Time for NATO to Close Its Door
The Alliance Is Too Big—and Too Provocative—for Its Own Good
IT IS not easy to discuss Austria's present relations with Germany on the one hand and with Italy on the other. Everyone in a responsible position here in Austria avoids touching publicly on our relations with Germany. But it should be deemed permissible to bare even this secret de polichinel. Austria has been delivered over, bound hand and foot, not only to the Treaties of Versailles and Saint Germain, but even to the so-called Protocol of Geneva through which she has obtained the guarantee of the League of Nations for her great international loan.
Little Austria's frontiers on Germany and Italy are very different from those of the former Austrian half of the Hapsburg Monarchy. They no longer touch the chief states of the German Commonwealth--Prussia and Saxony. These old frontiers have now come into the possession of Czechoslovakia. It is only on Bavaria, the second largest German federal state, that our new little Austria still borders, and in three regions--Upper Austria, Salzburg, and the Tyrol. With respect to Italy, the Austrian boundary has been moved far to the north, as far as to the Brenner Pass.
Nevertheless, the relations of this Alpine republic of scant six million souls with these two great neighboring powers are of consequence to the entire political and moral structure of Central Europe. However important Austria's relations may be with the other nations on which she borders--in the first place with Czechoslovakia, and then with Hungary, Jugoslavia and Switzerland--as in the case of any small country the most important relations are those which it maintains with its greatest and most powerful neighbors. Austria's greatest neighbor today is Germany; her most powerful, in view of Germany's impotence, is Italy.
The relation of Austria to Germany is of rather a shamefaced type. Notwithstanding the fact that after the collapse of the two great Central European Empires the injunctions of Versailles and of Saint Germain forbade any amalgamation, the idea of a union with the unfortunate Teutonic neighbor republic still remained alive in Austria as a temporarily unrealizable aspiration. It was openly talked of; the famous Fourteen Points were cited as justification; and, in accordance with the Wilsonian theory, plebiscites were held in the Tyrol and in Salzburg at which union with Germany was advocated by majorities which almost reached unanimity. And, to speak frankly, one did not usually meet many members of the victorious Entente with the same attitude of objection that France had. It is true that Italy, England, and the United States had also signed the Treaty of Versailles and had signified formal agreement with the French veto against the amalgamation of Austria and Germany. But I can remember hearing, subsequent to the conclusion of peace, expressions, if not of consent to such a union, at least of indifference to it. One day I was approached by a French diplomat with the request that I give him some information regarding the real feeling of the Vienna public concerning the matter. I asked him: "Can you stand hearing the whole truth? If that is the case, I can tell it to you. There is only one place in all Vienna where there is objection to such a union." "And what place is that?" asked the Frenchman, with some curiosity. "The French Embassy," I replied.
It is a fact that immediately after the collapse of the Monarchy our economic and financial groups believed that the Danube states would have to join in some sort of a federation. They believed also in the reestablishment of such a customs union as the Hapsburg Empire had maintained. To an English publicist who inquired my opinion regarding the matter I replied that a Danube Federation could only prove successful if no Danube state were excluded from it, not even Germany, in which country the Danube has its source and through which it runs (in Bavaria) for a great distance. But the two Slav "Succession States" to the old Hapsburg Monarchy, Czechoslovakia and Jugoslavia, fought from the first moment against any suggestion of a Danube Federation, because they saw in it only the initial move toward a restoration of the Hapsburgs. The attitude of these two nations toward the idea of a union between Austria and Germany was less fierce, for such a union would prove the surest guarantee against a return of the Hapsburgs, whether Germany remains a republic or whether at some distant day it constitutes itself an empire under Hohenzollerns or Wittelsbachs. The idea of a union with Germany still remains alive in the hearts of Austrians, even though further plebiscites have been precluded by order of the victorious powers. But were a new plebiscite to take place today its result would unquestionably be less definite than were the results of the previous manifestations of the people's wishes.
