Will Ukraine Wind Up Making Territorial Concessions to Russia?
Foreign Affairs Asks the Experts
I AM not a Bolshevik. Moreover, I am an enemy of the Bolsheviks, having fought them with a rifle in my hands as well as in the field of ideas. Nor am I a monarchist. I do not favor a restoration of the pre-revolutionary order of things. I fought the Tsar's Government also, with ideas as well as other instruments. Further, I am resolutely set against all those, whether emigrées or foreigners, who maintain that Russia is dead, that it is only a cemetery where shadows of men wander about, dreaming of the past, hating the present, and looking toward the future with anguish in their souls. But I also reject the exaggerated claims of the communists and of other foreigners who maintain that in the whole world it is Russia only which has found the true road toward the Golden Age of humanity, when war will be no more, when man will not oppress his fellow-men, when all will live like brothers or, still better, like gods. I belong to those who try to examine the various tendencies of my country, rejecting nothing that is healthy and progressive. Thus I rejoice at every success, whatever the form -- the dam of Dnieprostroy, the new novel of a Soviet writer, a successful expedition into the Arctic Ocean -- even a successful move of Soviet diplomacy. And I also suffer in sympathy with my people who bear the great burdens imposed upon them by a militaristic state.
This much of a sketch of my personal background seems indispensable before I turn to the subject of this article -- the objects, tendencies and mistakes of Russian and Japanese foreign policy in the Far East.
All through the centuries, life for the Russians has been hard -- unremitting struggle against the warlike tribes cast out from Asia into Europe, and a no less hard struggle with a harsh and scanty nature. Only recently have the riches of the eastern steppes and plains, of the Don coal basin, of the Urals, of Caucasia, of Siberia and the Far East been placed at the disposal of the Russian people. Because of geography and the character of her history, Russia developed a centralized military government. The Tsar's government and his wars devoured whatever the people created. All through the centuries, every Russian -- from the peasant to the highest court noble -- was only a tiny screw in the great mechanism of the state. His life, his property, belonged to the Moloch of the military machine. The state had full possession of every man, from the day he was born to his death.
The process of emancipation was slow and bloody. In the sixties of the last century, as a result of tremendous efforts, a few breaches were made in the military fortress. The bloody convulsions of the "First Revolution" of 1905-7 were the next step. And in the third year of the World War, which had placed upon the vast but poverty-stricken country an incredible burden of material and human sacrifice, still another effort was made toward freedom. The age-long evils which had poisoned the life of the people were torn up by their roots. A new illusion appeared, namely that at last the nation had found the straight and beaten road to freedom.
But the results of ages of subjugation to the state, the psychology of the little screw in a military machine, could not be cast off in one brief moment. The new forms, outwardly so little resembling the old, held much -- too much -- of the old life.
This does not mean that the Russian people do not keep on developing. Fighting hunger and disease, caught in the fetters of a government that is militarized and centralized as of old, they yet march forward. Only those who are tired or who have been cast aside by life look back and sigh for the past. The great mass of the people look only forward, always seeing freedom and social justice just ahead. Not only life under the Tsars, but even the events of that bright unforgettable moment in 1917, the year of liberation, are now mere history. As always, the ideal lies ahead.
In the Far East the Soviets inherited an intricate situation.
About the middle of the nineteenth century the Russian people, having in its natural eastward expansion occupied the almost boundless expanses of Siberia, reached their natural borders. Siberia's southern boundaries are huge mountain chains and impassable, almost uninhabited deserts. The northern boundaries in Europe as well as in Siberia are the Arctic Ocean. The mighty river Amur separated the Russian possessions from the sparsely populated Chinese province of Manchuria. Russia obtained a free exit to the Pacific Ocean and became the neighbor of a quiet and unaggressive country, China. She obtained all but inexhaustible expanses to absorb the excess population of European Russia; a frontier which for decades did not have to be guarded; a trading route to the most populous nation in the world; and an outlet to the world of the future -- the Pacific basin.
It seemed as though after many centuries of struggle to attain its natural frontiers the country would finally get the opportunity to attend to its own business. The Black, Baltic and White Seas afforded an outlet to the west and south, the land frontiers on the west extended much further than the country needed. And certainly the country craved and deserved a rest. The majority of the population lived on the borderline of poverty and starvation, industry was lacking, transportation was poor, literacy was the exception. A brilliantly educated higher society and a talented literature, theatre and music were but a thin film upon the body of an exhausted, starved, illiterate, enslaved people. But for the government and the court nobility to occupy itself with internal affairs would have been to abandon their raison d'être, to lose caste, to merge themselves in the mass of the population. That is how the expansionist policy of the Imperial Russia of the last period grew up, despite the fact that it had all it needed in the way of land and mineral riches, and though its real duty was to develop a literate population and give it the means to live.
