What Mobilization Means for Russia
The End of Putin’s Bargain With the People
IN the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, we learn that the prophet Abraham aided four "kings" to defeat five others and was rewarded by a blessing from one of his associates. This early instance of alliances has been followed by many more. As the world has grown smaller, thanks to improved means of communication, and as the interests of every country have tended to become far flung, regions remote from one another and of the most various character have been brought into close relations in war and peace. Under modern economic conditions the advantages of vast political and commercial aggregations are becoming ever greater, and this has only been emphasized by the increase in the number of small states owing to the World War, for it is but too plain that, however independent, they can not be completely self reliant. Everywhere today we find a tendency towards large groups which would fain be self supporting.
Associations between nations, like those between private citizens, may be based on principles of widely different kinds. A man may belong with equal loyalty to all sorts of organizations corresponding to his diverse interests. He can be at the same time an enthusiastic member of the Sons of the Revolution, of the Knights of Pythias, the Republican party, the Association of Amherst Graduates, the New York Bar, the Methodist church, the local golf and dramatic clubs, etc., etc., etc. Such activities may interfere with one another and constitute too heavy a drain on his resources but there is no incompatibility between them. Whole peoples have not the same range of choice but they may be drawn together by sympathies due to religion and culture, to similarity of political institutions, to ties of blood, real or fancied, and the use of the same or similar languages. Or they may be mutually attracted by the fact that they are neighbors and as such have identical interests, or that they can supplement each other economically to the profit of both, or that they have the same enemies. Their motives, like those of individuals, are mixed and sometimes contradictory and they are equally fickle in their affections.
The great empires of history have been built up by conquest and colonization and have represented the supremacy of a nation as well as of an individual. They have rested on brute force but also on other and on widely differing principles. The Roman Empire at its height, like the Chinese one, comprised if not the whole known world at least all the world that its inhabitants thought worth knowing. After its fall, the recollections of its culture and the common religious faith accepted by its citizens and taught by them to the barbarians maintained for centuries a certain unity of the Christian world, though this was sadly marred by its division into an eastern and a western half. Even now the idea of "Christendom" as one religious brotherhood of peoples is not quite extinct, in spite of the further enfeeblement produced by the Reformation and its wars and by the dissolving effect of modern toleration and indifference. Pan Islamism as a political bond due to creed has more vitality. A good deal was heard of it a few years ago and there is no doubt that a Mohammedan power in conflict with a Christian one can count on much warmer sympathy from coreligionists than can its adversary. Both England and France in their dealings with the Turks since the World War have been affected by the necessity of not offending too deeply the feelings of their own Mohammedan subjects; nevertheless, a Jehad would be almost as out of date as a Crusade, and Pan Islam as an imperial dream need not be taken too seriously. The Turks have turned their backs on it and have shown how little they care for its supreme lord, the Caliph, by deposing the one under their control and putting an end to the office for the time being.
Akin to and including religious ties are cultural ones, for instance the whole group of conceptions which arise in our minds when we speak loosely and melodramatically of the "West" and the "East." Similarly such phrases as "The Holy Alliance," the "League of the Three Emperors," "the war to make the world safe for democracy" suggest associations with some spiritual principle common to all concerned. "The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics" is a recent example, and "Pan Americanism" is not based solely on geography.
In the course of the last hundred years the desire of people of more or less the same blood and language to form national states of their own has led to many convulsions and to extensive changes in the political geography of Europe. Since the World War and the Russian Revolution, this principle has triumphed almost everywhere, though there have been flagrant violations of it in the drawing of the new national boundaries. But long ago broader movements of the sort had been started, movements not only like the Pan German, the Pan Angle and the Pan Hispanic, to bring about the union of all who use the same tongue, but also of all who belong to the same great linguistic group; hence we have Pan Teutonism (i.e., "the Nordic Races"), Pan Latinism, Pan Slavism, etc. Nebulous as these ideals have been, they are real forces which we have not heard the last of. To be sure, they are not much the fashion at this moment. The communion of the so-called Nordic peoples has not yet reached the stage of practical politics; the union of hearts of the Latin sisters, or at least of the chief European ones, has seldom been less in evidence than it is just now, when one of them seems to be the pet aversion of the other two; and Pan Slavism is quite irreconcilable with the doctrines of communist Russia, at any rate at their present stage.
