THE historian who searches for historical parallels can find little that is relevant to the circumstances of the present day. It is of course true that all great wars tend to conclude not with a spectacular and universal return of peace to an afflicted world, but with a series of smaller wars which gradually taper off until peace is reached. The First World War was no exception to this rule, and not until after the end of the Greco-Turkish War in 1922 -- four years after the Armistice on the western front -- could one begin to talk of a postwar period. Two centuries earlier, the great wars caused by the ambitions of Louis XIV came to a real end only with the northern settlement in the Treaty of Nystadt, in 1721, six years after that monarch's death, and eight years after the principal belligerents had come to terms by the Treaty of Utrecht. Nor is it a novelty that victorious nations should fall out with one another on the morrow of victory. The difficulties caused by Russian and Prussian ambitions at the Congress of Vienna, and the advantage taken of them by Talleyrand, provide a classic instance. It is not, therefore, by the novelty of the situation so much as by the extent of the turmoil, the rapidity of the new alignments and the lack of any signs pointing to a peaceful solution to our predicament that the present period is distinguished from other postwar periods. Indeed, the current preoccupation with subjects such as rearmament would tend to suggest an atmosphere of a prewar rather than a postwar kind.

Many reasons have been and can be put forward in explanation of these facts. One can point to the unparalleled savagery of the Second World War, to the extent of the devastation and of the breakdown in the normal mechanisms of civilized living, to the fears engendered by the exploitations of new and tremendous weapons, and to the unleashing of the passions of race and class on a gigantic scale. The student of politics will be tempted to add another explanation to the list and to regard as unique in modern times the reduction in the number of Great Powers to two, and two only. It is clear now, as it was not clear when the war ended, that the United States and the U.S.S.R. are the only two Powers that have, for the moment at any rate, the physical capacity for political activity of other than a narrowly defensive kind. The "Big Five" of the United Nations Charter have proved as illusory as most of the hopes pinned upon that tragic document. China is ridden by civil war to such an extent that it is rather a victim than an actor on the world scene; France seems more deeply divided than before by the internecine hatreds that prevented her from reacting in time to the Nazi menace; Great Britain, although preserving a great measure of internal unity and stability, is unable out of its own resources to meet its economic needs and is faced with great problems of social and structural change. If the influence of Great Britain is again to be exerted decisively on the world scene, it will be as the center of some new grouping of like-minded peoples rather than as a single Power. Of the defeated Powers, Germany is for the moment devastated and partitioned, and Japan occupied and closely controlled. Both remain of potential political significance; and Germany might well become a great and menacing Power once more. Italy -- in spite of her considerable progress toward recovery -- has been shown to have been a Great Power only by courtesy. For the moment, then, political power is polarized as never before.

Even were there nothing particularly menacing in the relationship to each other of the United States and the U.S.S.R., this fact that they stand alone would probably in itself suffice to provide a certain amount of tension. Such great centers of power would be bound to exercise an attraction outside their own borders; smaller Powers and rival parties within national frontiers would be bound to look to them for support. But this inevitable process has been magnified and accelerated by the peculiar nature of the Soviet state. If the postwar development of Soviet policy has done nothing else it has at least silenced most of those who assured us during the war years that the U.S.S.R. had settled down into the familiar likeness of a national state, that its foreign policy was by and large the same as that of the Tsarist Empire whose nuclear territories it inherited, and whose imperial heritage it has now reclaimed. It is true that some legends die hard, and that one still reads books asserting that Stalin's defeat of Trotsky marked a turning-point in Soviet history and the abandonment of the idea of world revolution. But no serious student now denies that to understand the U.S.S.R. and the international problem that it represents, one has to appreciate the extent to which its rulers believe their fortunes to depend upon a thriving revolutionary cause, and their historic mission to lie in the expansion of Communism upon a world scale. In this respect, everything that has happened over the last year and a half confirms the analysis of Soviet policy made by "X" in his now celebrated article, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," that appeared in FOREIGN AFFAIRS in July 1947.

