Thinking About the Unthinkable in Ukraine
What Happens If Putin Goes Nuclear?
"We may perceive plenty of wrong turns taken at the cross roads, time misused or wasted, gold taken for dross and dross for gold, manful effort misdirected, facts misread, men misjudged. And yet those who have felt life no stage-play, but a hard campaign with some lost battles, may still resist all spirit of general insurgence in the evening of their day. The world's black catastrophe in your new age is hardly a proved and shining victory over the principles and policies of the age before it." -- Morley: "Recollections."
IN THE hundred years before 1914 Europe was torn by the wars which gave one people after another varying degrees of liberty and union. In its origins the Great War was one of that series. It seemed like the last, for it threw practically the whole Continent into the melting pot, snapped old bonds of servitude from the Baltic to the Ægean, ended in the complete victory of the side which had proclaimed self-determination as a guiding principle, and was followed by a conference in which high-minded men armed with impartial and thorough documentation exercised an influence unparalleled in the history of peace making. All the elements seemed to be at hand for a final decision based on abstract justice. Unfortunately they were not so clear-cut and above contention that the only thing needed was a decision by ordinarily honest men, or even an honest decision by supermen. Old invasions, wars and colonizations had pushed peoples this way and that, squeezed them across mountain ranges and rivers into lands occupied by other races and tribes, here mingling their blood, there dividing fields and villages between them, opening up new streams of commerce and culture and damming old ones, ceaselessly modifying, rearranging, mixing. Thus along every proposed frontier ethnic, historical and economic rights were in conflict. The first mistake made by critics of the peace treaties, then, is to say that their territorial provisions represented a compromise between clear right and clear wrong. In most cases the choice which the delegates had before them was not between right and wrong, but between right and right -- the right of the victor and the right of the vanquished. On the whole, when rights were not in conflict, the Conference tried to base its decisions on high principles; when rights were in conflict it usually favored the victors.
These notes, it should promptly be explained, will not try to give even a birdseye view of the whole peace settlement, but will merely survey one part -- the part in which there has been little or no revision, the frontiers. In other particulars the treaties have already been revised, drastically and often, notably in the sections regarding reparation, the trial of war criminals, military control and the occupation of German territory.[i] It was Stresemann who won most of these victories for Germany. Had he lived to pursue his program of piecemeal revision he doubtless would have turned next to a discussion of arms equality as part of the general question of disarmament -- and would very likely have been successful. He might even have found a way of dealing once for all with Article 231 -- the "war guilt" clause -- a continuing psychological barrier to any true Franco-German rapprochement. It was Stresemann's genius that he saw the value to Germany of accepting the Versailles Treaty as the fundamental law of Europe, so that, strengthened by having accepted it, he might proceed to demand revision of palpably unjust provisions. It was his error that he never educated the German people to a realization of the benefits actually secured for Germany by coöperation with France. And after his death there was no sufficiently weighty body of German opinion to force the continuation of his policy. That it had lapsed, the Anschluss fiasco of March 1931 gave definite proof. Stresemann would never have sanctioned that dangerous and obviously futile gesture. He saw clearly something which was hidden from his Hungarian colleague, Count Bethlen. Bethlen said of the Treaty of the Trianon, and endlessly repeated, "Nem, nem, soha!" -- "No, no, never!" He rejected it in toto. The degree to which the Treaty of Versailles has been modified, while the Treaty of the Trianon remains unaltered, is a measure of how far each statesman was right.
The delegates at Paris were handicapped not merely by the disarray on the ethnic chessboard, but also in another way frequently forgotten. The Peace Conference met formally for the first time on January 18, 1919. The new states of Europe had come into existence long before that, and their governments and armies were already exercising effective control within frontiers much the same as those officially delimited later on. This is not true of one most controversial part of the final settlement: the Peace Conference awarded the Corridor to Poland deliberately. But with this notable exception the Conference took as its starting point the lines of demarcation determined locally when hostilities ceased. The Conference did make a number of frontier rectifications, and in several debatable regions, for example Schleswig, Upper Silesia and the Klagenfurt basin, insisted on plebiscites. But orders for sweeping alterations of the pattern into which Europe had fallen in the autumn of 1918 would have had to be backed up by force. That was out of the question, even on the assumption -- far from accepted -- that sweeping alterations were desirable or would be just. Victors and vanquished alike were exhausted and alike knew that communism, already entrenched in several centers, would be the only beneficiary of any such folly as renewed hostilities. In almost no cases were alterations feasible on a scale which would have markedly changed the present geography of Europe or mitigated the fundamental discontent and desire for revision which have prevailed among the defeated peoples.