This "imperialism" of Tsarist Russia had nothing in common with the imperialism of Great Britain, Germany and other western countries. That was an expansion of the culture and wealth of nations living in insufficient territories. Capital grew, industry grew, the population grew, and all demanded an outlet. Hence the policy of conquest and the seizure of colonies. But when the last Russian Emperor seized Manchuria and the Liao-Tung peninsula, when he fought for Korea at the end of the last century and the beginning of the twentieth, he had, in order to reach those regions, to build a railroad for thousands of miles. That railroad passed through the richest of plains, virgin plains that had never known the farmer's plow, and through mountains filled with coal, gold, oil and other forms of subsoil wealth, the exploitation of which had not even been started. And in order to build the ill-fated Manchurian railway, part of which had to be turned over to Japan, every cent of the sum needed had to be borrowed abroad.
The results are known: a war with Japan in 1904-1905; the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives; the loss of billions of gold rubles; the alienation of the sympathies of the whole world; diminished prestige throughout Asia. The money and human energy lost upon this adventure would have sufficed to cover Siberia and the Far East with a network of railroads, to improve its harbors, and start it towards a prosperous modern life. As for the Emperor and the upper nobility, the adventure spelt the loss of their last prestige within the country itself. Russia in the twentieth century was not the same as it had been before. The people had begun to understand their own interests. The convulsions of the "First Revolution" were over, the throne somehow held out, but its foundation was undermined; the collapse of the Monarchy was already predetermined, even the tragic death of the Emperor and his family in 1918.
As it turned out, however, the lesson of the Russo-Japanese War was of no profit to the Tsarist Government. Thwarted in its large-scale "imperialistic" policy in the Far East, it continued the same policy on more restricted lines. Northern Manchuria, transformed by Russian (though borrowed) money and Russian energy into a thriving country, rapidly filled up with Chinese immigrants. It was regarded as a colony, but to an impartial observer it was obvious that China and not Russia was getting the most from the investment. In Mongolia, taking advantage of China's weakness, the Russian Government wove a net of intrigues until it succeeded in transforming so-called Outer Mongolia into an "autonomous state" where Russia did whatever she pleased. But the expansion in the direction of Mongolia did not have, and still does not have, any roots in the interests and needs of Russia. Mongolia, a poor desolate country, sparsely populated by nomads, did not furnish any outlet for Russian products nor was its territory needed. Just when it was seized, it lost its old importance; the establishment of steamship communication between Europe and China and the building of the great Trans-Siberian Railway deprived the old caravan route through Mongolia of any real importance.
The legacy in the Far East which was bequeathed to the leaders of the democratic revolution of 1917 and afterwards to the Bolsheviks was a difficult one to handle. The short-lived Provisional Government (Prince Lvov-Kerensky) was preoccupied with internal affairs and the World War, and could not give any real attention to Far Eastern policy.
The appearance of the Soviet Government as a factor in the Far East began with the now famous appeal issued by Karakhan to China and the manifestoes to the enslaved nations of Asia issued in 1919. Karakhan's note declared that the Soviets renounced the old imperialistic policy of the Tsars. Russia gave up its concessions and privileges with regard to the Chinese Eastern Railway. The note declared that New Russia was bringing to the enslaved nations of Asia peace, freedom, and assistance in their struggle against European and American imperialism.
Karakhan's note and manifestoes were of no practical significance at the moment, since the nations of Asia were cut off from Soviet Russia by vast territories which were in the hands of Admiral Koltchak and General Denikin, but the sentimental impression was tremendous. And as the Soviet troops moved closer to the old frontiers of Russia -- in Caucasia, Turkestan, Siberia and the Far Eastern provinces -- the prestige of the Bolshevik Government grew like a snow avalanche. It was the first time that the nations of Asia had heard such ideas and words from a European statesman. Never was the prestige of the Soviets and of Russia so high among the masses of the Chinese nation as in 1920. That prestige could be destroyed only by the Soviet Government itself. And this it did. The old fruitless Tsarist imperialism was transformed into a Red imperialism which was just as little grounded upon the real needs of the country as the old policy had been, even though camouflaged under the high-sounding name of "Socialistic World Revolution."
The Soviets showed great caution in dealing with Japan. They remembered the experience of the Russo-Japanese War and their recent lesson in the war with Poland. The Soviet armies, victorious in civil war, carefully avoided any possibility of armed conflict with the Japanese armies during the latter's evacuation of Siberia.
