What Ukraine Needs to Liberate Crimea
A Credible Military Threat Might Be Enough
THE resignation of Anthony Eden from the British Foreign Office on February 20, 1938, revealed for the first time to the bulk of the British public a sharp and growing cleavage in political thought between the younger and the older generations. The issue on which the resignation was given and accepted seemed obscure and even insufficient to many, among them some of Eden's own best friends and colleagues in the Cabinet. But the question, as Eden saw it, was something greater than whether or not the British Government should enter into negotiations with the Italian Government on the latter's own terms. There was involved a dual question of principle, part somewhat personal, part essentially national. That proportion of the difference which was personal need never have arisen but for the fundamental clash on that which seemed essential from the national point of view.
To judge whether this is a true estimate, we must recall something of the past. Fifteen years of animated politics had drawn Anthony Eden and Neville Chamberlain constantly into closer relations until shortly after the older man was called upon to take over control and direction of British affairs. We must examine the causes, then, so far as they are known, which produced a progressive estrangement and a mutual irritation in which each felt so keen a sense of frustration that to continue longer together had become personally impossible and nationally undesirable. Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain in his sixty-ninth year and now rising 70, was already nearly 50 when he first entered the political arena. Behind him lay a solid and excellent record of municipal administration. For the next 18 years of his life he was destined from Whitehall to concern himself with such questions as public health and housing, the City and finance. Hard-working, efficient, with a strong mind of his own and, as it developed in later years, a certain admiration for the efficiency of the dictators, Neville Chamberlain came to the highest office imbued with the idea that he would make his mark as the pacificator of Europe. Without any special detailed knowledge of foreign affairs, and with a marked mistrust of those who had, he believed, none the less, that he could see clearly the path along which salvation might be found.
When Neville Chamberlain, aged 49, fought his first successful Parliamentary election, Anthony Eden, aged 21, returning from the war, a Brigade-Major with the Military Cross, was hastening back to Oxford, there to resume his study of oriental languages and, in spare time, to indulge his love of the arts. His education completed -- including the somewhat exotic ability to talk Persian -- Eden, now 24, made his first and unsuccessful bid to enter Parliament as the representative of a Durham mining constituency. The next year he married the daughter of a well-known Yorkshire family and the same autumn, was elected M.P. for Warwick and Leamington, a pleasant country constituency.
Anthony Eden, aged 26, foreign affairs minded, and Neville Chamberlain, aged 55, grappling with the domestic housing shortage, unification of local tax systems and other kindred problems, had little in common. It was to Neville's half-brother, Austen, that Eden turned as the elder statesman best able to help him in his ambition to specialize on foreign policy. By 1926 he had succeeded in persuading Sir Austen, then Foreign Secretary, to appoint him as Parliamentary Private Secretary, a post carrying no pay but offering unrivalled opportunities for studying the work of the Foreign Office from within and for knowing, at first hand, everything going on in the world.
Perhaps it was undiscerning of some of us who were engaged in political journalism in those days that we did not spot the young Eden as a coming force in British public affairs. Indeed, some among us may have done so. But the requisite force of character and drive were not obvious. Personally, I recall this budding Foreign Secretary as a somewhat frail fellow, with a marked stoop and the tired eyes of a student, rather than the arresting gaze of a leader. Memory may be at fault or observation may have been superficial. At any rate, ten years later he had gained physical stature in direct ratio to his increased authority and almost headstrong determination to carry through the policies with which he was identified.
Looking back over the events of the past ten years one can hardly fail to be struck by the extent to which Anthony Eden typified the outlook of those near to his own age or a little younger. In him one finds a mirror of the changes which succeeded one another in the minds of so many of his countrymen. There was the immediate postwar idealism blended with the hatred of war and all its beastliness which animated the men who came back to rebuild a country on the ruins of one they had scarcely known. There was the sincere belief that the world had learned its cruel lesson, that a new order could now succeed the old, with armed conflict replaced by peaceful negotiation. The newly-created League of Nations appeared as an instrument admirably suited to serve these ends; and if it lacked much through failure to win, or to provide for, universal membership, improvements in this direction might well be achieved. Already in the autumn of 1926 Germany had been brought into the League, following the conclusion of the Locarno Treaties, which as it proved were destined to remain the foundation and guarantee of West European peace for only ten short years.
