IN a celebrated article in The New Europe in 1917 Masaryk called the broad belt of Europe stretching from the Baltic to the Adriatic "the zone of the small peoples." Today that zone contains no less than 14 separate nations -- Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Jugoslavia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Turkey. It is enough to recall how and where the World War began to realize what a direct bearing the situation of those peoples must always have on the question of European war or European peace. Today it holds the key also to the question: Are Britain and France to remain Great Powers?

The reason this part of Europe is so split up, so atomized, is not purely or even mainly ethnological. Here in the East the dominant empires did not fulfill the task of unification which France, England and Spain accomplished in the West. The German Holy Roman Empire, the Hapsburgs, the Hohenzollerns, the Romanovs and the Turkish Sultans stirred up the diverse ethnic groups under their rule, used them against each other, and took away from them whatever independent governmental and political structures they had previously developed. At the same time -- either because they did not wish to or did not know how to -- they failed to make the concessions which might gradually have led their subject peoples to forget their individualism, their particularism. Bohemia and Poland are cases in point. One finally lost its independence in the seventeenth century, the other in the eighteenth. From then on, their German and Russian rulers were free to do what they liked, even to send in German and Russian colonists. Yet when the World War broke out the souls of the Bohemian and Polish nations were found to be not merely intact but in some respects even more vigorous than ever.

Will Germany be able to do in the twentieth century what she failed to do in preceding centuries? That question is now to be settled. If once again she is able to subject the small nations of Central and Eastern Europe to her political and economic imperialism -- perhaps working in conjunction with the lesser imperialisms of the Poles and the Hungarians, as before she worked with Austro-Hungarian imperialism -- she will be in a position once again to pretend to the hegemony of Europe. "Mein Kampf" tells us that such is the intention of the present ruler of the Third Reich. If he is not deterred, if the Drang nach Osten is really to be resumed and pressed regardless of consequences, then I fear Europe is condemned to know again the horrors of war. For in spite of the weaknesses shown by so many French and British ministries, in spite of fluctuations in the public opinion on which they depend, it seems doubtful whether the French and British Governments will in the last analysis resign themselves to giving Germany a really free hand in Central and Eastern Europe. To do so would be to turn over to her such a preponderance of resources that in the end France and Britain would themselves become her victims. I do not predict whether they will be farsighted and determined enough to resist this development effectively. I merely say that if they do not they will cease to exist as Great Powers.

Before risking any steps that necessarily would lead to war -- a war in which, after all, Germany and Italy would not have access to the materials essential in a campaign of any length -- Hitler determined to destroy the political system which had been created to maintain the territorial settlement and to restrain resurgent Pan-Germanism. Almost every diplomatic and other international political event which in recent years has figured as front-page news has actually been merely a phenomenon of this effort -- to smash the complicated treaty system for maintaining peace and so open the way for extending the realm of German autarchy and reducing the two Western democracies to relative impotence.

II

Let us examine the postwar diplomatic evolution of Central and Eastern Europe for indications whether -- and in what circumstances -- the individual units that make up "the zone of small nations" can remain independent or whether they are destined to become a hinterland for German military and economic power.

Even in the moment of Germany's defeat, everybody who was not deceived by the ideas which gradually took material form at Geneva knew that Germany some day would seek revenge. A great historical tradition does not disappear overnight. It dissolves only if it meets an insurmountable physical obstacle which in turn, and in the course of time, gives rise to a new set of ideas and feelings. Unfortunately, neither during nor after the war did the Allied and Associated Powers give the impression of possessing such a sense of unity and determination that Germany had to accept it as a lasting physical fact. The dissolution of the Allied front and the progressive deterioration of the League of Nations revived German hopes. Many persons imagine that the World War was the result of some fortuitous circumstance, the imprudence or caprice of some individual or nation. They do not understand, as they would if they knew essential European characteristics better, that the mainspring of the events of 1914 is to be found in the hegemony which the German nations were determined to exert over the Slavic nations lying to the east and southeast, and that so long as that desire persists European peace is always in jeopardy on the German-Slav frontier.

There are three distinct periods to distinguish in the diplomatic history of Central Europe since 1920. There is the period of absolute French preponderance. There is the period of the attempt to organize collective security by treaty, in which the diplomatic highlight was the Franco-Soviet agreement of May 2, 1935. There is the period of the counter-insurance treaties, of the policy of reservations and double play which began on March 7, 1936, with Hitler's unilateral decision to suppress the demilitarized zone of the Rhine.