To understand the powerful moral and material position of the new states we only need try to disentangle the military events which closed the war from the developments which had brought the various national movements to a head and gained them the support of the Allied world. So closely were they connected that we are at a loss what to put down as cause and what effect.
On September 15, 1918, the Allies (with the Serbian army bearing the brunt) launched the offensive in Macedonia which crumpled up the Bulgarian front and in two weeks forced the Bulgarian army to capitulate (September 29). Almost simultaneously (September 18) Allenby started rolling up the Turkish front in Palestine. The collapse of Bulgaria and Turkey ushered in the final phase of the war on the western front, where the German lines had been rocking since Haig's attack early in August. On October 3 Hindenburg informed the new Chancellor, Prince Max of Baden, that the military situation was desperate, and the next day the Chancellor sent his first note to President Wilson asking for an armistice. But Germany was not yet ready to recognize defeat, and military operations and negotiations continued simultaneously. The Allies broke in turn the "Siegfried" and "Hindenburg" lines. On October 27 Austria-Hungary accepted President Wilson's conditions of Jugoslav and Czechoslovak independence and asked for pourparlers; that same date the line on the Piave was broken and on November 3 Austria-Hungary signed an armistice with Italy. The Emperor Carl's last-minute offers of compromise with the congeries of races over which his family had ruled so long went almost unnoticed in their rush to their own national standards. On November 7 the German Armistice Commission left for the Allied lines, on November 9 the Kaiser abdicated, and on November 11 hostilities ceased on the western front. The next day the Emperor Carl abdicated.
The fighting was over. But more than two months were to elapse before the Peace Conference could begin its labors. In the interval the new-born and aggrandized states hastened to consolidate their positions. Those positions were already very strong, due to the deliberate policy adopted by leaders in England and France -- once President Wilson had partially relieved them of the weight of the Treaty of London -- of encouraging the subject peoples of the Central Empires to assert and fight for their national rights. For illustration take the transformation of the Czech and Slovak people into the Czechoslovak Republic.
The national revival of the Czechs, like that of the Poles and the Jugoslavs, began early in the nineteenth century, but took on new momentum after '48 in view of the refusal of the Austrians and Magyars to solve the nationality problem of Austria-Hungary in a spirit of federalism and equal rights. From the start of the war the Czechs and Slovaks showed their feelings by passive resistance, by wholesale desertions, and by secret organizations making ready for the day of open action. On November 14, 1915, Masaryk and his revolutionary colleagues published their first manifesto and two months later a National Council was formed abroad with Masaryk as President. By December 1917 such numbers of Czechoslovaks had come over into the Allied camp that President Poincaré authorized the establishment of an independent Czechoslovak Army in France. The victories of the Czechoslovak Legions in Siberia in the summer of 1918 attracted attention, and the right of the Czechoslovaks to independence began to be recognized on all sides. The British Government declared itself sympathetic on May 22, 1918. On May 29 the United States Government approved the anti-Austrian resolutions of the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities held in Rome. On June 29 France recognized the National Council as head of the Czechoslovak movement and army, while on September 3 the British Government recognized it as the embryo of the future Czechoslovak Government. The American and Japanese Governments followed suit. On October 14 Beneš announced the decision of the National Council to establish an interim government in Paris, and this government was recognized within the next few days by France and by Italy. On October 18 (the day on which Wilson rejected the Austro-Hungarian peace offer on the grounds that since his Fourteen Points speech the American Government had recognized a state of war between the Czechoslovaks and Austria-Hungary) Masaryk, then in Washington, signed the Czechoslovak declaration of independence. On the night of October 27 Austria-Hungary capitulated, and the next day the National Committee at Prague took over administration of the Czech territories.
In other words, since the Czechoslovak state had already been recognized as the protégé and ally of the Allied Governments it needed little or no further recognition from the Paris Peace Conference, and the subsequent treaties of peace merely confirmed that recognition. It existed. There remained to delimit its precise frontiers. These were subject, as said above, to some variation. But the Czechoslovaks had proved their mettle, they had made the Allied cause theirs, and they possessed spokesmen of the very first rank, both in political ability and moral force; they asked for a viable state, and the rights of their nine millions were given precedence over the rights of the large German masses found within the historic borders of Bohemia.
