The Day After Russia Attacks
What War in Ukraine Would Look Like—and How America Should Respond
TWENTY years ago -- on March 3, 1918 -- the first treaty of peace between belligerent parties in the World War was signed by the Central Powers and Russia at Brest-Litovsk. Few then appreciated the full significance of the event. At the moment it appeared to mark the complete victory of German arms in the East, and, for Russia, the greatest humiliation in her diplomatic and military history. But though these results were of grave importance in themselves, the more far-reaching effects of the treaty could not be guessed at. In retrospect, however, it is possible to say that, with the exception of the Treaty of Versailles, the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had consequences and results more important than any other peace settlement since the Congress of Vienna.
The long expected Revolution had broken out in Russia with the slogan of "Peace, Bread and Land," and the German High Command had added its contribution to chaos by allowing Lenin and his followers to return from Switzerland to Petrograd in the famous "sealed train." As a result, the political complexion of the Revolution changed rapidly from "parlor pink" to scarlet; the Liberal government of Prince Lvov gave place to the Socialist régime of Alexander Kerensky; and he in turn was ousted by the Bolsheviks at the Second Revolution of November 1917.
Capitalizing the deep-felt longing of the Russian masses for peace, Lenin at once declared a cessation of hostilities, and thus it came about that, after some vicissitudes and the murder of the Russian Chief of the General Staff, there sat down on December 20 at the Brest-Litovsk headquarters of Prince Leopold of Bavaria one of the strangest gatherings in the history of modern diplomacy. Fate had decreed that the representatives of the most revolutionary régime ever known should sit at the same table with the representatives of the most reactionary military caste among the then ruling classes, that a Bavarian nobleman, a Knight of the Golden Fleece, and a Prussian major-general should negotiate on equal terms with a group of Bolshevik leaders but lately returned from exile, and from whose clothes the reek of dungeons had barely been banished.
The two groups were as widely separated in ideology as in social standing. The representatives of the Central Powers spoke the ancient language of diplomacy. They thought in terms of strategic lines, of provinces ceded, of economic advantages to be gained. Not so the Bolsheviks. Their parlance was not one of frontiers and concessions; they were not concerned with geographical expressions. They aimed by propaganda upon war-weary European Socialism to achieve what they knew could not be achieved by arms, namely the World Revolution and the replacement of military imperialism by the dictatorship of the proletariat. They were prepared to abandon whole provinces to the victors if by so doing they could arouse the working classes of the Central Powers to a realization of the evils of military dictatorship. He is no Socialist, wrote Lenin in his open letter to the American workingmen in 1918, who will not sacrifice his fatherland for the triumph of the social revolution.
So fundamental a difference in approach necessarily resulted in equally different techniques in negotiation. For both parties the time factor was vital. For Germany it was essential to concentrate all available troops on the Western Front as soon as possible in order to ensure the success of the spring offensive against the Allies on which the High Command had staked their all. Hindenburg and Ludendorff therefore demanded a speedy conclusion of the negotiations. Russia was at the mercy of Germany, they urged; no further resistance was possible; and a victor's peace should crown a victor's war. Here at last was a chance to extend the frontiers of Germany to include the Russian provinces of Courland, Livonia and Estonia, where both the aristocracy of the Baltic Barons and the middle class were largely of German origin, and also Lithuania. There opened before their eyes, too, the opportunity to exploit the rich black soil of the Ukraine, whence grain could be exported to feed the army and population of Germany, brought near starvation by the Allied blockade. A dream of reducing the former Russian Empire to a series of partitioned states, each dependent upon Germany as economic and political protectorates, began to take hold upon the imagination of the General Staff. But in any case speed was the essence of the contract. If the Bolsheviks would not immediately accept the terms offered by the Central Powers, then the offensive must be resumed and peace dictated at Petrograd instead of Brest-Litovsk.
