1918-07-27-DE-001
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Source: DE/PA-AA/R 11051
Publication: DuA Dok. 414 (re. gk.)
Central register: 1918-A-31701
Edition: Caucasus Campaign
Embassy/consular serial number:
Translated by: Vera Draack (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 04/15/2012


Notes by the Legation Councillor in the Foreign Office Rosenberg





Notes Rosenberg

The enclosed notes were presented to the Reichskanzler on 28 July in Spa. The passage on Persia was not presented.


Caucasus.

A. General.


Of the Caucasian countries, Georgia is probably the one most capable of surviving and is the most important area for Germany. There is hope that the present negotiations with Russia will result in the Soviet government's agreeing that Germany recognises Georgia as an independent state. However, in order to achieve this we will have to agree to a certain disinterest with regard to the rest of the Caucasian territories. Furthermore, we will not be able to avoid promising the Russians that Germany will not support the military operations of a third power (i.e., Turkey) outside Georgia and the regions of Ardahan, Kars and Batum. With the exception of Georgia, we will also have to commit ourselves neither to arrange for nor to support the formation of independent states in the Caucasus. Considering that Russia does not hold any governmental authority in the Trans-Caucasus outside Baku, such a promise would not prevent us from directly negotiating on our local interests with those governments, which have been or will be formed there without our assistance.

Russia's agreement with Germany's recognition of Georgia is ultimately conditional on Russia's continued undisturbed ownership of Baku and its crude oil production, which Russia cannot do without. Thus, it would be desirable if we could guarantee that the Turkish army in the Caucasus does not cross a certain line surrounding the region of Baku (the river Kura from the mouth to the town of Petropawlowskoje, from the border of the district of Schemacha to the town of Agriola, then a straight line to the point where the borders of the districts of Baku, Schemacha and Kura meet). In his negotiations with Mr. Joffe, His Excellency Kriege gained the impression that without such a guarantee the Russians could hardly commit themselves to supply us from Baku with the amount of crude oil and crude oil products necessary to meet our requirements, because the anxiety of the workers about Turkish attacks would disturb them in their work. We can only give a guarantee if we are certain that the Turks will respect it. However, this would probably only be the case if we ensure at least a certain amount of control at the border line. The question is what such a control would consist of and whether we could put the troops required for this on stand-by.

If such a control could not be implemented our only alternative would be to state to the Russian government that we would intervene with the Turkish government that it not permit its troops to cross the line and that it give us the corresponding formal confirmation. In this case, however, the Russian government would be less able to accommodate us with regard to the supply of crude oil from Baku than it would if we were to give a guarantee for the integrity of the region.


B. Particulars.

1. Georgia. See Enclosure 1 for the policy to be followed from the German side in Georgia. General von Kress has reached the opinion that it is necessary to send further German troops to Georgia. Can this request be complied with?

2. Armenia. If conditions in Georgia are already vague and unclear, then this is even more so the case with the other states founded on Caucasian ground. Even though Armenia has declared itself to be an independent republic, its territory is, for the most part, occupied by the Turks while the population has been partly crowded together in the mountains and partly fled to Georgia and the Armenian government is outside the country in Tiflis. Under these circumstances, it appears that even more caution is called for towards Armenia than towards Georgia. As described above, a recognition of Armenia as an independent state is already out of the question because our disinterest in the non-Georgian countries in the Caucasus is a precondition for Russia's concession in the question of the recognition of Georgia. As seen in the enclosed telegrams from the Imperial diplomatic missions in Constantinople and Moscow, however, Armenia's situation is such that something must be done for it. This is also important, because there are many expelled Armenians in Baku who could begin to commit acts of violence if their return is not made possible, thus preventing the supply of oil to us.

