The Pandemic Depression
The Global Economy Will Never Be the Same
AFTER two world-scale wars in one generation the possibility that neutrality can again be made the permanent basis of foreign policy of a Great Power seems to be precluded. Some go further and predict the end of small states, thus of all neutrality. In this view, small states are destined to become appanages of their most immediate Great Power neighbors, enjoying, perhaps, a cultural autonomy but without effective control of their foreign affairs or their own defense. This assumption of the "withering away" of small states, suggesting at least the partial obliteration of the identities of peoples with long traditions of freedom and independence, plus the discard of the institution of neutrality which once served as a refuge for small nations -- such a prospect must make the historian pause to search for proof or disproof of the contention.
I. SMALL STATES AND NEUTRALITY
The nation-states system, comprising the European family of nations, came into being in response to the realities and needs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The end of feudalism and the emergence of nation-states were hastened by the Reformation which broke the unity of Christendom and fragmented the Holy Roman Empire. In that historic struggle to gain the right to particularism the regions which were to become small states in western Europe assumed a disproportionate share of the total effort (e.g. Switzerland, the Low Countries, Sweden). They then rated high. And their important functions in the community were duly recognized in the precepts of the Treaty of Westphalia, 1648, which ended the religious wars and made the first great architectural blueprint of the European nation-states system.
It was in this period that international law, already formulated by Grotius and his predecessors, became recognized as the desired guide for the behavior of the relatively new state sovereignties. Rules were imperative to replace the repudiated restraints of the Church upon secular princes. Also, the doctrine of Balance of Power, emerging from the condition of shifting political affinities in the sixteenth century, was likewise admitted to be operative, although never erected into formal law. This atmosphere of respect for state sovereignties, regardless of size, permitted small states to develop their own "personalities" according to their own resources and the genius of their own peoples. They served as buffers between their expansion-minded big neighbors. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they were active participants in Balance of Power politics, and were often drawn into the dynastic wars to restore the equilibrium. But whether the small states took part in hostilities or not, the ideal of a reign of law and the reality of a Balance of Power were the sine qua non of their existence.
The first change appeared early in the nineteenth century. Small states began to avoid military participation in the process of preserving the Balance of Power; they sought security in neutrality. This change was not a matter of choice. It was dictated by the "nation-in-arms" concept of the French Revolution, by the spread of conscription, and by the advance of war techniques. States with great traditions but small manpower could no longer afford the luxury of military prestige.
Notable amongst such small states are Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden (comprising the Oslo Group, so called after the conference in the Norwegian capital, 1930). With the sole exception of Denmark (attacked in 1864) these five states enjoyed the benefits of respected neutrality for nearly a century. They used the historic opportunity to cultivate the garden of their own material and spiritual resources. The creative energies of their cultural centers contributed in large measure to the unparalleled development of western civilization in the nineteenth century. But, as they dropped out of active participation in politics of the Balance, and sought a presumed security in neutrality, they became more vulnerable. The Prusso-Austrian attack on Denmark was the first warning. Belgium barely escaped being sucked into the war of 1870 -- which escape was considered a "miracle." She was overrun in 1914 -- when the Netherlands escaped, also by a "miracle." Neutrality was no longer a safe refuge for a small state which happened to lie athwart the line of war.
It is not surprising, therefore, that "the Oslo States" were the most ardent supporters of the Geneva collective security system, which promised them a new basis for foreign policy. Their statesmen of the time -- Paul Hymans of Belgium, van Karnebeek of the Netherlands, Munch of Denmark, Nansen of Norway, and Branting of Sweden -- represented the best there was in the Geneva spirit. But like many other liberal statesmen they seemed to be unwilling to pay the final cost of the League method to maintain peace -- military sanctions. They did support economic sanctions against Italy; some proposed, on a voluntary basis, to boycott German goods as well. But the failure of the sanctions, and the acceptance by the Great Powers of German rearmament, killed any remaining hope in collective security. New dangers appeared. The British-German Naval Agreement of 1935 changed the naval Balance of Power in the Baltic. Acceptance of the German remilitarization of the Rhine in 1936 likewise exposed the frontiers of Belgium and the Netherlands. And the appeasement policy which produced the Munich Agreement led to the dismemberment of a small state, Czechoslovakia -- a final warning to all the others.
