Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Failed 1917 Root Mission to Russia

Elihu Root
In April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appointed a mission to go to Russia, chiefly for the purpose of ascertaining whether Russia's active participation in World War I could be continued after the March revolution that had ousted Tsar Nicholas II. The mission, headed by 72-year old former Secretary of War and State Elihu Root, arrived in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) in June. Greatly under estimating the strength of Nikolai Lenin and the Bolshevik party, the Root mission concentrated on developing contacts with moderates such as Aleksandr Kerensky. 

In their final 29-page report, issued soon after the mission returned to the United States in July 1917, the mission thus reached the erroneous conclusion that an American-funded propaganda campaign could keep Russia in the war. The Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917 exposed the flawed strategy behind the Root mission and caught the Wilson administration almost completely unprepared. In March 1918, the Bolsheviks signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which established a separate peace between Russia and Germany, precisely what the Root mission had been intended to prevent in the first place.

Source: Dictionary of American History 


  1. The author of this piece writes that the Bolshelvik Revolution "caught the Wilson administration almost completely unprepared." Was there any area associated with this era in which "the" Wilson Administration was prepared? A century later, the Wilson administration appears to be one of the greatest failure in American history.

  2. Truman in his book The Buck Stops Here would disagree

  3. I have heard of this incident before when the mission against Russia failed. I would recommend everyone to read this article. Keep up the marvelous work!

  4. One can not compare America TODAY with the U.S. during Truman's time. We entered the world stage under Roosevelt, but were NOT YET a great power. Truman and the Great War put us on the stage AS A world power. Truman did a good job for the time and rose up when needed. His League of Nations was the right idea, but others wanted revenge and restitution. And we again decimated our military strength after the war. It took the rise of the great dictators of the 30's to open our eyes to become great or parish. THEN we became 'the arsenal of democracy.' And have remain so ever since...