The territory available to the Armenians is so limited that the Armenians cannot possibly live there and a continuation of the present circumstances would be their doom. It will be necessary, therefore, to induce the Turks to retreat behind the border that was conceded to them in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and at most to leave railway guards on Armenian territory to ensure the unhindered running of military transports in the direction of Dschulfa and Täbris. But the Armenians will only be able to return to their former territory if they are given protection both against renewed Turkish invasions and against riots by Tartar gangs. This can only be achieved if the country is occupied by reliable troops. The Russian government might accept the presence of German troops in Armenia without protest if it is made clear that this measure is being carried out for reasons of humanity in order to save the remainder of the Armenian people and that it is also in Russia's interest if the Turks are kept away from Armenia. Can we supply the necessary forces for this purpose? It should be pointed out that the return of the Armenians is urgent in order to save at least part of the harvest in the areas in question and, thus, protect the Armenians from a famine.

3. Tartar Azerbaijan. Apart from safeguarding the region of Baku, we have an interest in the fate of our settlers in Azerbaijan working on the pipeline, which runs through Tartar country and Georgia from Baku to Batum, as well as on the railway from Tiflis to Baku. With regard to the German settlers in Azerbaijan, everything necessary will have to be agreed upon in the negotiations with the Turkish and Tartar governments respectively. Unhindered work on the pipeline can only be achieved if this pipeline, insofar as it runs through Tartar territory, is occupied by German guards. The Russian government might be able to accept the presence of such guards, who would not be responsible for any military operations, but only for the security of pipeline operations and the railway line from Tiflis to Baku. Can the necessary forces be supplied for this purpose?

Naturally, it would be desirable if we could leave all of Azerbaijan to the Turks in order to persuade them to give in with regard to Georgia. However, because in accordance with the additional agreements to be reached with Russia we cannot encourage the Turks beyond the 3 districts of Ardahan, Kars and Batum, we can only go so far as to silently tolerate Turkish endeavours in the Tartar country which amount to an annexation or the establishment of a Turkish protectorate.

4. Northern Caucasus. The situation of the mountain peoples in the northern Caucasus is the most complicated. At present, it is not possible to determine what followers the northern Caucasian government has in the country, how far it is organised at all and what influence it has. The efforts of the individual mountain peoples amount to taking possession of the grain fields which were settled with Cossacks by the tsarist government in order to keep the rapacious mountain peoples in check. The mountain peoples believe that with the aid of German weapons and the support of the Turks they will be in a position to forcibly drive out the Cossacks from their present settlements. Firstly, it appears to be fairly out of the question that the mountain peoples would be in a position at all to accomplish anything against the Cossacks, even if we did supply them with weapons, etc.. Secondly, we have no interest in assisting in setting up and maintaining a state of war in the northern Caucasus. Rather, if only in the interest of keeping Georgia and Armenia supplied with grain, we must be more interested in the mountain peoples and the Cossacks discussing matters peacefully. Therefore, we will not be able to supply the mountain peoples with weapons and ammunition, either publicly or secretly, as long as they stick to the thought of forcibly evacuating the Cossacks. On the contrary, we must recommend most urgently to the mountain peoples that they reach an amicable understanding with the Cossacks.


Enclosure 1

Georgia.


Both of the enclosed telegrams from the Imperial Ambassador in Constantinople show how right it was that the political and military authorities judged the security and the permanence of the situation in Georgia with scepticism and basically recommended adopting a policy of wait-and-see towards the extensive wishes of the Georgian delegation which had arrived in Berlin. General Baron von Kress' final expertise is not yet available, and the Supreme Army Command recommends waiting for it first before making a final statement on the Georgian question. Insofar as comments have arrived from Baron von Kress, they agree completely with the judgements made by the ambassador and reveal a strong disillusionment.

According to this, the following guidelines should be recommended for the time being for our policy towards the Georgians:

1. Recognition.

As long as the Bolsheviks are at the helm and there is hope that we will be able to reach an amicable settlement with them on the entirety of the unresolved questions, we will have to stick to our previous point of view with regard to the question of recognition, that is: recognition as a de facto government and willingness to recognise it formally as soon as Russia on its part has recognised the separation or declared its approval of our recognition.

