No Peace on Putin’s Terms
Why Russia Must Be Pushed Out of Ukraine
SOME time ago, discussing the peace settlement that will some day come, the London Times voiced this warning: "The danger is that revulsion from Hitler's methods and achievements may, at the moment of his defeat, carry us back into the anarchy of a Europe divided herself by a multiplicity of strategic and economic frontiers, and tempt us to renew the cardinal errors of 1919. That danger can be averted only if we constantly remind ourselves of the lessons which the war has brought home to us." Such a statement by Great Britain's most influential newspaper must have come as a surprise to all those who for many years had been taught to regard the order established in 1919 as primarily designed to liberate oppressed peoples. Above all, it was on the soil of the Danubian Monarchy that "strategic and economic frontiers" were drawn by peacemakers who certainly did not expect to be described as anarchists only two decades later. They were, no doubt, inspired by noble principles. They wanted to "make the world safe for democracy" and to ensure "national self-determination" along with the "protection of national minorities."
Before trying to analyze their achievements and the consequences, I must insert a general remark. The argument is often heard that it is unjust to regard the victors of 1918 as originators of the ensuing peace, since all they did was bow to the wishes of the nations concerned. The Germans, so the argument runs, wanted a democratic republic, and the peoples of the Austro-Hungarian Empire wanted independence. But this is only half the truth. It was the Allies who during the war encouraged the tendencies to which they gave way when the war was over. Republicanism won the upper hand in Germany mainly because the Allies had promised that better peace terms would be granted the German people if they dispensed with the crown. Czech desertions from the Habsburg Army were a trickle until the worsening of the military situation coincided with Allied propaganda to the effect that the Czechs would be admitted into the ranks of the victors if they abandoned the old community. Croat desertions were almost absent; and we have it again on the authority of the London Times that it was Croatia which "gave the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy the troops who held out longest on the Isonzo and the Carso." Three years before the outbreak of the First World War, Professor Seton-Watson, who later on became one of the spiritual fathers of Czechoslovakia, wrote of Thomas G. Masaryk: "Too liberal to be a Pan-Slav in the Russian sense, he believes in Austria's mission and in a great future for the Slavs under Habsburg rule."
If I add my voice to the voices of others who blame the peacemakers of 1919 I do so with a quite definite purpose. It must not be forgotten that wartime policies inevitably become a lasting mortgage on postwar policy. The statesmen who made republican propaganda in Germany and encouraged disruptive movements on the soil of Austria-Hungary achieved their war aims. But they overlooked the fact that to win the peace may be even more important than to win the war. It would have been better for them to be victorious after some delay rather than to win with the help of the forces which led to a state of anarchy. Mr. Winston Churchill obviously keeps that lesson in mind in refusing to make specific territorial pledges to Britain's associates this time.
The peacemakers, or at least some of them, were inspired by noble principles. They believed in national self-determination coupled with the protection of linguistic minorities. But this belief, unfortunately, was based on an insufficient acquaintance with hard facts. The idea of overcoming friction between groups by separating them cannot be put into practice where the various races are so insolubly intermixed as in Central and Eastern Europe. And, still more important, the whole conception is opposed to a rule so general that it must be rooted deeply in the nature of mankind. There exists almost no country which could include all the parts of one race without including considerable parts of other races. We are bound to conclude from this that community of language is rarely, if ever, the decisive element to consider in forming states. There are other factors which together, or even occasionally singly, are no less important, e.g. geography, security, religion, economy, tradition, history. And once we override all these elements in favor of one, the linguistic, we are certainly in danger of creating artificial states which cannot last.
The peacemakers were not quite unaware of it. Hence the idea of linking national self-determination with the protection of minorities. But even if we accept the suggestion that it would be ideal to make frontiers as far as possible identical with linguistic demarcations, even then the protection of minorities would imply progress only if they were small fragments. As it turned out, the so-called successor states of the Danubian Monarchy were to no less an extent "mixed" countries than the old community had been. There were some attempts at disguising this fact, like identifying Slovaks with Czechs and Croats with Serbs. But the object of this was only too transparent. The heirs of Austria-Hungary inherited her racial problems.
Imperial Austria did not know the institution of a state-nation as distinct from national minorities. And the new invention did not work properly in Czechoslovakia and in the other Danubian states. For a group to be legally a minority, even a protected minority, creates always a feeling of inferiority and therefore of unrest. To be called a minority seemed to mean minor rights, discrimination. Some states which had pledged themselves to protect national minorities under the supervision of the League of Nations repudiated this obligation. Others kept their promise. They gave the minorities cultural, educational and political equality, i.e. schools, theaters and fair elections for a proportionate number of seats in parliament. Could they ask for more? They could. A secret, equal, general and direct ballot is a precious thing. But of equal importance for the individual citizen is equality in economic and professional concepts. The man who wants a public job or a military career, the man who owns a factory, needs equal treatment by the authorities. In some of the successor states the constitution gave equality to the minorities, but the administration took it away.