Radically different and in many cases at hopeless variance with such ideas are the political conceptions and ambitions based on principles of geography and economics. It is true these two are by no means identical, for the geographical motive is based chiefly on contiguity and on natural boundaries while the economic motive rests rather on a proper supply of the necessary resources, some of which may have to be controlled from a distance. Still they may be taken up together, for ordinarily they coincide enough for rough purposes and they represent tangible material interests as opposed to more sentimental claims. To many economists, indeed, such things as nationalism represent nothing but aberrations which prevent foolish mankind from following the path of its real advantage. According to them the only salvation lies in conforming in political matters as closely as may be to the inexorable physical laws and limitations prescribed by nature. Therefore the proper basis for the grouping of countries is regionalism. This doctrine is in truth all the fashion, especially in Europe. The Little Entente is seeking neighborhood extension; the Baltic States also are trying to draw together; a Danube Confederation and a Balkan Pact both have many advocates;and over and above them all Pan Europe can count no small number of ardent partisans.
Certainly at first sight "Pan Europe" would appear to have much to recommend it. To a disjointed and morselled-up continent where trade and enterprise are interfered with every few miles by artificial barriers and senseless regulations, it holds out a hope of economic unity with a field for internal industries comparable to that of the United States. It also appears to many people in the victorious, in the vanquished, and in the neutral countries of the late war to offer the best protection against an increasing menace of slavery at the hands of the American capitalist. But though part of the popularity which the plan has met with is due to fear of America, the idea of Pan Europe does not in itself imply hostility to anyone. On the contrary it is analogous to Pan Americanism and looks forward to other similar regional understandings and agglomerations. The Soviet republic is already one of these, the British Empire or Commonwealth of Nations another, the Far East might be a third, and so on till the whole globe is apportioned among a few main divisions, each of which can look after its own peculiar problems. Enemies of the League of Nations may accept this solution as a substitute, a better and more practical arrangement, for it would free people from care and responsibility for distant territories and vexed questions which do not belong to their region and in which they have no interest. Friends of the League, on their part, can maintain that Pan Europe would be no more incompatible with a general association of nations than is the existence of individual states today. They can say that such a system would strengthen the League and improve its machinery by introducing a court of first instance which could deal with local problems, leaving the general Assembly freer for large undertakings.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the British Empire are already existing political entities. Pan America is at least an affiliation of sorts with certain official organs. Pan Europe is still only a dream but it is beginning to be widely discussed and it has just had its first "congress," replete with the enthusiasm and the eloquence customary on such occasions. The project may therefore be regarded as fairly launched. What are we to think of it?
A question which immediately arises and which made trouble at the congress itself is, what is "Europe"? Surely it means something more than an arbitrary block of territory called a continent in geographies, and no more really separate from Asia on its eastern side than the American east is from the American west. Culturally, indeed, Europe is an old conception, that of a region with a common past and civilization which have given its peoples a character and place of their own with common political and other interests. But where does this Europe begin and end? Turkey was not regarded as part of it as late as the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Russia only belonged to it for two centuries and now is to be placed in a separate group. But this is not all. It is proposed that Great Britain shall be de-Europeanized and left to her own belongings.
For the exclusion of Russia from the proposed confederation, even if she does still occupy about half the surface of Europe, there is much to be said both on cultural and other grounds. If the world is to be parcelled out into large divisions, the Soviet Union or whatever may succeed it makes a good enough block in itself. It forms a huge mass of contiguous territory, with vast resources of diverse kinds, it has a certain historical and geographical unity, and in the main tolerable frontiers. From Poland to the Pacific it is not real Europe nor Asia, it can claim a character of its own, but its exclusion means a Pan Europe dependent on other groups for much of its food supply.