It is because of its function as the headquarters of an international movement that the U.S.S.R. can use in its own interests the efforts of large sections of the population in almost every country of the Old World and of devoted if smaller groups throughout the Americas as well. Compared with the resources that the Russians command in this way, the "fifth columns" and Quislings of Hitler were feeble in the extreme. It is of course true that one must not leave out of account the military resources that the U.S.S.R. itself controls. It is Communist power along with Communist ideology that attracts adherents -- as was true of Nazi power and ideology on their lesser scale. But to say that the problem is that of the Red Army, and the Red Army alone, is to overlook the effectiveness of Communism at least for destructive purposes, in countries as far removed from the Red Army's potential area of action as Burma and Indonesia.

Because of the power of attraction that the U.S.S.R. possesses, the United States has acquired, more or less involuntarily as we may believe, a power of attraction of its own. It is not so much that it possesses an ideology that has a wide appeal -- the lip service paid to words like freedom and democracy must not blind us here -- but rather that all those who fear that their interests, material or cultural, are in danger from the Russians are bound to seek the support of the only Power in a position to give support effectively. In the process, of course, the United States is bound to find itself with some very queer proteges. But so long as world politics is forced by the Russians onto an either-or level, it is difficult to see how this can be avoided.

From this point of view, one has every sympathy with those Americans who object to the present political conflict being described as one between the United States and the U.S.S.R., as though they were dragging reluctant neutrals into a struggle with which no other nation had a direct concern. On the contrary, there is no reason to believe that a withdrawal of America from its European and Asiatic advanced posts would pacify those areas and diminish the intensity of the Russian offensive. As things stand at present, it would simply serve to hand over those areas to Russian domination and exploitation. Things would have been different had the original presumptions of the Western Powers proved correct. If Great Britain and France on the one hand, and China on the other, had proved equal to the task they were set, then the idea of a "third force" in Europe and Asia would have had something to it. It would then have been possible for these Powers to have played a balancing rôle between the two colossi, and, by the mere threat of making common cause with the United States, have prevailed upon the Russians to accept another period of truce between themselves and the non-Communist world.

But even in Western Europe, where there are at least the signs of recovery, it becomes more and more clear that Western Union cannot function, or even come into being, except as part of a wider Atlantic Union. The best it can hope for is to be a full-fledged partner in the Atlantic community, and not a mere pensioner of North America in the economic or military sense. It is the triangle London-Washington-Ottawa, not London-Paris-Brussels, which now prevents Communist domination throughout the Old World.

Europeans are apt to play down, where possible, the fact of this dependence upon American power because it is made so much of by Communist propaganda. The Communists have always made use of the sentiment of nationalism when they could -- in colonial countries against the Empires, in occupied Europe against Hitler (after June 22, 1941), and now in Europe at large against the domination of "Wall Street." But it is unwise to conceal the truth from oneself because of the use one's enemy may make of it. If American aid in the defense of Europe were less conspicuous, the Communists would argue that isolationism was in the saddle once more, that the Americans had washed their hands of Europe, and that there was now no alternative but to accept the fact of Soviet hegemony.


It is this polarization of power that makes the two peoples concerned so preoccupied with each other. Each reacts after its own fashion. The Russians apply the crude and ready-made categories of their official Marxist doctrine: the troubles of the world are due to American imperialism seeking new conquests to bolster up a declining capitalism and to avoid the inevitable slump; American monopoly of the atomic weapon produces the present tension; America's object is to recruit the lesser Powers as mercenaries to be hurled into an aggressive war upon the Soviet Union, which is the only bulwark against American plans of aggrandizement; and so on. The rôle of scapegoat that every totalitarian régime requires, and that in the Soviet Russian melodrama has been assigned at different times to Great Britain, France and Germany, is now conferred upon the United States. And this diagnosis of the world's malady is repeated by the whole chorus of the satellite states, and by Communists and fellow-travellers wherever they are permitted to find voice.