Thus when Anthony Eden became Austen Chamberlain's Parliamentary aide-de-camp, hopes in Britain, steadily rising, had induced in the bulk of the public a sense of well-being and comfortable complacency. To decry the wisdom of unilateral disarmament; to question whether all other states would follow the British lead; to doubt the good sense of spending lavishly the money so saved on creating luxurious social services -- these were heresies and indecencies attributable only to a war-warped mind. The politicians directing affairs in these early days of Eden's parliamentary career were no less actively engaged in maintaining the illusions of the people. The country had settled down to a long spell of Conservative administration after a brief and undistinguished interlude of Socialist minority government, supported by the Liberal remnant. To Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, Lord Balfour, Lord Salisbury and others of the prewar generation, it seemed clear that the first national interest was to ensure that, at the next general election, the Conservatives should again be returned to the control and direction of affairs. This might not be so easy. Socialists and Liberals combined in 1923 had heavily outpolled the Conservatives, and even in the last election the former could point to a majority of the voters in the constituencies. The Socialist strength alone stood at 75 percent of the Conservative. In such circumstances prudence appeared to dictate, pressing on with the general policy of outbidding the Socialists in their own special fields. At home this involved always greater bribes to the electorate -- bribes for which it would be difficult to find the money unless there were drastic savings on defense. Abroad it involved professions of passionate faith in the League and all its works, as the symbol of international coöperation so dear to the heart of the Socialist postwar movement. So it came that British policy was "unswervingly attached to support of the League and to the deathless cause of disarmament."
Just how far the elder statesmen knew that there was an element of dishonesty in their policy, it is now perhaps profitless to speculate. If they knew it, then they could quickly banish misgivings from their minds by recalling the greatness of the ideals at which they appeared to aim. But what is important to note at this stage is the fact that among the younger generation the misgivings which may have assailed the older men were almost entirely absent. Instead, the generation of which Anthony Eden appears typical was very largely, if not universally, convinced that the ideal goal was attainable. In the efforts to improve the lot of the masses at home they were no more conscious of cynical political motives than they were doubtful of every League member's willingness to spring to the defense of another member, the victim of aggression. As the years rolled on they noted that peace in Europe was preserved and did not doubt that the reason lay in the great authority of the Geneva institution. Instead of thanking France for maintaining a military superiority which defied challenge for the first fifteen postwar years, they reviled her as the main obstacle to full attainment of the Geneva ideal. Their criticisms, delivered with a degree of violence almost surprising, testified to the genuine character of their convictions in pursuit of idealism.
Under the tutelage of Austen Chamberlain, Anthony Eden grew wiser than some of his generation about the services which France was rendering to Britain. While he cherished no special hatred against Germany -- for it was not in the British soldier's character to keep up a feud against a defeated enemy -- he recognized that Anglo-French friendship was an essential for Britain. He saw that the day was approaching when Germany inevitably would regain much of her former strength. Working in the Foreign Office, he was aware of the reports showing that Germany had never, in fact, surrendered all her arms. As a student of history he was probably quite alive to the likelihood that the German nation would rise again and would then react against the new international organization for the preservation of peace. But the British people were still unaware of that danger. Instead they were encouraged to know that the Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war as an instrument of national policy had been signed by 65 nations. Austen Chamberlain was still Foreign Secretary when Britain took the initiative in seeking to incorporate the principal aim of that pact in the League Covenant.
In the years that followed, Eden became increasingly well-known at Geneva to the statesmen of other countries. In the sequel to the financial difficulties which overtook Britain in the autumn of 1931, Anthony Eden, aged 34, obtained his first government post -- Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He thus was No. 2 to Sir John Simon. The Disarmament Conference opened in the following February, full of hope, in disregard of the obvious obstacles recognized by the Preparatory Commission which had been sitting for five years to achieve what Lord Cecil described as "a large measure of agreement as to what shall be limited and how it shall be limited."
