What Putin Really Wants in Ukraine
Russia Seeks to Stop NATO’s Expansion, Not to Annex More Territory
THE question of a European security pact between Germany and the other states with Rhenish interests is of primary importance and unquestionably deserves the greatest attention. It is significant for Europe that it should be dealt with in the great American review, FOREIGN AFFAIRS. It seems to me, however, that at the present stage of the discussion the most important task is to give a consistent view of the whole situation, for the eventual solution of which new formulas are now being sought. Obviously the thing chiefly to be desired, no less in Europe's own interest than in the interests of America, is that everything humanly possible shall be done to prevent Europe having recourse to arms in the process of reaching a decision. Such a wish is not solely or even primarily the expression of a visionary striving toward peace among the nations; rather is it the necessary preliminary to a prosperous economic life for mankind.
When one considers the whole question in its fundamental aspects a vast difference is apparent between the situation of the United States of America and the situation of Europe (I refer to the portion of the Continent which has reached the same stage of economic evolution as the United States). When future generations come to write the history of the last half century they will discern in the immense transformation wrought by the advance of technical science the inner origin of all that has happened. The progress that we see going on in transportation is practically abolishing the distances which separate various sections of mankind. As a result of the exploitation of its natural and economic resources, each particular portion of the earth's surface is undergoing ceaseless alteration; the development of transportation is constantly creating new conditions. Incidentally, the numerous other technical discoveries often produce revolutions in themselves, and no one can foresee the end of the process. All these vast technical and economic changes, then, are hurrying social life on into ever new transformations. Security of livelihood for the great mass of mankind is no longer conditioned by the permanence and irreplaceability of some particular industry at some particular place. Even in agriculture the old-established relations are being relaxed, due to the advance of technical science. The security of the bread-winner seems more thoroughly guaranteed where economic progress results perpetually in the introduction of new processes, and hence requires many and active hands.
In the United States of America all these prodigious happenings have now taken place. They have taken place within a large and unified economic area and, what is more important, in many cases upon still virgin soil. So far, the United States knows nothing of the difficulties of over-population; and historic realities of a nature to hamper the free play of economic forces exist only in a very limited degree.
Quite the reverse is true in Europe. Here, as in America, the final outcome is dependent on the vast technical development, with all its attendant phenomena; but this technical development everywhere clashes with hard and fast historic realities. The vital problem for Europe is to effect a compromise between the heritage of history and the new framework decreed by economic evolution.
The difficulty of solving this problem, we now realize, has been extraordinarily magnified by the World War. To be sure, even without the war it would not have been possible off-hand to transform Europe into a single unified economic field or even into a higher political unit. I imagine citizens of the United States are far from appreciating the full measure of existing difficulties. To the traveling American the sensation of the very quantity of obstacles to be got over probably leads in many cases to the idea that by this means or that it must be possible to bring about a speedy improvement. As the traveler continues his journey, only to be perpetually encountering new tariff barriers and after a few hours' journey to be hearing new languages, again and again, the whole thing must appear--when viewed in contrast with the American scene--completely unendurable and destined to imperative change.
But for us, who are accustomed to working amid European conditions, it is clear that not even the greatest development of technology and transportation will ever create in Europe anything comparable to conditions in the United States. In this respect, so far as human foresight can tell, America will always retain her wonderful advantage. And in any case the economic and political gulf between Europe and America will not readily disappear. Of course it is absolutely impossible at the present moment to say just how all this is working out in detail or to prophesy how it will work out. America, with her vast expanse of territory, will have economic characteristics different from those of Europe, which as a consequence of the whole course of her political development remains divided into small territorial units. Even should time fulfill the expectations of those who believe that the national life of each individual European state will gradually be restricted to cultural fields, that first its economic and later its larger political interests will become broadly European, people do not seem to realize the effect which any tendency toward nationalism, even if only cultural, must nevertheless have on the development of economic life, on social conditions, on the working methods of the individual nations, and on their requirements as consumers.
But in general I want to keep what I have to say closer to present realities and to bring out particularly how Europe, far from following any tendency toward unified development, is deepening the lines of division between states because of the World War, and because of the manner in which the heritage of the World War has hitherto been liquidated. Our quest for new formulas, of which I spoke in my opening paragraph, has got into the field of post-war economic settlements. Here we find that Europe has received particular aid from the great plan for economic reconstruction which originated under the direction of the present American Vice-President, General Dawes. I am allowing myself the definite hope that on the basis of the Dawes Plan there will be developed, as a matter of pure economics, the possibility that Germany and later the whole of Europe may again take part in the life of the world. I shall not endeavor to explain here in detail what immense burdens the German people must shoulder as a result. I simply wish to register my firm opinion that the artificial reduction of the purchasing power of Germany's population, which has been brought about as the outcome of the war, is to be regarded as a handicap to the economic reconstruction of the world. Nevertheless, if affairs take a relatively favorable course, we shall now arrive--though doubtless amid many further vicissitudes--at a basis on which not only the special damage wrought by the World War will be repaired, but a way for the future economic collaboration of all the nations will also be devised.
One may perhaps venture to hope, then, that in the economic field the new European formulas have already assumed at least a preliminary form. We may look for similar new formulas in political life as well. Assuredly the Treaty of Versailles contains some very considerable attempts in this direction--specifically, the first definite effort that up to that time had been made to give definite form to the idea of a League of Nations. I regard as an especially valuable part of the League organization the World Court at the Hague, which may be destined one day to bring to universal realization the fine ideal of a peaceful settlement of the conflicts of states.
The conception of general disarmament is likewise formulated in the Treaty of Versailles. Here one can clearly see, however, how far removed certain of the new formulas are from reality. For the compulsory and one-sided disarmament of Germany is obviously not a realization of the formula of general disarmament outlined in the Treaty of Versailles. Conversely, this one-sided disarmament (which has been carried to the point of producing complete impotency) has wholly upset the old arrangement on which the common life of nations used to be conducted in time of peace--that is, the balance of power. Thus the practical upshot of this one-sided disarmament is that the armaments of other powers seem actually to feed on the German lack of armament, because they can advance into an empty space. This is clearly to be seen in the fact that Germany, having been rendered powerless, is refused the evacuation of the first zone in the Rhineland which is specifically prescribed in the Treaty of Versailles itself. Similarly, the advance into the Ruhr, which in spite of the fact that it undoubtedly is illegal has hitherto been only in small part rectified, is an expression of the state of mind that results from having no opponent. The frame of mind which still exists in many heads in France, and which in practise leads not to the limitation of armament but rather to its increase, is linked, moreover, with notions of alleged dangers threatening from Germany. Objectively considered, these notions are incomprehensible. In this state of affairs it must unfortunately be pointed out that the new formula of the Versailles Treaty, that is, the formula of general disarmament, has led not to the pacification of Europe but rather in the opposite direction.
Such an admission is obviously a very grave matter, since the economic improvement of which I have spoken above cannot be maintained in the long run unless politically also there is evidence of a fundamental desire for peace. It therefore is not a matter of purely European internal policy, but a matter inseparably connected with the great ideas of world economics in which the London Agreement based on the Dawes Plan plays such a large part, that there should now be a further effort to find new formulas to establish political tranquillity in Europe. Viewed in this light the negotiations for a security pact seem like fumbling and uncertain strides toward that great goal which I described in opening. Thus regarded, the question of a security pact likewise is seen to be not an isolated question but rather a part of the general problem of creating such a foundation for European life that eventually the rattle of arms without and within may cease and that, working together in mutual confidence, the European nations may, under the new conditions of technical progress, make their contribution also toward the welfare of the world.