It was much the same story with the Poles. As early as the autumn of 1917 France, Great Britain, Italy and the United States had recognized the Polish National Committee, formed mainly through the efforts of Paderewski, as the official representative of the Polish people. And a Polish army was already in existence in France when, on October 6, 1918, the Polish Regency Council, set up in Warsaw a year earlier by the Central Powers, declared openly for a free Poland.
Equally inevitable, as the war progressed, became the eventual attitude of the Allies toward the Jugoslavs, Rumanians, Greeks and others that already had existing states about which to rally. Early in the war England, France and Russia had disregarded the principle of nationality in their secret agreement with Italy. But at Paris President Wilson refused to countenance the Treaty of London in any way, much less be bound by it. His attitude toward the subject nationalities had been plain even before the United States entered the conflict; and so much did Allied policy change under the pressure of war events and the constant reiteration of the Wilsonian program that by the spring of 1918 even Italy had found herself giving roundabout approval to the declarations of the Conference of Oppressed Nationalities.
Serbia's unexpected repulse of the first Austro-Hungarian "punitive expedition," her fortitude in the long disasters that followed Allied miscalculation of Bulgar intentions, the rebirth of the Serbian armies in Macedonia under Prince Alexander and Voivode Mishitch, and their decisive part in the final Allied offensive there -- these happenings, distant though they were and imperfectly reported in the Allied press, gave Serbia rank with Belgium as a pattern of national endurance. The Jugoslav cause, of which Serbia was the core, had no meteoric representative in the Allied camp like Paderewski, no philosopher like Masaryk to expound its moral and legal claims. But the Serbs were themselves partners in Allied counsels and operations, and when victory finally perched on their tattered banners their right to play the rôle of Piedmont in the union of the Southern Slavs was beyond gainsaying. Indeed that result was not only indicated by the whole course of events in the nineteenth century, but had been specifically declared the objective of the Serbs and of their kinsmen the Croats and Slovenes as far back as July 29, 1917, when the Pact of Corfu was signed by Premier Pashitch of Serbia and Dr. Trumbitch, President of the Jugoslav Committee. The Jugoslav National Council, meeting in Zagreb on November 23, 1918, gave effect to the Pact and accepted the Serbian Prince Regent as ruler. About the same time the Prince Regent also received notification of the vote of the Podgorica Assembly (November 26, 1918) overthrowing King Nicholas and uniting the Serbs of Montenegro in the new Jugoslav kingdom.
Events in Rumania in 1918 led to similar conclusions. It will be recalled that Rumania first declared war on Austria-Hungary in the middle of the summer of 1916. Before the end of the year Austrian and German forces had taken Bucharest, but the struggle continued, and it was not until after the Russian collapse that Rumania was forced to make peace. The Treaty of Bucharest shut Rumania off from the sea, brought the Hungarian frontiers across the Carpathians, and put the whole economic resources of the country at the service of the enemy. On November 9, 1918, Rumania reëntered the war and was numbered among the victors.[ii] As she had not participated in recent hostilities the armistice line in Transylvania was not very favorable to her, and in February 1919 the Peace Conference agreed that the Rumanian line of occupation should be moved further west (to include Arad), on the score that Hungarian forces were terrorizing the Rumanian parts of Hungary remaining under Hungarian jurisdiction. Later the Rumanians, attacked by the Red Army of Bela Kun, pushed forward still further; eventually, despite Allied threats and cajolings, occupied Budapest (August 4, 1919); and were only induced to withdraw three months later.
As for the German-Austrians and the Magyars, they lost no time in breaking the bonds of the Dual Monarchy, and subsequently sent separate delegations to Paris to sign the treaties of St. Germain and the Trianon. The question of their union or disunion was not before the Peace Conference. That had been settled in Vienna and Budapest; and the dispute over the Burgenland destroyed any possibility that these two peoples, long joined under one crown but dissimilar in temperament, could come together again in the near future.