This is one of the reasons why Hitler found it so easy to bring all the successor states under his sway. To play the part of the "state-nation" is very comfortable in times of peace. But you cannot wage war if the state-nation fights alone. You need the free consent of the "minorities." It is an undeniable fact that those whom the Emperor Franz Joseph used to call "his peoples" battled for Austria-Hungary for four and a half years, whereas of all those nations (and their minorities) which can be regarded as the old Empire's heirs only two took up Hitler's challenge, the Poles and the Serbs, even though their prospects were no less desperate than those of the Czechs or Rumanians would have been. People do not die for artificialities.
Perhaps I would have done better to abstain from recalling the tenacity of the Austro-Hungarian resistance since it was directed against the Allies, and memory of those days may provoke the question, why Britain and her friends should restore a Power which might ultimately fall in line with Germany again. It would be cheap to reply that Austria fought on the wrong side in the First World War. In reality she fought at the same time on the wrong side and on the right side. On the wrong side, since a German victory would have been a disaster for Europe, including Austria. On the right side -- and this was essential -- since, seeing the danger of Russian Pan-Slavism, she fought for her own survival and at the same time for the maintenance of a supranational community. As we know now, the existence of such a community is indispensable for any sort of balance on the Continent. The Emperor Charles wanted to escape from that dilemma by offering a negotiated peace to the Allies in 1917, and he would have accepted a separate peace if Germany had refused to negotiate. His proposal was turned down by M. Ribot, M. Clemenceau and Mr. Lloyd George.
There are many today who admit that it was a grave blunder in 1919 to strengthen Germany by transforming her into a centralized (i.e. Prussianized) republic and, at the same moment, to strengthen her vis-à-vis her neighbors by destroying one of the few remaining Great Powers on the Continent. But they hesitate to undo what was done then, because, as it is said, "you cannot put the clock back." But there is another wisdom which induces a man who has lost his way in the wood to return to the point where he left the trail.
No doubt the old community of various races under the Habsburg crown became less happy in the second half of the nineteenth century than it had been earlier. The reason was modern nationalism, a child of the French Revolution. Its growth coincided with, and was expedited by, an unheard-of increase in populations as the result of industrialization and the progress of medical science. Under the influence of this exaggerated nationalism every nationality wanted to rule the other nationalities in the same state. This tendency menaced the very existence of Austria-Hungary.
A while ago I saw a leaflet published by a Czech organization in the United States which called the Habsburgs "a negative element." This is, I think, an allusion to the fact that the Emperor Franz Joseph, believing in good sense and reasonableness, wanted his peoples to overcome their quarrels by themselves with very little interference from above. Step by step, he transformed his Empire into a sort of Commonwealth, loosening his reins of rulership. In the report of the Constitutional Committee of the Revolutionary Assembly on the language bill of Czechoslovakia the Emperor was blamed posthumously for having left the solution of the language question to free agreements between his peoples. In other words, he was too liberal. Later on almost the same reproach was raised by the Sudeten Germans against Thomas G. Masaryk who as a strictly constitutional President abstained from enforcing his lofty ideas upon the Czech parties.
The Habsburg crown wanted to be neutral and impartial. This attitude roused the opposition of German, Czech and other nationalists. They all complained about oppression of the nationalities, but it consisted only in their not being allowed to oppress others. Maybe this negative attitude was a mistake. Successive imperial governments tried to be just towards all the different nationalities, since in their view all these ethnic groups were first of all, and equally, Austrians. The year 1919 saw the triumph of the opposite idea. Suddenly -- at least for argument's sake -- nothing was more important than linguistic differences.
All this shows that we really are not allowed to put the clock back, either to 1914 or to 1919. What we need is a synthesis of the ideas prevailing at those two turning points of history; a way in the middle, between underrating and overrating the importance of racial diversity. Should this task prove too difficult for human effort?