The first period, that of French preponderance, lasted from the conclusion of the peace treaties until October 1933, that is to say, until Germany broke with the League of Nations, abandoned the Disarmament Conference and left the International Labor Organization. During these thirteen or fourteen years the French Army was superior to any other in Europe. It held the Rhine (until the summer of 1930) and by virtue of the demilitarization clauses of the Versailles Treaty knew that it could penetrate into the Rhineland without meeting any serious obstacle. It was able to immobilize the German Army and render it incapable of any action in the East. At that time, then, the only danger to the new national states of Central and Eastern Europe came from Hungary and Soviet Russia. And strong as Hungary's desire for revenge might be, she could not count on her old Germanic ally. Instead, she was obliged to look for temporary support in the direction of Italy. The latter country became revisionist with Mussolini's speech of June 1928, but even so was still far from breaking definitely with the Western Powers and was manœuvring to see how best to turn events to her own advantage. As for Soviet Russia, she was still in the midst of revolution and could take no action abroad. Her war with Poland in 1920 ended in disaster.

In this situation France considered the most simple measures adequate. In February 1921 she concluded a political agreement and a military convention with Poland. In January 1924 she signed a political agreement with Czechoslovakia. This agreement was equivalent to an alliance except that it did not contain provisions for coöperation by the general staffs. Despite this fact, the French military mission in Prague (directed successively by such eminent chiefs as Generals Pellé, Mittelhausser and -- at the present time -- Faucher) in reality exercised much more influence there than did the French mission at Warsaw, which was always at the mercy of Marshal Pilsudski's jealousy and vanity. One can indeed say that the Franco-Polish military convention of 1921 was never seriously put into effect. In 1923, when Marshal Foch went to Poland to discuss with Marshal Pilsudski what would happen if Germany attacked in the East, the only answer he could get was Pilsudski's laconic remark, repeated a dozen times: "I shall march on Moscow. As for Germany, I'll make up my mind when I am in the field."

The French Government had negotiated with Poland and Czechoslovakia because their frontiers bordered on Germany. For the same reason those states were present at the Locarno Conference in October 1925. The international system elaborated at Locarno consisted of two distinct parts: one, the Rhine agreement guaranteed by England and Italy, supported by Franco-German and German-Belgian treaties of arbitration; two, the German-Polish and German-Czechoslovak treaties of arbitration. The British and Italian Governments having evaded responsibility in the latter connection, it became necessary for the French Government to act alone, and to this end it replaced the Franco-Polish Treaty of 1921 and the Franco-Czechoslovak Treaty of 1924 by two new declarations. In accordance with these, France agreed to supply military aid to Germany's two eastern neighbors in the circumstances foreseen by Article XV (Paragraph 7) and by Article XVI of the Covenant of the League of Nations. These two articles cover all possible cases of war: disputes brought before the Council which the Council is unable to solve by unanimous decision; and direct and flagrant aggression launched without any preliminary efforts at peaceful settlement.

France having thus undertaken to force Germany to respect international law, all that remained for Poland and the Danubian states to do was to affirm their solidarity vis-à-vis Soviet Russia and Hungary. To cope with Soviet Russia, Warsaw and Bucharest first signed a limited agreement in 1921, and then a broader agreement on March 26, 1926, "within the framework of the Covenant of the League of Nations," whereby they undertook "to respect and preserve against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of the other." Further, following the French example of the year before, they defined their mutual obligations under Articles XV and XVI of the Covenant. They in addition provided for coöperation between the Polish and Rumanian general staffs, and also (Article V) that "neither of the High Contracting Parties shall be at liberty to conclude an alliance with a third Power without having previously consulted the other Party."

Hungary was dealt with in three treaties of alliance signed in 1920 and 1921 between Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Jugoslavia, the three states constituting the "Little Entente" -- a title invented by the Hungarians themselves at the Peace Conference in mockery of the efforts which the three states in question were making to achieve solidity under French and British auspices. Two by two, the three signatories promised each other aid and assistance against any unprovoked Hungarian attack. It was expressly stated that the "competent Technical Authorities . . . shall decide, by mutual agreement, upon the provisions necessary for the execution of the present Convention," and that none of the "High Contracting Parties shall conclude an alliance with a third Power without preliminary notice to the other." The object defined in the preamble was a large one: the maintenance not only of the peace "obtained by so many sacrifices, and provided for by the Covenant of the League of Nations," but also "the situation created by the Treaty concluded at Trianon on June 4, 1920."

