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With Power to Preserve the Peace

ISSUE:  Spring 1944

When the Great Powers met in the autumn of 1943, they are reported to have conferred over broad objectives rather than exact detail. Nevertheless, enough has been made known of their deliberations to furnish a fairly coherent pattern of the postwar order. By some who have praised those transactions, and by observers such as Mr. Wendell Willkie, this is not quite appreciated. If they had examined the work of Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran as a whole and not in part, they might have dissented from a philosophy of international relations which until now has been under attack but which the world’s foremost statesmen have had the wisdom to espouse.

For the wartime unity achieved and the peacetime unity promised, there has been natural acclaim. What did cause alarm was the fear that the Great Powers might still pursue their labours em> trois or em> quatre rather than by wider meetings. The means employed is, however, inseparable from the things accomplished. Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter, and the United Nations, by the very act which brought them together, subsequently endorsed it. First dual and then universal, this method of framing objectives was too narrow at the outset and afterwards too broad to be effectual. It had to be corrected and it was when, with the entry of Russia into partnership with Britain and the United States, a Concert of victor Great Powers came into being. Collaborating as a single unit, the United Nations might lay down general principles. It is too unwieldy in size and its constituents too diverse in strength to do much else. Britain and the United States might, on the other hand, define the aims they cherish for Europe; they would, without the concurrence of Russia, be beating in the air. And it is this that gives the declarations of Moscow and Teheran the breath of life. For here are principles which are neither too general in conception— though general principles are imperative—nor too limited in sponsorship. The power combine which is chiefly winning the war has resolved to have the main voice in the enforcement of the peace.

Does that signify they are going to dictate the world settlement? This they were afterwards at pains to deny. A statement by the Moscow Conference on that score (November 1, 1943) provoked apprehensions which a further statement at Teheran (December 1, 1943) may have been designed to quiet. But the first of these pronouncements did not cancel out the second; it explained more fully the intentions of Britain, the United States, and Russia, but it did not alter their plan of procedure. For what they said at Moscow was that “pending the establishment of law and order and the inauguration of a system of general security, they will consult with one another and as occasion requires with other members of the United Nations with a view to joint action on behalf of the community of nations.” The period of transition may be a long one. During it the great triumvirate, save as pressure is exerted on them by others, will themselves be judges of the “occasions” which call for more extended consultations. As trustees of the peace, Britain, the United States, and Russia will, in ;short, not hold everything up until all heads are counted and the vote of every minor State has been registered. In no other manner can delays be overcome and chaos averted. The responsibility of leadership resting on the victor Great Powers, they propose to exercise it and to exercise it together.

When this prospect evoked protests, the three statesmen of Teheran withdrew nothing but approached the question on another plane. Where Mr. Eden, Mr. Molotov, and Mr. Hull had been more concerned at Moscow with the short run, Mr. Churchill, Mr. Stalin, and Mr. Roosevelt stressed the long run. For what Teheran did in this respect was not to discard the Moscow technique, but to suggest the circumstances which would render even enemy countries eligible later on for more extended consultations. The peace envisaged is, they declared, one which will command goodwill from the “overwhelming” masses of the peoples of the world; and the fact that it may not appeal to all but only to an “overwhelming” number deserves attention. For it is beyond the wit of man to devise a settlement which everyone will gladly accept. Germany, for instance, waged an insidious campaign after 1919 to revise the Versailles Treaty and the sympathy she aroused in the Western world caused us to lower our own defences. Her underlying grievance was, nevertheless, not against particular injustices but at rock-bottom against the loss of the war itself. To reverse the verdict of 1914-18 was her goal—one she almost reached in 1940. And that is why concessions to her always were so fruitless; only by letting ourselves be vanquished and herself victorious could Germany be made content. History, which has been repeating itself through two German wars with the utmost violence, may tend also to repeat itself after the next settlement is imposed. To watch against that, to have peace prevail against the warlike minority among nations, the peace-loving majority are banding themselves together. But if there is proof of good faith from Germans, Japanese, or other aggressors, should they ever undergo a thorough transformation, they, too, can and ought to join. At Teheran the three Great Powers did not abate the purpose they had disclosed at Moscow to lead the new system of peace; they merely clarified its extent: “We shall seek the co-operation and active participation of all nations, large and small, whose peoples in heart and mind are dedicated, as are our own peoples, to the elimination of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance. We will welcome them as they may choose to come into the world family of democratic nations.” But what if they do not all choose to come into the world family of democratic nations? Then to back the peace of those who do so choose, there will be a preponderance of power.