Conditions in Germany are such as to cause grave apprehension in saner Austrian circles. Bavaria, the state on which Austria borders, is particularly diseased. Everything German that stands for disorder and destruction is gathered together in the Bavarian capital. All that is reactionary is concentrated there. Munich is the hospitable haunt of all the pretenders who are awaiting the ruin of the German Republic and who also desire to drag the neighboring Republic of Austria down into the abyss of that ruin. And the web of this unholy passion for destruction is being spun across the border from Bavaria into Austria. For a long time Bavarian hospitality has been extended to that wretched Count Berchtold, the former Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who by his overweening ultimatum to Serbia in the summer of 1914 set fire, like a super-Herostratus, to the Temple of Peace, kindling a world-conflagration compared with which "Muspell," the world-conflagration of northern mythology foretold by the Edda, pales into insignificance. It is Munich which is the residence of the Archduchess Maria Josefa, mother of the late Emperor Karl. The mental caliber of this bigoted woman, a sister of the last King of Saxony, is indicated by her announcement to the world at large that the Hapsburg and Wettin dynasties collapsed because both of these arch-Catholic houses hitched their wagons to the Protestant star of the Hohenzollerns. Furthermore, Archduke Max, brother of the late Emperor Karl, makes his residence in Munich, as does the Crown Prince of Saxony, the latter as a tenant of the palace built in the faubourg of Schwabing by the aesthetic Mr. Loeb, a member of the New York family connected with the house of Kuhn, Loeb & Company. By his marriage the Saxon Crown Prince became a brother-in-law of the pretender to the Bavarian throne, Prince--or as his adherents call him--"King" Rupprecht. This royal fellowship, a thorn in the flesh of the new Central European republics, is bound together by the activities of General Ludendorff, whose tireless propaganda in behalf of restoration and revenge keeps aloft the sword that threatens future destruction. This miles gloriosus, whose insatiable military ambition dug the grave of all German hopes, even ventured a short time ago to propound his doctrines to us Austrians on our own soil. As he would have been unable to do so in Vienna without some danger, he was satisfied to appeal to the Pan-German feelings of the smallest of the Austrian federated states by holding forth in Klagenfurt, the capital of Carinthia.
The fact that Bavaria is a hotbed of reaction--fostered even by the governmental authorities, including the police--is responsible for the strong suspicion with which the Bavarian Government regards the influx of any foreign elements, even of Austrians. Consequently, permits to enter Bavaria can be secured by Austrians only with great difficulty, with the result that in those divisions of Austria which touch Bavaria--Upper Austria, Salzburg, and the Tyrol--such irritation, not to say aversion, has been aroused that the desire of these provinces for annexation to Germany has appreciably declined. A prominent German diplomat said to me lately: "While two years ago more than ninety per cent of the population of the Tyrol was in favor of annexation to Germany, today perhaps not more than twenty-five per cent could be found to favor a union with Bavaria." It should be emphasized that the Tyrol has turned against Bavaria in particular, but not against Germany as a whole.
Austria's relations with Germany suffer as a result of this obstruction of normal intercourse. Austria cannot understand why the great sister nation refuses to open her doors to her little neighbor without putting so many difficulties in the way. Even the Foreign Office in Berlin itself is irritated at this unseemliness, but is nevertheless powerless to bring about a speedy change, as certain of the German federal states are intentionally setting the needs of the Commonwealth at defiance while clamoring for their own particular prerogatives--Bavaria and Saxony preeminently, but Prussia not far behind. For even in the capital of Prussia there are occasional conspiracies against the Commonwealth. Thus it comes about that during the past six months there have been numerous complaints voiced from Vienna against the unfraternal attitude of Germany.
On the other hand it must be pointed out that the idea of an eventual union of Austria with Germany has not been abandoned. The German Government realizes that in Austria even those elements who still continue to align themselves under the banner of affiliation with Germany are compelled, under present conditions, to conceal their feelings. Consequently, when the Austrian Federal Chancellor, Abbé Seipel, went to Paris a short time ago in order to hasten the fulfillment of the loan already determined on by the League of Nations, the report that this "journey to Canossa" alarmed the authorities at Berlin was untrue. Not at all. The degree of Austria's dependence on other nations--and not least on France--is, and has been, recognized at Berlin. The idea of an amalgamation is understood on this side of the frontier, as well as on the other, as something that is bound to be realized some day.
In accordance with this understanding various cultural details are being worked out which may prove the groundwork for the future. Both sides are preparing for the assimilation of legislation along statutory (especially criminal), economic and financial lines. Of course, it is not possible to go very far in these matters, inasmuch as not only the Treaties of Versailles and Saint Germain but also the Geneva Protocol prescribe certain definite courses for the two neighbor states to follow, neither of them being permitted to favor the other with any preferential treatment without according it also to the fellow-signers of Versailles, Saint Germain and Geneva.
