A recent documentary, The World Wars, on the History Channel suggested, strongly, that the Imperial German government secretly arranged safe-passage for Vladimir Lenin to return to Moscow from Switzerland in 1917. Moreover, the Germans gave him financing through 1918 with the hope that Lenin would start a revolution that would cause Russia to withdraw its war with Germany during World War I.
If true, who came up with the idea and was there any consideration that a communist Russia could eventually be a threat to Germany?
How much did the arrangement cost the Germans, money-wise?
EDIT: Here's the transcript of "The World Wars" episode dealing with Germany's "Secrete Weapon"
[BEGIN TRANSCRIPT] [Narrator] Germany devises a plan to eliminate the Russian threat once and for all. The Germans load a secrete weapon unto a heavily guarded train headed for Russia. It's a weapon that promises to destroy their enemies from the inside out. [Dramatization showing a train station with the caption "St. Petersburg, Russia"] That weapon is Vladimir Lenin. Lenin is the leader of Russia's communist revolutionaries, hell bent on toppling the Russian Czar. For the past ten years he's been in exile in Switzerland ... until Germany sends him home on a train along with over ten million dollars to fund his revolution.
[a Historian speaks] "The Germans decided that they would take this enormous gamble and bring Lenin back to Russia to bring about a Revolution to get Russia out of the war. That's about as radical a step as you can take" [Quote with caption: Robert Gellately. Historian, Florida State University]
[Narrator] When Lenin gets to Moscow, he's greeted by an old friend. Six times he's been exiled to Siberia and six times he's escaped. His name is Joseph Stalin.
"Comrade" [Dramatization of Joseph Stalin speaking to Lenin] "Comrade" [Lenin replies back]
[Narrator] Reunited, the two play right into Germany's plan as they begin to plot an armed rebellion. Over the next few months, Lenin and Stalin recruit a massive workers militia using the ten million dollars from the German government. They quietly amass a stockpile of weapons until they are ready to make their move.
"I've arranged to take the train stations and the telephone communications." [Dramatization of Joseph Stalin speaking to Lenin]
"And the palace guard?" [Lenin questions Stalin]
"Many of our sources say they are sympathetic to our cause." [Stalin replies back]
"Our training has been perfect." [Lenin says]
[Narrator] The communists storm the winter palace. The Soviet Union will soon rise to power.
"This is just the beginning comrades." [Dramatization of Stalin speaking to Lenin at the conquered palace]
[Narrator] Just days later Lenin signs a decree that takes Russia out of the war. The German plan works ... bringing them one step closer to victory.
[Narrator] Europe is at war and in a bold move the central powers have ended the fighting on the Eastern Front sending exiled revolutionary Vladimir Lenin back to Russia where he seized control of the country and took the Russian army out of the fight. Germany can turn it's attention to the other allies... [end of the discussion regarding Lenin] [END TRANSCRIPT]