There is at least one country in Europe which has been regarded as the outstanding example of a successful community of various races, and this is Switzerland. No wonder that old Austria was often blamed for not having adopted Switzerland's beneficial institutions. I like this argument, for it offers the best opportunity to show how far even well-meaning critics can miss the mark. As a matter of fact, equality of nationalities was much more strictly stipulated in old Austria than in the Helvetic Confederacy. The Czech, for example, who moved to Vienna, the Germanspeaking capital, took his national rights with him and was entitled to Czech schools there for his children. On the other hand, the 65,000 German-speaking Swiss who live in Geneva, a Frenchspeaking city, must send their children to French schools. There are no German ones. And here is the key to the puzzle: the Czech in Vienna disliked sending his children to a German school whereas the German Swiss in Geneva is glad to be able to make his children bilingual.
The conclusion is that the spirit is decisive and not the institution. This does not mean that the right institutions are superfluous. They are indispensable where the right spirit is lacking, since they can help it to rise. We now see our task more clearly: we have to create the necessary institutions, but we have to be fully aware of the fact that they will succeed only if we can promote the spirit of tolerance, compromise, liberality and mutual good-will which makes a Christian society.
Let us look first for the right institutions. This means, to some extent, for the right constitution. We shall find valuable material in the Austrian Constitution of 1867 and in the Compromise concluded by Czechs and Germans in the province of Moravia in 1905. We shall also take advantage of the Swiss example, which is to pay attention to details which, though apparently trifling, are important in every-day life -- like arranging that the same train conductor in the Zurich-Lugano train who speaks German before entering the St. Gotthard tunnel shall use the Italian language after leaving it. The events of 1867 established absolute equality among the peoples in the western, that is to say the Austrian, part of the Danubian Monarchy. Today we recognize that it was a mistake that the countries under the Crown of St. Wenceslas did not at that time receive the same rights as were bestowed upon those under the Crown of St. Stephen, and that the South Slav problem was not solved then. This mistake may perhaps appear unpardonable today to those who do not fully understand the situation existing in the second half of the nineteenth century. But it was caused by the fact that even in Bohemia and Moravia most of the German-speaking people fought against a solution for Bohemia on the Hungarian pattern because they feared the Czech majority; and some of the German-speaking Austrians outside of Bohemia thought in the same way. As for the South Slav problem, it was deeply entangled with the problem of the dual structure of the Monarchy and could not be solved by the Austrians or the Hungarians alone. Austria and Hungary being both of them states in which the parliaments had to vote on each law, the Emperor could not by himself enforce any solution, a fact which should be appreciated in democratic states.
Archduke Francis Ferdinand, who was destined to be Franz Joseph's successor, aimed to solve the problems of the Slavs, and if necessary to do it even against the will of the German-speaking Austrians and the Magyars. He was assassinated, not as an enemy of the Slavs, but because certain influential circles in Belgrade foresaw that the form of state which he proposed would put an end to the separatist idea which they were spreading among the Croats.
Those who want the Allies to restore the anarchic order set up in 1919 try to overcome the reluctance which they encounter by proclaiming federalism as a cure-all for all our difficulties. But federalism is such an elastic term that anyone who proposes it without qualifying its meaning does not contribute anything to the discussion. Federalism is, without doubt, one of the materials which we shall need to use in our constructive work, but we must make clear from the outset that it will help to make a better order than that of 1919 only if there exists a strong central power which unites in its hands all decisions regarding foreign policy, defense, international trade and currency. This central power must not be an institution opposed to the various nationalities which form the federation. It must be exerted by those nationalities themselves. It must be the supreme expression of their equality in every respect. As for the problems of national culture, that is to say for all linguistic, educational and cultural questions, I think we could borrow one of the dominant ideas of the Constitution of the United States, the fact that every state, large or small, has an equal number of seats in the Senate. And this Senate of the Danubian Nationalities, together with a Supreme Court, could have special competences in safeguarding equality, not only for the nationalities but also for their individual members. The foregoing cannot be more than an outline. But I hope I have made it clear that a synthesis between the ideas of 1914 and 1919 means merging historical traditions which have become realities with acceptance of the fact that we are, unfortunately, not yet quite able to deal with linguistic differences.
But there are reasons to believe in the possibility of a new spirit in Europe. The Napoleonic Wars spread nationalism. Why should not the reaction to Hitler's crimes be a change of heart in the direction of supra-national conciliation? I base my hopes on the fact that all the nations which are now under the German heel will realize that they are not free from responsibility for what has befallen them. The lesson is that if you cultivate your own nationalism you fall a prey to the stronger one. Hitlerism, the climax of racial megalomania, may initiate its decline. In this sense I am prone to regard Hitler as what Goethe said of Satan: part of that power not understood, which always wills the bad and always works the good. I was told by reliable witnesses that many Czechs, when Hitler seized their country, said to one another: "A pity we lost old Austria." It must sound strange to them, I think, if today anybody still speaks of "Austrian oppression." Today they all know what oppression is. And the Vienna policemen who were sent to Czech cities by the Nazis had to be withdrawn quickly since they fraternized with the Czech population.