The Imperial German Government, and in particular the Foreign Secretary, Baron Richard von Kühlmann, opposed this policy because of its crudeness and because, with greater political sagacity, they did not share the illusions of the General Staff. Even at that date Kühlmann doubted the possibility of a complete victory in the field for German arms. A negotiated peace was the best that could be hoped. Like the generals, he was anxious to obtain as great territorial gains as possible in the East, but only in order to hold them as bargaining factors when negotiations for a general peace finally became a possibility. He hoped to avoid making territorial sacrifices in the West by displaying a readiness to surrender conquered territory in the East. Moreover, he was anxious to arrive at a settlement with the Russians peacefully in order to facilitate the course of future negotiations with the other Allied and Associated Powers.
While the German generals demanded a speedy show-down, the Bolsheviks desired exactly the opposite. The longer the negotiations were drawn out the greater the opportunity for propaganda. If the workers and peasants in the countries both of the Entente and the Central Powers were to realize fully what had happened in Russia and were to conceive a desire for emulation, a certain interval was necessary during which the intentions and policy of the new Soviet state might become known. To the vast annoyance of the German General Staff, the Bolsheviks were successful in imposing their policy of procrastination on the peace discussions. First Joffe and later Trotsky carried out delaying tactics with masterly skill, and for six weeks the conference was little more than a debating society. Trotsky discovered in Kühlmann an adversary who was his equal in dialectics, and the two indulged in what the irate Czernin later described as "spiritual wrestling matches." The German Secretary of State was trying to persuade his opponent to accept the fate of the occupied Baltic Provinces as already settled. Trotsky maintained with a wealth of verbiage that their so-called "self-expressed desire" for union with Germany was nothing but a veiled militarist annexation. As neither would abandon his viewpoint a complete deadlock ensued, and remained unbroken despite the protests of the representative of the Supreme Command, General Hoffmann, and the pleadings of the Austrian Foreign Minister, Count Czernin, who was aware that the sands of life for the Dual Monarchy were running out. The Supreme Command wanted troops and Austria-Hungary needed bread: as long as Kühlmann and Trotsky remained locked in rhetorical combat, neither was forthcoming.
February 10, 1918, saw the end. On the previous day the Central Powers had signed a separate treaty of peace with the Ukraine, which had proclaimed its independence from Russia under a form of social democratic government. The agreement provided for the exportation to Germany and Austria-Hungary of a million tons of foodstuffs.
Outflanked from the south, and disappointed that the toiling masses in Europe had failed to respond to the glowing prospect of a proletarian paradise portrayed for them in an endless flood of propagandist word-pictures, the Russians were forced to abandon their policy of delay. The January strikes in Germany and Austria had momentarily encouraged Bolshevik hopes, but they had proved a false dawn. The Bolsheviks needed to be able to concentrate their full energies at home to consolidate the Revolution and to defend it against the counter-revolutionary forces of the Right and Center, now organizing in the north, south and east. New tactics were necessary. On February 10, then, Trotsky made his historic gesture of "No War -- No Peace." He refused to accept the German terms but declared the state of war at an end, and retired to Petrograd in the belief that the Central Powers were so anxious for peace that they would accept the position despite its anomalies.
This gesture, dramatic and original though it was, had merely the effect of handing the game to the Supreme Command. Against the vehement protests of Kühlmann and Czernin and the weaker opposition of Chancellor von Hertling, Hindenburg and Ludendorff forced the Kaiser to agree to a resumption of hostilities. A rapid advance conducted by Hoffmann brought the German troops to within raiding distance of Petrograd. The remnant of the Russian army, already undermined in discipline and morale by subversive propaganda, broke "like thin clouds before a Biscay gale." There was virtually no resistance. If the Revolution was to be saved, a "breathing space" was essential. After a bitter internal struggle the Bolsheviks sued for peace. The German reply was an ultimatum setting forth conditions, for the discussion of which three days were allowed, while the treaty once signed must be ratified within two weeks.