The portentous collapse of collective security forced the Oslo States back to their only alternative, neutrality, which they all promptly declared in September 1939. During the "sitz" war their faith in miracles was supported by the mere fact of having survived at least the opening chapters. The first victims were Denmark and Norway in April 1940, to be followed a month later by Belgium and the Netherlands. According to statements since made by political leaders of these four states, they intend never to return to the principle of neutrality hereafter. The reduction of the number of Oslo neutrality aspirants by 80 percent turns the highlight on the remaining member -- Sweden, an oasis of neutrality encircled by war.
Sweden may be considered a case study in the survival of neutrality. Switzerland, one of the other two European democracies not drawn into the war, is not typical since she has long been recognized as a permanent neutral; while Eire's case is likewise in some degree special because of her geographical position. How explain Sweden's effective preservation of neutrality through five and a half years of war on her borders? The true answers will be possible only when the archives, especially in Germany, are opened to scholars. Meanwhile, however, one may note some of the peculiarities of Sweden's position and interpret her performance in so far as the facts can be made known.
II. THE BACKGROUND OF SWEDEN'S NEUTRAL POSITION
Sweden's northern position, on the flank rather than on the immediate line of war, made it unnecessary at first for the belligerents to cross Swedish soil to come to grips with each other. That situation was somewhat altered by the presence later of German troops in northern Norway and Finland, between which the rail connections are on Swedish soil.
Most of the Swedish coast faces east. It is not without significance that whereas Danish and Norwegian Vikings pursued adventures along the Atlantic seaboard, Swedish Vikings went east, and founded the Rurik dynasty in Kievan, Russia. The Swedes acquired and Christianized Finland seven hundred years ago. They expanded into the area recently known as the Baltic States. Sweden lost her Eastern Baltic Empire, the mouth of the Neva and surrounding areas, to Peter the Great (1721), and Finland to Alexander I (1809). The memories of Sweden's warrior centuries still linger in the Swedish mind; and the sympathy felt toward small peoples once under her beneficent rule -- especially the Finns -- is like that of a mother toward a remembered child.
German influence in Sweden has always been significant, as in that of the Hanseatic League, Protestantism, German science, etc. But the Swedes, free from immemorial times, early took the road to democracy, a road which diverged from that followed by Germany. After sharing in the creation of the nation-states system, and in the Balance of Power politics of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they turned inward in the nineteenth century to develop their forestry and iron-ore industries, their water power and shipbuilding and the carrier trade. Sweden became prosperous. In the process, the people developed a social democracy, high in welfare, and dramatized it as the "Middle Way." Of the six million Swedes, half of whom are workers in industry or on the soil, the overwhelming majority are emotionally and intellectually devoted to the cause of the great American and British democracies. In some districts of Sweden there is scarcely a family which cannot claim relatives amongst the million Swedes resident in America.
III. CHANGES IN THE CONDITIONS OF NEUTRALITY BETWEEN THE WARS
Swedish neutrality during the First World War was facilitated by the Balance of Power, which existed almost to the end. German armies were engaged on two fronts. Moreover, the Swedish Army was relatively strong and well equipped; and the Baltic at that time was a barrier to aggression in the given stage of war techniques.
The Second World War broke on a different scene. In the 1920's Sweden had radically disarmed, and her belated efforts to strengthen her defenses had not produced significant results. The tremendous development in the range and complexity of weapons, moreover, placed all small states at an enormous disadvantage. In particular, the Baltic Sea offered no protection against bombers.
The constellation of the Powers also had shifted. The rearmament of Germany altered the Balance of Power in Northern Europe. Then came the bombshell of the German-Russian Treaty, August 23, 1939, announcing that the two greatest Powers of the Continent intended to "collaborate." It was recalled that a previous "collaboration" between the Germanic Powers and Russia was for the purpose of partitioning Poland; that "collaboration" between Napoleon and Alexander I initiated at Tilsit led like an arrow in 1809 to Sweden's loss of Finland, the Aaland Islands and part of Swedish Lapland. Even the Swedish mainland was thought to be slated for partition in 1809. Statesmen of small nations have ample historic reasons to dread the dénouements of collaboration between Great Powers. In 1939 they had not long to wait.