In other words, Poland and Rumania undertook to hold Soviet Russia within her own borders, while Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Jugoslavia barred the road to Hungarian revenge. France entered into direct treaties of alliance only with Poland and Czechoslovakia. To Rumania and Jugoslavia she was bound merely by the treaties of consultation and coöperation of June 10, 1926, and November 11, 1927, respectively.

The arrangement was full of holes. The Little Entente was not operative against Germany, Italy or Bulgaria. Poland, though Rumania's ally, always nourished a predilection for Hungary and never ratified the Trianon Treaty. Czechoslovakia was not committed as regards Russia. The question of Austria's independence was ignored; when Czechoslovakia responded in 1922 to Monsignor Seipel's desperate appeal and contributed toward his country's financial rescue she did so of her own initiative. Each hoped that in the hour of need France would intervene. All regarded her as an ally, even though the measure of her intervention had not been defined. France and the League of Nations! M. Beneš, Czechoslovak Minister for Foreign Affairs, was one of the two draftsmen in 1924 of the famous Protocol which was to remedy all the League's defects and solve whatever problems of interpretation might paralyze the execution of the Covenant. The friendship between him and the two other Little Entente Ministers, M. Marinkovitch and M. Titulescu, seemed so close that nobody dared suggest that, come good times or bad, the three governments were not bound together for all eternity. Yet it was plain for anyone who cared to see that if Germany could succeed in breaking one of the partnerships the other two would break also.

III

In 1933 the European order based upon the absolute preponderance of France began rapidly to weaken. The French troops on the Rhine had been withdrawn in June 1930. In 1932 at Lausanne the reparations question had been eliminated from further diplomatic controversy. All international control of German military activities was abolished. Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich on January 30, 1933, and the National Socialist Revolution methodically evolved according to plan. In October of the same year the Führer broke off all relations with Geneva. The nations which felt themselves threatened could no longer be satisfied with the guarantees of peace prescribed in the Covenant, particularly as the United States held tight to the old doctrine of freedom of the seas in all circumstances and so paralyzed whatever enthusiasm England had for applying sanctions. The strength of the French Army had been noticeably diminished by the law reducing military service to one year. On April 17, 1934, in his celebrated note to England, M. Barthou, Minister for Foreign Affairs, took account of this new state of affairs and gave notice that the French Government must maintain the right to reorganize and enlarge the army. Simultaneously plans were developed for promoting "collective security" by specifying how Article XVI was to come into effect should occasion arise. M. Barthou's name is particularly associated with these efforts, though as a matter of fact they were already under way (especially in the Balkans) before he arrived on the scene as French Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The military renaissance of the Reich placed one idea uppermost in the minds of successive French Foreign Ministers -- Herriot, Paul Boncour and Barthou -- and of the chiefs of the French General Staff, Generals Weygand and Gamelin. They all felt that the uneasiness caused in Russia by the policy of Chancellor Hitler and his lieutenants (e.g. the memorandum of Hugenberg regarding the colonization of Russian territories) should be exploited to destroy the Russo-German coöperation initiated at Rapallo on April 16, 1922, confirmed by the Treaty of April 26, 1926, and renewed in May 1933 after the National Socialist Government was already in power. M. Barthou and the French General Staff saw how advantageous it would be if Russo-German friendship could be destroyed and replaced by Franco-Russian coöperation. In the first place, France and her Central and East European associates would be freed from the fear that in time of war Russia would serve the Reichswehr as a reservoir of raw materials and even of troops. Second, the Little Entente nations and Poland would no longer be afraid of becoming objects of a surprise attack by Soviet Russia and would be spared the activities of Soviet propagandists in their domestic affairs. Thirdly, the theories regarding collective security being urged upon the Disarmament Conference by the French delegation would stand a much better chance of being adopted if they were supported by Moscow. And lastly, Russia's coöperation in the air might reasonably be counted on in a Franco-German crisis.

The years 1933, 1934 and 1935 were filled with intense diplomatic activity. The scope of what was planned grew and grew. In September 1934 the Soviet Union was admitted to the League of Nations. It was the idea of MM. Barthou, Beneš, Jevtitch, Rüstü Aras, Politis, and the others who wished to "organize" peace that all the states of Central and Eastern Europe should be united in a defensive coalition strong enough to hold in check anyone who wished to overturn the existing political and territorial order. France and Russia were to be the two poles of this coalition. Specifically, in the northeast one security pact was to bring together Germany, the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Baltic States; a Mediterranean pact was to unite the states bordering on that sea; and there even was to be a Central European pact, based upon a preliminary agreement between France and Italy, the principal object of which was to maintain the independence of Austria.