In the United States, where free inquiry and an empirical approach to such problems are still dominant, there is the familiar round of questions about the nature of the Soviet state, the roots of its policy and the direction of its next assault. There is, in fact, a concentration upon the Russians, and an exclusion of other international developments that is almost unhealthy in its intensity. It suggests that the initiative in the conflict lies wholly with the Russians; and this should not be the case.

For the greatest paradox in the whole situation is the contrast between the real and the apparent balance of forces. However measured -- by population, by natural resources, by technical efficiency, by organizing capacity -- the free world disposes of much greater reserves of strength than the Russians command. Were this not the case, were the positions reversed, we may be fairly certain that we should by now have faced armed aggression, not political warfare. Nevertheless in the political warfare of the past three years, we have allowed the Russians to hold the initiative -- an initiative that they have exploited with persistence and skill.

This can be explained only by the existence of real weaknesses on the American side that must be probed to the utmost if the Communist attack is to be halted. In the first place, it is true that a program of constant vigilance on a wide front is one inherently unsuited to a democratic country. The rapid decisions that such a policy demands from time to time are particularly unsuited to the United States, a country with a constitutional structure designed to promote delay and to obtain full popular consent to every move. But any democracy -- even if its constitution is as streamlined for action as that of Great Britain -- is bound to resist a long-term policy of preparedness, however ready it may be for sacrifice in the face of clear and present danger. Mr. Cordell Hull's memoirs, and the first volume of Mr. Churchill's, are eloquent recent testimonies to these two points.

But there is the even more inescapable fact that if "containment" is hard to pursue successfully the apparent alternative of bringing the issue to a head is equally out of reach. For the only meaning that can reasonably be attached to this solution is to use the superior military power of the United States, offensively. A solution of this kind seems to be ruled out by the very nature of a democracy. Democracies do not wage offensive wars, even if labelled "preventive." Hostility toward war is an essential part of the code of values that marks the concept of civilization we are concerned to defend. Even if this were not so, and if Russian provocation were to overcome American patience, the United States would enter such a war knowing that even victory would not bring the answer to the problem. It might, and probably would, eradicate the Soviet régime as the Nazi régime was eradicated; but the chaos and destruction that would be caused in the process would provide a fertile ground for Communism -- a Communism that might present itself as the only alternative to anarchy. The complications in the path of recovery after World War II show clearly how vulnerable is the complicated fabric of modern industrial civilization, how thin is the barrier to chaos.

The United States is, then, inexorably driven back upon the policy of "containment" in some form, or as it would be better to describe it, into a condition, where Russia is concerned, of "no war, no peace." And in such a situation the Russians have not only the advantage of being able to act without the normal restraints of the democratic process, but also the advantage of having the simpler task to perform. For it is obvious that the task of dislocating an economic and social system is simpler than that of construction and development. The working of E.R.P. demands, as has already been shown, an enormous effort of goodwill and intellectual enterprise to overcome the obstacles of differing national and group interests, and to balance successfully economic, political and military considerations. But in order to set back the E.R.P. program, and perhaps to make Americans and Europeans despair of its success, all that need be done is to hamper productivity by strikes and other forms of disorder that can easily be organized in difficult times by an unscrupulous and well disciplined minority. And on the internal front, as on the international one, a democratic government suffers from obvious handicaps: how to distinguish between what may be the well-founded grievances of an underprivileged group from activities of a clearly subversive nature; how to deal firmly with the latter without surrendering its own democratic title deeds. Strikes in the west; banditry and terrorism, leading to open insurrection in the east -- the Communist tactic is easy to define but hard to combat.

In that sense, then, those who seek to interpret Soviet action and to forecast the future development of Soviet policy are correct in their assumption that the Russians hold the initiative. But it should be the object of such analysis to find the points at which initiative may be wrested from them, and the free world pass from the defensive to more positive tasks.