This picture could change, however, if the Bolshevist government should be brought down and its place taken over by a government which is extremely hostile towards us or which is at first not a regular government at all. In the latter case, a formal recognition of the Georgian Republic without the previous approval of Russia could be justified on the grounds that, in fulfilling our desire to remain loyal to the Peace Treaty of Brest we approached the Russian government on the question of the recognition, but that the fall of this government thwarted settlement of the matter through no fault of ours, and that our decision on the request by the Georgian state, which had in the meantime become independent factually, could not be indefinitely postponed.

The local Georgians request that we should also include the territory of Georgia (the governments of Kutais and Tiflis with the districts of Suchum and Sakataly) in the declaration of recognition. As long as we must make our Declaration of Recognition dependent on Russia's approval, this would, of course, only be possible if Russia also agreed to this demarcation, which is by no means certain. But even if Russia should not lodge a protest against the Georgian territorial claims, it is advisable to refrain from defining the borders in a Declaration of Recognition. First of all, we would cause offence to Turkey if we should describe in a public statement areas, which it claims for itself as being Georgian property. Furthermore, the Georgians would feel tempted at the same time to gather from the statement that this was a commitment that we would push through the recognition of the borders with the neighbouring countries. If we refuse to specify the borders, then we can plead that we did not specify the borders of Finland, Courland and Lithuania when we recognised the independence of these countries.

2. Alliance.

An alliance with Georgia would first and foremost, in the case of alliance, mean contemplating an attack by Russia, secondly one by Turkey. It would be difficult to bring the treatment of Turkey as a presumed joint enemy into accord with our alliance with Turkey. As far as Russia is concerned, every upcoming Russian government would certainly be much more interested in the Caucasus than the present Bolshevist regime. The Russians will hardly ever give up the thought of winning back the Caucasian territory, which is economically of such great importance to them. Thus, conflicts between Russia and the Caucasus are certainly a possibility and even very probable. It would be irresponsible in such a case that Germany enters an alliance committing itself to giving military assistance, considering the uncertainty of all the relations in the East, but particularly in Georgia itself. On the other hand, it appears to be unobjectionable that an undertaking along the lines of the following is made to the Georgian Republic:

1. At the conference in Constantinople we will intercede on Georgia's behalf that its necessities of life are taken into account in determining the path of the borders.
2. We are prepared to give the Georgians our diplomatic assistance to ensure that the independence and territorial inviolability of their country is respected by third states, particularly by the present or a future government in Russia.
3. We are prepared to take the formation of an alliance into benevolent consideration once things have been put on an orderly basis.
4. We will assist the Georgians to the best of our ability in putting their state affairs on an orderly basis.
3. Military Convention.

A military convention without the simultaneous formation of an alliance would only be half a measure. Furthermore, the most important precondition for a military convention would be missing for a state, which does not yet have an army. On the other hand, we could promise the Georgians that we would be of assistance to them in both word and deed in setting up their army and, if this attempt succeeds, we would take the formation of a formal military convention at a later date into benevolent consideration. Furthermore, as long as the expression "military convention" is avoided, nothing stands in the way of our reaching agreements with Georgia which ensure that we will assist them in setting up the Georgian army and the use of Georgia as a military road, etc., for the military needs of the present war.

4. Economical.

A consortium of interested parties, founded by the discount company, is prepared to grant the Georgian state a loan with which to establish its own currency and to defray the most urgent financial needs. The income from a manganese export company still to be founded as well as from further companies for the running of the railway from Scharopan to Chiaturi and the harbour of Poti is to serve as collateral. The contracts on the founding of the three companies have already been signed; a financial agreement could actually be signed during the next few days.

The Georgians have stated that they will only accept these contracts as final when Georgia's political relations with the German Reich have been arranged according to their wishes. According to the Reichswirtschaftsamt (Economic Office of the Reich), they explained this qualification by stating that they understand the arrangement of political relations to mean simply the recognition of Georgia by Germany.