Of these vast projects very little was realized. The Balkan Entente of February 9, 1934 (before M. Barthou came to power) united Jugoslavia, Rumania, Greece and Turkey in a military alliance for the defense of the existing Balkan frontiers. But in reality, the military agreements made under its aegis (Turkey and Jugoslavia, Turkey and Rumania) provided only against an attack by Bulgaria. Greece plead that her coasts were vulnerable and was excused from undertaking any military responsibilities. Theoretically this alliance would be effective if some outside Great Power intervened in the Balkan peninsula; but no military agreement provided for that contingency. Indeed, we can say that none of the three groups which were formed in Central and Eastern Europe, without French participation, to defend the status quo -- the Little Entente, the entente of the Baltic states, the Balkan Entente -- contained any specific obligations touching Germany and Italy.

The way for the Balkan Entente had been prepared as early as 1933 by the treaties defining aggression negotiated by the Soviet Union with all its neighbors, and particularly with the nations of the Little Entente. These signed a special treaty with Russia, one result of which was to put an end to the dispute over Bessarabia, for the treaty defined as territories of each signatory state all the lands at that moment under its control. It was following this event that Russia pushed her ally Turkey into negotiating the Balkan agreement.

The second important instrument produced in this period as a result of the efforts of the diplomats was the Franco-Soviet Treaty of May 2, 1935. The signatories promised mutual assistance to each other in the terms of Article XV and Article XVI of the Covenant. It was followed (May 16, 1935) by a similar treaty between Soviet Russia and Czechoslovakia. These two obligations took on added significance after the Council and Assembly of the League decided (October 1935) to take repressive action against Italy as a result of her aggression in Ethiopia. The construction put at that time on Article XVI made it practically an alliance, since each member state thenceforth was to regard any act of aggression against another as directed against itself, without waiting for deliberations or a decision by the Council. The only difference between old-time alliances and the pacts of mutual assistance founded on Article XVI is that the new sort of agreement must be strictly defensive.

The machinery set in motion by M. Barthou was enormous and complicated. Numerous governments were to be united, all beneficiaries of the same guarantees. For example, Russia was obligated to defend France against a German attack and Germany against a French attack; while France was to support Germany against a Soviet attack and the Soviets against a German attack. What all this boiled down to was two bilateral treaties. To make the system complete, there still were treaties of mutual assistance to be negotiated between France, Jugoslavia and Rumania; between Russia, Jugoslavia and Rumania; between France and Turkey; and between Czechoslovakia, Jugoslavia and Rumania. The result was interminable and horribly involved conversations. Thus in July 1935 M. Titulescu obtained the authorization of King Carol to sign a pact of mutual assistance with Russia. Yet France delayed ratification of her pact with Russia until March 1936. It therefore was not until July 21 of that year that M. Litvinov agreed to discuss a possible Russo-Rumanian agreement -- and this purely on his personal initiative, it being understood that official negotiations would begin at Geneva in September. Then on August 29, 1936, M. Titulescu suddenly was dismissed from his post as Minister of Foreign Affairs. M. Laval and his successors meanwhile remained deaf to repeated requests for promises of mutual assistance sent to Paris by Jugoslavia and Turkey, both of which were very fearful of an Italian attack. So it was that M. Barthou's great idea evaporated.

IV

Why all this vacillation and why this general failure on the part of so many governments? Because the powerful motor which had been driving the nations of Central and Eastern Europe to join forces for their common protection had come to a standstill. This happened partly as a result of the Ethiopian affair, but more especially because of the deplorable weakness which France and Britain showed on March 7, 1936, when Hitler sent his troops into the demilitarized zone of the Rhine. The states of Central and Eastern Europe began to lose hope that France could and would bring them succor in the hour of danger. The negotiations of 1934-1936 had proved that no collective front against Pan-Germanism could be organized in the Danubian area independently of France, without her guarantees and without a vigorous determination on her part to give those guarantees full effect. The trouble was that in point of fact France could not give that sort of guarantee unless England added her endorsement.