On this each of the United Nations might see eye to eye. But at a continuous initiative from the Great Powers they may still demur. Yet wherever any country, minor, intermediate, or major, has a special function to discharge, its role, large or small, ought to be gauged by the value of the part it can play. At Cairo, Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt decided with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek that the possessions of China will be returned to her, Korea set free, and Japan shorn of everything she has gained by conquest since the end of the nineteenth century. Prior to that the Chinese representative, while not contributing more directly to the tripartite conference at Moscow, had signed the Four-Nation Declaration on peace and security after the war. But can China provide the same weight of leadership in international affairs as the others? That is improbable. The time was ripe, however, to pledge her the reward she has richly earned, to dispel war-weariness, and to furnish an incentive for her to persevere in tying up Japanese armies on the Asiatic mainland until the West, less preoccupied with the conflict in Europe, can concentrate on the Far Eastern struggle. It will, as a matter of fact, be many years before China might hope to summon the power which would enable her to do a proportionate share with Britain, Russia, and the United States on what must virtually be the steering committee of the post-war world. As a modern State she is politically underorganized and economically undeveloped ; her finances are wildly inflated. Pacification not so much abroad as at home will be her task after many years of civil no less than foreign strife. The circle drawn at Moscow, Teheran, and Cairo is, after all, not a closed one.

Despite the pessimism of Field Marshal Smuts about the recovery of France, history and necessity alike bear witness that, sooner or later, it is her chair at the centre table which must and will be filled.

Does the past demonstrate that a concert of Great Powers is always unstable and prone to collapse? After 1919 a more collective system, without such an inner grouping, was of shorter duration than the one, much recast since 1815, which preceded it. What we now must have is a blend of constructive elements from the two; a world Concert of victor Great Powers should be to the United Nations as the spinal cord is to the human body. For when the Great Powers have stood and will stand together—as long, that is, as they have a sufficient community of interest—any system of peace can succeed; when they each go their own way, or abstain, it must fail. Major wars occur when major countries are embroiled; they can be prevented only when Great Powers are prepared in unison to restrain them. The fact that during the nineteen thirties the lesser Powers did not stop aggressors showed that they could not. For at Geneva, whether in crises of the peace or on other issues before the League of Nations, it was frequently the minor and middle Powers who expressed the conscience of mankind. That right without might may be impotent is what those tragic, those wasted years have taught. And it would be the bitterest of all paradoxes if, just at the moment when the Great Powers realized this brutal truth, the other nations were to forget it. Prospering by our divisions, Germany again took up arms, not because her adversaries among the Great Powers did too much, but because, either by being at variance with each other or by holding themselves aloof, they did too little.

