The Day After Russia Attacks
What War in Ukraine Would Look Like—and How America Should Respond
EVEN in Europe the sympathies and actions of the Scandinavian countries carry little weight and for America they are of almost negligible interest. This is due to the small number of their inhabitants, their geographical remoteness and the differences in their habits of thought.
In 1523 Sweden became independent of Denmark-Norway, whose kings had ruled over it for a single century, marked by a constant animosity. In 1809 Finland was cut off from Sweden; in 1814 Norway was lost to Denmark, and in 1905 separated itself from Sweden; in 1918 Iceland was lost to Denmark. Thus the small Scandinavian states may now be said to be five in number. Moreover, there is no union among them, not even an alliance. Now and then their ministers, their economists or their scientists meet and perhaps agree on some common action concerning hygienics or weights and measures. But the only really common thing to all five countries is that, at the time of the Reformation, following the example of northern Germany, they adopted Lutheran Protestantism, which was not able to attract proselytes elsewhere.
In political matters, the histories and the sympathies of these countries have in later years differed widely.
Finland has had the most turbulent fate. For about threequarters of a century it was mildly ruled by Czarism, under its own constitution, but in the nineties its privileges were swept away by the Russian reaction. Discontent became widespread. In 1903 Finland was subjected to Russian dictatorship, with the result that the exasperation of the Swedish minority as well as that of the Finnish majority reached the boiling-point. The population was as one man against the tools of the Czar. In the face of the Russian encroachment, national and social differences for a time were forgotten. Czarism succeeded in putting down the first Russian revolution, but when the second revolution was successful in 1917 Finland declared itself an independent republic despite the protest of Russia. A Bolshevik revolt, supported by Russian Bolsheviks in Finland, broke out in 1918. It led to a civil war which was carried on by both parties with all the cruelty first practised by the Bolsheviks and was only terminated by the intervention of German troops. A plan of choosing a German prince as king soon came to nothing, and since 1919 Finland has been living under a republican constitution. At first there was some friction with Sweden, to whom the Swedish-speaking population of the Aland Islands wished to be transferred, but in accordance with the decision of the League of Nations in 1921 these small islands remain united with Finland.
Although the Swedish-speaking citizens of the Finnish towns probably feel grateful to Germany--because it was a German force that freed them from the dictatorship of the proletariat, and also because on account of their difficult position in the midst of a Finno-Ugrian population they have a consciousness of being Germanic--on the other hand their most eminent men, like Leo Mechelin and General Mannerheim, have always looked to Paris for their support. Finnish scholars in large numbers have studied in France, and the higher classes bear the decided stamp of western Europe. F. L. Runeberg, the greatest Finnish poet of the first half of the nineteenth century, was a European in spirit even if he never was abroad, and he was influenced by antiquity, by Goethe, by Ossian and by Slavic ballads. During the World War modern Finnish literature took no sides but preserved its universality.
On the outbreak of the war all three Scandinavian kingdoms declared themselves neutral, and they maintained their neutrality throughout.
Sweden, the largest of them, had never previously thought of choosing between the western powers and Germany for she was on equally good terms with both. The royal house is French, being descended from Bernadotte. Curiously enough, all three Scandinavian kings have Bernadotte among their ancestors, just as all three of them are descendants of Joséphine Beauharnais.
At the beginning of the war, in spite of Sweden's century-old connection with France, which had been especially close during the period of Gustav III, strong German sympathies found utterance among the higher classes. The queen, who is a German princess, one day expressly designated herself as such. Sven Hedin, the famous explorer, went to serve with the German staff and wrote in behalf of Germany with as much ardor as if he had been a German. The general public in Sweden, however, was obviously quite indisposed to entertain affection for a Germany steeped in militarism, and it soon became evident that the chief figures in Swedish politics, especially Hjalmar Branting, the Socialist leader, who became Minister of Finance in 1917 and Prime Minister in 1920, were in the good books of the statesmen of France and England. Branting has believed in the League of Nations and has several times attempted, though in vain, to induce it to settle the great European issues by arbitration.
August Strindberg, the first writer of Sweden, died before the World War broke out, but he would scarcely have taken sides even if he had lived to see it. It is impossible to chart his mental course. He had been a follower of Rousseau, a Deist, an atheist, an occultist, an orthodox believer in the Bible, a democrat, a pacifist, an aristocrat, and a Socialist. He lived for a long time in Germany, in Switzerland, and in France, but wars of nationality never interested him, and as a result he did not influence the sympathies of his audience in any definite direction in the various disputes between European nationalities.
Norway, a typically seafaring nation, has since the eighteenth century felt attracted towards the western powers, especially England. As far back as 1783 Wessel, the satiric poet, was reproaching his countrymen for their belief that human beings were only born in England and Norway. Henrik Wergeland, the founder of the modern literature of Norway, had his mental inspiration in the French Revolution and entertained, in spite of his fundamental republican ideas, a predilection for Bernadotte as his king.