A look at the map of Europe makes one wonder why, in view of the extent and imminence of the Pan-German peril, Czechoslovakia and Rumania never concluded a treaty of mutual assistance against Germany, for through her great Skoda factories Czechoslovakia actually contributes more to Rumanian armament than does France, and normally Rumania should serve as a source of food supply for the Czechoslovak army in any prolonged campaign. On the other hand, although if Czechoslovakia were attacked by Germany, Rumania could hardly prevent Russia from occupying Bessarabia as a precautionary measure to protect the Ukraine, negotiations as to what should be done in such circumstances have never made any progress between Bucharest and Moscow. The explanation in both cases is that Russia and Rumania consider as ultra vires any campaign against Germany in which France does not undertake to hold the greater part of the German Army on the Western front.

In the light of all this, March 7, 1936, appears as a decisive date in the diplomatic history of Central Europe -- a watershed between two political continents. So long as the Rhine was free from German fortifications the French Army at any time could bring irresistible pressure to bear on Hitler's Reich. It could warn it to respect the independence of the Danubian states. It could say: "Thus far, and no farther!"

The French Army is in the opinion of all military experts a most formidable war machine. I except (momentarily) the air force, which is not what it should be; but after all, aviation is a secondary arm which can spread panic but cannot conquer and hold territory. The fortifications along the northeastern frontier are impregnable. But since 1936 German fortifications have been built, and in April 1937 Belgium returned to a policy of independent neutrality. The nations of Eastern Europe and the Balkans naturally wonder where, in these new conditions, French and British forces could find an opening to carry out an offensive against Germany. They very much fear that the instruments on which they formerly relied have been bottled up. Were Italy to weaken herself and lose prestige by a failure in Spain, should England recover her ancient hegemony of the Mediterranean, then the two Western Powers would find a new opening to the southeast to replace the one which no longer exists in the north. This may be the situation tomorrow; it is not the situation today.

Now let us look more carefully at the principal steps which signalized the dissolution of what the Italians and Germans called the "French system."

Even while M. Barthou was still hard at work forging his chain of diplomatic agreements, an important schism had already become visible in the ranks which he intended should be unified and impregnable. On January 26, 1934, Poland signed with Germany a declaration which suspended for ten years their long-drawn discussion of territorial differences. It was apparently a modest agreement, and could be interpreted as a useful attempt to forestall potential conflicts. Actually the only reason why Germany concluded it was because she knew the personal tendencies of the Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Colonel Beck, and his master, Marshal Pilsudski. The predilections of those two gentlemen gave Germany reason to hope that in practice Poland would in future reserve all her powers of resistance -- even her powers of offense -- for use against Soviet Russia; that she would never be faithful to the idea of "collective security;" that she would do her best to isolate Czechoslovakia by weaning away Rumania and Jugoslavia; and that in Prague she would work with Henlein and his men against Dr. Beneš and in Bucharest against M. Titulescu. And indeed Colonel Beck played just that rôle, helping on every occasion to weaken the influence of France and destroy the French system of collective security.

Pilsudski's military ideology never could reconcile itself to the pacifist policies of French and Czech democracy; and Beck was a faithful practiser of his master's adventurous principles. Poland had grounds for irritation, too, because France at Locarno seemed to place Poland in the background (see, on this point, the memoirs of Stresemann) and because on June 7, 1933, she signed the "Four Power Pact" with Britain, Germany and Italy. This agreement was stillborn, but its psychological results amongst the allies and associates of France were disastrous. Poland was further irritated because France during the Disarmament Conference proposed security plans without having first reached an understanding with her. In the spring of 1933 the Polish Government proposed to the French Government that they should together start a preventive war against Germany. When this was refused it began negotiations with the Wilhelmstrasse. The policy of abetting Pan-Germanism is concealed under all sorts of excuses and pretexts, some important, some unimportant: the need of protecting the Polish minority in Czechoslovakia (total about 80,000); Poland's desire to be considered a Great Power; her ambition to form and direct a group of states running from the Baltic to the Black Sea which would remain neutral as between Germany and Russia and receive presents from both. Now past history teaches that coöperation between Berlin and Moscow represents the worst possible danger for the peoples in this middle zone and that such coöperation would be the result of the neutral attitude urged by Colonel Beck. But the truth is that however much the Polish public may be opposed to him, Colonel Beck has made his choice. He still protests his loyalty to the military alliance with France; but in the same breath he attacks the "collective security" of which it is a part. Of course in a moment of crisis Poland will have to choose. If Colonel Beck had his way, she would choose Germany. But he still is not Poland's absolute master.