The shutting out of England is more startling. We can see, to be sure, on what the conception was based. The British Empire by itself comprises such a large portion of the globe and so many people that it does not need to be included in any other unit. The English, too, have often been looked on by the nations of the continent as outsiders and in return there has been among many Englishmen a feeling, never perhaps stronger than at the present day, that England should keep away from continental affairs and that her primary interests lie in the development of her splendid territories and in closer relations with her offspring beyond the seas, including those in the United States. If she must choose between "Europe" and "Empire," let it be "Empire." The "silver streak" still separates Dover from Calais.
This is all very well, but there is no escaping the fact -- and all it implies -- that a channel which can actually be swum across is small protection against an aeroplane or a submarine and that London itself is or soon will be within the range of heavy artillery from the other side of the strait. England cannot disinterest herself from what is going on in her immediate vicinity, a vicinity which modern means of communication is making ever closer. As long as she remains the heart and head of the British Empire, that Empire will and must be primarily European, even if its more distant parts refuse to take a hand in what is going on overseas. Commercially, too, though the fields of British export and import will vary from time to time, the trade of Britain with the continent can hardly fail to be vital to her. Culturally she has always been an integral portion of Europe since the days of Roman rule, indeed, notably in the Far East, she has more than once been the chief representative.
Of course the reply will be made that the non-inclusion of Britain in Pan Europe does not mean that her intercourse with the mainland need be any the less intimate but only that she will not form part of the same politico-geographical group, and will not concern herself with questions peculiar to it. But are there any such questions? Is not England more deeply interested in each and every European problem that comes up than is one or another of the continental powers? Is she not, for instance, more closely connected with the Baltic States than are three-quarters of the other nations of the continent? A Pan Europe which does not include Great Britain will not be Europe.
Moreover, as it would be hardly feasible to treat states as politically separate from their possessions, it is proposed that Pan Europe shall include the lands belonging to its various members wherever they are situated. This means that four-fifths of Pan Europe and a population larger than that of the United States will be located not in Europe but in Africa and the East. It may be well that, as thus provided, Esthonia shall share in the destinies of the Belgian Congo and of the western or Dutch (yet not the eastern or British) half of New Guinea, but the inclusion of colonial territories in the European complex makes the exclusion of the British Empire even queerer geographically. Not only are England and France to be regarded as having separate sets of interests but the same applies to the English and French portions of the Togo and Camerun mandates.
On the other hand, if the British Commonwealth of Nations were to be included in Pan Europe, this would bring in Australia, Canada and South Africa, not to speak of the 300,000,000 Asiatics in India. The sum total would then be less European than ever and would constitute a group comprising so much of this terrestrial sphere that it would have little unity or purpose of any kind. Whatever it could accomplish might better be left to the League of Nations.
The deciding of what Pan Europe should include is only a first step and gets over none of the difficulties. Partisans of the project draw much comfort from the example of what happened on this side of the water. They say that if thirteen jealous and independent communities were able in 1787 to form the United States of America, why should not the nations of the old world, with the example before them of our splendid success, taught by their own mistakes and sufferings and urged by their disastrous economic situation, form the United States of Europe. They forget that whatever may have been the quarrels, dislikes, selfishness, shortsightedness of the thirteen American states, when all is said and done they were inhabited by people of essentially the same stock, the same language, history, traditions and civilization, who had recently been cemented together by years of warfare against a common foe. They had nothing to forgive or forget and they had not yet built up industries to compete with one another. Great as were the obstacles that had to be overcome in detail before their political union was achieved, there has seldom been one more clearly indicated by nature.