An eminent American historian had the ill-luck to choose the spring of 1914 to describe the national aspirations of one of the peoples mentioned above as "the stock in trade of the demagogue, the theme of the rhymer, the subject of baby talk and cradle song."[iii] Within a few months those aspirations were to appear in a very different light. They were to produce soldiers of the utmost determination; and those who could not fight openly they were to turn into fanatics, martyrs, assassins and heroes, glad to die in exile, prison or war in the mountains. When the day for the realization of old hopes finally arrived, the nations just released from an ancient yoke or from the heel of occupying armies used their new freedom, everything considered, with restraint. The Peace Conference stepped in to modify their demands at many points. But they could not have prevented the new nations from coming into being even had they wished to. They did not wish to, and it is yet to be proved that they were wrong.
Something should also be said about the allegation that the Peace Conference was traitor to the cause of freedom. The difficulty about a great universal cause is that its complexion tends to alter as one approaches nearer. Thus the delegates who set to work at Paris on the assumption that self-determination was a principle universally commended, not only found the application of the principle extremely difficult but also soon discovered that the compromises which geographic, racial and economic realities forced upon them destroyed not merely faith in their ability and impartiality but faith also in the aim which everyone had applauded them for choosing.
Nationalism had grown sturdily all through the nineteenth century, broadening the base of its appeal with the spread of popular education and the widening of horizons due to the development of industry and of means of communication and transport. It grew side by side with democracy. But the principle of self-determination, which had been one of the two chief planks of liberalism in the early and middle part of the nineteenth century, had become much less fashionable among the intelligentsia after they had watched it in practice in Italy and Germany. Noting the return to a mercantilistic protectionist policy on the part of countries recently organized into larger national units, they decided that liberation in the political field endangered liberation in the economic and social field. It therefore became their tendency, beginning in the seventies and eighties, to concentrate on domestic reforms. Thus it came about that when Wilson began voicing his plea for "free nations" it sounded a bit old-fashioned in their ears; nor is it a secret that Wilson himself, in order to undermine the Central Powers and shorten the war, stressed the principle more than his faith in it really authorized.
To the intellectual reasons which made pre-war liberals care less than their predecessors about the principle of self-determination, the events of 1914-1918 added psychological reasons growing out of the fact that the principle was gaining universal lip-service and actually beginning to receive general application. For liberals are perfectionists, and they also are by nature in favor of the under dog. After generations of being exploited, the subject nationalities which had awakened the admiration of Gladstone and Morley were now turning the tables, where they could, on their old oppressors. Forthwith their traditional advocates shifted over to the other side. Sometimes the Peace Treaties gave them substantial provocation for a shift, e. g. the disregard of the principle of self-determination in the prohibition of the Anschluss and in the decisions regarding the Tyrol, the Grosse Schütt, etc.[iv] In other cases their reaction was automatic; they failed to recognize that there could be two rights, and thus (for example) could see no excuse for transferring a belt of Transylvanian Magyars to Rumania rather than leave a belt of Rumanians under Budapest, or for including in Czechoslovakia a couple of million Germans living compactly just inside the Bohemian mountain ring in order that the Czechs and Slovaks might have a viable state.[v] In sum, the liberals whom many Peace Conference workers had relied upon to acclaim the new map deserted their traditional protégés because they had not foreseen what Waldeck-Rousseau knew when he wrote, "Avant de devenir sage, il faut avoir été longtemps libre." They only saw that those protégés had turned out to be far from perfect; and this, with the fact that the umpires could not award perfect decisions, made them back away in disgust.
As a matter of fact the intelligentsia might have found much to admire in "the New World." Three great autocratic dynasties -- Hapsburgs, Hohenzollerns, Romanoffs -- had been swept away, and the Sultanate with them. Only here and there did feudalism save any vestige of its prerogatives. A hopeful standard had simultaneously been raised -- the Covenant of the League of Nations. States rallied to it with varying degrees of enthusiasm; but almost all felt it incumbent upon them to subscribe to its provisions, making it a highwater mark in the long effort to substitute negotiation for decisions by force. Adoption of the mandate principle was little short of revolutionary, and might well have been taken by liberals as the world's recognition of the justice of their persistent and telling attacks on imperialism. The mandate system was not applied perfectly, and has not worked perfectly; but it offers a way for mandated peoples eventually to get loose from European suzerainty without resorting to war, and it provides graceful means for the European Powers to let them go without losing face. There were other important by-products of the war, not to be credited to the peace treaties, perhaps, but at any rate not prejudiced by them -- a great sweep forward of agrarian reform, for instance, which realized in large part the desire of European peasants to own the soil they till. Above all towered the fact that more people were free than ever before to decide their own destinies. It has already been pointed out that in detail the "frontiers of freedom" were open to criticism and that in several important cases the principle of self-determination had been thrown overboard. The consequences of these lapses were supposed to be mitigated by the operation of the minorities treaties (of which more later). Particular points of contention aside, the broad fact remains unchallenged that today vastly more people on the continent of Europe live under their own national régimes than did before the war.