The literature which has rendered Norway famous and given her a spiritual independence--for a time the greatest in Scandinavia--was founded by her two greatest poets, Ibsen and Björnsson, and is of course principally Norwegian. But the two owe very little to France and England, though much to Denmark and next to Germany. Of the men of Ibsen's day, the witty Alexander Kielland learned much from France, specially appreciating Maupassant. Jonas Lie, on the other hand, who for the greater part of his life lived in Paris, was quite uninfluenced by his surroundings there and never knew French. Among the younger poets Hamsun is strongly influenced by Russia, especially by Dostoievski, and during his stay in America in his youth, in spite of his contempt for the intellectual life there, he adopted much of the American form of humor. Hamsun was one of the few Norwegians who during the war sided passionately with Germany against France. The eldest son of Björnstjerne Björnson was also entirely on the German side, while Johan Bojer was entirely on the French. The Norwegian press, by the way, was absolutely for the western powers and strong resentment was expressed against Germany when U-boats, without heeding the neutrality of Norway, sank a great number of her ships and caused the death of many of her seamen.
None of the Scandinavian countries had any foreign policy during the war, nor have they had one since. Norwegian politics center, strangely enough, about two issues, both of them apparently non-political.
About the year 1860 the Norwegian literary language was still not to be distinguished from Danish. The Norwegians had the same orthography as the Danes, and in the towns then as now the same language was spoken as in Denmark, with only a slight difference in pronunciation and stress--a difference not greater, however, than is often to be found in two districts in the same country. Within the last fifty years, however, Norwegian orthography not only has been altered so that it differs quite considerably from the Danish one, but a new language has been constructed out of the local vernacular. This language, which is said to conform to the true Old Norwegian, has, from national enthusiasm and in order to satisfy the supposed demands of the common people, been set in juxtaposition with the language which the Norwegians and Danes have in common. None of the great writers of the nineteenth century wrote in this language, and Björnson fought it in his last years with the utmost passion. It has given rise to numerous domestic conflicts and has now been introduced into the schools.
The other issue ruling Norwegian politics turns on the prohibition of spirits. In Norway, as in America, prohibition has been carried through from moral motives; but the outcome has been highly unfavorable. In the first place, much more and far worse home-made spirits are drunk, so that intoxication has increased instead of decreasing. In the second place, Portugal and Spain, whose sales to Norway were suddenly stopped, grew furious and took revenge by ceasing to buy Norwegian klip-fish (salted and dried fish), which had been the chief nourishment of the poorer part of the population in those countries. Norwegian finances suffered severely in consequence. In the third place, it has been necessary, in spite of the disinclination of the government, to repeal, in part at least, the prohibition law and to conclude a new treaty with the two southern wine countries.
One Norwegian has won the highest credit under the unhappy conditions prevailing in Europe since the war, even if, to my mind, he has not shown any special capacity for politics, namely Frithiof Nansen. He has not only demonstrated that he is free from prejudices at a time when statesmen are iron-clad with them, and unsnobbish at a time when hardly anything not touched with snobbism can make itself heard, but he has asserted himself as a highly useful man, willing to sacrifice time and effort in fighting the Russian famine, having first fought the prejudices which were largely responsible for it. That he believes in the League of Nations in its present form is, if anything, touching, and bears testimony to the well-preserved naivete of his mind in spite of many experiences and many disappointments.
Of the Scandinavian countries Denmark is, of course, the one I know best. From 1848 down to our own time its foreign policy has been entirely dictated by our relations with Germany.
For centuries the Danish dynasty has been of German descent; the nobility, which arose after the establishment of absolutism in 1660, has also been German. In addition, the triumph of the Reformation in its German form gave the German language a supremacy, increased by the fact that it is spoken in Holstein and Southern Slesvig. Nevertheless, from the beginning of the eighteenth century French and English civilization prevailed in Denmark as well as in Norway, thanks to one great man, Ludvig Holberg, the founder of the literature of Denmark as well as of Norway. In his day a German literature did not yet exist; he was familiar with Molière and Pierre Bayle, studied at Oxford and knew the English writers of the Restoration. That Klopstock for some time lived in Denmark and influenced Johannes Ewald by his Germanic "bard-style" was of less significance than the fact that Wessel and all the other Norwegians felt themselves the pupils of the French and the English.
Denmark's unhappy political relations with England (who in 1801 attacked Copenhagen and in 1807 bombarded the city and carried off the Danish fleet lest it should be used by Napoleon), brought about an intellectual rapprochement with Germany which lasted for more than a quarter of a century. But in 1848 the inhabitants of Holstein and of the German-speaking part of Slesvig, incited by the revolutions in Paris and Berlin, revolted against Denmark. The war, carried on by the rebels but supported by the German Confederation, dragged along for three years and ended in the restitution of the two duchies to Denmark, though on certain conditions which always made German intervention possible, as the Danish king in his capacity of Duke of Holstein was a member of the German Confederation and the state was not a national state, but Danish-German.
From the year 1848 Germany and everything German were regarded by Denmark as enemies, and this was particularly true after the second Slesvig war of 1864, declared by the two great powers, Prussia and Austria, and ending in the cession of the duchies to Prussia. This ill-will was intensified because in the treaty Denmark had also been deprived of the Danish-speaking and pro-Dane portion of Slesvig. A strong nationalism spread through the little country and it was inclined to shut itself off completely from the Germans, despite the fact that so much European civilization had made its way to it through them.