There is, as we have seen, no need to waste time in arguing once again the old question as to whether or not the U.S.S.R. regards itself as the vanguard of world revolution. The present generation of Russia's rulers are quite obviously incapable of dissociating their own security and the survival of their régime from the triumph of Communism; and they have been remarkably successful in persuading their allies in all countries in which Communism is not yet dominant that the latter's only chance of achieving their aims lies in their total subordination to the Soviet viewpoint. Whatever may be their own refinements upon the doctrine, the Communists fundamentally present themselves to the world as the bearers of two slogans, and two alone. They stand for the exaltation of the masses as against all individual and group rights -- which is what they mean by "popular democracy" -- and for the equality of races as against the assumption of race superiority. It is the fact that on the whole the latter belief is genuine, while the first is largely fraudulent in its implications, that makes Communism in the long run a much greater danger in Asia and Africa than in Europe.

These are formidable advantages, since the fraudulent nature of "popular democracy" -- the extent to which it promotes the creation of new hierarchies, and the suppression of individual liberties which it demands -- are hard to demonstrate except by experience; and once a country has undergone the experience it is difficult to see how the process can be reversed. On the other hand, there are the ineradicable weaknesses of the Soviet régime itself -- weaknesses of which the dominant group has shown itself well aware. In the first place, the Soviet régime has so far displayed no capacity for rivalling the free world in the production of material goods and is forced to attempt to maintain a fictitious picture of the outside world in order to substantiate its own claims to have given its people a better lot than that of the working classes of non-Communist countries. The effort required at the end of the war to "reëducate" Soviet troops who had seen the outside world for themselves was obviously a major strain upon the whole apparatus of indoctrination upon which so much depends. For this reason, if for no other, the Soviet rulers are obliged to insulate their people more and more from external contacts; and the more they cut themselves off from the main currents of world thought, the less likely it becomes that they can keep in the van of scientific and technical progress.

In the second place, the Soviet rulers are obviously aware that while the Russians are probably, like most other peoples, in the main loyal to their own government as against the foreigner, the régime as such inspires little enthusiasm except among its direct beneficiaries. The wartime manifestations that were wrongly interpreted to mean that the Soviet Union was transforming itself into a mere continuation of Tsarist Russia were actualities. But all they showed was the conviction among the Soviet rulers that if they were to demand from the people superhuman efforts against the invader, it would have to be in the name of Russian patriotism, and not of devotion to the Communist Party. The Party was pushed into the background and the army exalted for the best of reasons; and it was only when victory was in sight that the Party was pushed into the foreground to receive the applause that should have gone elsewhere.

But this does not mean that the exploitation of Russian nationalism has ended. Among the facts about Soviet-controlled Europe that have become even clearer since X's article appeared is the fact that the Soviet system can, in the minds of its dominant group, work only under conditions of complete uniformity throughout the area which they control. The suggestion that the countries of Eastern Europe could work out a sort of halfway house of their own between Communism and capitalism, between "popular democracy" and parliamentary institutions, has been shown to be an illusion. The Czech coup gave the final indication that this had nothing to do with the problem of Russia's defense, or that of securing "friendly governments" on the frontiers. No government could have been friendlier than that of Czechoslovakia, or less open to attraction either by the German oppressors or by the Western Powers still suffering from the taint of Munich.

This task of enforcing economic, political and ideological uniformity is obviously proving an immensely difficult one. The idea that the local left-wing elements could be relied upon for the job has not stood up to the test of experience; nor has much impact been made by attempts to exploit Pan-Slavism. Attempts to dragoon local leaders into complete subservience may -- as Jugoslavia has shown -- lead to a clash between the Soviet demands and local considerations backed up by the strength of national feeling. Such experience is bound to drive the Soviet rulers to the belief that the only people they can trust are Russians themselves, or people so long resident in the Soviet Union and so thoroughly indoctrinated that their point of view has become that of the Russian Communists rather than that of their country of origin. It is obvious that the internal tensions that have revealed themselves in the Polish régime, for instance, tend to take the form of a clash between "Russian" and "native" Communists. The Soviet rulers have thus been placed in a dilemma. If they permit the countries of the Soviet zone to develop along their own lines, social forces will emerge and new ideas will be canvassed that may react unfavorably upon the Soviet Union proper. But if they adopt the opposite point of view and press on with agricultural collectivization, and other measures lacking local support, they can do so only at the cost of creating a more vigorous opposition that forces them to tighten controls still further. It is the latter course which apparently commends itself as the lesser evil.