But China, defenseless China, to its own and Russia's misfortune, became the object of experimentation on a vast scale. The high promises of Karakhan's note and manifestoes were forgotten. By exerting pressure upon the Manchurian and Chinese Governments, playing upon their mutual hostilities, the Soviets got back the Eastern Chinese Railway almost upon the old "imperialist" conditions. Interference in the internal affairs of China was practiced wholesale. The bribery of statesmen and entire political groups began to take place on a scale surpassing anything that an old Russian diplomat like Count Witte ever dreamed of. Money flowed in to set up communist cells in China. The Communist Party of China became fully subject to the Soviet Government. As a branch of the Comintern, it became a mere political, military and espionage organization working for the Soviets.
Under the pretext of fighting the Whites, the Soviet Government occupied Outer Mongolia in 1921-22 and formed the "independent" state of the Mongolian Peoples' Republic. In that country of nomads, the Soviet brand of "socialism" with all its attributes -- Tcheka, executions, hunger -- was firmly implanted. In consequence, the Mongolian, who had always been rather friendly to the Russian population, became violently hostile. Conspiracies and rebellions are now the rule. A favorable ground is furnished for interference by Japan and even England.
The culmination of this imperialistic policy of the Soviet Government was the punitive expedition which it sent into northern Manchuria in 1929. The interference of the Soviet railway authorities in local Chinese life had been a source of constant friction. Availing itself of one of those conflicts, the Soviet Government, without declaring war on China, moved troops into Manchuria. These obtained brilliant victories over the disorganized Chinese. The governments of China and Manchuria were forced to capitulate and accede to all the Soviet demands.
The impression produced upon China was shocking. The legend of the Revolutionary Russia, liberator of the enslaved nations of the East, was definitely ended. Russia took its place again among those predatory states which fatten upon the living body of China. All the various parties and governments of China, many communist leaders included, came to regard Russia as definitely hostile. Under conditions of civil war, parties and at times whole provinces may be forced to look to Soviet Russia for supplies or arms. But when this happens it is done as a means of intrigue, of playing one enemy against the other. The attitude of the Chinese as a whole towards Revolutionary Russia does not differ from its attitude toward other imperialist countries which have their "interests" and "spheres of influence" in China.
But the punitive expedition of the Red Army into Manchuria had another significance, which is even of greater importance at the present moment. It gave a precedent to Japan and afforded her the opportunity to conduct war against China for nearly two years without any official declaration. It gave Japan the opportunity to strike at Shanghai, to form an "independent" Manchukuo, to occupy a number of strategic positions in Northern China from which it commands the approaches to the ancient Chinese capital. And, finally, it gave Japan the opportunity to begin preparing its own "independent" Mongolia -- at first in Inner Mongolia, then in Outer Mongolia -- and so to form a direct threat to Russia's easternmost provinces by flanking them on both sides, from Manchuria and from the two Mongolias.
In 1921 I saw with my own eyes how Red army detachments, disguised in Mongolian clothes, were sent into Mongolia to enact the part of a "rebelling Mongolian proletariat" and to form the "independent" Mongolian Peoples' Republic. If Japan's aggressive policy does not spend its force in the occupied provinces of China, or if it is not checked by pressure from without, we shall soon witness another act in the "liberation" of Mongolia. In Inner Mongolia we shall see Japanese soldiers disguised in Mongolian dress rebelling against the age-long "oppression" of China, and the people of Outer Mongolia rebelling against "imperialistic" Red Moscow. And finally, maybe, we shall see Russian fascists impersonating an angry Russian nation rebelling against Red tyranny.[i]
In presenting the Far Eastern situation from the point of view of essential Russian interests, I have hardly touched upon the main question of Russo-Japanese relations. This seemingly strange omission can be accounted for very simply. The Russian and the Japanese peoples have not met face to face, and there is no conflict of vital interests which should serve as a cause for war. Therein lies the tragic nature of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 and of the possible Russo-Japanese war of the future.
From the Russian point of view, the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 was conducted by the government only; the people did not understand and never accepted it. Nor did they need anything which victory might have brought them. The vast territory of Manchuria and Korea, the warm coast of the Pacific, the Asiatic market, were not necessary for the Russian peasant, the Russian worker or the Russian capitalist. And today, weakened by the Great War, the civil war and the Bolshevik experiments, Russia stands even less in need of new territories and markets. She is a country with a prevailingly agricultural population, and for many years she will remain sparsely populated. She needs markets for her agricultural exports, but China cannot furnish them. The production of the young but growing Russian industry is entirely absorbed by inner consumption, and will be for some time. In the field of economics and finance, the interests of Japan and Russia have no contradictions. Russia is an agricultural country, without capital, and faced with the great problem of utilizing her vast natural resources. On the other hand, Japan is over-populated and industrialized. She needs markets for her manufactured products and spacious lands for her surplus population.