It would be tedious to recall here how Anthony Eden, frequently left in charge of the British delegation at Geneva, became progressively more closely identified with the League of Nations policy and the natural idol of that mass of British public opinion which was firmly convinced that world disarmament could and would be achieved. But it may perhaps be pertinent to remember that the final withdrawal of Germany from the Disarmament Conference and from the League in October 1933 was the first of a chain of events which was gradually to convince the British people that the time was approaching when the League's ultimate function -- to combine against an aggressor -- might have to be put to the test.
From this stage forward the rôle and personality of Anthony Eden become more important. In 1934 it was decided that the situation called for a direct approach to Herr Hitler and to other Heads of Governments with a view to a new endeavor to open disarmament negotiations. Eden was regarded as the best man for the job, in the light of his long experience in the questions involved and his easy manner of approach. To invest him with the necessary authority he was appointed Lord Privy Seal, a sinecure office, with the instruction that he was to concern himself primarily with League affairs. In the winter of that year he was the leading figure in the negotiations and plebiscite for the return of the Saar to Germany.
Two significant points might here be mentioned. In the autumn of 1934 an unofficial ballot of the British people revealed an overwhelming majority of the voters in favor of "collective security." After scoffing publicly at this ballot for several months, the British Government suddenly decided that its results should be regarded as important. It was murmured that there might be a general election in the coming year; the votes commanded by the League of Nations Union could not be disregarded. Anthony Eden, hero of the League of Nations Union, became correspondingly a still more vital electoral asset to the Conservative government. Another point which today assumes some significance may be mentioned, though it is not, perhaps, widely known. When Britain decided to take the lead in dispatching an international force to preserve order in the Saar, one Cabinet Minister, and one alone, held that this was a first step towards an ultimate realization of the sole method whereby, in time to come, international peace would be preserved. That Minister was Neville Chamberlain.
In the following spring events still further conspired to force Anthony Eden to the front as the Minister most closely identified with the mind of the Foreign Office permanent staff. It happened in the following way. Germany under Hitler was bursting to establish her "equality of status" by all means in her power. Sir John Simon, Foreign Secretary, firmly convinced that he might one day succeed to the Premiership, was clearly attracted by the chances of establishing himself in the public mind as the man who had brought about an Anglo-German understanding. In his anxiety to pursue this road he found himself continuously opposed by his permanent advisers, who considered the grant of "a free hand to Germany in the east" as bound to lead later to most serious consequences for Britain. Word was taken to Mr. Baldwin, Conservative Premier of the National Government, that his Liberal Foreign Secretary was seeking to advance a foreign policy fraught with danger. What was more natural than that Anthony Eden, brought up in the Foreign Office school, and champion of the "collective system" which Simon would have sabotaged, should be still further pressed forward into the limelight as the Foreign Affairs Minister to whom other countries should pay closest attention?
The position was a curious one. In the spring of 1935, following a two-day conference in London of British and French Ministers, Britain was making a further approach to Germany for "a general European settlement." While provision was made for negotiation of "a western air pact," it was stressed that the security of states in eastern Europe must also form an integral part of the final instrument. In pursuit of these aims Sir John Simon was to visit Berlin. Immediately the governments in Moscow, Warsaw and Prague pointed out, through various channels, that so exclusive a trip to the Continent would create a most unfavorable impression. In the midst of this discussion Britain justified a first rearmament program on the grounds of Nazi Germany's growing military strength. Hitler countered with a diplomatic indisposition which involved cancellation of the British ministerial visit, and followed this up with a blunt denunciation of the Versailles Treaty military clauses. In a single bound he announced that Germany would have an army of 36 divisions, then renewed his invitation to the British Government for a visit to Berlin. Sir John Simon accepted and was accompanied by Mr. Eden. The latter went on to visit Moscow, Warsaw and Prague, as Sir John Simon could not be away from London for so long. To statesmen in the three eastern capitals it was whispered that they were the more honored, for their visitor was the coming Foreign Secretary -- the man who embodied the real foreign policy of Britain.