None of the above facts is true of Europe. A federal union similar to our own never was more unlikely than it is in this day of intense national consciousness and warring passions. Even a commercial union, however imperiously demanded by the present critical condition of industry, by American competition and by the economic progress of the world, bristles with difficulties, indeed the recent manifesto of the great bankers sounds sadly like a counsel of perfection. Doubtless we may hope for alleviations of the existing situation, for more reasonable tariffs, and we may look for an increasing number of cartels and of commercial and industrial conventions in which several states will take part, but many of these arrangements will hardly be confined to members of a single group. The new steel agreement, though a regional understanding which at this moment affects and is affected by the political situation, does not differ intrinsically from a deal between, let us say, the Standard Oil and the Dutch Shell Company. At any time it may be extended so as to bring in American or other interests and thereby lose its fortuitous European character. Actual tariff unions between two or more independent states, though less likely, may be brought about. If so, the result will be watched with curiosity, for they will constitute an interesting not to say novel experiment. The German Zollverein is the only successful example of this kind in the last hundred years and it was not so much an agreement between equals as a grouping of small units about a great one. If a tariff in a federal country like the United States is a matter of infinite complexity, with hundreds of items representing countless bargains and adjustments, how much more difficult to arrange will be one where the bargainers represent whole nations. Just now in spite of all the talk about the manifest advantages of throwing down customs barriers, there are few real indications of any such tendency. The self-governing dominions of free-trade Britain have tariffs which they jealously look after and show no signs of abandoning or greatly mitigating in favor of each other or of anyone else. As for Pan Americanism, its first congress was called a century ago at Panama, an event which has just been celebrated by another meeting on the same spot, but the peoples whose representatives have once more been expressing their fraternal sentiments are no nearer to a commercial union than they were when they started.
Pan Americanism is, however, a living force today, though its real strength is difficult to gauge. Like the Monroe Doctrine from which it is descended, Pan Americanism is based in part on a geographical conception, namely that the countries of the western hemisphere constitute a unit, and in part on the spiritual one that the populations of these countries are distinguished by certain characteristics and aspirations which make it meet that they should compose a group with a regional understanding of their own. To be sure, it is easy enough to pick flaws in these theories, to point out that New York is much nearer not only to London but to Constantinople and everything between than it is to Rio Janeiro; that the white inhabitants of the United States have far more in common with those of the other English speaking lands than they have with any Latin Americans, who are hardly as close to them as are many Europeans, besides which the "old world" and the "new" are getting more alike every day, now that there are about as many republics in the eastern hemisphere as there are in the western and the whole globe is becoming "Americanized." Nevertheless, Pan Americanism as a principle of solidarity is believed in by a goodly number of people in both the northern and the southern continent, it is accepted by all the governments concerned, it is popular with public opinion, and even if the tangible results of the various congresses have so far not been imposing, they have at least helped to create better feeling all round.
Whether the sentiment has any deep roots is a point on which many will remain skeptical. In Latin America suspicion and fear of the United States are aroused at the slightest provocation. Even now the League of Nations is welcomed by some of our friends to the south of us not only as a counter attraction to Pan Americanism but also as a make-weight against Yankee domination. As for the efforts which have been made to promote closer Pan American cultural relations, their results so far are meagre. When an American, whether of Anglo-Saxon or of Latin stock, wishes to go outside of his country for literature, music, art, or mere variety and amusement, he turns first and foremost to Europe. There is little reason to foresee much change in this respect.
A curious feature and anomaly of Pan Americanism is that so far it rarely includes the largest of American countries, the Dominion of Canada. This appears even more absurd than leaving England out of Europe. It has been based, of course, on the idea that Canada is theoretically not independent but is a British possession. If in the past this reason has been hardly an adequate one, especially when applied to scientific congresses, today with Canada a self governing state, making her own separate treaties and with a representative of her own at Washington, it is ludicrous to ignore her in Pan American questions and to treat her as if she were situated in another hemisphere. It is also unwise, from the point of view of the United States. The possibility that Downing Street might acquire some influence in Pan American affairs is negligible compared with the consideration that it is bad for the United States that Canada should be encouraged to think herself not so much an American country as a member of the "third British Empire."
