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THE countries in the Pacific area have not customarily based their policies and actions toward one another on the plea of security. Yet it is a fact that security has been a compelling factor in shaping national policies in the East just as in Europe. China has sought to be free from the menace of foreign aggression; Japan has wished to attain a degree of power allowing her to carry out a policy of expansion on the mainland of Asia, a prerequisite, she asserts, to security at home; Great Britain has desired to be in a position to defend her possessions in the Orient; America has demanded security of trade in the Far East on equal terms with all nations. It will be noted that the security sought by three of these nations has been the security of the status quo; the security aimed at by Japan has been based on changes in the status quo.
The last day of December 1936 will see the expiration of a treaty which has helped to stabilize the situation in the Far East and to give each signatory Power a degree of security--the Naval Treaty negotiated at the Washington Conference in 1922, and amplified and extended at the London Naval Conference in 1930. This treaty requires that the Powers shall meet in 1935 to consider framing a new convention. Along with the Four-Power and Nine-Power Treaties which provided its political basis, it has been the corner stone of the structure of security reared in the Pacific since the World War. Already preliminary conversations are going on between the principal Powers in an effort to set the stage for the negotiations next year. It may therefore be useful at this time to recall the situation which existed when these treaties were signed, to recount the main events which have since occurred to alter the relative degree of security of the Powers, and to examine their present attitudes in so far as they are known or can be conjectured.
In 1921 a war-weary world, staggering under the increasing cost of armaments, welcomed President Harding's invitation to confer in Washington on naval armaments and Pacific questions. In his invitation the President stated that the prospect of reduced armaments was not a hopeful one unless the desire for peace should find expression in a practical effort to remove the broad causes of misunderstanding. It was doubtless to serve this purpose that the agenda of the Conference was made to include all the important Pacific and Far Eastern questions which seemed particularly troublesome at that time. It was clear that the possibility that Great Britain, Japan and the United States would agree to a reduction of naval strength and to limitation at lower levels would be greatly strengthened by the removal of causes of irritation and of what appeared to be threats against the security of each. Japan was concerned by American fortification of the Philippines and the threatened fortification of Hong Kong by Great Britain (which would bring foreign naval bases closer to her doors). Great Britain and the United States feared that Japan might enlarge her sphere of influence on the mainland of Asia and thus threaten the freedom of their nationals to trade in China. The United States also felt disturbed by the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. There was in addition the possibility that Japan would fortify the Pacific Islands under her control.
It is not clear whether the idea of including general Pacific questions on the agenda was initiated by Great Britain or by the United States (the preliminary correspondence has not been published). But it is certain that Great Britain welcomed this opportunity to provide a wider basis of coöperation with Japan, and one that committed her less bindingly than she had been bound by the Anglo-Japanese Alliance then about to expire. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance was formed in 1902 and enlarged and extended in 1905 and 1911. It was intended at first to protect India and Manchuria against any encroachment by Russia, and later to counter the rising tide of German influence in the Far East. The weakening of Russian and German military power due to the World War left the Alliance without a definite aim. By its terms it appeared to be in force against the United States, although the British and Japanese Governments both officially stated that Great Britain would not be bound to aid Japan in any war with America. Yet the temporary elimination of Russia as a military power appeared to place the United States in its stead, since she now seemed the most likely country with which Japan might become embroiled. Thus the British were glad to consider ending an arrangement which held greater obligations than rewards, provided it could be done without offending Japan, particularly since such a step would be interpreted by the United States as a distinctly friendly gesture.