Consider, for example, the area that was Austria-Hungary. In 1914 Vienna and Budapest ruled over more than twenty-eight millions of subject races (i. e. Czechs, Slovaks, Jugoslavs, Rumanians, Poles, Ruthenians and Italians). Today in that same area the ethnic minorities under alien rule are estimated at something under fourteen millions.[vi] For our present purpose we might subtract from that total the minorities which are still under the same alien rule or which have merely changed one foreign ruler for another -- the non-Germans and non-Magyars now in Austria and Hungary, for example, and the Germans in Hungary and the Magyars in Austria, all of whom are in general no worse off than they were in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy; the Jugoslavs who passed from Austria-Hungary to Italy; the Ruthenians who went to Czechoslovakia, Poland and Rumania; and so on. If we deduct all these (a total of nearly six million) we obtain a figure of about eight million for what we might call "new minorities." In other words, there were twice as many persons under alien rule in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire as there are today in the same area; and of the present number nearly half find themselves at least as well off as they were before.
Elsewhere on the continent many other minorities have been wiped out and some new ones have been created. The French-speaking inhabitants of Alsace-Lorraine have returned to France, and with them have gone the German-speaking inhabitants of that province. The Danish minority in Germany has shrunk to insignificance following the transfer of Northern Schleswig to Denmark. The great mass of some nineteen million Poles are now united in the Polish state, together with a large block of other Slavs and about a million Germans. That classic example of racial confusion, Macedonia, has been divided up anew, with the Jugoslavs this time getting the lion's share; the Turk is definitely gone. Bessarabia the Peace Conference held to be predominantly Rumanian, both ethnically and historically, and its partly spontaneous and partly engineered transfer from Russia incorporated a large group of Slavs in the Rumanian state. In Greece, the exchange of populations has left only small minorities under Athens, and in turn the number of Greeks under foreign rule has become comparatively insignificant. In the Baltic states there are small German, Russian and Polish minorities, but these do not compare in numbers to the liberated Latvian, Esthonian, Lithuanian and Finnish nations, comprising more than seven million persons. All in all, be it repeated, there has never been a time when so many Europeans were under their own national governments. That some sections of them do not like those governments is not the fault of the Peace Conference, which did not, for example, invent Italian fascism or Croat separatism.
Nor are minorities today without redress for wrongs, material or sentimental, as minorities were before the war. There are two theories as to how minorities should be treated. One is that they should be given protection and encouragement in preserving their separate culture. This theory led the Peace Conference to impose a series of minorities treaties on the states recently established or enlarged; and Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey were forced to accept similar obligations regarding minorities left within their frontiers. Those who hold the second theory consider themselves more realistic. In their view, the Peace Conference did the best that was humanly possible to disentangle the races of Europe; that attempt having been made, they see nothing to be gained by perpetuating the separatist tendencies of ethnic units whose cases defied solution in 1919. They claim that to force the exchange of irreconcilable populations (e. g. between Greece and Turkey) is not different in principle from allowing nations to throw remaining minority elements into the melting pot; both processes, they argue, work hardship during one or two generations, for the sake of future homogeneity and peace. In other words, they take the advice of Machiavelli to the Prince, that injuries which have to be inflicted should be inflicted quickly, once for all. The Conference rejected this point of view, adopting instead the principle that minorities will continue to exist indefinitely and are entitled to equal treatment and full freedom to use their own language and practice their own religion. To the League was given the task of seeing that the minorities agreements were carried out.