The development of the British Commonwealth of Nations is indeed a matter of more than academic importance to the American people. That the Empire must some day go through a process of transformation if it were to hold together at all has long been evident, but until recently almost nothing was done to prepare for the transformation and to determine its character. The idea of imperial federation has often been suggested. A beginning might have been made generations ago and seats in the House of Commons given to Canada and Australia, as they are to Algeria in the French Chambers, though the examples of Cuba and Ireland among others, not to speak of our own Civil War, prove that representation in the central parliament does not necessarily preclude armed attempts at secession on the part of dissatisfied territories. At any rate Great Britain took no steps to meet the future, except to recognize the necessity of granting ever greater powers of self government to her colonial subjects and thereby avoiding the discontent which led to the American Revolution. Her statesmanship and liberality in this respect were rewarded by the magnificent support she received from overseas during the World War.
The very magnitude of this support, however, inevitably stimulated the consciousness of the self-governing dominions, as did their participation in the peace negotiations and their admission as independent members to the League of Nations. They now have a feeling of their strength and of their importance as never before, and they have every intention of henceforth managing their own affairs. Ireland has been granted at least semi-independence. In India, nationalist discontent has assumed alarming proportions. The British Empire is obviously in a state of rapid transition. At the present moment it is moving in the direction of a British Commonwealth of self-governing nations. What will be the final outcome is still uncertain. The obstacles to be overcome are formidable. The question of India by itself presents appalling difficulties, and even leaving aside all the problems connected with the dark skinned and dependent races, the ultimate form of adjustment between the self-governing English-speaking members cannot be predicted too confidently.
In the League of Nations, the British have at present a plural representation. This has often been criticized, even if there are those who say that one effect of participation has been to weaken among the dominions the feeling of the necessity of their continuing to maintain a political connection with the mother country. As matters stand, Britain practically appoints two of the delegations to the Assembly -- her own and the Indian. It might be claimed likewise that the various dominions have been doubly represented, for besides their own delegations there has been the delegation, not of Great Britain, but of the "British Empire" of which they are component parts. This, however, is only a matter of wording, easy to change, and so far each of them has spoken and voted according to its own independent ideas, though a certain feeling of general solidarity between them is only natural. Permanent coöperation might easily arouse in other members the sentiments and arguments against over-representation which had so much to do with keeping the United States out of the League. The arrangement is at best illogical. If Russia were to apply for admission, why should she not by analogy ask for six places for the six republics which constitute the Soviet Union?
Be this as it may, the rest of the world will be affected by the development of the British Commonwealth, and no country more than the United States, little as Americans bother about whether the various British territories are drifting off separately or drawing closer to one another in some new understanding. The time has passed when the House of Representatives would have the impertinence to pass a vote, as it did in 1867, protesting against the formation of the Dominion of Canada. But there was at least this much sense in the impertinence, that it showed a recognition too often lacking today of the fact that what goes on north of the four thousand miles of artificial border which separate us from Canada is of real consequence to us. Of course on higher grounds we should not only welcome the prosperity of all our English-speaking kin but should look with sympathy on their efforts to form a brotherhood. We recognize the right of the Canadians to regulate their destinies as they please, and wish to see the best of feeling prevail between Canada and the mother country. Are we, however, to welcome the formation of a British Commonwealth of Nations if one effect of it is to be the drawing of Canada further from the United States and closer to Britain? "Imperial preference," one of the essentials most insisted upon by the enthusiasts for such a commonwealth, would mean among other things an attempt to benefit British and Canadian trade reciprocally at the expense of American. This is doubtless legitimate, but so might be retaliation on the part of the sufferer. The fact that the preference granted so far has had insignificant effects does not necessarily prove that more drastic measures would be inefficacious. If they are introduced, what are we to do about it?