Peace by power is, then, no monopoly of power for its own sake. What it does demand is a preponderance or favourable balance of power efficiently regulated and managed to reinforce the wider system of peace. Collective security after Versailles was neither collective nor secure. There is now a chance, with a new Concert of the victor Great Powers at the head of the United Nations, that it will be both. At the Moscow Conference it was recognized that there would have to be established “a general international organization based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving States, and open to membership by all such States, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security.” Since Britain from the outset, and Russia toward the last, belonged to the League of Nations, their policy in this regard is less novel than that of the United States. As recently as August, 1941, when he signed the Atlantic Charter, Mr. Roosevelt could not be as definite—so palpable is the change in American opinion during the two years that the United States has been at war. And this is exemplified by the resolution which the American Senate passed (November 15,1943) as soon as the Moscow Conference had adjourned. For their resolution not only incorporated some of the identical phrases of the Moscow Declaration; it went further and deeper when it called for an international authority “with power to prevent aggression and to preserve the peace of the world.” An authority of that kind and with that sort of power would be one with teeth in it. The Senate’s language strikes at the root of our troubles. But will it display the same insight when, as in 1919-20, it has before it once more the final documents of a peace settlement or settlements to ratify or reject? For the showdown will come when the victor Powers can be accused of underwriting treaties of which irate pressure groups may disapprove or against which interested parties, foreign and domestic, might either stir up fresh storms of American isolationism or at least compel some curtailment of participation by the United States in the affairs of Europe. Until boundaries are demarcated, economic arrangements framed, the international authority in motion, the danger zone, so far as the Senate and American opinion are concerned, has still to be crossed. It is for this reason, if for no other, that terms such as the grand alliance, or nuclear alliance, to describe the accord reached in Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran, should be avoided. A world Concert of the victor Great Powers does, fortunately, now exist; only between two of them, Britain and Russia, are there legal commitments. A Grand Alliance in which reciprocal guarantees are adopted might be what fundamentally the new international authority will constitute. It has yet to be set up. Meanwhile a Grand Alliance, limited to Europe, may be taking shape. With the twenty-year Anglo-Russian Alliance of 1942 to maintain against Germany a preponderating balance of power might be linked the similar Russo-Czech Alliance of 1943. Consisting of mutual defensive obligations and having a precise strategic object, this can be the core of a European Grand Alliance to which France and most liberated nations may be expected to adhere. Should the United States and other non-European countries accept military guarantees of Europe’s peace, a strictly European coalition will be less urgent. When concluded, it was perceived that the Anglo-Russian treaty might merge into a larger system of security to preserve the fruits of victory. But if American commitments in Europe are partial, semi-detached, or principally economic, Europe’s own Grand Alliance will be the foundation of power on which in the first resort her peace and safety must repose.

This is not to underestimate the mission of the looser Concert of victor Great Powers. Through it the United States can join her other partners in hammering out the treatment of European and Asiatic problems—even if her political obligations in Europe are to be less than theirs. As the two German wars indicate, she needs their European predominance as much as they need her support. It is possible that the international authority will come forth with adequate power and with complete American participation. But unless it does, there may have to be room within it for a protective coalition purely European in scope. Uncertainty about the United States is one matter which put the survey delivered in November, 1943, by Field Marshal Smuts to the United Kingdom branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association somewhat out of focus. Visualizing Britain in a trinity of Great Powers as weakened on the European continent, and less capable therefore of coping with her two partners as an equal, he wanted to supply the deficiency—a theme Lord Halifax echoed in his Toronto address of January 24, 1944. For more than a century—and as this war again revealed—a free world order has relied on the strength of Britain in Europe. But if that strength, fed by naval and imperial primacy, refreshed by world-wide resources in commerce and finance, has been impaired, vigour cannot be added by a closer union (as Smuts proposed) with the smaller democracies of Western Europe. They have gone too far in the stream of history. Even if the other Great Powers did not, the Dutch were bound to object. As for the Belgians, many of them would gravitate more suitably towards France, and that might be encouraged. It is, at any rate, vital to Britain that France revive—a process of advantage also to the Soviet. For within her own sphere Russia may be bent on supremacy; the Smuts portrait of her as a new colossus bestriding unopposed the entire European continent is a trifle excessive. At least, the Soviet itself seems by its treaties with Britain and Czechoslovakia to be less convinced than Field Marshal Smuts that Germany can be sponged off the European slate for long, long years. The business of Britain and her friends in Western Europe is not to erect a counterpoise against Russia—a theory which might flow without malice aforethought from the facile and damaging misconception of the balance of power so much in vogue. It is the business of Britain and her friends in Western Europe—if we are to have the right application of this inescapable policy—to amass with Russia a surplus of strength against the recurrent menace of German power. Until the Russian Revolution, we may be reminded, it was perfectly normal for Russia to be a leader in the affairs of Europe; it is the factor of a unified, greater Germany which is more recent and which has invariably been disruptive. And that Russia, whenever the united Germans have burst out, has at one stage or another shifted to our side points impressively to where and with whom her ultimate interests lie.