That it was so regarded may be seen from the official statement of the American delegation at the end of the Conference. It said: "This Alliance has been viewed by the people of the United States with deep concern . . . It was, therefore, a matter of deep gratification that the American delegation found that they were able to obtain an agreement by which the Anglo-Japanese Alliance should be immediately terminated." In the debate in the Senate at the time of the approval of the Four-Power Pact, Senator Lodge said: "The chief and most important point in the treaty is the termination of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance . . . in my judgment it was the most dangerous element in our relations with the Far East and with the Pacific. Wars come from suspicions which develop into hatreds and hatreds which develop into wars. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance caused a growing feeling of suspicion not only in the United States but in Canada. On the other hand it tended to give a background to Japan which encouraged the war spirit and large preparations both by land and sea for future conflict. It immobilized England and prevented the exercise of her influence in the East for the cause of peace."
As already noted, three treaties were signed at the Washington Conference which profoundly affected the question of security in the Pacific--the Four-Power Treaty, which provided for consultation between the signatories in case of controversy and which terminated the Anglo-Japanese Alliance; the Nine-Power Pact, which established for the first time on a contractual basis the Open Door in China; and the Naval Treaty, which provided for Great Britain, the United States and Japan a 5-5-3 capital ship ratio and an agreement to maintain the status quo with regard to fortifications and naval bases in the Pacific.
Let us now see how these agreements contributed to the security of the principal parties concerned. Great Britain obviously had no aggressive intentions in the Far East. Since the war her policy in every particular save trade has been one of liquidation and withdrawal. She has made India her Far Eastern outpost and her strategy has been based on the defense of India and of the trade routes of the Empire. She therefore was prepared to forego the privilege of fortifying Hong Kong and to base her fleet on Singapore. The termination of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance relieved her from an obligation which had become irksome. The signing of the Nine-Power Pact in which the signatories pledged themselves to respect the territorial integrity of China and the Open Door seemed to provide adequate safeguards to British trade on the mainland of Asia; the Four-Power Treaty furnished a mechanism for consultation in case of controversy; and the Naval Treaty made the defense of India secure, since Japan with an inferior navy would be unlikely to attack her, and the United States with an equal navy could not successfully do so without a strong naval base in the Far East.
The United States, also without aggressive intentions, was prepared to give up the further fortification of the Philippines or the erection of new Pacific naval bases in return for the increased security which she stood to gain in other directions. Her most consistent policy in the Orient has been to obtain agreement to the doctrine of the Open Door in China, and observation of it. The Nine-Power Pact was intended to provide that all nations should henceforth be able to trade in China on equal terms. It seems certain that the United States would not resort to war directly in support of the Open Door doctrine. But the vigorous support which she would give that doctrine in case it were challenged by another Power might start a chain of incidents that would lead to conflict. The agreement thus appeared to add to American security. In return for the termination of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the United States was willing to take whatever risks were involved in agreeing in the Four-Power Treaty to consultation in case of controversy. Finally, the Naval Treaty provided that so long as it was in effect the United States would be secure from attack by either Great Britain or Japan.
China's security seemed very much increased by the Nine-Power Pact in which the Powers all agreed to respect her territorial and administrative integrity. Other agreements signed at the Conference provided for the return to China of Shantung by Japan and the withdrawal of Japanese garrisons from China. Great Britain also promised to turn back Weihaiwei.
There can be no doubt that the Washington agreements added to the security of Japan. When the Conference was convened, the United States was engaged in the fortification of the Philippine Islands. She also was engaged in the construction of a fleet which Japan would have found it very costly to emulate. Without stronger naval bases in the Pacific (nearer than Hawaii and Singapore), neither Britain nor the United States could successfully attack Japan unless they enjoyed greater naval superiority than the new Treaty provided.
The Washington treaties were accepted and ratified by the Powers concerned despite considerable criticism in naval circles in each country. Later, during the London Conference in 1930, bitter opposition developed in Japan toward the renewal of the naval treaty. But at the time each country seemed satisfied that its sacrifices were amply compensated for in the added security which it had won. Now after twelve years it is possible to see how far the hopes then expressed were ill-founded. In particular, consideration of a proposal to revise or extend the Naval Treaty compels us to take account of the sweeping changes which have occurred since 1922. Two events of overriding importance have altered the situation--the action of the American Congress in granting independence to the Philippines, which may be regarded as increasing the security of the other Powers in the Far East; and Japan's action in Manchuria, and her recently announced" hands-off-China" policy, which have served to diminish the security of other Powers.