Complaints have been heard that the League has dodged its responsibility of watching over the minorities, and that its machinery is inadequate; nor has it escaped comment that the Great Powers did not themselves accord minorities the guarantees which they exacted from the smaller nations. But on the whole, given the necessity of avoiding the creation of states within states, the experiment of international regulation has won praise from those who did not expect mankind to be regenerated at one stroke; recently, too, it has been recognized that disturbances of the sort customarily attributed to some mistreatment of minorities are often simply the result of general civil discontent, deplorable certainly but not to be blamed on the authors of the peace treaties. At any rate, avenues of appeal and pressure are now open to most of the European minorities in cases where they feel that their rights are being seriously infringed. As a result it seems unlikely that there could long pass unrebuked such glaring discriminations in educational, property or franchise matters as existed before the war in some of the very countries which now feel most outraged by what they claim are derogations to their national sovereignty. No one would pretend that the lot of Europe's subject populations is perfect today (though in several countries there are signs of real reconciliation); nevertheless one is justified in emphasizing the fact that although the war is still fresh in men's minds minorities are being treated better on the whole than were pre-war minorities, and have means of redress at home and abroad which were unknown in 1914.
At one important point -- the Polish Corridor -- criticism of the Versailles Treaty is based not on any glaring violation of the principle of self-determination, but on the allegation that ethnic and historical considerations were emphasized in violation of "common sense." The Poles were not in possession of the territory now known as the Corridor when the Peace Conference began its labors; the decision to award it to Poland, concurred in by some of the most competent experts at Paris, was made only after long study. The ethnic and historical arguments in favor of the decision are quite respectable. The Germans, however, ask why the same argument which was used to round out the territory of Czechoslovakia was not invoked to preserve the German state from division and mutilation. In reply the Poles argue that over half of Poland's foreign commerce passes through the corridor, and that Poland separated from the sea would be the economic hostage of Germany. Further, in support of the view that she would also be Germany's political hostage they cite the famous statement of Frederick the Great that, "Whoever holds the course of the Vistula and Danzig is more fully the master of that country (Poland) than the king who reigns over it"; an opinion, by the way, to which Winston Churchill's story of the campaign on the Eastern Front lends considerable support.
Now it is hard to prove conclusively either that German commerce and administration are seriously injured by the existence of the Corridor, or that if Polish commerce were merely to have the use of Danzig as a free port, with internationalized transit facilities, Poland would be the economic slave of Germany. The question therefore seems to boil down to one of security (supposing Frederick the Great and Winston Churchill to be right) and sentiment -- the natural sentiment of Poles for lands which they believe to be inhabited predominantly by their countrymen and giving access to the sea, the violent feeling of Germans against what seems to them an arbitrary break in the territorial continuity of the Reich. How give both the necessary sense of security, and how assuage the sentimental injury under which Germany now smarts without inflicting a comparable injury on Poland? Above all, how do these things without risk of a new war?
Poland's present possession of "the course of the Vistula" and her domination of Danzig seem to put her in a preferred position as regards security. But when she gazes into the future she must sometimes feel like a nut caught in the jaws of a mighty German and Russian nutcracker, and she then must wish that she might come to terms with one or the other. To come permanently to terms with Soviet Russia now seems out of the question. But how is she to come to terms with Germany while the present German rage over the Corridor remains? Certainly a way out cannot be found by "open diplomacy" -- by appeals to Poland to buy off Germany for the good of Europe or by threats of what will happen to her if she doesn't do so. It is fair enough to remind Poland that her credit will not be very good (even when normal financial conditions return to the world) so long as the possibility of war over the Corridor clouds the horizon. But reminders of this sort will have effect only if at the same moment Poland is shown some way to increase her real security and simultaneously satisfy the sentimental requirements of her people.
It would be scandalous to offer Poland another state's property in order to persuade her to give the Corridor, or part of it, to Germany. But many would applaud if she were able to negotiate an arrangement with a third party which would set her free to appreciate the advantages of German friendship and trade and remove the present constant threat that Germany will take the first likely moment to attack her. The suggestion has been made that a federal union between Poland and Lithuania might accomplish the desired result. It would have sound historic precedent (the two peoples were joined for more than four centuries, until 1795),[vii] it would be of great economic advantage to Lithuania, it is capable of being given a strong sentimental appeal, and it would afford Poland access to the sea -- a surer one in case of war with Germany, incidentally, than that through the Corridor, though one not so sure in case of hostilities with Russia. The combined state, add advocates of the plan, would be a factor of the first rank in European policy, and would be in far better position than is either Poland or Lithuania today to fill the difficult rôle of buffer between the Teutonic and Russian worlds.