The fact is that whatever Russia has been at home under Tsar or Soviet, and whatever she has done or will do in adjacent lands, her power is not at odds with that of a free society elsewhere. Geography conspired with history when it placed a greater Germany at the centre of Europe and a relatively self-contained Russian empire at its more distant extremity. Even if the Russians had nourished aims of world hegemony similar to the Germans, they would, as a result, have been less of a danger to our Atlantic civilization. For a century the expansion of Russia in the Near East, the Middle East, and the Far East produced counter measures and conflict; in the two world wars of this epoch, former rivals, excluding Japan, have been her allies or associates. And so if there is to be an equilibrium in Europe again, it should be on a basis of strength in both East and West and of harmony between the two ends. What upset it during the past seventy-five years was the rise of an eruptive Power infinitely stronger than the old Hapsburg Empire at the heart of the continent. To reduce her strength will be to restore Europe’s lost equilibrium. For it is clear that when the West is pitted against the East or the East against the West, the tendency is for one of them to fortify the centre against the other camp. The Comintern has been abolished. But even if Communist parties abroad are still aligned with her, it is hard to conceive of any policy in which Russia would engage that could incur more risk for the Western world than one which sought to check her by acquiescing in the resurgence of German power. She, on the other hand, must not be driven to a course in which as a spearhead against us she might cultivate Germany. The peace of Europe cannot be maintained by a grouping of the West against the East or of the East against the West, but by a general system of security, or by a European coalition within it, a Grand Alliance of both East and West against the middle. That is the lesson of events since Bismarck’s day, one that London and Moscow appear by their pact to have learned, and one that we will forget again only at our peril.

Nor is it enough to measure Britain’s post-war status against that of Russia and the United States by a comparison of wealth and population. Power which is potentially superior but not implemented may be less effective than a smaller degree of actual power which is steadily employed. What is done with it, how is it directed and where?—that is the yardstick. Once her own imperial frontiers are safe, once her influence is ensured in nearby regions, Russia after the war may be chiefly engrossed in domestic reconstruction and economic development. So, too, if the abandonment of isolation by the United States is hedged around or politically restricted, she herself will have decreased the range within which her power operates. Outside Europe, the Anglo-American factor is of the utmost importance; inside Europe, the Anglo-Russian combination must be paramount. These no doubt will interact, divide off from each other and merge again; within the machinery of the Concert, of the European alliances, and of the more general organization of peace, fixed lines cannot and should not be drawn. But outside Europe, Britain’s hand is strengthened by Empire bonds and by the fellowship between her and the other sovereign nations of the British Commonwealth; inside Europe, she may look to France and most liberated countries to help bear with her the Western section of the Anglo-Russian system of security. For the notion that Britain may be a junior rather than an equal partner with the other members of the world Concert of victor Great Powers presupposes that their activities will overshadow hers and that they are more necessary to her than she to them; it also assumes that between the three, it is Russia and the United States who would be in agreement, while Britain within the triumvirate finds herself as one to two. Geography, national traditions, external ties, the special and specialized interests of each brighten that sombre picture and suggest that, in depicting it, the perspective of Field Marshal Smuts might have been better and his colours less dark.

