In the beginning stages of the war (when the German advance into France had been stopped on the Marne and the Russian army began advancing toward Berlin) the Russian Foreign Minister, Sazonov, put before his allies a plan for the dismemberment of Germany. "It was of such scope as to distribute almost the entire German territory amongst the Allies."1 Russia was to annex nearly all of what remained of Polish lands not already under her domination along with large segments of German speaking lands. France was to recover the German speaking areas of Alsace-Lorraine and add to it all German land west of the Rhine, plus "control" of 2000 square miles east of the Rhine. Denmark was to extend its border 100 miles south. The old kingdom of Hanover (the whole north-west of Germany), was to be separated from Germany and declared a separate state. Sazonov, and later the Tsar, made it clear to the French Ambassador in Petrograd that "close contact" with the French was of the utmost importance in fulfilling their dream.
At a meeting in Petrograd, shortly after the German peace proposal was issued, the Franco-Russian plan for the destruction of Germany was made official. The French gave Russia "full liberty to determine its western frontiers as it saw fit " once Germany was defeated.2 In return Russia was to support the French claim to Alsace-Lorraine and support France's insistence on organizing western Germany as they saw fit. What would have been left of Germany was a swath of land a hundred and sixty miles wide running from the Baltic Sea to Switzerland. With Germany destroyed, France would be undisputed master of western Europe, Britain would lose its primary trading competitor, and Russia, for the first time in two hundred years, would be nearly unopposed in eastern Europe.
With such dreams clouding the Allied leader's minds, on Jan 10, 1917, they came out with an official answer to President Wilson, to the Germans, and to all others who were attempting to seek a negotiated peace. They made it plain that they had no intentions of compromising. They not only demanded that Germany return to its pre-1914 borders and pay "indemnities" before any talk could even begin, but they demanded the "restitution of provinces or territories wrestled in the past from the Allies."3
Since they had to project an honorable profile to the Americans, whom they hoped to keep neutral or even win to their side, they unabashedly claimed that what they desired "above all is to insure a peace upon the principles of liberty and justice ... which the Government of the United States has never ceased to be inspired."4
"They therefore spoke vaguely of 'full security...and international settlements such as to guarantee land and sea frontiers against unjustified attack.'"5 Since they also felt it necessary to display some great principle, they found it in the old "national self-determination." Although they shrewdly skirted the issue of the Poles (since they promised all of Poland to Russia) they called for the "liberations of Italians, of Slavs, of Roumanians, and of Czecho-Slovaks from foreign domination."6
France and England chose this grand ideal "for the obvious reason that the most active national minorities were within the lands of their enemies."7 Since this had little to do with Germany except for some sections of Alsace-Lorraine, their great principle fell most heavily on the Austrian Empire with its large segments of Italians, Slavs, Roumanians and Czecho-Slovaks. The Allies also demanded the expulsion of the "Turk," whom they found, "decidedly alien to Western civilization."8 The Allies then pledged to fight on and "consent to all sacrifices," until they emerged "victorious." Their new "war aim" was now driven by a "great principle" which no one in France, England or Russia had contemplated when the war started.9
The new idealistic Allies also had other reasons for continuing the war. They had divided up among themselves not only Germany but much of the world. Though they continued to talk openly and idealistically about "national self-determination," it only applied to "nations" under the control of their enemies. Since the British had sent over a million men to collect "plums" in Asia (to enhance her Empire), the suspicious French were promised Syria and were to join Britain in dividing up the German colonies in Africa and elsewhere. Britain was also to expand its influence north of Persia (Iran) while France looked to the far East. Russia was not only to get Poland, but large chunks of land in the Caucasus and--their most sought after prize for a thousand years--Constantinople and the area surrounding the "strait" which would give them access from the Black sea into the Mediterranean. Italy was also to participate in carving up Turkey and also get large chunks of Slavic and Greek lands. Rumania. was promised territories inhabited by Serbs, Hungarians, Ruthenians and other Slavic nationalities. To be sure there would be no other rivals in Europe, the Austrian Empire was to be divided into small nations and what little remained of Austria was to be further parceled with Italy getting the Brenner Pass region where 200,000 Germans lived who had been Austrian subjects for 500 years. To insure themselves a steady income during this period of expansion, Germany, with what little would have remained of her, was to pay for all costs incurred during the war.10 With such bizarre dreams infecting the Allied political leaders (and their intellectuals) all talk of a compromise peace ended.
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1 Kochan 1