However, the expectation that the natural reaction to Nazi tyranny will be a renaissance of tolerance is perhaps illusory. We shall be on safer ground if we remember that one of the causes of friction in old Austria was foreign policy, power policy, which deepened the differences between the various peoples composing the state. Austria had a question -- with whom to coöperate in the field of international relations -- which did not arise in Switzerland, a neutral country. Now for us to envisage neutrality for the Danubian states would be anachronistic at a time which demonstrates the growing interdependence of all the nations of the earth. Hence it is our chief task to find another method of eliminating power policy from the relations of the European nations, and I see no other way than by a general restriction of sovereignty in favor of a League of Nations. The new League should be very different from what we had under the same name before. We need a strong League to which every nation would feel it vital to belong and from which it would be fatal to be excluded, that is to say, a League with both rewards and duties for its members.
No League can be stronger than those of its members which are willing to accept its rulings. Therefore everything will depend on whether the victors will be prepared this time to shoulder the responsibility which has always in history been the victor's burden. While the present ordeal and sacrifices are fresh in their minds, the English-speaking nations will probably be prepared to consider undertaking the duties of a world police when the present war is over. But, as the London Times said on August 1, "the danger point is likely to occur not at the moment when the settlement is made, but some fifteen or twenty years after."
This peril must be faced. I expect there to be a new spirit as the result of the Nazi oppression, but nobody can foretell how long it will last. It is always wrong to believe that peace can be won once for all. Like democracy, it is a prize for the preservation of which we must labor incessantly. This is one of the reasons why we should always bear in mind that even more important than the smooth establishment of a certain order is to make sure that it will be lasting and safe. We must envisage two lines of defense. The first, and one to be wished for ardently, would be a strong League of Nations backed by the substantial force of those whose love for peace can be trusted. The second line would be provided by old methods which are still important: a balance of powers, to the extent of making the good stronger than the bad.
I repeat that war policy is always a lasting mortgage on peace policy. Therefore everything will depend on whether the Allies choose to encourage the right forces this time in Germany and in the German-occupied countries. This need not interfere with Mr. Churchill's refusal to give premature territorial pledges to Britain's associates. The right forces are those which aim at decentralizing Germany in order to break Prussian leadership and which aim at reintegrating the old supra-national community on the Danube.
It should not be difficult to accept this opinion. We need only remember the sequel of Hitler's conquests. His attack on Czechoslovakia began, as President Roosevelt said, with the rape of Austria. By seizing Austria he outflanked the natural fortress of Bohemia, which could no longer be defended. By seizing Czechoslovakia he outflanked Hungary and Poland. By dominating these two countries and Rumania he outflanked Russia and the rest of the Balkans. It thus becomes visible to the blindest eye that Hitler's attack on Russia is but the latest link of a chain of aggressions which started in March 1938 when he seized little Austria. I think this lesson should not be lost on the Russians, the less so since it was they who repeatedly warned the Czechs against fighting the shadow of old Austria instead of the reality of the German menace. The Russians, I hope, will never forget again what the existence of a supra-national state on the Danube means for their own safety. Neither will the Italians, who foresaw the consequences perhaps even more clearly than the Russians did. The seizure of Austria made Germany Italy's neighbor, and from that moment on Italy was tied to the Axis by fear. It would therefore be entirely futile to envisage the liberation of Poland, Italy, Hungary, the Southern Slavs, or Bohemia from the German yoke without liberating the German-speaking part of Austria as well. There is no real freedom for them as long as Germany keeps Vienna.
Other conceptions are being propagated, among them that of an all-inclusive European Federation. In this connection it should be said again that the slogan of federalism as such does not convey anything unless it is clearly defined. Some people who advocate a European Federation think certainly that it ought to imply less independence for the nations concerned and some authority which keeps them together. But can anyone imagine a central power that united the interests of France and Poland or of Belgium and Rumania or of Sweden and Greece? We can establish central powers of this sort only where history has created special affinities and memories. We need several federations in Europe and, at the same time, a League of Nations which includes as many as possible of the strong and peaceful nations in other parts of the world. Such a solution would help consolidate a general peace. It would permit Europe to reassume her mission of Christian culture and human progress. And it can be hoped that on the basis of such a solution could be built a world-wide collaboration of all liberty-loving people.