With no other course open to them, the Bolsheviks accepted the inevitable and on March 3, 1918, the Peace of Brest-Litovsk was signed. This treaty, together with the supplementary agreements of the following August, required Russia to renounce sovereignty in favor of Germany and Austria-Hungary over Russian Poland, Lithuania, Courland, Livonia, Estonia and the Islands of the Moon Sound. To Turkey she had to cede Ardahan, Kars and Batum. In addition she was forced to recognize the independence of Finland, the Ukraine and Georgia, and to agree to reparation payments to the amount of 6,000,000,000 marks in goods, bonds and gold, on which she actually paid instalments totalling 120,000,000 gold rubles. Russia lost 34 percent of her population, 32 percent of her agricultural land, 85 percent of her beet sugar land, 54 percent of her industrial undertakings and 89 percent of her coal mines. European Russia was dismembered; she was cut off from the Black Sea and very nearly from the Baltic also.
Such was the result of negotiations originally undertaken on the basis of "no annexations, no indemnities, and the principle of self-determination."
The Peace of Brest-Litovsk was a milestone in modern history. For Russia and for Germany it obviously had results of incalculable importance; but for the Allied and Associated Powers its significance also was very great. The course of world history was changed on March 3, 1918.
For the Bolsheviks, peace on the Eastern front, even such a peace as that exacted by Germany, spelled salvation. By a gigantic sacrifice Lenin had purchased a "breathing spell" during which he might discipline his own followers, eliminate the remainder of the revolutionary-bourgeois parties, and organize the defense of the Soviet Power against the attack of the Whites. With the shattering of their early hopes of a widespread revolt by the European proletariat, the Bolsheviks began concentrating their energies on the consolidation of the revolution in Russia. They could do this effectively only after hostilities had ceased to engage their attention. Lenin's stern adherence to the policy of national immolation caused wide dissent among his followers, but it gained that modicum of time necessary for the organization of the Red Army on the ruins of the Tsarist military machine. At the time his sacrifices to some appeared quixotic and unduly pusillanimous, but their wisdom was displayed when the victory of Kazan over the counter-revolutionaries bore witness to the growth of the new Soviet military formations. Without the "breathing spell" the Bolsheviks might -- probably would -- have perished at the hands of the advancing Germans, or of the White counter-revolutionary forces or by the intrigues of the Cadets and the Social-Revolutionaries of the Right and the Left. The world might then have never witnessed the vast experimentation of the victorious Soviet Power nor endured the attentions of the Third International. The potential "ifs" of the question do not cease there; they extend in an unending and roseate vista into limbo, for if there had been no Comintern, would not Fascism and National-Socialism have been deprived of their primary raison d'être? And, though the particular brand of extreme disgruntled nationalism which they represent might well have found some other outlet, it probably would not have manifested itself in the form of totalitarianism.
Thus Ludendorff was the involuntary savior of Bolshevism for Europe. By the same reasoning he was the godfather of that National Socialist movement which later he espoused; for if Adolf Hitler is the putative child of the Treaty of Versailles, he also is the offspring of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk.
For Germany both the issues and the results were more complicated than for Russia. Yet, in the case of Germany, the importance of Brest-Litovsk was very great. At the outset it appeared as if the Supreme Command was on the eve of the realization of its wildest dreams. The psychological effect on the jaded civilian population close to starvation was to refresh its war enthusiasm and to rekindle the Siegeswille (will to victory) which had burned low in the dark days of 1917. And indeed the material achievements of the Supreme Command were very alluring. Within their grasp were the occupied provinces of the Baltic, ready to be erected into semi-independent states subject to German domination. Before them stretched the fertile lands of the Ukraine, whence grain and meat would be forthcoming for hungry populations and horses for hard-pressed armies. The puppet government of the Rada was completely dependent upon German bayonets for its existence and could be -- and ultimately was -- overthrown by the pressing of a button to make way for an even more subservient successor. In addition, the treaties made by the Central Powers at Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest gave them access to the oil wells of Azerbaijan and Rumania.
The bulk of the fighting having been done by Germany, the lion's share of the spoils fell to her. Already she was the dominant party in the Quadruple Alliance; now her position was vastly strengthened, for she held nominal sway over the Ukraine and Rumania, while her influence extended through the Trans-Caucasus and to the further boundaries of the Don Basin. The way lay open for an intensification of the anti-British activities then being carried on in Persia and Afghanistan and for the institution of subversive propaganda in British India. But the ambitions of the Supreme Command vaulted still higher. They embraced not only a string of satellite states along the Russian border, but a Russia surrounded by German dependencies and which in time would itself become, for all practical purposes, a German colony.