It has been the avowed intention of the United States ever since she acquired the Philippines, to set them free. But her long delay in bringing forward any concrete plan giving effect to that intention caused serious doubts in the minds of other Powers regarding her sincerity. And when it was decided to fortify the Islands the American professions seemed hollower than ever. The agreement not to increase fortifications, and now the definite decision to quit the Islands in ten years, make it clear that the tide of American "imperialism" in the East has turned. It is true that the bill granting independence makes provision for a possible naval base in the Islands. But once they have been freed it is hardly conceivable that Congress would vote appropriations for fortifications there unless considerations quite distinct from the Islands themselves should require a return to the theory of dominant American naval power in Asia. If satisfactory arrangements can be made with the other Powers, therefore, we can assume that the United States will retreat to Hawaii as its Pacific outpost; and this must inevitably give added security from possible American attack to the other nations having interests in the Orient.
But more important as affecting this problem is Japan's action in Manchuria. If China had any real feeling of security as a result of the signing of the Nine-Power Pact guaranteeing her territorial integrity, it was most rudely shaken by subsequent Japanese action. Not only has China's territorial integrity been violated, but four of her rich provinces and over 30,000,000 of her population have been withdrawn from her control; and a new state answerable to Japan stands in their place. This action has served also to arouse fears in other quarters. The fact that Japan was ready to use her military and naval strength beyond her own borders and with aggressive intent is sufficient to make other countries feel insecure, quite apart from the fact that in so doing she seemed to them to be violating treaties to which both she and they were parties. Moreover, this action by Japan threatens the security of the other Powers in their desire for equal trading opportunities on the mainland of Asia. The very treaty in which Japan agreed to observe China's territorial integrity provides in Article III for the maintenance of the Open Door. In violating one clause may it not be inferred that she has perhaps set aside the whole treaty?
It may be recalled that Japan's justification of her course is based on the plea of her own insecurity. Her interests in Manchuria were threatened by the Chinese, who allegedly denied her rights provided by treaty. Furthermore, she saw the possibility that Russia might again come down from the north to deny her the resources of the mainland which may mean "life and death" to her people. Her conquest of Manchuria and erection of a puppet state there must therefore, according to her own theory, greatly have increased her own security, even though it has put such a severe strain on the nerves of her neighbors.
It will thus be seen that the situation in 1934 is very different from what it was in 1921 when the Washington Conference met. Take, for example, the case of Great Britain. She is bound to feel that her traders have less security than she planned for them in 1922. She has seen Japanese naval forces in action far from their home ports. Also, she has engaged in a bitter trade war with Japan in India. Freed as she now is from the obligation to Japan which the Anglo-Japanese Alliance entailed, is it to be presumed that she will prove as easy to negotiate with as Japan found her before? And would Britain feel as secure with a renewal of the 5-5-3 ratio as she did originally? Or does it not seem more likely that if security were the only consideration she would wish a greater preponderance than formerly satisfied her?
The case of the United States is almost analogous to that of Great Britain. China, not being a naval Power, will not participate in the negotiations for a renewal of the Naval Treaty. France and Italy are concerned more with European affairs, which will doubtless determine their attitude. Russia is not a party to the Treaty.