As a contrary view, and despite gloom over competition in trade and relinquished investments, it might indeed be contended that Britain’s power for peace may after the war be augmented rather than diminished. The improvement of her position in Europe, so far as it is affected politically by the temper of the other English-speaking peoples overseas, is manifest. The United States, it can no longer be doubted, will proffer more than sympathy to those who deter major aggressors—even though her automatic and immediate intervention may not be guaranteed beforehand. To Britain as well as to herself, the conduct of the United States both as a neutral and as a belligerent confirmed beyond cavil that in Britain’s survival as a Great Power in Europe her stake is profound. Is this not something to embolden Britain in every aspect of policy? So also has been the response of the sovereign nations of the British Commonwealth. Can absolute unanimity be reached between them, or the centralized unity attained, which Imperial statesmen from Joseph Chamberlain to Prime Minister Curtin and Lord Halifax have sought? If the other sovereign members of the British Commonwealth are now in the mood to approve of a more positive policy in Europe by Britain, and also perhaps by themselves, that alone will be a huge advance. For prior to the war the negative attitude of the English-speaking peoples overseas—both Commonwealth and American—was often a brake on Britain, eager to keep in step with them, when an accelerated pace had become essential. Will the abasement of Germany clear a path to Russia’s undisputed domination of Europe? More likely is it that Germany’s defeat, if it lasts, will relieve Britain of what twice in this century has been the main threat to her power and so to her freedom—to a world rank which depended on them and on which they in turn depend. And if, as that threat vanishes, a durable system of European security is established—one from which she may derive protection while giving it—she has much to gain and little to lose from the victory which impends.

At Moscow and at Teheran the accent was on democracy— at Moscow on Italian democracy, at Teheran on a world family of democratic nations. And if it be asked of Russia, as a champion of democracy, whether Saul also is among the prophets, the answer is plain. As the Soviet Constitution is applied, there will be less to distinguish Russia from those States, with a different economy, in which representative government is practised and safeguards are enacted for the liberty of the subject. From their doctrines, despite the Nazi-Soviet pact and the persistence of earlier connections, it is hardly surprising that the One-Party State of Communism should be at death’s grip with the One-Party State of National Socialism; the vehicles resembled each other, but not the purposes served. The issue, in any case, while reflecting the clash of ideologies, transcends it. For the patriots of the Kremlin have seldom been wedded to doctrine at the expense of country; that is a luxury in which only foreign Communists could afford to indulge. The one solid rock of policy is national interest. Britain, Russia, and the United States are in concert because collaboration between them is accomplishing for each what each cannot accomplish by itself alone. First victory and then a settlement in which victory will be inviolate is what they seek in common and what none can attain until, Italian Fascism having been crushed, it is followed by the downfall of Japanese militarism and of that political heritage of a greater Germany of which Nazism is but one contemporary phase. Whether democracy, the antithesis of these doctrines, will be workable in areas where it has never worked before, only the future can tell. But to promote it is to foster pacific trends and on that we all can take our stand.

Yet while the Great Powers may attribute virtue to democracy, do they condemn nationalism as evil? Against national sovereignty there has been clamour for a federalist remedy of the world’s ills. But at Moscow they declared for a general international organization based on “the sovereign equality of all peace-loving States.” A blow to federalist schemes, it was nevertheless inevitable. That does not preclude federal experiments of a more limited character, one of which is exemplified in the grant of national autonomy in military and foreign affairs (February 1944) to the Union Republics of the Soviet Union. The emphasis there, however, is not on federalism as a single mould in which all Europe will be recast but on federalism as a regional instrument of Russian national policy—and with a consequent stress on nationality itself. This is not to justify the national self-worship of Germans or Japanese; their primitive frenzies, the power of the victors and the new international authority must curb at all costs. But for the postwar world a twofold process is emerging. We are to witness the leadership of the Great Powers and yet they in turn have affirmed their own respect for the national rights of others. If the principle of democracy is vindicated within countries, it cannot, after all, be overridden between them. For democracy and leadership are not antagonistic. Leadership without democracy, between as within States, spells dictatorship; but democracy without leadership, between as within States, invites anarchy. Primarily, each of the United Nations, large and small, is fighting for its own national freedom. But what if two nationalisms arrayed against the same enemy are themselves in conflict? We may acknowledge the validity of the national impulse without acquiescing in its maximum claims. An extreme internationalism as set forth in federalist blueprints has obviously been impracticable from the start—history was not only against it, and the nature of world politics, but the art of government and the varied national aspirations of the embattled peoples. Yet a nationalism which goes to the opposite extreme is a perpetual incitement to war. The prerequisite for the; self-determination of lesser European States is a good understanding between the larger ones. They cannot poison relations between Great Powers without themselves suffering most. To reconcile a moderate nationalism with a sane internationalism will still be, as the years unfold, one of the central tasks of statesmanship.