IV. SWEDISH NEUTRALITY, SEPTEMBER 1939 -- JUNE 1940: EUROPEAN POLITICS FOCUSSED IN THE NORTH
The fourth partition of Poland was the first territorial seizure of the Second World War. In October 1939, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania signed agreements permitting Russian military use of their territories; the following summer they were absorbed into the Soviet Union as constituent Soviet Republics. There were also Russian negotiations with Finland to acquire territory near Leningrad and to lease a naval base at Hangö; these dragged on for nearly two months, until on November 30 the Russian air bombardment of Helsinki opened the "Winter War."
Sweden now faced fateful decisions. Innumerable bonds of tradition and common history united the Finnish and Swedish peoples. The Finnish seaboard (especially the Aaland Islands at the doorstep of Stockholm) is of immense strategic importance to Sweden. Urged by their own sympathies, and encouraged by the intense reactions of public opinion in Britain, France and America, thousands of young Swedes enlisted as volunteers in the Finnish Army. Swedish workers collected funds to send the Finns arms.
But in spite of the public clamor at home and abroad the Swedish Government stood steadfast in its policy of neutrality. The reasons were various. Sweden's armaments were very unsatisfactory. Also, the policy of neutrality had become a tradition. Of even more significance was the prevailing belief that the western Powers would have welcomed a diversion of warfare from the stalemate of the Siegfried Line to the iron-ore fields of northern Scandinavia. So while volunteers and arms were allowed to go to Finland, official intervention was rejected. Criticism of the government was called "cowardly" both inside and outside Sweden.
On March 2, 1940, the British and French Governments announced to the Swedish and Norwegian Governments their intention of sending an expeditionary force to aid Finland against Russia. They requested transit privileges, and promised aid in case of a German attack. The Swedish Government refused instantly, the Norwegian within three days. On March 12 the Russo-Finnish peace was signed. In the light of subsequent events it is reasonable to presume that the Allies do not now regret the Norwegian and Swedish refusals.
Meanwhile, the Swedish Foreign Office had assumed the rôle of intermediary between Russia and Finland. An agreement could not be reached so long as the Finnish Army was successful and expectant of Allied help. When Russian numerical superiority was brought to bear the end came quickly. To the credit of the Soviet Government, it did not increase its demands of October 1939, except for adding the town of Viborg. It was resolved not to be drawn into the general war through a crisis in Scandinavia. Certainly, however, the Soviet Government never trusted in its "collaboration" with Germany (as shown by its reluctance to deliver promised supplies) and fully expected Hitler to attack eastward after he had made his west wall secure.
The Russo-Finnish peace brought Sweden but a few moments to catch her breath. The British and French continued to press the Northern Kingdoms. In early April they laid mines in Norwegian waters. German propaganda subsequently tried to prove that the Allied mine-laying was sufficient justification for the invasion of Norway. As a matter of historical fact, the Germans could not have known of the mines when their troops set sail for the attack. The Swedish Government actually had inklings of the pending attack late in March, and passed the information on to Oslo and Copenhagen; but there it was not taken too seriously.
During the Norwegian campaign Sweden lived in daily expectation of attack. By the end of April the Swedish Army was fully mobilized. Stockholm was partly evacuated. What was not obvious then, as it is now, was that the Germans wanted control of the two countries bordering the North Sea only as a flank for the intended assault on Britain. Only if the German Army experienced great difficulties in Norway would Sweden have been in imminent danger because of the German transport problems. The speed of the German advance in Norway postponed the actual threat. Only in the north, around Narvik, were the Allies able to inflict serious losses on the German divisions. As General Dietl's position became serious the Germans requested permission to transport arms and munitions across Sweden to Narvik. The Swedish Government refused. Dietl's position became even more critical at the end of May, and German demands for transit were underlined more definitely with threats. Swedish officials have stated that a German attack on Sweden was impending on June 7, 1940. At that moment the Allies evacuated Narvik. Sweden was saved.
