Versailles #71: Relegating Russia
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There was nothing simple about the allied policy towards Russia. The adventures of William C. Bullitt and a failed conference at Prinkipo were all the allies had to show for their attempts to fix Russia, which meant ridding the world of the Bolsheviks. Of course, the allies also had considerable forces of their own in the different Russian fronts, in the Northern theatre based at Archangel, in the South near the Crimea and in Siberia at Omsk. This latter theatre contained the base of one Admiral Alexander Kolchak, and on 26th May 1919, the finishing touches had finally been put on a document of incredible significance. The allies, it seemed, were willing to recognise Kolchak's government as THE government of Russia!
This was nothing less than a declaration of war on the Bolsheviks, but if you asked Lenin, he would have said without much of an effort, that the allies were at war with the Bolsheviks anyway. The impetus behind making their pro-Kolchak policy official was the successive military triumphs of his regime. The problem was, in spite of what the big three might have thought, these triumphs were very impressive, but they had been impressive a month ago. In the space of that month, while the German treaty was handed over, the Italians were peeved and the Greeks landed, a great deal had changed. This period of change was not felt in Paris though, because the big three were steadily informed of the situation. Who supplied their information? The very faction they wished to see come out on top, Admiral Kolchak.
This produced a tragic situation whereby allied help, such as it was, came far too late to make any difference. The allied recognition of Kolchak, while it was effective in bolstering the morale of him and his men, did not have much of a material impact. The allies, in other words, had moved too slowly, and not done enough, to make any difference. This was, in many respects, the story of the big three's life in the Peace Conference. In addition to their recognition of Kolchak though, the allies forwarded EIGHT demands (not seven as I say here, before going on to list eight...oops!) which Kolchak would have to adhere to if his regime was to enjoy allied support. Kolchak agreed with the terms - what did he have to lose after all, when his forces were on the backfoot, and allied help was so desperately needed? In the end, the allies treated the Russian front the same as they treated the Turkish, Eastern European, African, Middle Eastern and indeed the German front - they acted too slowly, with inadequate information, and made a giant mess in the process. We live with the consequences of their mess today, so why not have a listen and see just how much stuff you can blame the big three for today?!
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