Other observers, however, think it hardly worth while to urge the federation of Poland and Lithuania as part of a negotiation to bring about the cession of the Corridor to Germany in view of the Polish belief, fed daily by the ferocious talk of the Junker landlords of Ostelbien, that the Corridor would be merely a first morsel to whet German appetites, and that the quarrel would forthwith be transferred to a new terrain -- to Upper Silesia and Poznania, probably, as next steps toward the ultimate repartitioning of the whole Polish race among its old masters. Whether or not that conviction is correct, it exists. Any realistic program must take account of it, and of the fact that Poland is today in full and legal possession of the Corridor. In other words, it must recognize that as part of any compromise Poland would have to be satisfied that she was making a final settlement, not merely a first payment; and further, that the Polish population of any area returned to Germany would have to be provided with international guarantees of protection. Only so would there be a possibility of Poland's entering into direct negotiations with Germany. And no settlement except by direct negotiation should be considered or urged by anyone who desires European peace.
There remains to note one further general argument in favor of the peace settlement of 1919-20 -- it is not the settlement threatened by the Central Powers in the days when they were tasting victory and planning world hegemony. In the west, the German intention was to retain Alsace-Lorraine and "rectify" the Franco-German frontier to secure economic and strategic advantages. Belgium would be quasi-independent, possibly ruled by a German princeling. How far the plan of Bethmann-Hollweg for an autonomous Polish state within the German Reich would have carried is doubtful; the history of German effort in the Eastern Marches is such that we should probably have seen a reversion to the Germanization policy of Bismarck and Büllow. Regarding what should be done in the Balkans there were two opinions. Tisza alone stood out against the annexation of Slavic districts, on the theory that this would aggravate not settle the Hapsburg nationalities problem. Against him were lined up almost all his colleagues, who wished to punish Serbia by eliminating the Kara-georgevitch dynasty and swallowing up their territories -- though perhaps leaving a fraction attached to Montenegro under one of King Nicholas's Austrophile sons, so that there might be some balance to future Bulgarian pretensions. The fate of Rumania was to be a land-locked state, shackled to Austria-Hungary. Bulgaria, having annexed most of Serbia, Greek Macedonia including Saloniki, and the Black Sea coast of Rumania, would be an important element in the new Mittel-Europa dividing the continent north and south and opening the way to the conquest of Asia. Such--claims for reparations, sanctions and colonies aside -- was to be the Pax Germanica. Of course Germany and her partners had no unredeemed brethren to think about. What Germany wanted was to be left free to continue denationalizing her Poles and other Slavic citizens, the Danes of Schleswig, and the French inhabitants of Alsace-Lorraine. Even if we refrain from taking too moralizing a tone we are not precluded from gratitude that the German Monarchy's peace schemes did not materialize. And those who feel most violently about injustices under the present arrangement may perhaps temper their anger by thinking about the sort of language they would have had to use to express their feelings adequately if the other side had won.
To sum up. 1. The Paris territorial settlements are imperfect: in a few important particulars and in many comparatively unimportant ones they show signs of the capitulation of ethnic to strategic, economic or historical considerations. 2. On the other hand, many of the alleged "atrocities" of the treaties are evidence of nothing more than the notorious fact that the hodge-podge of races in many regions makes any frontier unfair to somebody. 3. The Allies, joining idealism to expediency, encouraged subject peoples in enemy lands to plan and fight for freedom. What part the Allies had in creating the new states was mainly during the war; by the time the Peace Conference assembled, the new states were settled firmly in their saddles. 4. In general the post-war map of Europe is a marked advance, as regards racial homogeneity, over the pre-war map. 5. Those who today find themselves outside their frontiers of race or language possess a new legal basis for appealing for equal treatment, and a new forum for publishing their wrongs to the world. 6. The settlement is more in line with liberal ideals than would have been the settlement dictated by victorious Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs.
It is argued sometimes that the only hope of European peace is to force through a sweeping change in the territorial settlement, restoring the contentment and amiability of the defeated nations by giving back to them great masses of the peoples who broke away and secured national freedom and union in 1918. If this were done, it is said, Europe would have peace. History has given us a violent lesson to the contrary. It was the continued subjugation and exploitation of these peoples, in defiance of the swelling tide of democratic and national sentiment, which as much as any other single factor produced the Great War. Are we to stake our hopes of avoiding a possible new war by returning to a situation which we know does produce war?