In viewing the events of this first period one finds an illustration of the dictum that the neutrality of a small state is possible only when the Balance of Power is in operation. German-Russian "collaboration" radically changed the previous balance in the eastern Baltic. That meant disaster for many Poles, Balts and Finns. The Germans obviously had no desire for complications in Sweden, however, unless compelled by military necessity. They also at the time were obliged to consider Russia's interests. According to Swedish sources, the Soviet Government had let it be known in Berlin by mid-April that Russia's interests included respect for the neutrality and independence of Sweden. The internal politics of the upset Balance of Power thus operated in Sweden's favor. Her escape, however, was of the narrowest kind, depending on the timing in the Allied evacuation of Narvik.
V. SWEDISH NEUTRALITY, JUNE 1940-JUNE 1941: ISOLATED SWEDEN FACE-TO-FACE WITH GERMANY
The capitulation of France in mid-June of 1940 changed the whole outlook. The frightening success of the German armies spread a pall over the Allied cause, brightened only by the British heroism during and after Dunkirk. Moscow's gloom over the disintegration of Russian influence in the Balkans should have been an index to events in store. Finland began to formulate hopes for German support against Russia. It was at that darkest hour for the existing and prospective opponents of the Nazis that Sweden suddenly found herself completely isolated -- face-to-face with an all but triumphant Germany.
On June 15 Germany renewed the demand for transit privileges to Norway. It was pointed out that as fighting had ceased in Norway, facilities for transit could not alter the de facto situation. The Swedes managed to whittle down the demands. The Transit Agreement signed July 5, 1940, permitted transit over Sweden of unarmed German troops and war materials under Swedish control. It was agreed that the number of troops moving each way should balance, so that no military change would result. Criticism within Sweden flared up at once, and never ceased until the agreement was cancelled three years later.
It will always be difficult for a foreign observer to understand why the Swedish Government did not admit that the Transit Agreement was a violation of neutrality, accepted under the threat of force majeure. Allied forces certainly could not at that time have supported Sweden. A parallel in reverse might be found in the closing of the Burma Road at the behest of Japan. Further, the Balance of Power in northern Europe had ceased to operate; the neutrality principle went into abeyance.
In the interim between the summer of 1940 and the late spring of 1941 formidable German armies were unemployed on the Continent. Did Germany during this lull meditate an attack on Sweden? Occupation of the country would have facilitated the task in Norway and provided an excellent flank position for the attack on Russia. The Nazis had no reason to sympathize with the Social Democrats who made up the majority of the Swedish Government, and even less for the Swedish press which had carried on a violent anti-Nazi campaign since 1933. Were there economic reasons for the hesitation to attack Sweden? The coveted open iron mines of Kiruna are in northern Sweden, protected by the icy terrain; the power plants of the mines were marked for instant destruction in event of a blitz assault. These considerations may have carried weight. What is more likely is that the German leaders, elated by the success in France, felt it was only a question of time before the Balkan countries, Switzerland and Sweden would all pass under German control without a struggle. Also, the arch-enemy, Britain, was shaken but unbowed. The German hope in the air blitz to conquer Britain was not abandoned until December 1940. Meanwhile, Mussolini, at the end of October 1940, without German approval and possibly against German advice, began his ill-fated attack on Greece. The Balkans forthwith demanded German attention. The focus of European politics moved south, but for some months Sweden's position remained precarious.
Observers in Stockholm believed that Hitler in March 1941 had already taken the decision to attack Russia. The tension between the two erstwhile "collaborators" increased as German armies moved eastward. Swedish military experts again expected that as a preliminary to the German campaign in Russia their country would be attacked. Their fears were more intense than at any moment since the Allies evacuated Narvik. The break in the spell came with the military rising against the appeasement government in Yugoslavia. The German armies, fresh from long unemployment, began their preliminaries in the south rather than the north; early in April 1941 they marched to the campaigns in Yugoslavia and Greece. The Germans were delayed two months too long in their race against the Russian snows, as the sequel proved in November when German tanks froze in their tracks -- Moscow was saved by the Red Army in alliance with King Winter. When the two giants of Europe were joined in struggle the pressure on Sweden was lifted and the country again had a breathing space.