The question of Japan's growth and expansion, today and in the future, is of great importance. On the shores of the Pacific lives a great proportion of the population of our planet, and in the future it well may be the focus of human activities. But most of the problems and difficulties connected with the Pacific area have very little bearing upon the actual interests of Russia. The Pacific interests of Russia are two: 1. The Far Eastern provinces are a place for the colonization of surplus population from European Russia, and they have mineral, agricultural and marine wealth to be exploited. 2. They furnish a natural means of egress for Siberia, and for all of Russia, to the Pacific Ocean. Upon these two restricted facts the policy of Russia in the Far East should be based.
The inevitable expansion of Japan -- for colonization purposes toward the Pacific Islands, Australia, and Central and South America, for economic purposes toward China and India -- does not really cross Russian interests. It presents difficulties, maybe disastrous ones, to the United States, Great Britain, France, Holland and other nations having possessions in the Pacific area. But Russia is not directly concerned.
There remains one question, and that is whether the Russian Far Eastern provinces are vitally necessary to an overcrowded and growing Japan. I believe that the natural direction of Japanese expansion is and will remain towards China, the islands of the Pacific Ocean, Australia, and South America. Russia's riches in the Far East cannot be the objective of Japanese annexationist policy because expansion in the areas now owned by Russia cannot be backed up by colonization. The climate is Russia's best line of defense. A vivid example of this is provided by Japan's thirty years of experience in possession of Korea. Further, Russia's maritime provinces are her only outlet to the Pacific Ocean, and even the most extreme Japanese chauvinist understands that the seizure of that region at a moment when Japan felt strong would not solve the problem forever. The forces of the 170 million people making up the Russian nation would some time or other break through the door that had been closed to them.
There are, indeed, some conflicts of interest between Russia and Japan, but they are of such a nature that in our time they cannot become a legitimate casus belli. I shall enumerate some of them.
The first concerns the Korean border. Russia does not need Korea. But upon Russian territory adjoining Korea there live about 100,000 Koreans (some say as many as 180,000), chiefly peasants. The Koreans in Russia were always well-to-do and had more freedom than their kinsmen in Korea. The type of régime introduced by Japan in Korea, and the resultant opposition of the Korean people to the Japanese, has increased the current of emigration into Russia. This has now led to an irredentist movement. The better life becomes for the Koreans living on Soviet territory, the more will Japan find that irredentist movement inconvenient.
The second concerns Sakhalin Island. The coal, oil and other forms of wealth in that part of Sakhalin belonging to Russia used to be of great interest to Japan. But the climatic conditions of northern Sakhalin preclude there ever being any considerable wave of Japanese immigration, and as a result Japanese interest has waned. Given normal relations between the two countries, the question of the exploitation of the sub-soil wealth of Sakhalin can be solved without difficulty.
Finally, of great importance to both countries, and to Japan especially, are the fisheries of Kamchatka, Sakhalin and the mouth of the Amur. This is the richest region in the world, both as regards the quantity and the quality of its fish. But no questions arise in this connection which seem likely by themselves to become a sufficient cause for war.
Under the pressure of facts, the foreign policy of the Soviet Government has become more realistic. The mad idea of attempting to produce a world revolution with the resources of a starved and backward country has gradually been abandoned, at first for tactical reasons and now for reasons of principle. But certain old traditions still live and are active. The success of the Five Year Plan in providing military equipment, the militarization of the population, successes in the field of foreign politics (particularly the achievement of recognition by the United States), have resuscitated the idea we heard about in 1920 of "feeling with the bayonet" -- this time not Europe, but Japan. Trotsky's idea that Japan is on the eve of a revolution is shared by many prominent communists, and Stalin himself accepts it to some degree. It is not impossible that in order to ward off a domestic explosion the Soviet Government will either have to make concessions in the direction of liberalizing its régime or resort to a foreign war.
As I have already indicated, I am opposed to any kind of foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Russia. But the situation in regard to Soviet foreign policy is different. It was right and proper for the United States Government to demand that the Soviet Government make an end of the propaganda work of its agents in America. The United States has an opportunity to take a similar step by using its influence to stop the work of the Comintern in China. Such a step, if realized, will tell immediately upon the normalization of the internal affairs of China. Still more important, the United States can make known to the Soviet Government that it is opposed to the idea of a war between Russia and Japan, and that it certainly has no intention of taking part in such a war. The Soviet idea of "feeling Japan with the bayonet" might cost Russia the loss of the Far East. To America it might mean the loss of a natural ally in the person of Russia, and the possible partitionment of China.
[i] Already there are attempts by a group of Russian fascists (fortunately small) to create an "independent" Far Eastern Republic.