And it is in the same pragmatic manner that the vexed problem of imperialism will have to be adjusted to the strivings of peoples less able to stand together or to stand at all on their own feet. At a time when the United States has been precipitated into war by an assault on some of her colonies and outposts, when Russia in Europe and Asia is bound to retain the vast territories to which her sway during the past century has extended, there is still the delusion that in contrast to Britain they are immaculately anti-imperialist. But the campaign for the liquidation of the British Empire is subsiding as Russia further consolidates her own empire and the United States, peering at the Japanese-mandated islands, glancing perhaps towards other points of the compass, considers another expansion of her oceanic realm. It is curious, therefore, to hear those who have been critical of the imperial foundations of Britain’s European and world power utter the complaint that at the Cairo Conference “nothing was said about how America would get the bases she needs in the Pacific in order to feel secure.” Between their meetings at Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran the Great Powers could not have been, and unofficial disclosures intimate that they were not, so remiss. For if their Concert is to continue, they must appraise the secret not only of their own safety and strategic effectiveness, but of each other’s.

How much the Big Three were in accord at their 1943 Conferences may be deduced from Russia’s acceptance at Moscow of the Anglo-American terms, as drafted at Casablanca, for unconditional surrender and of the further plan, asserted at Teheran, for the destruction of the German forces. Before this there had been anxiety over the flirtation of the Soviet Government with their puppet “Free German” committee. For the tour de valse which Russia undertook with German reactionary elements, as well as Marxians and liberals, implied that she would be willing to treat for peace on a basis of something less than unconditional surrender or the obliteration of German military strength. As a satellite of Russia, a so-called German “democracy” might conceal a military potential which would prove useful in the event of the other Great Powers being hostile to the Soviet. If Soviet diplomacy had been hinting at a Russo-German grouping, that dire historic alternative to collaboration with the West, any such gestures ceased at Moscow and Teheran. For one thing, the Russians discovered that Britain would not resist their Polish policy. Perhaps the story will be similar over Russian intentions elsewhere on the Baltic and in the Balkans. There must also have been agreement over questions raised at Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran touching the empire of the Soviet in the Far East. For if Russia were not going to get what is substantially her own way in these matters, her dissatisfaction with the Conferences would have been quickly felt.

The impression that there will be no maudlin settlement with the foe was deepened when Mr. Roosevelt spoke at Christmas, 1943, on “peace by force” and said that at Teheran they concurred “that Germany must be stripped of her military might and be given no opportunity within the foreseeable future to regain that might.” Sauce for the Japanese goose is sauce for the German gander; one policy could not be adopted at Cairo towards Japan and another adopted at Moscow and Teheran towards Germany. This should be noted, for there is a school of thought which would be lenient with Germany while severe with Japan. The latter, after all, has in our midst no troop of exiled intellectuals, still Japanese at heart, who in books and articles might agitate on behalf of the “better” Japan; she possessed even less than Germany’s ineffectual, weak-kneed liberalism on which we are again being exhorted to rely; yet her record without it has in the past hundred years been no worse.

That the Chancelleries of the Concert have a more responsible outlook may also be discerned in the Moscow declaration on the independence of Austria. For this not only illustrated that, in their attitude towards Germany, they had drawn the right conclusions from the history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; it was also a classic example in world politics of the ineradicable function of power. Ever since the Hapsburg-domains fell apart there had, on grounds of “race,” language, and economics, been a case for the union of Austria and Germany. But more compelling than these is the strategy of freedom, and to conform with it that union will be undone. From 1919 to Munich it was evident that Czechoslovakia could not withstand the Teutonic encirclement which the absorption of Austria by Germany entailed. The resurrection of Austria and the redemption of Czechoslovakia thus coincide. And the servitude of Europe will end where it began.