The expansion of the Soviet Union into Europe has thus confronted its leaders with a new phase in the relationships between Communism and nationalism; just as in Asia, there is always the prospect that Soviet backing for indigenous national movements will lead to events analogous to those in China in 1927. Indeed, so inexorable is the logic of conflict in these two principles that it is not too much to see parallels between European and Asiatic experience, and to argue that the real prototype of Tito is to be found in Chiang Kai-shek, in spite of Tito's refusal to admit any departure from a strictly Communist line. Eighteen months later, then, there is nothing that has happened to disprove X's contention "that Soviet society may well contain deficiencies which will eventually weaken its own total potential." These deficiencies exist and are recognizable. The problem is how we can take advantage of this to frustrate Soviet expansionism and to bring about the conditions in which the régime itself will undergo sufficient change to make Russia a genuine partner in a free world. X's view seems to have been that the main chances of positive action lay outside the scope of foreign policy in the ordinary sense, and that they would depend to a great extent on how far the United States could develop a rival ideological attraction through the successful handling of its own internal problems.

It would be foolish to ignore the importance of this contention. Since the United States is the only other Great Power, any weakening of the power of the Soviet ideology is bound to provide room for the further spread of American influence. It is important that this influence should be one that other peoples will welcome for its own sake and not merely as a lesser evil. In this respect, if one agrees that in the long run events in Asia and Africa will be as decisive as those in Europe are proving in the short run, then to the preaching and practice of political democracy and social justice must be added that of racial equality. This does not mean that the idea of immediate independence for all dependent peoples should be accepted without question -- for this may simply place such peoples at the mercy of Communist exploitation. But it must be admitted as a principle of action that no opportunities of social or political development shall be denied anywhere in the world on grounds of race alone.

On the other hand, it is clear that a mere mending of the fences combined with internal reform is not in itself a complete program. It is still worth asking whether there are not measures -- other than preventive war -- that can help directly toward the end we have in view.


Political warfare resembles the warfare of guns in more than one way. It is essential to be clear about one's objectives, and this means possessing detailed knowledge of the adversary's position. It is also essential that one should be certain about one's own resources. In both respects, perhaps, political warfare is more difficult and mistakes are easier to make. People are still arguing about such features of World War II as the "Vichy" policy of the American Government, while discussions of the military measures employed to defeat the Germans are largely left to experts.

In the present case, we do not know to what extent the rulers of Russia may have found it difficult to persuade their exhausted people on the very morrow of victory that a new menace was looming in the west. How did they manage to still the demand for some degree of normal life at home and for some real letup in material austerity, in military preparedness and psychological tension? Many observers of the Russian scene reported that such a demand was strong in the closing period of the war. We can never know what would have been the effect of an offer by the west of unconditional and massive material aid. There may be a case for saying that what is most likely to weaken the hold of a martial and expansionist ideology is a growth in the desire for material comfort; and that such a desire grows by what it feeds upon. At any rate, we may take it that an attempt to act upon such lines is now politically unthinkable on our own side, and that the Soviet leaders are sufficiently firmly in the saddle to enable them to refuse any such offer even were we to make it. But this does not mean that in the long run some such opportunity may not recur. For the present, all we can do is to try to avoid actions that may help the Soviet rulers in their task of persuading their people that the west is irrevocably hostile and prepared to deny them not (as is reasonable) the chance of further territorial expansion, but the economic opportunities that they may feel they have earned by their sacrifices in the struggle against the common enemy. It is all too easy to forget in our justified impatience with recent Soviet policies how dangerous that enemy was and how great those sacrifices were.