During the twelve months of this second period Swedish foreign policy could only mark time, waiting for new German demands, postponing decisions and giving away as little as possible. Parliament was virtually unanimous in support of the government policy, but discussions in the press were often very bitter. The Finnish problem was always present. German propaganda persistently played on historic Swedish sympathy for Finland and fear of Russia. The trend in Finland was to hope for the recovery of the provinces lost in March 1940. Finnish-German relations, which had been cold in the spring of 1940, were suspiciously cordial a year later. The Swedish Government did seek to widen the base of its neutrality by establishing permanent collaboration with Finland, and went so far as to suggest a formal union. That effort failed, probably because of opposition from both Germany and Russia. Finland drifted rapidly into the German orbit. Though a German-Finnish military alliance was out of line with Sweden's vital interests, the Swedish Government made no serious attempt to prevent it. Sweden's tender attitude toward Finland often baffles foreign observers in Stockholm, and in this case it is indeed difficult to understand.
VI. SWEDISH NEUTRALITY, JUNE 1941--FEBRUARY 1943: THE BALANCE OF POWER RESTORED
The movement of the war to the east ipso facto restored a semblance of the Balance of Power and permitted a more active Swedish policy. In Stockholm opinions were divided as to the outcome of the gigantic struggle in Russia. To some it seemed obvious that a German victory in the east would again destroy the equilibrium and reduce Sweden to a status like that of Vichy.
The Swedish Government did not seem to endorse these conclusions, though in dealing with German demands it moved with characteristic slowness. When Germany launched her attack on Russia she asked Sweden for additional transit facilities. This was granted with the explicit understanding that only one German division could be shunted from Norway over Sweden to Finland. The Germans likewise requested permission to fly over Swedish territory and to lay mines in certain areas of the Baltic. These demands were supported by Finland. Many Swedes, especially in conservative and military circles, were led by their sympathies and concern for the fate of Finland to swing over to the German side. It is a matter of history that during the hurried summer weeks of 1941 Sweden accepted the most important Finnish-German demands. She had reason to regret it in the years that followed.
It is interesting to note that the free press of Sweden rendered extremely valuable service to the Allied cause during the confused months when the German armies were slashing through Ukraina to the Don. Had Sweden, like Finland, adopted a censorship which would have befuddled alike the minds of the people and the judgment of the censoring government itself, the difficulty of disentangling and reëstablishing the permanent interests of Swedish policy would have become too great. As it was, the emotional pressure of the first few weeks was offset by the free exchange of ideas and opinions in press and parliament; and thanks to the public discussion of its policy the Swedish Government was able to grope its way back to true neutrality. German demands for further transit facilities were rejected. Those who advocated the suppression of the Communist Party were frowned upon. Already before the Battle of Moscow Sweden was carrying on economic negotiations with Russia, planning her future relations with a country which German and Finnish propagandists painted as "the eternal enemy of Swedish independence."
In February 1942 the Swedish Army was again fully mobilized. To the foreigner in Stockholm the recurrent rumors of impending attack seemed exaggerated. It must be remembered, however, that the Swedish Government was beginning to reassert the principles of strict neutrality. As German difficulties in Russia increased Berlin's irritation at this increased. The main factor in Sweden's renewal of confidence was her armament program, under way since 1939. As a matter of fact, in the view of Allied military experts Sweden could not have resisted German troops in 1940 very much more effectively than did Norway. But by 1942 the training program had begun to yield gratifying results, and stocks of arms had vastly increased in spite of the fact that trade relations with the west had been severed. Even so, it is to be doubted whether Sweden could have waged a successful defensive war until the autumn of 1943, by which time Germany had been fatally weakened by her reverses in Russia. By then Sweden was ready.