From then on Anthony Eden had a busy time -- so busy that on his way back from Prague to London, there to make weekend preparation of the dossier for the impending Stresa Three-Power Conference of Britain, France and Italy, he overstrained his heart and was out of action for a month or so. One might speculate on the effects of that accident on the future course of European affairs. It requires no special stretch of the imagination to deduce that, had Eden remained in action, and consequently accompanied the Foreign Secretary to Stresa, there might have been no Italian attack on Abyssinia, no rupture of the Stresa Front, and no Rome-Berlin axis. For it is questionable whether Eden would have acquiesced in the British delegation's decision not to raise the Abyssinian issue for fear of disturbing the happy atmosphere of the Stresa Conference. But at this distance of time it is perhaps more illuminating to recall that Mr. Neville Chamberlain, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, intervened actively from London (while at Stresa the Prime Minister, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, and the Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, were discussing with Signor Mussolini and M. Pierre Laval the means of countering Germany) to explain that Britain could not and would not extend her known European commitments.
By this time a new outlook on world affairs was beginning to grip the British public. It was dawning on them that Nazi Germany might well become a serious menace to the new peace structure at Geneva, even though the League enthusiasts did not doubt that the collective security machine would prove fully able to cope with any situation which might develop. Ramsay Mac-Donald laid down the Premiership in favor of Stanley Baldwin; Sir Samuel Hoare succeeded Sir John Simon as Foreign Secretary. Anthony Eden, promoted to Cabinet rank, became "Minister for League of Nations Affairs." Known to all Europe as the personification of Young England, his was to be the honor of leading the brave new world into battle, if need be, to defend the sanctity of treaties and to prove that aggression does not pay.
Almost immediately there followed the Eden mission to Rome, designed to promote a compromise between Mussolini and Haile Selassie which would avert the invasion clearly threatening.
So far Eden had been wonderfully successful in achieving international settlements where the prospects appeared dark and forbidding. Tenacity of purpose, great patience in negotiation and firmness of attitude were the outstanding features of the more mature character which had developed at 38. Moreover, at the time of his negotiations in Geneva the authority of Britain still stood high among the European states. To her League representative there was accorded an appropriate deference and a large proportion of flattery by representatives of other states anxious to enlist her support for their special causes. Nor was it all deference and flattery. Anxious to secure their own safety, the smaller states (and some of the greater, too) had one main object in those days: namely, to stabilize the European situation by obtaining more precise commitments from Britain. Listening to their arguments, it was impossible not to be impressed that what they said was true; and Anthony Eden necessarily listened to very many of them. The British Cabinet, sitting in London, was not exposed to the same persuasive influences. Most of its members had a very rudimentary grasp of European affairs, and all were more or less animated by a profound conviction that British interests on the Continent did not extend much beyond the Low Countries. So it was to come about that Eden, born of the generation which believed in the League, personally popular among European statesmen, exposed at Geneva to the forces just mentioned, and anxious to exemplify the vigor and purposefulness of his country, found himself frequently in conflict with the Cabinet.
None the less, it was obvious that Eden had a great following in the country, was rapidly becoming something of a popular hero and, as a result, could hardly fail to arouse a sense of jealousy in the breasts of certain other ambitious politicians. This jealousy may, in part, have accounted for his hurried dispatch to Rome with an ill-conceived offer which, on the face of it, could stand little chance of acceptance by a determined realist like Mussolini. It certainly was responsible for the fact that the whole proposal, supposed to be regarded as a close secret, by the London Cabinet was published in full in a London Sunday paper while Eden was hastening south in the Rome Express. The encounter with Mussolini was a disastrous failure and left behind, in the minds of both men, a sense of antagonism, destined to grow to major proportions in the months and years to come. For Eden himself it was the first failure.