There are people who believe that the best of all regional understandings for the United States would be union with Canada and that sooner or later it will come to pass because it is in the nature of things, that it would be a blessing to all parties as was the union of the American states in 1789, that the patriotic attempts of the Canadians to build up industries which do not naturally pay for themselves and to send trade along their own routes and from their own ports at greater cost than is incurred by using American ones is like making water run up hill. To be sure, there is very little active sentiment in the United States in favor of annexation, much less any plot to bring it about, though some Canadians cannot get over imagining the contrary. In Canada, too, there is no real movement in this direction. The crude truth is that the attitude of one side is not infrequently characterized by deplorable indifference, that of the other by rank dislike. Yet, in spite of this, the lack of good frontiers, the essential unity of the two peoples, and the workings of modern economic forces which bring them nearer together every day may prevail in the end. At any rate, one can hardly blame Americans who regard union with Canada as not only natural but desirable, if they look somewhat unsympathetically at efforts to bind her more closely to Great Britain.
It is far from sure that any such efforts will be permanently successful. On the contrary it looks more probable that the British Empire will evolve or disintegrate not into a real commonwealth, though that may be the title, but into a loose confederacy of independent English-speaking states, bound together by ties of blood, language, culture and ideals, with a common sovereign and his governor generals as figureheads, but each free to follow its own interests in whatever way it thinks fit, which means that no one will be required to support the other in a war unless it chooses to. The recent imperial conference marks a long step in this direction. When it has been ratified the "United Kingdom" will have ceased to exist in name as well as in fact. The Empire remains, but henceforth Great Britain and the Dominions will be "autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status and in no way subordinate one to the other in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of nations." Time alone can show how much "unity" will remain under this new dispensation and how things will work out in every day life. Even a substantial imperial preference in the matter of tariffs is doubtful in the long run. Other countries will resent being excluded from "most favored nation" treatment and will have ways to hit back if need be. Not only will there be no reason why the distant dominions should be included in Pan Europe, but very possibly it may be to the interest of a member of the Commonwealth to entertain more intimate economic and political relations with some outside country than it does with its fellow members. A British Commonwealth of Nations so constituted will hardly represent a much closer entente than the sentiment of community which, marred though it be by jealousies, attaches the different Latin American republics to one another.
In such a group, we may well imagine the United States taking part in some form -- indeed, becoming more interested in it than in Pan Americanism and ultimately playing somewhat the same sort of a rôle that it now does there. Even now Canada, though not included in the Monroe Doctrine, is at bottom protected from foreign conquest fully as much by America as by Great Britain. She has no need to contribute to imperial defence.
So much for the white populations of the British Empire, but how about the colored ones who are more than five times as numerous? Are they to form independent nations in the British Commonwealth? In the case of India, the question is likely to become acute at no distant date. The example of the dominions cannot help having an influence on her, and some day -- though it may be far off -- Nigeria and other regions will have aspirations in their turn. Even if India were let go, as Egypt has been, and left to struggle out her own salvation like China, and if gradually the same were to happen to other British lands in which the colored man predominates (except in South Africa where the whites, though in a minority, are too numerous to be abandoned), even then the British Commonwealth would occupy one of the first places in the world, and a league of English-speaking peoples would occupy almost a dominant one, though its centre of gravity would not be in the eastern hemisphere. Whether such a consummation is to be desired is a question we need not enter into here. Some would say that before it can be brought about the development of the League of Nations will have rendered it purposeless. To others it is an ideal to be aimed at, to still others a peril to be feared.
Finally we must not forget that the tendency towards forming groups of nations is no longer confined to the white race. "Pan Asia," that is to say India as well as China, Indo-China, Japan and perhaps the East Indian islands, would constitute a tremendous mass of humanity. It may be a wild dream but it has its partisans in all the countries named. Even in the reduced form of a Pan Mongolian federation it is enough to frighten all the other nations bordering on the Pacific. In Africa the Ethiopic movement is insignificant as yet, but it has large possibilities and we have not heard the last of it. Altogether, hazardous as it is to prophesy in regard to any one particular movement and hopelessly as these movements conflict with one another, and in spite of the fact that we have been witnessing the break-up of empires, the tendency throughout the world towards great combinations, political as well as economic, is unmistakable today. Such combinations mean chances of future conflicts on a gigantic scale. They also suggest possibilities of bringing us one step nearer to a worldwide fusion of international interests.