These considerations should be borne in mind in all discussions of international economic policy, and perhaps in the discussions of atomic energy as well. That energy, after all, has other than military applications. For we must remember, in defining our objectives, that we are not simply trying to weaken the Russians as such. We are trying the much harder task of proving that their government is wrong, both in its analysis of the world situation and in its belief that its present expansionist aims have a chance of success. And we are trying to do all this without having recourse to the self-defeating expedient of a shooting war.

Considerations of this kind must be present to our minds when dealing with major political issues. This is not the context in which to deal with the most pressing of immediate political problems -- the problem of Germany. Clearly some way out of the present impasse must be found or all long-range discussions are futile. One cannot too often reëmphasize the fact that German ambitions have not been abandoned as a result of Hitler's defeat, that Germany's former military leaders are clearly engaged in a calculated campaign of self-rehabilitation with the Fuehrer's "intuition" instead of the Socialist dolchstoss of World War I as their scapegoat. For this reason, it is not at all unnatural that suggestions about the rebuilding of a Western Germany with its economic, social and hence inevitably its political structure largely unchanged should genuinely cause alarm among the Russians -- an alarm that would exist even were the Soviet régime a genuinely peace-loving one. We, after all, are on the alert for every sign of militarization in the Soviet Zone; and in any clash between east and west, Western Germany would be the more valuable adjunct. It is worth while urging that our whole German policy should be rethought, bearing in mind that nothing could so strengthen the hold of the Soviet Government upon possible waverers as their being in a position to argue that Western Germany is to be the spearhead of a new offensive against the east.

It is, of course, quite reasonable to argue that at present the Soviet Government's control of all channels of information is so tight that nothing we do or say can make any difference to the peoples of the Soviet Union itself. This is perhaps a case where we are simply not in possession of the facts necessary to come to a decision. But it is worth pointing out that the fairly constant trickle of Russians seeking asylum in the west suggests that there is not inside their own country that total ignorance of the conditions of the outside world that one is sometimes tempted to believe.

At all events, it is obvious that, for the moment at any rate, the so-called satellite countries of Eastern Europe are not cut off in this way, however formidable the formal obstacles to free communication. Whatever the conduct of the satellite governments may be at U.N. or elsewhere, Eastern Europe is not yet simply a Soviet bloc, and it is clearly enormously to our interest not to make it one. In this respect, too, the problem of Germany is highly relevant. Any idea that the western Powers were responsible for reviving Germany's military potential would bind the Poles and Czechs of all parties to the Russians in a way that nothing else could. The most effective piece of political strategy that the Russians brought off in the territorial settlement was not their own gains, but the Polish gains at the expense of Germany. For these made it certain that German revisionism would be directed against Poland in the first instance and thus that Poland would be bound at all times to seek Russian support. If the Poles fail to accept Russian directives, there is always the bogy of the Russians throwing them overboard to win again the friendship of the Germans. We would be wrong to give the impression in Eastern Europe that German revisionism has at least a covert backing from our side. We are not in a position to win an auction on that basis and we should be foolish to try.

Nor has this argument relevance to Eastern Europe only; the German danger is very much in the minds of the continental peoples of Western Europe, and to neglect it is to give a valuable handle to Communist propaganda. But our efforts to keep alive our own influence in Eastern Europe, and so to prevent the successful creation of a homogeneous bloc, cannot be confined simply to accepting the political demands of these peoples. It also demands a considerable watchfulness over our general economic and political relations with them.