The factor of foreign trade should also be taken into account because it is relatively of great importance in Sweden. The country's export industries -- timber, pulp, paper, special steel, engineering products -- are the backbone of her economic life. At the beginning of the war the Swedish Government negotiated in both London and Berlin to find "a basis for Swedish foreign trade within the framework of neutrality." War Trade Agreements were concluded in December 1939 with Britain as well as with Germany. The German invasion of Denmark and Norway, however, closed down the western trade, which before the war had taken 70 percent of total Swedish exports. The dilemma was made more serious by the threat of mass unemployment in the export industries. Also, Sweden badly needed coal, coke, fertilizers, non-ferrous metals, etc. At that moment Germany offered to supply Sweden's needs from the greatly enlarged areas of German control on the Continent, and at the same time to absorb Sweden's exports -- on the single condition that her trade with the western Powers, already reduced to a trickle, be definitely ruptured. The Swedish Government dragged out negotiations through 1940, and then finally gave a flat no to the proposal of exclusive trade with the German "Raum." In September 1940 substantial Swedish credits were provided for the promotion of exports to the Soviet Union. And a trade relationship was maintained with the western Powers, first through Petsamo, later via Gothenburg. The fact remains that trade with Germany was increased in 1941 and 1942, for the purpose of obtaining necessary coal, coke and fertilizers; and unemployment was avoided partly by the export of timber and pulp to the Continent, and partly by diverting labor power into rearmament.
VII. SWEDISH NEUTRALITY REESTABLISHED, 1943
As the war dragged on, and especially after America's entry into it, the Allies increased their pressure on Sweden to diminish exports to the Axis. After Stalingrad (February 1943) they insisted that Sweden's position had become strong enough to curtail such deliveries drastically. The Swedes invariably replied that their exports were necessary as payment for imports, such as coal, which were essential to their economic life, and incidentally to their rearmament. Matters came to a head in the spring of 1943 when a Swedish delegation came to London for discussions with British and American representatives. A general understanding resulted. The Transit Agreement of 1940 with Germany was denounced. Swedish exports to Germany were steadily diminished.
This swing back to strict neutrality naturally affected Germany's ally, Finland. Swedish deliveries to Finland were also cut down. And Swedish public opinion began openly to criticize Finnish policy. Already in the autumn of 1943 the Swedish Government had attempted to bring about peace discussions between Finland and Russia. A basis for an understanding was created in early 1944; but President Ryti made a brusque volte face and reaffirmed the entente with Hitler. Finally, in July 1944, contacts between Finland and Russia were reëstablished by the Swedish Foreign Office, and the long-delayed peace was concluded.
The trade policy which Sweden initiated in the summer of 1943 was accentuated in the following months. In August 1944 all Swedish ports on the Baltic were closed to seaborne trade with Germany. Swedish exports to Germany were reduced to almost nothing.
It remains to add that on November 9, 1944, Germany proclaimed that the Baltic and the Gulf of Bothnia were an operational area, and that vessels found there would be sunk without warning. This policy obviously was directed against Finnish coastal traffic and possible Russo-Swedish trade in Finnish vessels, as well as against the delivery from Sweden to Finland of sorely needed vital supplies. The Battle of the Baltic still impends. The focus of European politics may again shift to the north before the final chapter of the war.
From Sweden's experiences as a neutral in this war it is possible to draw several lessons of a general nature.
(1) The neutrality of a small state is dependent on the existence of a Balance of Power. Between September 1939 and June 1941 the military balance was upset by the "collaboration" between the two greatest continental Powers. In that period Poland and the four small states of the eastern Baltic and the four small states bordering on the North Sea were all mowed down by the two "collaborating" Great Powers of the Continent. Sweden had three moments of imminent danger -- when the Allies sought transit for an expeditionary force to aid Finland, early in March 1940; just before the Allies evacuated Narvik, early in June 1940; and when the Germans were preparing for their campaign in Russia, late in the spring of 1941.
Sweden's escape in the early period may be attributed to the internal politics of the upset Balance (e.g. Russia's intercession) and to the skill of the Swedish Government in manœuvring between German demands and an emotionally aroused Swedish public. After the fall of France, it was natural that Sweden, relatively unarmed and isolated and facing Germany alone in the north, should make concessions to her under duress. Even after June 1941, Sweden, an encircled and prosperous democracy, still lay like a ripe apple between the jaws of German armies in Norway and Finland, and such concessions perforce were continued. Not until the summer of 1943 (after Stalingrad) was Sweden in a position to reassert the principles of strict neutrality. Not until the autumn of 1943 was her rearmament sufficiently advanced to permit her to consider waging a defensive war with any hope of success. Overt defiance of Germany before that time would probably have meant the occupation of Sweden by German armies; and this could not have been other than a loss to the Allied cause, whatever the cost to Germany.