Since 1936 the Jugoslav and Rumanian Governments have been following a policy of counter-insurance in imitation of that of Warsaw, though so far without taking any irremediable step. M. Titulescu was dismissed from office August 29, 1936. Two weeks later the Little Entente ministers met at Bratislava for one of their periodic conferences. There they dissolved the bonds of diplomatic solidarity formed in February 1933, recognizing that in future each should have the right to negotiate with its neighbors in accordance with what seemed its own best separate interests. Czechoslovakia had treated with Russia in May 1935. Why should not Jugoslavia and Rumania treat with Italy and Germany as the occasion arose? What was forgotten was that the Russian-Czechoslovak agreement had been reached following a decision made in common by the three nations and that in 1934-35 the ministers of Jugoslavia and Rumania had joined their Czechoslovak colleague in urging on M. Laval the advantages of a Franco-Russian agreement. Indeed, they regarded it as a sine qua non of the general alliance into which all desired to enter, and tolerated the Franco-Italian agreement of January 7, 1935, only because it was to be offset by the agreement between Paris and Moscow.

Despite what had happened at the Bratislava Conference the French Government decided to renew its efforts to solidify and sustain the Little Entente. In November 1936 it informed the three member states that it was willing to undertake the same political and military obligations towards each one of them as they would undertake amongst themselves. This might be accomplished through a general treaty in which the Franco-Czechoslovak alliance and the existing treaties of diplomatic consultation and coöperation between France and Rumania and between France and Jugoslavia would all be merged, or it might be effected by three separate treaties. Neither Rumania nor Jugoslavia agreed. Both would have been glad to have France as an ally in the same way she is Czechoslovakia's ally. But they would not pay the price of such an alliance -- namely, the promise to join in supporting Czechoslovakia against Germany. The French offer was never officially rejected; it simply remains in suspense.

M. Stoyadinovitch, meanwhile, decided that Jugoslavia should profit from the freedom of action agreed upon at Bratislava. On January 24, 1937, he signed a treaty with Bulgaria binding both sides never in any circumstances to make war upon the other. Now the Balkan Pact obligates Jugoslavia to defend Greece, Rumania and Turkey against an unprovoked attack by Bulgaria, and M. Stoyadinovitch has assured his country's allies that the new agreement with Bulgaria in no way affected that obligation. Who is deceiving whom? Then on March 25, 1937, M. Stoyadinovitch signed a political agreement with Italy, together with three modifying clauses still unpublished. This agreement, like the treaty with Bulgaria, makes no mention of the League of Nations. Italy promises to discontinue undertakings directed against Jugoslavia's territorial integrity. In return, Jugoslavia promises, in the event of international complications, to consult with Rome and agree on measures to be taken in common -- a provision difficult to reconcile with the similar article in the Franco-Jugoslav Treaty of 1927, which was renewed in 1932 and again renewed by M. Stoyadinovitch himself in October 1937. His explanation is that in the case of the Italian treaty consultation and agreement are optional, whereas in the case of the treaty with France they are obligatory, due to the fact that the agreement with Rome specifically exempts preëxisting obligations of the two signatories. Both the treaties, that with Bulgaria and that with Italy, were submitted, as a matter of form, to Jugoslavia's allies. But they were presented as faits accomplis, with open dissolution of the Balkan Entente and the Little Entente as alternatives to acquiescence.

Rumania's evolution away from the French system of collective security has on the whole been more circumspect or at any rate less categorical than Jugoslavia's. In the spring of 1937 the Tataresco Cabinet, a mere mouthpiece of King Carol, entered into negotiations with Italy and Poland, but the forceful intervention of the French Government, which supplies the means of rearmament for both Rumania and Poland, prevented them from reaching any conclusion. Colonel Beck, of course, is always active in Bucharest against France. So long as M. Titulescu was in power, the Rumanian-Polish Treaty of 1926 and its supplementary military agreements, directed against attack by Russia, was a dead letter. Colonel Beck is ambitious to give it new life and extend the military agreements so that he could invoke Rumanian assistance against Czechoslovakia. His hopes in this direction were certainly not diminished by the accession to power in Bucharest of the extraordinary Goga ministry. What King Carol will now try to accomplish through the dictatorial régime which he soon found himself forced to call in to repair some of the damage caused by the antics of Goga and his crew remains to be seen. The voices of France and Britain still apparently have some authority in Bucharest when they rise above a whisper.