Denmark hoped that the imminent war between Prussia and Austria would bring a relief. The war ended in the victory of Prussia, but Napoleon III managed to have inserted in the Prague Treaty a paragraph assuming that the Danish part of Slesvig was to be given back to Denmark if such a wish were expressed by a plebiscite. The Prussians did not make haste, however, to comply with this suggestion. Years passed. After 1870 Napoleon was no longer in power, and in 1878 Bismarck made the Austrians cancel the paragraph in the Treaty of Prague from which the Danes had entertained such great hopes.
It is not to be wondered at, then, that Danish nationalists ever afterwards were hostile to the German Empire. Nevertheless, prejudice was so slight in Denmark that the political antagonism did not exclude sincere private friendships between Danes and Germans or the ready acknowledgment in Denmark of everything great in German literature, art and music. The commercial intercourse, too, was close. But in the year 1899 a change took place on the part of Prussia. German nationalism, grown more and more aggressive, thenceforth subjected Danish-speaking North Slesvig to the same sort of brutal annoyances which had made it hateful in Poland and in Alsace.
The men--among others the author of these lines--who up to that time had endeavored to bring about a reconciliation between the Germans and the Danes, thereby impairing their own popularity in Denmark, now gave voice to vigorous utterances against German encroachments and German injustice. I, for one, in the years 1899-1905 wrote a number of pamphlets and articles against the way in which the Prussians ruled Northern Slesvig, and in consequence forfeited the good-will I had hitherto enjoyed in Germany. Up to 1914 I was considered "the enemy of Germany" and was subject to continuous attacks.
It will be understood that although at the outbreak of the war the Danish Government declared itself neutral, Danish nationalists felt no sympathy for the cause of Germany. The position of the government was extremely difficult. In less than two hours the German fleet could reach Danish ports--in a single night it might be before Copenhagen. The utmost caution was necessary and the sagacity with which the Danish ministry succeeded in keeping the country out of the war is to be admired.
In consequence of the World War Denmark gained Northern Slesvig and Finland became an independent republic. Nevertheless--human passions remaining as they are--it is impossible to foresee whether Germany, once she is reorganized, will not seek to regain the part of Slesvig which she has lost, and still more impossible to foresee whether Russia will be resigned to the loss of Finland.
In order for Scandinavia to have an important future it is first of all necessary that there be a Scandinavia. But to this there is an apparently insurmountable obstacle: geography. There are no natural frontiers and there is not even a unity of language. In these northern countries classes are divided as they are elsewhere. There are socialists and communists who have more or less sincere sympathy for the Russian Bolsheviks, who in turn are the horror of the upper classes.
Since I began this article Denmark has followed the example of Sweden and has negotiated a treaty of commerce with the Soviet Government. This is a beginning of the work of restoring normal relations but one which will give little enough satisfaction to industrialists and traders. The Russians promise to pay for the goods which they buy in the future but they pay nothing for the millions worth of goods which they confiscated during the revolution. Attempts will be made to get along with more or less cordiality. The Danes, however, have not merited any too much good-will from the Russians. After the revolution the Danish Ambassador who had remained at Petrograd some little time after the departure of the legations made a trip to Paris to urge the French and British Governments to declare war on revolutionary Russia. Nor, on the other hand, has Russia merited much good-will from Denmark. Two young Danish brothers, for example, who carried some millions to hungry and suffering Russians were killed and plundered. But as the world is governed by economic interests these matters will be arranged in the course of time.
The new Germany enjoys much sympathy in the Scandinavian world. Little as the Empire was admired for its use of brutal force, there nevertheless is sympathy for Germany now that she is vanquished and mistreated. The intellectuals are indignant that the Allies, after having given their signature to Wilson's Fourteen Points as the condition of the Armistice, have broken their word and begun a war during the peace. In Scandinavia it is not forgotten to what a fate Germany consigned Belgium, and the injuries done the north of France are understood, but that does not justify the demand for impossible sums of money, still less the invasion of the Ruhr Valley.
While finding the passive aloofness of America comprehensible, one cannot become very enthusiastic about it. The weakness of the British Government's policy can also be understood in view of the difficulties with which it finds itself confronted in the East, but it is glaring if one compares it with that of Palmerston. Mr. Lloyd George, who with extravagant violence is attacking all the arrangements of which he is himself the author, appears frankly ridiculous. If the future is always difficult to foresee, the chaos in Europe today renders it even more difficult. One need not be an augur to foretell that one of these days M. Poincaré will fall, and with him the fanaticism which he represents, but since the masses of the French people get almost all their ideas from the newspapers of the capital even the fall of the ministry will not change markedly the course of French public opinion. Only an overwhelming economic crisis, which cannot fail to arrive, will open their eyes, will make possible some sort of an understanding between the three or four great nations who divide Europe between them, and will give us a real peace. The little Scandinavian powers who are in no position to wage war will join in welcoming a European peace, which shall be, if not final, at least not too brief.