There is too ready an assumption that what we are trying for is to put the clock back to 1938. It cannot be done. It is arguable that, politically speaking, a differentiation must be made between most of the territories that Russia regained in 1939-40 and later territorial accessions or possible accessions in the future. Whatever sympathies may be felt for the peoples of the Baltic States, it is as certain as anything can be in these matters that their fate is now permanently linked with that of the other peoples of the old Russian Empire. Their real hopes lie in a transformation of the whole Soviet Union into a more liberal grouping of peoples, within which not only they but other Soviet nationalities may find more genuine possibilities of self-determination, without the economic and political atomization that modern conditions have rendered increasingly obsolete. Only a war could drive back the Soviet Union to its 1938 frontiers; and a war that did that would do much more.

Clearly, the same arguments do not apply to countries like Poland and Hungary. Here the danger is rather that we should imagine a possible restoration of the economic and social structure of the prewar era. The fact that they are being driven to the complete Sovietization of their economies should not mean that they are presented with no alternative other than a return to the semi-feudal past, or the adoption of "free enterprise." The really vital opposition to the Russians in these countries may well come from those groups who see the possibility of welfare-planning on their own lines and who, in the case of Poland at any rate, appear to be capable of remarkable achievements, if forced subservience to Moscow does not upset their plans. It is groups such as these rather than some émigré circles who may be the most worth cultivating, and any talk of setting up "governments-inexile" is all too likely to bolster propaganda about American "imperialism." It is by adding social self-determination to political self-determination that American policy can be fully consistent. As far as possible we in Great Britain and the United States must seek out and go along with the natural tendencies of the European Continent, making allowances for historic experiences different from our own.

The argument for continuing to explore every means of maintaining economic relations with Eastern Europe is not limited, therefore, to the mollifying effects that prosperity might have. Economic relations are one means by which the Iron Curtain can be pierced, and it should be a fixed point in the policy of the western Powers not to allow the isolation that the Russians are attempting to impose within their sphere to become complete. Indeed, the fact that it promotes at least a minimum of movement between east and west is the one remaining thing to the credit of the United Nations -- the one thing that makes one pause before condemning the whole thing as a dreary futility, as nothing but a platform where diplomats exchange insults, while the real work of the world goes on outside.

It is indeed important that this should be appreciated; and it is to be feared that some representatives of the western Powers are too easily pleased when they feel that they have shown up some particular duplicity of the Soviet Government. It is far more important to continue to advance constructive proposals on matters like disarmament and atomic energy, even with the foreknowledge of Soviet obstruction, than to content ourselves with negativing Soviet proposals that are obviously insincere. Otherwise we will find the Soviet Government cleverly playing from weakness, as Litvinov did at Geneva from 1927 to 1933, and capitalizing for their own purposes the general desire of all peoples for disarmament and peace.

Indeed, the criticism of the policy of "containment" as hitherto practised is that it seems to combine an undue rigidity where relations with the Soviet bloc are concerned, with, perhaps, an undue timidity to grasp the Communist nettle outside the area of direct Soviet control. Since the real enemy is not the Russian people nor its East European neighbors, but international Communism, this would seem to be almost a reversal of the correct procedure. Nor need we fear that more stringent measures in regard to Communism will bring a war with the Soviet Union any nearer. The Soviet Government has never based its foreign relations upon considerations arising out of the internal régimes of other countries. Since all non-Communist régimes are anathema in its eyes, it is unconcerned about the precise degree to which they depart from the ideal. The idea that is spread in fellow-traveller circles that the Russians will be more amenable to a left-wing government has been proved completely false by Great Britain's postwar experience; indeed, the disillusion of some British Socialist leaders on this score explains some of the personal bitterness that creeps into their utterances about the Soviet Union. It is hardly necessary to add that no sentimental considerations about the fate of their agents abroad will affect Soviet policy in the least. The measure of freedom to be allowed Communists must in every country be decided strictly on the basis of the local situation. There is no natural right of sabotage.