At the present time the notion of annexation is also less heard of owing to the fact that the Christian-Socialist Party, which is in control of the government, is not so devoted to it as are the Socialists who now form the opposition, and who would find a firmer seat in the saddle after a union with Germany, where Socialism is so powerful. Thus Chancellor Seipel, leader of the Christian-Socialists, made one unavoidable but hurried and half diffident visit to Berlin--almost in felt slippers, so to speak--whereas Otto Bauer, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and leader of the Social-Democrats, had paid that city a most ostentatious call. In the latter's time, also, the Austrian Minister at Berlin, the historian Ludo Hartman, carried on an open agitation in behalf of annexation, while the present Minister, Riedel, a Christian-Socialist, is directing his activities more toward the development of commercial relations between the two countries as far as the international restrictions imposed upon them permit. But even under the former Social-Democratic rule in Austria, Chancellor Renner was compelled to emphasize a leaning toward the west, in order not to arouse the suspicions of the Entente. In this connection, the only difference between the party in power and the opposition is at bottom that of emphasis and timeliness in declaring their faith; and it is naturally the former party, with its greater responsibility, which is obliged to adopt an attitude that will provide the League of Nations with no cause of complaint that Austria is kicking against the pricks. All of us realize in these days that Austria must first of all live--live in the sense of supplying her material needs--and that she cannot afford the luxury of playing big politics.
Thus constrained, Austria has had to gravitate towards Prague rather than towards Berlin. There has indeed been a great change from the last decades of the Hapsburg Monarchy, when the German fiat used to control the conduct of Austro-Hungarian affairs. Opportunism bids the little Alpine Republic of Austria turn to the Czechoslovak Republic which is so rich in all natural products. Even Chancellor Renner, notwithstanding the fact that as a Socialist he should have pressed the idea of annexation to Germany, on a visit to Prague concluded with Czechoslovakia a secret agreement which contained political as well as economic clauses. His successor, the non-partisan Chancellor Schober, accompanied President Hainisch to Prague only after he had assured himself that the pact concluded between Benes and Renner would be modified as far as possible into one of a purely economic character, though holding naturally to the principle that Austria, like Czechoslovakia, would always oppose a Hapsburg restoration. But Austria's Pan-German party, which up to the time of Chancellor Schober's journey to Prague had supported him, refused further support from the moment he returned from Prague with the new compact. It was evident that the Pan-German party was under the thumb of the leaders of the Germans in Czechoslovakia, whose cries of distress had reached Austrian ears. These three and a half million Germans, oppressed by the ruling powers in Czechoslovakia, refused to understand that German Austria was not necessarily sanctioning the tyranny of the Czechs over them by entering into a compact with their oppressors, and their feeling was shared by the Pan-Germans in Austria.
Chancellor Schober's successor, Monsignor Seipel, could not follow any different policy towards Germany. And the worse the relations between France and Germany have become during this year, 1923, the more cautiously and circumspectly has the present Chancellor had to proceed. He has protected himself against the suspicion of a lack of sufficient pro-German sentiment by admitting Pan-German partisans into his government. The Vice-Chancellor Dr. Frank, a German Nationalist, is now one of his most prominent colleagues. But in Vienna as well as at Berlin it has become an accepted conclusion that it is useless to hope for an alteration in the relations between Austria and Germany for a long time to come. All our policies are now wrapped up in economics, and this not only in regard to the neighboring Succession States, but also in regard to Germany. Nevertheless, we are filled with a very live desire that Germany be taken as soon as possible into the League of Nations. This is natural enough, since Austria is nothing but a small torso of Germanism, lost among the peoples.
As the Germans in Austria (unlike the Czechoslovaks) have left religious affairs as they were, the entrusting of the government to a priest like Abbé Seipel met with no opposition. Only the Social-Democrats sneer at his "prelate rule" and seek to disparage him among the lower classes and particularly among the free-thinking workmen. But it must be remarked to the honor of the Chancellor that he never makes use of his priestly character for worldly purposes. Not unworthy of such great political ancestors as Richelieu and Mazarin, Consalvi and Talleyrand, Seipel has shown himself an able diplomat, and the relations of the pietistic Republic of Austria with its two rather infidel national neighbors, Germany and Italy, have not suffered in the least. When he has to, he knows how to make his German confession of faith without emphasizing it too strongly, and the clerical magnates of both Rome and of Austria, as opportunists, take it quietly that Seipel keeps the purple of his prelate's robe in the shadow. He has never abandoned an attitude of extreme correctness in his dealings with Germany; and in Italy, which he has twice visited, he has held thorough and satisfactory consultations both with Minister Schanzer at Verona and with Mussolini at Milan. Just how opportunist the Curia can be is shown by the fact that it permitted the Austrian prelate, first among the prime ministers of Catholic states, to visit the King of Italy in Rome before he had paid his respects to the Pope. The sagacity of this priestly Chancellor has thus understood how to maintain both Germany and Italy.