When the Italian troops marched into Abyssinia, it was the British Cabinet as a whole that took the decision to press for the application of League sanctions. Growing nervousness about Germany, apart from domestic electoral considerations, made it essential to test out the collective machine. And if it proved wanting, as many British Ministers believed that it would, better that the country and the world as a whole should know the truth then, rather than wait to know it when the ultimate major aggressor issued his challenge. Thus it was Sir Samuel Hoare who at Geneva made the British declaration which electrified the Assembly. But it was Eden who was left behind for six long weeks, urging, cajoling and insisting on the details which were to make sanctions effective. Once again he was in the limelight as the hundred percent League of Nations man. Had Italy been checked, his would have been the triumph. But in the other event, it was bound to be said that his was the policy which had failed. In either case he was certain to be stigmatized by Italy as her one implacable British enemy.
During all the difficult months that followed, Anthony Eden leaned heavily on the support and counsel of Neville Chamberlain. Stanley Baldwin, a Premier who disliked detail and decisions, and made no pretense of being a student of foreign affairs, was of little help to his budding young Foreign Secretary. It resulted that every Foreign Office problem had to be brought before the full Cabinet, and here it was essential for Eden to have the backing of a senior Minister. Neville Chamberlain, in whom the strain of British idealism was unsuspectedly strong -- and who also perhaps foresaw the future electoral value of Eden -- proved a true friend. To him Eden became accustomed to take his special problems. When, a little later, Eden succeeded to the Foreign Secretaryship on the resignation of Sir Samuel Hoare, this support from Chamberlain, then clearly marked as the coming Premier, became of even greater value.
There are those who insist that Eden should have resigned at the same time as Hoare. He had, indeed, signed the telegrams intended to facilitate passage of the ill-fated Hoare-Laval plan for ending the Abyssinian war and was, to that extent, identified with the policy of his Foreign Office chief. But it is clear that he was also wholly out of sympathy with the Hoare-Laval policy -- as an act of sabotage against the League -- and he made no attempt to conceal the fact. To the Baldwin Government, deeply committed in the British public mind to enforcement of League authority, the acceptance of the Hoare-Laval plan appeared politically impossible, just as the retention of Mr. Eden and the stout support of his policy appeared politically inevitable -- at least for the moment. This was not to say that the Cabinet was united; indeed, many divergent views were forming, as is unavoidable in a coalition government. Moreover, the simple truths about collective security -- the hard fact that countries will not risk going to war save in defense of their own vital interests -- were beginning to become clear. When a little later Mr. Eden advocated imposing an oil embargo against Italy -- a sanction which must almost certainly have evoked military retaliation -- the British Cabinet very firmly said No.
We may pass briefly over the next period in which Eden, knowing the difficulty of his position, mainly contented himself with representing a choice of courses to his colleagues, leaving to them the task of adopting one or another. It was an unsatisfactory position; but in the declining months of the Baldwin régime no other seemed possible. Further, Eden suffered from the disadvantage -- in Britain a very real one -- that he was such a very young man, in personality as in years, trying to carry along with him a group of men much older than himself. As the clouds piled up on the European horizon, those older men, unconsciously perhaps, became obsessed by the idea that the dangers must be deferred and by no means challenged. The younger men, of whom Eden was one, believed that the dangers would be averted only if Britain showed her teeth. In urging that view Eden was voicing the growing feeling of a great section of British public opinion. Alas, the teeth were not there. Thus we see him seeking to conduct a strong foreign policy, but lacking the force to back it up. He was alive to the difficulties of the situation and tried hard to hold the forward position while awaiting the slow coming of reinforcements.
Throughout those difficult days, which saw the collapse of sanctions, the outbreak of war in Spain, the Italian challenge to Britain in the Mediterranean, the Japanese challenge to western interests in the Far East, the German challenge in Europe, Neville Chamberlain continued to support his brother's young protégé. Watching how matters were drifting in the Cabinet, supplying the money from the Treasury for an increasing expenditure on armaments, he was planning the line of foreign policy he would direct when shortly he would become head of the British Government. As advocate and chief executant, Eden was to play an important part in his scheme. But the policy was to be Chamberlain's own. It would be framed in constant consultation with the Foreign Secretary and without too frequent reference to the whole Cabinet. Only on matters of major importance would the Premier take a hand in the conduct of affairs. But having seen how Britain was handicapped by the slow working machinery of democratic government when called upon to meet or counter sudden moves by the dictatorship states, Chamberlain was determined to concentrate greater powers of action in his own hands.