The Georgian delegates and the Reichswirtschaftsamt are still negotiating on the safeguarding of Georgian raw materials for Germany (ores, wool, hides, skins, vegetable oils) even beyond the duration of the war. The financial agreement contains a provision whereby the Georgian government, should it give up the ownership of railways, telegraph and telephone systems as well as wireless stations or give a leasing company influence on these, must first approach the German syndicate, giving it precedence over the other contenders under the same conditions. By means of an agreement with the syndicate, the Imperial government will secure the disposition of the rights arising from this.


Enclosure 1a


Transcript A 31331.

Telegram.
Constantinople, 24 July 1918, 4:30 p.m.
Arrival: 10:50 p.m.

From the Imperial Ambassador to the Foreign Office.

No. 1193.

All of the German gentlemen arriving here from Tiflis report in concurrence that the situation there is highly insecure. The Georgian government is fairly powerless against the Red Guards and in no way does it control the situation. It is becoming increasingly evident that at that time it was not possible to see Georgia's situation clearly from Batum and Poti and, thus, it had been judged in a much too favourable light. General von Kress even sent a message to General von Seeckt via Lieutenant Colonel von Feldmann, stating that he would now much prefer that Nuri remain in Elisabethpol, because the German troops were too weak should serious unrest break out in Georgia. The messages given by the German gentlemen arriving from Tiflis contained little hope with regard to the main question of how we will acquire the petroleum from Baku.


[Bernstorff]

Enclosure 1b


Transcript A 31332.

Telegram.
Constantinople, 24 July 1918 7:30 p.m.
Arrival: 25 July 1918 4:05 a.m.

From the Imperial Ambassador to the Foreign Office.

No. 1195.

Director Lebrecht, who has returned from Tiflis, received an order from General von Kress to travel to Berlin in order to report to Your Excellency on the situation in Georgia. Lebrecht says that General von Kress realises that his mission there is based on false premises. Especially since we now apparently plan to grant Georgia a loan, General von Kress wishes to avoid this also happening on the basis of hopes, which Georgia will never be able to carry out.


[Bernstorff]

Enclosure 2

Telegram

Moscow, 25 July 1918.

From the Imperial Chargé d'Affaires to the Foreign Office.

Sawriew, the Armenian delegate, expounded to me very emphatically today that the Armenians' situation is unbearable. Of the populations expelled by the Turks, large masses of refugees had gone over the mountains or via Baku and Astrachan to the north. Numerous Armenian men, most extremely bitter, had remained in Baku and were now marching against the Turks in order to win back their old domiciles. The agreements of the Armenian Committee in Tiflis did not acknowledge the Committee in Baku and could not do so. Anyway, the actual power in Baku was in the hands of the Armenians; the local Bolshevik government was dependent on them. In their desperation, if we did nothing for the Armenians they would have to look for aid elsewhere.

I have won the impression that the Baku question can be settled by the Armenians in a manner favourable to us if, through our intervention, the Armenians are given the possibility of returning to their domiciles on former Russian territory under certain guarantees on our part or possibly even under a Turkish protectorate. It has also been confirmed to me by third parties that the Armenians hold the actual power in Baku. Baku will without doubt be systematically destroyed if we do not reach an agreement with the Armenians.


[Riezler]


Enclosure 3

Telegram.

Pera, 25 July 1918.

From the Imperial Ambassador to the Foreign Office.

I am bombarded daily with requests from the local Armenian delegation to send German or Austrian troops to Armenia. If we do not assist the Armenians in this manner, it would be impossible to suppress the anarchy in Armenia. The Armenian refugees would lose all hope, band together and form gangs to fight the Turks and the Tartars.

Danger lay ahead. Even if the Caucasus Conference met shortly and passed resolutions, they would not be followed in Armenia if their implementation were not supervised by German or Austrian troops. Ahäronian, the Armenian delegate, gave Talaat Pasha a memorandum on the situation in Armenia. The Grand Vizier made the usual promises to Ahäronian. These will, of course, not be fulfilled, because it is known that the Turkish civil and military authorities on the spot do not carry out orders from Constantinople, least of all when they know that these orders were only given under pressure from the Germans.