But neither the possible nor the impossible ideas of the Supreme Command were destined to be fulfilled. The deliveries of food and grain from the Ukraine fell far short of the promised million tons, and of these the greater part went to Austria-Hungary. The same was true of the expected oil and grain to be procured from Rumania. Attempts to obtain foodstuffs by force and against the will of the population failed utterly. Brest-Litovsk proved a will-o'-the-wisp, luring the Supreme Command ever further and further in pursuit. And the Supreme Command was an all-too-willing follower. The paranoia of Ludendorff had now become Napoleonic. The First Quartermaster-General saw himself, bathed in the sunlight of victory, creating and distributing kingdoms as had the Emperor of the French after the Peace of Tilsit. He kept a garrison in the Baltic States, where grand-ducal governments were in process of creation; an army of occupation was maintained in Rumania; an expeditionary force was dispatched to Finland to crush a Bolshevik rising; another expedition penetrated to Baku; a third occupied the Crimean ports, and the German colonies in the Crimea were urged to appeal to the Kaiser for annexation. Ludendorff's conception of Deutschtum had become all-embracing. "German prestige demands that we should hold a strong protective hand, not only over German citizens, but over all Germans," he was writing at the moment.[i] In addition, the problems of the Polish Regency demanded constant care and supervision, and in the Ukraine the maintenance of a succession of unpopular régimes proved more of a liability than an asset.
A victor's peace must be enforced, and in enforcing the terms of Brest-Litovsk the Supreme Command lost sight of the primary object with which it had begun the negotiations. It had sought to free its hands in the East in order to concentrate its reserves of man power in the West. Yet a million men immobilized in the East was the price of German aggrandizement, and half that number might well have turned the scale in the early stages of the German offensive in France. According to both French and British military authorities, only a few cavalry divisions were necessary in March and April 1918 to widen the gap in the Allied line so that a general retreat would have been inevitable. These were not available to the Supreme Command on the Western Front; but at the moment three German cavalry divisions were held virtually idle in the Ukraine. Only in the late summer of 1918, when the German losses had attained fantastic figures, were troops transferred from the East. But they came a few at a time and too late. Ludendorff the Politician had defeated Ludendorff the General.
Nor was this all. The seed sown at Brest-Litovsk brought forth not only Dead Sea Apples but also poisoned fruits. Too late were the Germans to realize that they themselves were not immune to the virus which they had injected into the body politic of Russia. Through different channels the poison of Bolshevik propaganda flowed back into Germany. When Lenin had been sent across Europe in a "sealed coach," it had not been foreseen that a year later a Soviet Ambassador with full diplomatic privileges and immunities would be resident in Berlin, providing a rallying-point and source of monetary support for the revolutionary elements of extreme German Socialism.[ii] Though it is very greatly to be doubted that Lenin received any financial assistance from the German Government or Supreme Command on his return to Russia, it is an established fact that members of the Spartakusbund and the Independent Socialist Party were provided with money from Joffe for revolutionary purposes, and when in October Joffe was finally expelled for his activities, it was too late.
Apart from this official contact of the Soviet Government with the revolutionary elements in Berlin, there were thousands of unofficial emissaries who brought with them the seed of subversive propaganda. German prisoners of war had been subjected to the full force of Bolshevik wiles. They had seen the Russian army crumble away under its influence, and on their return to Germany they brought the new political plague. Added to these were the troops on the Eastern front themselves, who, by the Armistice Agreement of Brest-Litovsk, had been permitted to fraternize with the Russians in No-Man's-Land and had received from them copies of the Fackel and other revolutionary material specially prepared for German consumption. Thus each division transferred from East to West brought infection with it. "We reached the point," admitted Hoffmann, "where we did not dare to transfer certain of our Eastern divisions to the West."