It has been shown above that the events which have transpired since the Washington Conference have seemed to increase the security of Japan and to decrease the security of the other Powers. Yet in the preliminary conversations which have been held (so far as we know their content), and in the official statements of the Powers, it is only Japan who has made any suggestion of the abolition of the 5-5-3 ratio. Japan's policy, as so far revealed, seems to be to persuade the Powers to put aside the question of agreement on the relative size of their navies. This may be due to a desire on her part to increase her ratio without running the risk of offending Great Britain and the United States; or it may be prompted by considerations of prestige, by the wish to be relieved from the position of inferiority involved in accepting limitation to a smaller navy, even though in fact she may turn out to be satisfied with that navy. The arguments which are adduced to support her position appear to point to the first alternative, for she pleads that the situation which she has helped to bring about in Manchuria, as well as her responsibility for maintaining the peace of Eastern Asia, have increased her obligations and that she requires greater strength to protect herself than before.
Actually, however, Japan has a high degree of security from naval attack by either Great Britain or the United States. The American or British fleets would have to steam several thousand miles from their nearest bases and would need to carry sufficient fuel for the return voyage in case they should not win the battle. The load of fuel which each ship must carry would thus be a great handicap (small cruisers could not undertake such a mission at all). In addition, any ship which was disabled would fall into the hands of the Japanese, for it would have no base to which to retreat. It would be a grave gamble for either the British or the American authorities to risk their naval power on the hope of success in one battle--a battle the strategy of which could be dictated by Japan, with her fleet securely based in familiar and well-fortified waters. But it may be that Japan fears a combination of Great Britain and the United States. In that case, however, an increase in her ratio would scarcely suffice. Even parity with each would not do. She would need preponderance; and one can suppose that there are Japanese admirals who would promise security only if her navy were as great as both the others put together. In case Japan's attitude proves to be dictated by questions of prestige rather than desire for preponderant naval strength, it has been suggested that a new treaty might be negotiated agreeing on categories without specifying exact ratios.
The Washington treaties worked well, at least until 1931, for the three principal Powers. Today, as they look forward to an extention of the arrangement or the negotiation of some other agreement, each feels that since 1922 its security has been diminished. Yet in fact these fears neutralize each other. Certain it is that the demand for a substantial change in the ratios by any one of the three would not meet with acceptance by the other two. Any such demand, in the light of the balance of power which now exists, would be interpreted as preparation for aggressive action. It is difficult to see how a breakdown of the negotiations on this issue could fail to result in a naval race. Such a race might also cause the United States to reconsider its abandonment of the Philippines. Expansion breeds on the theory of insecurity, as recent Japanese history shows. If nations cannot be made to feel secure by agreement, then, if they have the power, they seek it by increased armaments and expanding frontiers.
But it must be remembered that "security" is not only material but also psychological. No rule will be satisfactory, then, unless it gives each country what it feels it requires, not what others think it requires. For example, Americans may conclude that there is no logical basis for England's demand for a two-power naval standard in relation to Europe; or they may be unwilling to share Japan's view that she needs a larger naval ratio now than she accepted in 1922 and 1930 because since then her aggressive action in Manchuria has in effect increased her domain and the problem of protecting it. The fact remains that Britain feels she must take account of a possible combination of European Powers, and Japan feels the challenge of the other nations who opposed her action in Manchuria and discussed the imposition of sanctions against her. These are the considerations which will govern their policy. They make difficult the negotiation of a new naval treaty.
Despite the difficulties, however, is it not the part of wisdom to try to establish security for the countries in the Pacific by agreement rather than by preponderance of force? Concessions which may have to be made should be weighed against the burdens of a race in armaments and the attendant dangers to peace.
But it should not be inferred that the mere signing of another naval treaty by the Powers will of itself make them feel secure. People in all countries are coming to place less and less reliance on international agreements. Ultimately they may even conclude that it is futile to sign further treaties until there is more assurance that they will be observed. Assurance in this case should properly come from Japan, since it is she who has set aside international engagements when she found them irksome. There are responsible people in Great Britain and in the United States who feel that no more treaties should be entered into with Japan until she has devised an acceptable solution of the situation created by her violation of the Nine-Power Pact. They have no faith that Japan's purposes do not hold the threat of further aggression. They will need to be reassured on this point.