Credit must also be given to the Riksdag, the free press and the people of Sweden for preserving the moral climate of neutrality and for providing ready shelter and food for refugees from Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Baltic States, Poland and other oppressed countries. For holding up a constant mirror to Nazi monstrosities in bleeding Norway, the Swedish free press deserves high praise from all men. Sweden has been, in fact, a most important lung for stifled Europe.
(2) Our present knowledge of the behavior of states would indicate that existence of small states is essential to the nation-states system. It is doubtful if the Balance of Power (which was operative even within the short-lived system of collective security) could function without the fluidity provided by independent small states. Small states should bear their proportionate share in the costs of the military establishment of any general or regional system of interdependence and security. But if the Great Powers prove unable to collaborate on a basis of justice, then neutrality should remain as an emergency exit for the small states.
The argument is frequently advanced that the compulsions of air war, and the development of new long-range weapons such as rockets will dictate the formation of larger political units. That can mean only multinational states, of the Russian type. It should be pointed out, however, that what is feasible and even desirable for the backward peoples of Russian Asia (or even those of eastern Europe) is not ipso facto applicable to western Europe, where the small nations are often more politically and culturally advanced than their large neighbors, and enjoy more sound economic foundations. Moreover, many of these same small states are citadels of social welfare democracy, and offer many valuable lessons for the solution of the economic and social problems of the era. In this war they are the psychological breakwater of the western democracies against the tides of authoritarianism.
It is often said that if the small states had not reverted to neutrality after the collapse of collective security they would have been in a better position to defend themselves. But Czechoslovakia did not seek neutrality, and was dismembered, then occupied. Even if a Scandinavian bloc had been formed and armed it probably would have had no other important result than the occupation of Sweden as well as the other four Oslo States.
The failure of collective security was the failure of will of the Great Powers. Only the Great Powers can make the moves which preserve peace or lead to war. In asserting the truism that only collaboration between the Great Powers can insure a security system some observers advocate the clustering of small states around the big zones of power. Such exclusive dependence on any one Great Power would reduce the small state to the status of a protectorate unable to make its own characteristic contribution to civilization. Also, such security would be only relative. If, for instance, the states of western Europe join a Western Pact, and those of eastern Europe a Russian security system, that would leave Sweden out in the cold between west and east, with no recourse but the lonely path of neutrality.
The trend indicated by the Dumbarton Oaks proposals, however, is not toward exclusive security blocs but toward the dominance of the Great Powers in a Security Council. In view of the many partitions which throughout history have resulted from the collaboration between Great Powers, small states might well fear new disasters if the Great Powers are not restrained by respect for international justice and the rights of the small states to exist and to share in the maintenance of international authority. If the small states of western Europe did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them to keep the international conscience.
In sum, it is difficult for an historian, viewing the long record of the behavior of states, to find sufficient support for the thesis that small states are doomed, and along with them neutrality and the Balance of Power. One might raise the question of how to define a small state. There is, of course, a constantly shifting incident of power. A century and a half ago France was the greatest effective Power. Great Britain is a Great Power today with 45 million people, plus another 25 million whites in the Empire. It is quite possible that within 50 years the Soviet Union will have a population of more than 300 million. It is also possible that the United States will one day be a smaller Power than the Soviet Union or than industrialized and modernized China. Relativity is as important in the long-range policies of nations as it is in current politics.
Finally, the problem of creating and maintaining a security system must be solved by all nations, great and small. The small states can lend additional strength to the collaboration of the Great Powers. The exclusion of the small states, or their absorption into vague regions, with the consequent loss of control of their foreign affairs and defense, could mean only the disintegration of the security system and a threat to the nation-states system itself. The sole refuge for small states would again be precarious neutrality. That seems to be the ultimate lesson of the strange case of Sweden's neutrality in the war.