Not only did the Peace of Brest-Litovsk save the Revolution in Russia, it also materially contributed to the outbreak of the Revolution in Germany; and such "stabbing-in-the-back" as was done is attributable to the Supreme Command itself for they had supplied the original daggers.
To the Allied and Associated Powers the Peace of Brest-Litovsk was of almost as great significance as to the two contracting parties. The disclosure of the naked and brutal policy of annexation as practised by a victorious militarism proved a salutary deterrent to the activities of well-meaning but misguided pacifists in the countries of the Entente. These, discouraged by the dark days of 1917, had been preaching a "peace of understanding." The conduct of the German Supreme Command at Brest-Litovsk showed clearly what might be expected in the way of "understanding" from the adherents of the Machtpolitik, and the effect on the peoples of Great Britain, France, Italy and their smaller allies, was a stiffening of the ranks, a locking of shields, a determination to fight on to the end and to destroy the militarist power in Germany. It was this renewed spirit of resistance which enabled the civilian population to remain calm in the face of the early disasters which followed the launching of the great German offensive on March 21, 1918, and to retain their confidence throughout that fearful spring and early summer until the counter-offensive on July 18 wrested the initiative from the German armies for the last time.
In addition to this psychological effect, the Peace of Brest-Litovsk had other unforeseen repercussions in the Allied camp. It was responsible for the arrival of Japanese troops for the third time in history upon the mainland of Asia. Terrified by the prospect of German penetration into Asiatic Russia, the British and French Governments, in direct opposition to the views of their advisers in Moscow and despite very great reluctance on the part of the United States, countenanced the dispatch to Siberia of an inter-Allied expeditionary force in which the Japanese contingent was much the largest numerically. Though the Allied and American troops were withdrawn soon after the conclusion of peace with Germany, the Japanese divisions were not evacuated until after the Washington Conference of 1922, and this period of occupation undoubtedly whetted the appetite of Nippon for further territorial acquisition in Asia.
In the United States the effect of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was even more apparent. During the first year of American participation in the war there had seemed to the Allies a certain lukewarmness in President Wilson's pursuit of his policies. "War upon German imperialism, peace with German liberalism" -- that had been the essence of his speeches since April 1917. The emphasis had been laid on the profit which the liberal elements in Germany could acquire by divorcing themselves from the domination of the Supreme Command and accepting the terms which the President would persuade the Allies to offer. It was largely in this spirit that Mr. Wilson had enunciated his Fourteen Points. In formulating that program he had hoped on the one hand to encourage the Russians to refrain from making a separate peace, and, on the other, to divide the German people from their rulers.
The unsatisfactory reply of the German Government to the Fourteen Points, followed by the barefaced brutality of the Brest-Litovsk terms and their ratification by the Reichstag almost without protest, convinced the President that there was but one Germany to be conquered, the Germany of the Supreme Command, and that the soundest political strategy was to reiterate again and again the impossibility of peace with the kind of government that had imposed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
This change in policy, a change so vital that to it may be attributed in large measure the final and speedy victory of the Allied cause, was made public in President Wilson's speech at Baltimore on April 16, 1918, in which he frankly admitted his recent change of heart and new resoluteness of purpose: ". . . I am ready . . . ," he declared, "to discuss a fair and just and honest peace at any time that it is sincerely purposed -- a peace in which the strong and the weak shall fare alike. But the answer, when I proposed such a peace, came from the German commanders in Russia, and I cannot mistake the meaning of the answer. I accept the challenge. . . . Germany has once more said that force, and force alone, shall decide whether Justice and Peace shall reign in the affairs of men. . . . There is, therefore, but one response possible from us: Force, Force to the utmost, Force without stint or limit, the righteous and triumphant Force which shall make Right the law of the world, and cast every selfish dominion down in the dust."[iii]
This amounted to no less than a pledge of the last man and gun and dollar in America to the Allied cause. Unanimity between the United States and the nations of the Entente had at last been achieved and victory was assured, for once the American manpower was made available, there could be no doubt of the outcome. The artificer of this compact was Ludendorff and the background of its forging was Brest-Litovsk. The German Supreme Command by its policy of aggrandizement had contributed to the Allied cause that final and essential degree of coöperation and oneness of purpose necessary for victory.