With Italy the relations of Austria are more clearly indicated than they are with Germany. Today it is Italy which is Austria's real protecting power. And in her helplessness she is indeed in need of a protector. Who else should it be than her nearest neighbor among the victorious great powers? On the other hand, it is necessary for Italy to keep on good terms with Austria, as she is not counting on perpetual peace but rather is concerned with the possibility of a reckoning at some not distant date with Jugoslavia in the matter of Dalmatia and Fiume. Now that nationalism is in the saddle in Italy, it is not going to content itself forever with a mere partial solution of the Adriatic problem.
But for the moment Italy is forced to share with Jugoslavia her domination over the Adriatic. For both parties, indeed, the agreement concluded at Rapallo was only an opportunist way out of a difficulty; it was a diplomatic friendship announced to the world with the same sort of eclat as that which earlier had heralded the understanding between Austria-Hungary and Italy--which was only to come to an end on the eve of war. The close friendship between Jugoslavia and Czechoslovakia and Rumania means among other things that Czechoslovakia and Rumania, the two signatories to the Little Entente who are not antagonistic to Italy, will for as long as possible bridge over the gulf between the Great and the Little Power of the Adriatic, much as Germany formerly labored to smooth out the differences between Italy and Austria-Hungary. But Italy's leaning towards Austria and Hungary is much more honest than her rapprochement with the Slav elements of the Little Entente, for between Italy and Slavism there yawns a wide abyss and today there is in Italy an Irredenta against Jugoslavia as well as one in Jugoslavia against Italy.
It is true that Austrian national sentiment has not been able to condone the barbarous separation of the German South Tyrol from the rest of the Tyrolese province, though in Austria there no longer is any hatred. Nevertheless, who could forget the Tyrolese mountains, the world of the Dolomites, the Schlern, the Rosengarten and the pink-tinged Latemar? Who could forget that Bozen and Meran were German, completely German, cities, more German than Berlin or Vienna? What German and what Austrian can help feeling the sharpest pangs at the thought that the monument to one of the most German of poets, the medieval singer Walter von der Vogelweide, stands in Bozen and testifies that this Tyrolese land, firm and true as its beautiful mountains, shall ever remain German? And who can uproot Germanism from a land in which the legend of Andreas Hofer is a living force at the present day?
But aside from the frightful blow Italy dealt to Germanism in general and to Austrianism in particular by the seizure of the German portion of the southern Tyrol, her general attitude towards Austria since the conclusion of peace, and even before the conclusion of peace, has been thoroughly benevolent.
For example, there were serious difficulties to smooth out between Hungary and Austria. The Hungarians could not forgive Austria for having wished to carve the Burgenland out of the body of her fellow-victim despite the fact that they had fought side by side during the World War. The Hungarians failed to remember that the Burgenland had been designated to serve as the corridor between Czechoslovakia and Jugoslavia and that its possession by Austria alone prevented such an event. The matter had to be mediated between Austria and Hungary. Italy offered her services and at a conference in Venice brought about a settlement according to which Oedenburg, the former capital of the Burgenland, was to belong to the country for which it decided in a plebiscite; and the plebiscite decided in favor of Hungary. Italy on this occasion showed how much she cared for a good understanding between Austria and Hungary. It probably was in her mind that if at some distant day there should be an appeal to arms between herself and Jugoslavia, she would want Austria to form the bridge between her and Hungary.
Just as during her days of desperation Austria cried out louder than ever for a union with Germany, so there then was even a sentiment for incorporation with Italy. In her moments of direst need Austria came to believe that it was impossible for her to continue to exist independently. Annexation to Germany was barred by the sentence of Versailles and Saint Germain. If she had been swayed by economic reasons Austria might have been joined to Czechoslovakia, a country rich in agrarian and industrial resources. But no one would resist such a proposal more strenuously than the lords and masters of that polyglot state which, like a small Hapsburg realm, is made up of many nationalities but all under the domination of a ruling race, the Czechs. If Austria were to be incorporated in Czechoslovakia the supremacy of the Czechs would be destroyed, since the German element in the state (which would then have a population of twenty millions) would greatly outnumber the Czechs and would match the Czechs and Slovaks combined.
But if Austria should fall to Italy it would be a different matter. That would mean something like a reversal of the past. In earlier times the Lombard-Venetian kingdom formed part of Austria, not to say Germany. The rulers at Vienna committed the folly of keeping their Italian subjects under severe political pressure until well into the second half of the nineteenth century, thus driving them into the arms of revolution and of the Irredenta. Now things would go differently. According to the sentiment of part of the Austrian population, the authorities at the Quirinal would have to grant some sort of autonomy to an Austria which was joined to Italy. The Tyrolese especially liked the idea of remaining in this way undivided and of not seeing the creation of the hostile wedge which, in the shape of the Brenner Pass, today separates the peoples of North and South Tyrol from one another. The journey of Chancellor Seipel to Verona in the autumn of 1922 was due to this tendency to look to Italy as a redeemer. In those days Austria's misery had reached its climax. Seipel journeyed by way of Prague and Berlin to Verona, where he met Schanzer, the Italian Foreign Minister; there the Chancellor made plain announcement that if Austria were to be left in the lurch in her hour of need she would have to throw herself, even against the will of the powers, into the arms of Germany, or as a last resort into those of Italy.
