Courtesy Reuters

From Brest-Litovsk to Brest-Litovsk

THERE is something fascinating, and at the same time almost frightening, in the completeness of the pattern woven by the Fates about the two sets of Russo-German negotiations which took place at Brest-Litovsk twenty years apart, in 1918 and now again in 1939. Almost all the elements of great drama are presented -- tragedy and betrayal, irony and fleeting sardonic wit, and the inevitable Nemesis of knaves. There lacks, however, the crowning glory of a third act in which virtue is rewarded. For the element of virtue was ever absent from Brest.

They met at Brest-Litovsk in that gloomy December of 1917 -- defeated Russia, exhausted Austria, hectoring, self-assured Germany. And from their discussions was born a treaty un-equalled in modern times for its unashamed brutality, yet which, with the exception of the Treaty of Versailles, has had consequences and repercussions more important and far-reaching than any other peace settlement since the Congress of Vienna; a treaty which is affecting the course of events in Europe at the very moment of writing, and of which the ultimate results still remain among the unpredictables.

When the representatives of Bolshevik Russia first faced the delegates of the Central Powers across the conference table they did so with the foreknowledge of diplomatic defeat and the hope of world revolution. Old Russia had died and the new Soviet State was yet a-borning. The military might of the Hapsburg and Hohenzollern Empires was apparently at its peak. Only the greater power of an awakened proletariat could bring it down. Toward this end the Bolsheviks unsuccessfully geared their tactics. Delay, exasperation, and interminable conversation were their only weapons. Yet, in the hands of such master procrastinators as Joffe and Trotsky, this armory was not to be despised. Pitted against the diplomatic genius of Central Europe, the Bolsheviks gave a good account of themselves, matching cunning with cunning, and prevarication with prevarication.

For Germany the vital necessity was a speedy peace which should conclude the war on the Eastern Front and

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