With such an object in mind, he thought it would be a convenience to have a young, able and popular Minister at the Foreign Office, one already tied to him by bonds of personal respect and affection. Probably the same thought inspired the appointments of two other young men to the War Office and the Admiralty -- Hore-Belisha and Duff Cooper. Another old friend, Cunliffe-Lister, now Lord Swinton, was at the Air Ministry. With Simon at the Treasury, the Prime Minister would be able to retain his control over all important questions of finance.
For a time it appeared that the conduct of foreign policy under the Chamberlain régime would work satisfactorily. Eden was well pleased with the arrangement. Eden took his problems straight to the Premier, got swift decisions and issued his instructions accordingly. But the Premier's urge to take new initiatives abroad began to assert itself comparatively early. And the object of his advances was Italy, where Eden had no rival in the popular and official mind as Public Enemy No. 1. In the August holiday of 1937, Mr. Chamberlain wrote his first personal letter, in most friendly terms, to Signor Mussolini. The rest of the story is too fresh in mind to call for close study. Little by little we see the growing impatience of Chamberlain to get away from old inhibitions and to discover whether, by frank and friendly approach, it might not be possible to remove old enmities and to establish new confidences. To him it appeared, and still appears, that failure to follow this course could have but one alternative -- war, sooner or later.
In pursuit of his idea Mr. Chamberlain did not care how many snubs he might receive. He considered it was his duty to accept such reverses blandly and to renew the effort at the earliest opportunity. Eden, brought up in the Foreign Office tradition, could not concede that such methods were calculated to achieve the desired results. He considered that to run after the dictators was the best way to convince them that Britain was frightened and unlikely to offer any effective opposition to the realization of their aims. Further, his constant contacts with foreign statesmen led him to believe that Britain's dwindling circle of friends and admirers would become still smaller through a similar process of reasoning. Confident that he was right, and supported by his permanent advisers, he endeavored to hold to his line. The Premier, no less confident of his own rightness and certainly no less obstinate, pressed on independently. Soon it became apparent that British foreign policy had a dual direction, one flow coming from the Foreign Office, the other from No. 10 Downing Street. A clash was inevitable.
The final parting might have come on any one of many issues. Had it not reached a head on the acceptance of Mussolini's peremptory demand that Britain should come to Rome and talk peace "now or never," it would have done so on some other matter. It might have been on the dispatch of Lord Halifax to Berlin, or on some question of making a demonstration of naval strength at a point where British interests were being menaced. The fundamental clash was as to which of two men should conduct the nation's foreign policy, Premier or Foreign Secretary. In such circumstances the junior is left no choice if his convictions are strong. Eden took his decision calmly. His friends in the Cabinet regretted his going, but conceded that a parting of the ways was unavoidable. They concluded that Mr. Baldwin had done him a great disservice by promoting him to the Foreign Secretaryship too early in his political career.
Among the older Ministers there was no little dismay. They felt that they had lost an important electoral asset. As a freelance on the back benches and in the constituencies, Anthony Eden might, if he chose, become a positive danger. They tried to persuade him to return to the fold -- once the little Italian matter was out of the way. Although Mr. Chamberlain has had his success in Rome, these appeals have not ceased. Mr. Eden has remained uninterested. He is enjoying his freedom and apparently plans to take an active part in rallying the youth of Britain to face whatever struggle may lie ahead. As these lines are written, it is too early to say whether his future plans will lead him into actual collaboration with other accepted political leaders of public thought, such as Winston Churchill. Probably he is destined to remain out of office for some time to come. He is not likely to accept any new appointment in a Chamberlain government. But it is inevitable that he will "come again," if only because he is the natural representative of a generation into whose hands control of public affairs must necessarily pass with the normal march of time. Besides, he enjoys the personal backing of Lord Baldwin, still in his retirement a powerful figure in British Conservative circles. Lord Baldwin has rewritten his former political testament, which named Sir Samuel Hoare as next Conservative leader after Neville Chamberlain. The name of Hoare has been erased and that of Anthony Eden has been substituted.