Today, under the Seipel regime, the relation of Austria to Italy is being stressed as one of economic character. The clerical Chancellor can be credited with a patient and able cultivation of a field far removed from the sphere of theology. In this he is following in the footsteps of Schober, his predecessor; and with creative initiative he has gone further. Contrary to the custom of the free-thinking Socialists, who like to put obstacles in the prelate's way, decry him as a Jesuit and attribute hypocritical moves to him, every honest observer must testify that he offers his breast courageously to the attack of every arrow, never in cowardly fashion uses the altar as a screen, never assumes a more pretentious attitude than might a minister chosen from among the laity. Never has a minister--and one of a clerical character, at that--been so defended and praised by the liberal press as has this same Seipel. Nor has the Rome which lies beyond the bridge of St. Angelo made his path over-difficult for him by handing him too profuse demands of a spiritual nature and urging that he press them upon the legislative assembly. He goes his way unshaken as the representative of the citizens against a party which attributes to itself the mission of realizing the kingdom of Karl Marx on earth. In order to realize it in Austria, where so far there has not been any too brilliant a success, the Social Democrats, whose principal leaders belong to the Left, are fighting on the same line as their party comrades in the German Commonwealth; and consequently they emphasize, despite all policy at present feasible, their solidarity with Germany. This is a luxury which the statesman in charge cannot permit himself to the same extent, inasmuch as he is unable to feel himself more powerful than the victorious fraternity of Versailles and the Council of the League of Nations at Geneva. He, too, recognizes in Italy the protector of Austria and his last journey across the Alps meant two things: the homage of the representative of a ruling conservative coalition to the Italian statesman who has shown himself stronger than insidious Marxism, and the homage of a little republic just recovering from a severe and lengthy illness to the neighboring great power which, as a part of Europe and in particular as the Kingdom of Italy, has an interest in the real recuperation of weak little Austria.
Little Austria's principal problems of existence are not such that their solution is of world-staggering importance. But as once upon a time the Turkish peril was halted by the walls of the city of Vienna, so does the maintenance of order and economic well-being in Austria, which is the center of Europe, constitute a dam to prevent the west from being flooded by the gospel of Bolshevism which now threatens from Moscow. From this point of view the paramount statesman of the greater monarchy might well greet an ally in the person of the representative of little Austria.
But entirely apart from these general considerations Italy has her own particular reason for interest in Austria. As the Facisti Epoca pointed out, Austria is the wedge between Czechoslovakia and Jugoslavia, and prevents the establishment of a great Slav bloc running down Eastern Europe and into the Balkans. Close cooperation between Austria and Italy would compel the Little Entente to seek a loyal understanding with Italy. Separated by Austria, Czechoslovakia and Jugoslavia would then have to give up their great Danubian-Balkan plan, and serve the ends of peace. On her side, Austria is anxious to have Italy concede her a preferred position at the seaport of Trieste, and this would be also greatly to the interest of Italy, for a hinterland in a healthy economic condition could arrest the decay of the trade of Trieste which has been noticeable ever since the collapse of the Hapsburg Monarchy. Indeed, it is a life and death question for Trieste that Austrian traffic with the Levant and the rest of the Near East should survive.
Dr. Grünberger, Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, was quite right in saying not long ago that the practical non-existence of Austria's economy was of moment to the world, as even the smallest wheel in the clockwork of business could not be allowed to rust if the mechanism were to continue to function properly. The proceedings in the Ruhr do not leave us indifferent, for the interference with economic life in one of the most richly blessed districts of the industrial world automatically reacts on Austria; just as, on the other hand, the return to order in Italy is rapidly having the effect of making Austria also a home of good order. Chancellor Seipel may well have talked in this fashion at his recent conferences with Mussolini, the King and the Pope.
Finally, Austria constitutes the bridge between Germany and Italy. The Austrian temperament is a compromise between the German and the Italian, and it is in her temperament that the charm of Austria culminates. According to a French proverb the finest perfumes are contained in the smallest flasks. Austria is perhaps one of those costly flasks which contains within itself the extract of both German and Italian culture. For the purpose of conserving this flask an appeal may well be made to the sympathies of America.