The hope of peace in Europe lies in less simplified formulas. There is no magician's wand to wave, no panacea to apply rapidly and with the cheerful consent of everybody concerned. The economic depression has not softened national resentments and fears; on the contrary, it has heightened them, and made it more important than ever to avoid wild talk and the conjuring up of illusions. Much time, and the display of more good sense than the statesmen of Europe or their volunteer advisers in America have yet mustered, will be needed before Europe is at peace. A general acceptance of the present territorial settlement is consistent with a will to adjust and improve it by direct negotiation, little by little, and in the spirit of Geneva. Such a policy of fulfilment and adjustment, with a constant strengthening of the League machinery for protecting minorities, is part of what is needed. Along with the maintenance of frontiers except as they may be changed by direct agreement should go the continued revision of the non-territorial provisions of the treaties and the gradual elimination of inequalities between states. Which is a way of saying that Europe must work in the patient spirit of Stresemann and Briand, not in the arbitrary and sweeping manner advocated by Bethlen, by Hitler and (until recently) by Borah. One of the lessons of the last decade is that persistent statesmen can gradually deal with even the most difficult disputes provided their constituents do not get the impression that they are being coerced into relinquishing parts of the national patrimony. Another lesson should be that to talk wholesale frontier revision is to arouse popular feelings everywhere to fever pitch, to kindle hopes among the vanquished that are impossible of fulfilment except as the result of some desperate gamble, and among the victors to defer the growth of the spirit of trust and conciliation.
Today London and Paris hold the keys to the outer door of the stronghold where European peace hangs between life and death. The keys work only in combination; but progress has been made recently toward agreement on that combination. Inside is another door, even more resistant and forbidding. The keys to this inner door are held by Paris and Berlin. We must not let ourselves adopt the despairing view that the way to use these keys jointly will never be found; bewildering obstacles to Franco-German collaboration have before this yielded to the realization that self-interest often lies in accepting limitations on one's own rights where they are in conflict with the rights of others. To cut short the search for the combination and to try to blast a way in would be the folly of despair, for after the explosion nothing worth thinking about would remain. Instead of encouraging so suicidal a course we must hold our breath, giving counsel quietly or refraining entirely; and instead of telling Europe what she must or must not do we should prepare to make in our turn whatever sacrifices duty and self-interest impose, the while the men on whom destiny has placed the direct responsibility try to agree to use their golden keys.
[i] Interpretations of the Treaty have also been revised. Thus Mr. Lloyd George not only did not hang the Kaiser, but came around to being sorry he could not hang M. Poincaré.
[ii] Bessarabia had meanwhile been incorporated in the Rumanian state by vote (April 8, 1918) of the Supreme Council of the "Moldavian Republic," established after the fall of the Tsar.
[iii] William Milligan Sloane in "The Balkans: A Laboratory of History." Similarly Balfour once spoke of Irish patriotism as an exotic, and Irish nationality as a political afterthought (J. H. Morgan: "The New Irish Constitution," p. xi). A classic example of bad timing in indicting a nation is the statement made by Price Collier on the eve of the war: "The world wonders at the decadence of school-beridden France, where the boys are effeminatized, the youths secularized, and the men sterilized morally and patriotically; France with its police without power, its army without patriotism, and its people without influence; disorderly at home and cringing abroad; a nation owing its autonomy even, to the fact that it is serviceable as a buffer-state." ("The West in the East," p. 86.)
[iv] Prohibition of the Anschluss was a concession to French and Italian fears that if Austria in desperation joined Germany the new states of Central Europe would not have time to develop firm roots before German pressure became too strong for them. Few believe that the prohibition will or should stand indefinitely. Probably it would already have lapsed had Germany and France reached accord on other points. On the other hand, recent developments in Germany have considerably weakened Austrian enthusiasm for union.
[v] The extreme desire of the German race not to lose control of Bohemia, like the willingness of the Allies to create the Czechoslovak state, probably grew in part from the feeling expressed by Bismarck: "The master of Bohemia is the master of Europe."
[vi] The figures are hard to determine accurately, but the total given is not far wrong. Jews are not counted, their numbers being more or less constant.
[vii] For details see "Lithuania and Poland," by Robert H. Lord, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Vol. I, No. 4.