V

I have now completed the picture, pieced together from the fragments of diplomatic history, of the strength and weakness of the system of "collective security" as it exists in Central and Eastern Europe today. Weakness is certainly the dominant note. Gradually the way seems to be opening for the creation of a German Mitteleuropa. The tendency will be reversed -- the scramble to pile counter-insurance on counter-insurance will be abandoned as dangerous and futile -- only on that day when France and Britain again appear as incontestably the strongest factors, both materially and morally, in European politics. I say France and Britain. Hitler counts, of course, on Britain's abstention from decisive action in the moment of final decision, hoping that in that same moment France -- alone -- will not feel able to do anything but abstain also. In October last, Paris gave new encouragement to Prague, specifically underlining that the 1925 commitments would be operative in case German "volunteers" were sent into Czechoslovakia to assist a rising by the German minority in that country. And following that, in the Anglo-French discussions which took place in London on November 29-30, Messrs. Chamberlain and Eden recognized the utility and advisability of the French treaty with Czechoslovakia, and even of the Franco-Soviet Treaty. It remains a fact, however, that the formal alliance between France and Britain is restricted to the defense of the Western frontiers. So far as Central and Eastern Europe are concerned, Britain will not define its attitude until -- or after? -- the critical moment arrives.

Such a moment seemed to have come after Hitler summoned Schuschnigg to Berchtesgaden on February 12 last. It seemed as though the British Cabinet could no longer avoid reaching a decision about Central Europe. The details of what happened there quickly filtered through to London and Paris. Everyone had known that some day the Führer would try again to strike a death blow at Austrian independence, but nobody anticipated that he would behave in so brutal and rash a manner. Actually, with Reichswehr generals waiting in his anteroom he gave the Austrian Chancellor an ultimatum which was to have expired on the evening of February 15. The alternative to acceptance was to be an order to the Reichswehr to invade Austrian territory. Schuschnigg was told bluntly that he had no choice but to surrender and to place Hitler's nominee in the key post of Minister of the Interior. "There was real risk for me when I sent my troops into the Rhineland," Hitler said to Schuschnigg. "But today I can do with you whatever I want. The occupation of Austria would be no more difficult for the Reichswehr than an ordinary military parade. No assistance will come to you from outside. Neither Italy nor France nor England will move. I am building up an empire of eighty-five millions. Austria is to be part of it. It will rule Europe."

I happened to be in London during the week following February 12, and while there spoke before a group of Conservative members in the House of Commons. They cheered my statement that what we were witnessing was the outcome of France's failure to act promptly and decisively in March 1936. It was only a few days later, on February 18, that the French Ambassador in London, M. Corbin, was instructed to approach Eden with a view to presenting a joint Franco-British declaration at the Wilhelmstrasse in which the two Western Powers would express a firm resolve to resist any infringement of international treaties in Central Europe. Eden personally approved this course and undertook to recommend it to the Cabinet. But at that moment he was practically compelled to resign by Prime Minister Chamberlain, owing to fundamental differences between them of "outlook, method and approach" regarding foreign policy in general and especially regarding pending negotiations with Italy. The French proposal was not formally rejected. But Chamberlain informed Parliament of his intention to try once more to come to terms with the totalitarian states and to begin by striking a bargain with Italy in the Mediterranean.

Ever since the beginning of the Spanish civil war Mussolini has been executing an attack upon French and British lines of communications which cannot fail to result in a weakening of their ability to react against Pan-German aggression on the Continent. Does the complaisance towards one deed of aggression signalized by Chamberlain's action give much grounds for hoping that if Czechoslovakia becomes the next victim Britain will then adopt a strong line of resistance? Only if the French Government gathers enough courage to tell London that it has reached an irrevocable decision to redeem its pledged word to its ally in case of need -- a pledge reiterated by Foreign Minister Delbos as lately as February 26, 1938. In Austria, meanwhile, Schuschnigg was endeavoring, probably for the last time, to evade carrying out the 1936 Austro-German treaty in the terms put to him at Berchtesgaden on February 12. It was his hope that France and Great Britain would in the end find themselves forced to intervene for the sake of Czechoslovakia, and that if they did so they would find it a practical impossibility to dissociate that country's fate from the fate of Austria. As the sands run out we can only observe again that what is at stake is whether France and Britain are to continue to exist as Great Powers.

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