Indeed they did more, for they had forever deprived themselves of the ability to use the Fourteen Points as a basis of negotiation. When the idea was suggested by Germany in the first Armistice Note of October 4, it was met with a blank refusal on the part of the Allies. ". . . the pronouncements of President Wilson were a statement of attitude made before the Brest-Litovsk Treaty," ran an official British memorandum of that time. ". . . They cannot, therefore, be understood as a full recitation of the conditions of peace."[iv] In the interpretation of the Fourteen Points which occurred during the pre-Armistice negotiations, it was made clear that no vestige of Germany's conquests in the East could be retained by her. "In any case the treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest must be cancelled as palpably fraudulent," stated the official commentary prepared by Colonel House's commission. "Provision must be made for the withdrawal of all German troops in Russia."[v] And it was in accordance with this view that the treaties were abrogated in the Armistice Agreement of November 11, and formally annulled by the Treaty of Versailles.[vi]
Such were the more immediate results of Brest-Litovsk and such was its tremendously important influence on contemporary events. But its political implications are even more significant today, for they have a prominent place in the present ideological trends both in Russia and in Germany.
Though it is almost impossible to extract any clear and undisputed facts from the mystery which surrounds the Moscow treason trials of 1936 and 1937, it does seem possible to detect in the minds and activities of the accused, particularly in the cases of Radek, Sokolnikov and Piatakov, a tendency to return to the tactics of what may be called "primitive Leninism" and to the psychology of the Brest-Litovsk period. The Old Bolsheviks, believing that the principles of Lenin and the ideals of the November Revolution had been betrayed by Stalin, and convinced that the U.S.S.R. could not withstand an attack by both Germany and Japan, appear to have reverted to the pre-revolutionary strategy of sabotage and subversion in order to overthrow the Stalinist régime and to the Leninist policy of defeatism and national immolation in order to placate for the moment the aggressive policies of the two imperialist and Fascist Powers. The crimes of which they were accused, and to which they pleaded guilty, were none other than those very principles of destruction and disintegration on which Lenin based his fight against the Liberal Government of Prince Lvov and the Socialist régime of Kerensky; while the policy of defeatism was exactly that followed by him in regard to Brest-Litovsk.
This latter doctrine had been established by Lenin again and again. "It is impossible to attain this end [the revolution] without wishing for the defeat of one's own Government and without working for such a defeat," he wrote in "Against the Current." Nor was he content merely to preach the doctrine without practice. Against the bitter opposition of the Left Communists, particularly Bukharin and Radek within his own Party, he pursued this same policy in regard to Brest-Litovsk.
What, then, would be more natural than for the Old Bolsheviks to fall back on these original principles? Both Radek and Bukharin had publicly declared that in following the doctrine of defeatism Lenin had been right and they wrong. Is it not possible that the psychology of Brest-Litovsk reasserted itself and that in negotiating with Germany and Japan for the cession of the Ukraine and the Maritime Province they were reverting to the principle of the "breathing spell" in order to safeguard themselves from external aggression while setting about the destruction of the Stalin régime which they regarded as having betrayed the Revolution? Presumably it was hoped to regain all territory lost at some later date, either by the extension of the world revolution or by some revolutionary war. The wisdom of such a course is, of course, clearly questionable; but that it was contemplated appears to be the only reasonable clue to the solution of the Moscow mystery.
This consideration, however, is of only academic interest compared with the very practical application of the principles of Brest-Litovsk obtaining in Germany since the advent to power of the National Socialist régime. The Weimar Republic, supported by the majority opinion on the German General Staff represented by General von Seeckt, sought to reach a rapprochement with the Soviet Union, and largely succeeded in doing so by the Treaty of Rapallo, the German-Russian Non-Aggression Treaty, and the Military Agreement of April 3, 1922. There remained, however, a minority school of thought which followed in the Hoffmann tradition, regarding Bolshevism as the root of all evil and dreaming of the ultimate realization of those far-reaching plans for German expansion in Eastern Europe which so sadly eluded them after Brest-Litovsk.
