese landing and the possibility of future aggressive action in Siberia by Japan and its allies. M. Noulens enlarges very eloquently upon the terrible anarchy which is said to reign in Vladivostok. In reality in Vladivostok there reigned and reigns not anarchy but the Soviet regime, the dictatorship of the working masses, which of course is not to the liking of the exploiters, whether native or foreign. This same Soviet regime rules over the entire Russian Republic and if, in the opinion of M. Noulens, it must necessarily lead to a foreign invasion in Vladivostok, then, in principle, this means that foreign conquest is demanded throughout the whole of Russia in order to restore the power of the exploiters. We must, of course, reject in the most decisive manner the justification for the Japanese landing given by M. Noulens.
Among the motives for a possible general invasion by Japan and its allies in Siberia, put forward by M. Noulens, there is the assertion that the German offensive has gone far beyond the frontiers prescribed by the Brest Treaty.
And indeed, there are serious disagreements between us and Germany on a number of particular questions relating to the execution of the Brest Treaty, and I certainly consider the German interpretation to be incorrect. Such are, for example, the questions connected with the position of the fleet and military property in the ports to be evacuated by Russia. The frontier of the Ukraine has not yet been defined, the demarcation lines have not yet been fixed everywhere; relations with the Finnish White Guards, not yet cleared up, are leading to grave unexpected incidents.
All these circumstances, inexpressibly onerous for unhappy, suffering Russia, were present in embryonic form in the Brest Treaty forced upon defenceless Russia. However, all this does not mean that any Power is free to tear out a piece of the tortured country. Russia has not yet by any means reached that state; it will fight with all its strength against such an attitude on the part of other peoples; and it must protest in the most emphatic manner against the aggressiveness of M. Noulens, which he covers up by diplomatic metaphors.
The Japanese landing is a predatory action and we have no intention of giving any satisfaction whatever to the foreign armed invaders in order to remove them. These troops have appeared on our territory by force; let them go away; no other words on this matter are possible. If, however, the invaders prove to be not one, but several Powers, this does not make it any better for us, and our attitude to all invading foreign troops will be precisely the same.
No invasion of Russia is possible by agreement with the Russian people, i.e. the working masses.
M. Noulens foresees the possibility of an invasion by agreement with so-called public opinion in Russia. It is true that the internal enemies of the working masses, the robbers and exploiters, place all their hopes on support from an invasion from without. Such an invasion would be directed against the most vital interests of the Russian people, i.e. the working masses. We know what foreign invasion has already brought with it in this respect.
In conclusion, I cannot but consider very strange M. Noulens' idea that by conquest in the east Japan and its allies can weaken the strong position now occupied by Germany in west Russia. It is only necessary to think for a moment in order to understand that actually the contrary will take place.
A true friend of the Russian people can have only one task, to help them in their hard work of building a new life on an entirely new basis, the rule of the working masses themselves; i.e. to give the Soviet Government every assistance and support in its immeasurably difficult work of reorganizing the entire life of the people.
Whoever takes advantage of the difficult transitory period through which we are passing to subjugate vast areas of Russia will sow hatred in the Russian working people who are now his victims, but who will repay him in time.
He who sows the whirlwind shall reap the storm.
Documents on Soviet Foreign Policy
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