It is obvious that it is on the periphery of Soviet influence that this problem is most serious. It raises certain major questions of the extent of permissible intervention that cannot very easily be answered. In Europe, the outstanding example is provided by the case of Greece. The mere giving of military aid to the Greek army and of economic aid to the existing Greek Government has failed to bring the rebellion to an end. There may be a case for direct military intervention to seal off the frontiers between Greece and those countries whose aid to the rebels has been established. There may equally be a case for much more direct intervention in Greece's internal affairs, if an end is to be put to conditions that seem to make rebellion endemic far away from these frontiers.

A similar problem on a much greater scale confronts American policy in China. Here, as elsewhere in Asia, the problem is how to build up the maximum resistance to Communism without alienating national sentiment. In China, there is the particular danger that the idea may spread that Japan (like Western Germany in Europe) is the preferred anti-Communist bulwark, thus enabling the Communists to enlist nationalist feeling on their side, just as the admitted corruption and inefficiency of the Chiang Kai-shek régime has helped them to gain for the time being the sympathies of many non-Communists.

In southeastern Asia the problem is different. The Russians are remote, and local Communism has no such strong base as Manchuria will henceforth provide in China. Here the real asset of the Communists is their ability to produce disorder with the minimum outlay. And disorder is itself sufficient. Trouble in Burma means interference with rice exports and food shortages in rice-importing countries -- India, for instance. This in turn powerfully assists Communist propaganda there. The Powers previously dominant in this area cannot for various reasons play their old rôle, and the United States with its traditional anti-imperialism has regarded this fact with too much equanimity. It is essential that some means be found of providing at least the elementary services of government -- the provision of law and order so that the ordinary citizen can go about his business. The problem is how the United States can assist in doing this without affronting the powerful if still undeveloped force of local nationalism. The evident increase recently in Soviet attention to the affairs of the Middle East suggests that parallel problems may arise in this area as well.


It is thus obvious that the policy of "containment" to be effective demands more than the exertion of counter-force at every point where a direct Russian threat develops. Indeed, it demands rather less exclusive concentration upon Russia itself than has recently been common. We must neither be put off our policies by Soviet abuse nor waste time in answering back. The fact that American strength is at present the only real deterrent to a Soviet advance is something that we can benefit from fully only if at the same time we do everything possible to bring about general stability and prosperity in the outside world. In this sense it is incorrect to talk of opposition between the "Truman Doctrine" and the "Marshall Plan." But the bringing of stability does not mean simply the outpouring of material goods. It must mean positive measures in every area concerned; and these can be fully effective only if the local problem is studied in detail, remembering always the importance of enlisting in opposition to Communism every valuable indigenous force.

If in the long run the problem of Soviet expansionism can be solved only by a radical change in the nature and outlook of the Soviet régime, the short-run problem is always whether to look for opportunities of local and partial settlements. These may be of two kinds. There are situations in which the Soviet Union may accept the fact that stability has been reached in a certain area and prefer to call off its offensive. The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Iran in 1946 may be taken as an example of this kind. There are other situations, of which the position in Berlin is an obvious example, whose characteristic is that by their very nature they endanger peace, even though neither side wants war. In either case, it is surely in our interest to seek an agreement if possible, even while remaining fully aware that the Russians will not hesitate to go back on it if circumstances make it to their advantage. The point is that every local agreement in a conflict such as this is mainly important because of the resources that it releases for use elsewhere. We should be able to make better use of the equivalent resources in men and materials than the Russians are. At the same time it is important to remember that any diminution in the proportion of our resources which we are obliged to use directly in the conflict is a help to economic prosperity and renders less acute the greatest danger that we face -- the danger that democratic peoples will not have the patience to see a long and toilsome journey through to the end.

However optimistic we may be about the long-run issues involved, the most immediate task is to accept the fact that the menace of Soviet Communism is likely to be a feature of our world for some time to come. No single step will remove it; there is no button to press and no magic formula to utter. Our fundamental reliance must be upon the superiority of free institutions over any and every brand of totalitarianism.

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  • MAX BELOFF, Reader in the Comparative Study of Institutions, at Oxford, and Fellow of Corpus Christi College; author of "The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia"
  • More By Max Beloff