Added to this are the very definite views which Adolf Hitler himself holds regarding the Treaty and the legend about it which the National Socialist Party has sedulously fostered, pointing the way to what is described as an attainable ideal. For the ideology which actuated the dictation of the treaty has not been replaced by any other set of ideas and is now accepted by a large part of the German people. The present German generation, the generation of Nazi Germany, regards the principles of Brest-Litovsk and the motives lying behind it as an actual political program.[vii] None has been more eloquent in this view than the Führer himself, in his comparison of the Treaty with the Peace of Versailles. "I placed the two Treaties side by side, compared them point by point, showed the positively boundless humanity of the one in contrast to the inhuman cruelty of the other," he wrote in "Mein Kampf." "In those days I spoke on this subject before audiences of 2,000 at which I was often exposed to the gaze of 3,600 hostile eyes. And three hours later I had before me a surging mass filled with righteous indignation and boundless wrath."[viii] With this as a pointer it is not surprising to find Hitler stating somewhat later in his work: "We [the National Socialists] stop the perpetual German migration towards the South and West of Europe and fix our gaze on the land in the East. . . . When we talk of new lands in Europe, we are bound to think first of Russia and her border states."[ix] And again, "We must not forget that the international Jew, who continues to dominate over Russia, does not regard Germany as an ally, but as a state destined to undergo a similar fate. The menace which Russia suffered under is one which perpetually hangs over Germany; Germany is the next great objective of Bolshevism."[x]
Here, then, is combined in one political philosophy the doctrines of prewar Pan-Germanism, all-pervading hatred of the Jew and the ideological opposition to Bolshevism; and the only means by which this philosophy may be given practical application is through a reversion to the German psychology of Brest-Litovsk. It is not unimportant that political writers of 1917 talked as freely of German equality (Gleichberechtigung) as do the Nazi pundits today, but they were even more frank in their interpretation of it. "The issue between us and England constitutes not so much isolated problems, as the conflict between England's world domination hitherto and our endeavor to obtain Gleichberechtigung in the world. That is why the war is being waged." So wrote Professor Hettner in his book, "Der deutsche Friede und die deutsche Zukunft," and years later Hitler epitomized this statement in a single sentence: "Germany will be a World Power or nothing at all." He admits that England will not tolerate Germany as a World Power, but says that this is not for the moment an urgent question, for Germany is first concerned with uniting the German race and fighting for territory in Europe.[xi]
Reverting to the Ludendorff thesis that "German prestige demands that we should hold a strong protecting hand, not only over German citizens, but over all Germans," Hitler aims first at the realization of a Deutschtum stretching from Jutland to the Brenner and from Strassburg to Riga, and later at securing for Germany enough territory to accommodate 200,000,000 Germans. This expansion, according to the views expressed in "Mein Kampf," undisputed Bible of the Third Reich, is to take place in the East and Southeast of Europe, in those territories to which German colonization during the Middle Ages was directed -- "We begin again where we left off six centuries ago."
Considered in this light, the steps taken by Nazi Germany in Austria and its attitude toward Czechoslovakia, the Baltic States, Poland, Hungary and Rumania assume a new significance. The expansion of Germany conceived today in these terms parallels the political system which the Pan-Germans and the Supreme Command planned during the World War: that is to say, German political hegemony over all remotely Germanic states and a meditated acquisition of Russian territory. The skeleton structure of that system was set up under the Treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest. The methods differ in each case. First Austria is absorbed into the Reich, and with it the control of the Danube passes to Germany. Then Czechoslovakia is subjected to threats, terrorism and propaganda calculated to stimulate "spontaneous" internal revolt which may lead to the liberation of the Sudeten Germans. Poland and the Baltic States, as in the days of Brest-Litovsk, are offered compromises and the expectation of security -- though it may be recalled that in "Mein Kampf" the Poles are not only dismissed as "inferior," but Polish children are classed on the same low level as Jews, Negroes and Asiatics. Towards Hungary, Jugoslavia and Rumania a policy of blandishment and flattery is adopted in the hope of winning away the first from Italian and the two latter from French influence.
