Between Ideology and Realpolitik: Woodrow Wilson and the Russian Revolution, 1917-1921

By Georg Schild | Go to book overview

5
National Self-Determination Versus "Russia One and Indivisible"

In his Fourteen Points speech of January 1918, President Wilson defined the goals of his Russian policy as restoring Russian unity and safeguarding the Russian people's right of national self-determination. Wilson understood self-determination to mean the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Russia and the establishment of a single democratic government there. That program could only be instituted after Germany was defeated and had withdrawn from Russian soil. That goal was accomplished in November 1918. Furthermore, the Bolshevik rule in Russia had to be replaced by a democratic government. Wilson never wavered in his expectation of an eventual victory of the democratic forces in Russia. After the Allied military intervention had proved ineffective in creating a single democratic government in Russia, Wilson faced a dilemma: which of his two goals should receive priority? Should the "idea" of a united Russian state be kept alive to make a future democratic Russia possible? Under that policy, the Bolsheviks could consolidate their power as the de facto rulers of Russia, including the Baltic provinces, Siberia, the Ukraine, and other areas. Or should the United States support non-Russian people in their quest for independence from socialist Russia? That policy would lead to the splitting up of Russia into numerous independent states. 1

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