[Bernstorff]

Enclosure 4

Persia


As far as is known here, the Turks plan to advance against Baghdad with 5 divisions in northern Persia between the Caspian Sea and the Lake of Van. If it really promises military success against the British, this operation is certainly to be welcomed. For not only an advance against Baghdad, but also a threat against the British positions in Persia seems to be very desirable. But it does not appear to be advisable to allow the Turks to advance alone in Persia. We can always justify military action in this neutral country on the basis of its being merely a counteraction against the appearance of the British who consider Persia to be their political sphere of influence and use it as a base for operations against Turkey. However, we have no cause to support the efforts at annexation, namely of the provinces of Azerbaijan and Persian Kurdistan, which are obviously one of the main purposes of Turkish action. On the one hand, we would place ourselves in conflict with our repeated assurances to Persia, made together with the Turks, that we wish to support its independence and integrity, and with the Peace Treaty of Brest, which solemnly repeats this principle. But we would also drive the Persian government and the population, who are presently offering at least passive resistance to the British, irretrievably into their arms. For it would be difficult to turn into reality the assumption that the Azerbaijani would accept the Turks as friends, taking into consideration their language and tribal affinity with the Ottomans. Rather, it must be assumed that they will be received as enemies and caught up in heavy fighting.

Once Turkey has begun its action in northern Persia with our permission, it will hardly be possible to call this off. Considering that the goal is to fight the British, it would also be against our interests. If, however, the Turks are permitted to act alone in Persia, it is unlikely that they will be able to accomplish anything against the British. It is even doubtful if the Turks plan at all to advance seriously against the British or if they are simply interested in plundering the rich north-west of Persia. The government and people of Persia will blame us that we let the Turks into Persia. Consequently, they will no longer trust our word and give up their resistance against England. No Persian will believe that the Turks went to Persia without our permission, especially since the Turks would discredit us by soon spreading it about that we let Persia down and handed it over to Turkey. Thus, Germany's participation in this enterprise seems desirable. Should we decide to do so, this would open up the possibility of persuading the Persians to cooperate, as they would regard our presence as a guarantee that this is really nothing more than a temporary military action, made necessary by the military situation, and not the permanent occupation of north-west Persia. We could then also be certain that something would definitely be undertaken against the British; also, there would be less danger that the British might succeed in achieving a possible success on their part in north-west Persia, which could easily become a possibility if they faced the Turks on their own. Concerning the necessary number of German troops and the method of their employment, only the Supreme Army Command can be a judge of this. Based on the impressions gathered by the Foreign Office, the most expedient thing to do would be to send a division, but about 10000 soldiers might suffice. These German troops should be positioned on the left wing if possible in order to reach Mirza Kütschük Khan's forces which are in control of the province of Gilan, and to proceed in the direction of Sendschan-Kaswin-Teheran. The Turks would be given the task of advancing in the direction of Sinnah-Kermanschah against Baghdad and Turistan and, as far as possible, carrying out their actual task of freeing Baghdad. In addition, the staff of the Turkish troops should be made up as far as possible of German officers in order to exert influence on Germany's part on the type of Turkish operations. The higher the number of German officers with the Turks in Persia, the less German forces would be required. If it should not be possible to free up any German forces at all for Persia, then a considerable amount of German officers in Persia would have to be assigned to the Turkish troops.

A German-Turkish military action in Persia carried out in such a manner, but also only a German-Turkish one, will make an enormous impression in all of Central Asia and mean a heavy blow for the British. It is relatively easy for us to hold our ground in north-west Persia against the British, because their military connections from the south are too difficult for them to compete with the connection through the Caucasus. Climatically, the conditions in northern Persia are favourable.

The military action should be supported by a diplomatic one.

It is questionable whether we will be able to free up sufficient military forces for the undertaking in Persia.



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