So the Drang nach Süd-Osten is well under way again.[xii] Simultaneously the first steps are being taken to direct German political thought towards the advantages of expansion into Russia. German "colonization" in Russia had been proposed by Dr. Schacht at a conference in Rome in November 1932, even before the advent of Hitler to power. The subject was revived in Herr Hugenberg's famous memorandum to the World Economic Conference in June 1933. The Führer himself made plain reference to it during his speeches against Communism at the Nürnberg Parteifest of 1936: "If the Urals with their incalculable wealth of raw materials, the rich forests of Siberia, and the unending cornfields of the Ukraine lay within Germany, under National Socialist leadership the country would swim in plenty."[xiii] "We would produce, and every single German would have enough to live on," he told representatives of the Arbeitsfront on September 12. No purer example of Brest-Litovsk psychology could be required than this incitement to plunder. The speech might as well have been inspired by the Press Department of the Great General Staff in the early weeks of 1918.
The nearing of the completion of German rearmament brings to a close the first stage of the Nazi development towards Gleichberechtigung. The second, which overlaps the first, has already begun, and Germany is well on the way to the establishment of her desired hegemony. With each step forward the burden of the psychology of Brest-Litovsk weighs heavier upon the German mentality and makes more inevitable the ultimate effort to fulfil her destiny. Europe has been treated to one display of the effects of this psychosis, and should Germany succeed in reëstablishing the situation which existed for a brief moment after Brest-Litovsk, the results would be even more threatening than they were then. For an industrialized Russia exploited by the organizing genius of Germany conjures up a vision which no Western European can contemplate with equanimity. But in 1918 the will-o'-the-wisp of ambition lured Germany into a slough of dilemmas from which she could not extricate herself. The rest of Europe remembers what Herr Hitler may have forgotten, that disaster followed in the train of glory.
[i] Erich Ludendorff, "The General Staff and Its Problems." New York: Dutton, 1920, v. 2, p. 562.
[ii] Under Article 2 of the Treaty the Bolsheviks had undertaken to refrain from propaganda and subversive activities in the countries of the Central Powers and in the occupied territories. Joffe, however, made a public declaration to the effect that "The Soviet Government as a body, and its accredited representatives in Berlin, have never concealed the fact that they are not going to observe this agreement and have no intention of so doing in the future."
[iii] "Intimate Papers of Colonel House." Boston: Houghton, 1928, v. 3, p. 427.
[iv] "War Memoirs of David Lloyd George." Boston: Little, Brown, 1937, v. 6, p. 256.
[v] House Papers. v. 4, p. 196.
[vi] It was this attitude of the Allied and Associated Powers towards the dictated Peace of Brest-Litovsk which strongly influenced the German Social Democrats in finally accepting the dictated Peace of Versailles. They were persuaded that reaction against the harshness of the peace terms would inevitably occur in the Allied countries and that this would result in a revision of the Treaty.
[vii] "The Lessons of Brest-Litovsk," by "Pragmaticus." Slavonic and East European Review, January 1937, p. 328-343.
[viii] Adolf Hitler: "Mein Kampf," v. 1, p. 523-525.
[ix] Ibid., v. 2, p. 742.
[x] Ibid., v. 2, p. 750-751.
[xi] Ibid., v. 2, p. 699.
[xii] For good accounts of this movement see "Hitler's Drive to the East," by F. Elwyn Jones. New York: Dutton, 1937; and "Hitler Pushes South-east," by Dr. Gerhard Schacher. 1937.
[xiii] As reported in the British press of September 14-15, this sentence was variously translated, as follows: "If he could command" (The Times), "If we had at our disposal" (Daily Telegraph), "If we had" (Manchester Guardian). In the official text of the speech, published in the German press on September 14, it was noted that the sentence had been modified and issued in the form printed above.