It was, then, as a clue to the security of Europe and therefore to the peace of the world that the Austrian problem may have been singled out at Moscow for special mention. Germany’s conquest of Austria, furnishing her with the control of Eastern Europe and the mastery of the continent, constituted a drastic shift in the balance of power. Now, as the balance of power mounts adversely against her, Germany’s dominance toppling, Europe will be liberated. That is why, when the three Great Powers announced at Moscow that Austria would be cut off from Germany, they were in fact declaring that a greater Germany, regardless of her political complexion, can never again be tolerated. This, moreover, is the policy which the Anglo-Russian and Czech-Soviet twenty-year alliances are calculated to underpin. For the victors are going to redress by their own preponderance that balance of power which they had piled up to their credit in 1919, which in a mania of suicide they flung away after 1933, and which they are about to retrieve.

The further concrete application of this principle is not yet known. But what is good for Austria—the fundamental rule of a weaker Germany having been promulgated—may be good for other historic German States. The industrial war potential and military striking-power of the present Reich are enhanced and facilitated by its territorial integrity and political unity, both of which, in their modern form, date only from 1871 and neither of which is sacrosanct. For disunification between Germanic States is not the same as dismemberment by foreign countries. But Russia, decentralizing her own government, might boggle at neither. “We cannot end the war,” said M. Molotov to the Supreme Soviet on February 1, 1944, “by the military defeat of Germany alone. It must end with the moral and political annihilation of Germany.” Having urged Poland to consent to the Curzon line frontier, Russia wishes Poland to be compensated with lands under German rule—with East Prussia, if not Silesia and Pomerania—, easier access to the sea being accompanied presumably by a transfer of populations. One thing is clear. By making or acquiescing in a compromise of that sort, the Powers will have admitted that the national and territorial contours of the Bismarckian Reich may be altered. The vanquished having yielded, the victors might refuse to recognize any centralized regime in Berlin and insist on negotiating separately with several or more Germanic sovereignties in their ancient State capitals. Better economic treatment could be offered each of the Germanies in the years to come than they can possibly get as a formidable single unit—provided they fulfil the prime condition of genuine independence from each other. To guard against their reunion might be costly. It would be less costly, and more swiftly acted on, than the exhausting vigilance imposed by the constant spectre—even if, for the moment, it be democratic and pacific in guise—of a unified, greater Germany.

It has still to be seen whether steps such as these are as feasible as they are desirable. But they are in thorough consonance with that triumph of realism over sentimentality which Moscow and Teheran symbolized. A month before President Roosevelt spoke (Christmas, 1943) of “peace by force,” Field Marshal Smuts had stated that the question of power is the great lesson of this war: “Peace unbacked by power remains a dream.” It is well that these grim truths should be enunciated at last in the highest quarters. Until of late, it was heresy to advocate peace by power; to argue that a liberated Europe must rest on the balance of power held in the hands of the victors; that on their sleepless preponderance and on it alone can be established a collective authority to maintain peace. Even Mr. Cordell Hull, on his return from the Moscow Conference, remarked that its labours had the effect of superseding the balance of power, when in fact that preponderance, in diplomacy if not yet by arms, had just been renewed. For the balance of power is not a precarious equipoise keeping equals at bay, but a scales on which one side or the other swings to the top. It is embodied in an ascendancy of the peace-loving nations over an historic warmaker, and it will decline if that historic war-maker is permitted to conserve again the mainsprings of his strength.

Since Napoleon there have been two major treaty settlements—that at Vienna in 1815 and that at Paris in 1919— when the victors seemed to have within their grasp a world which might be shaped anew. And now a third opportunity beckons. Will we seize it, to take the best from each and shun their worst errors? Vienna built its system of peace on a balance of power sustained through the Concert of Europe by the leadership of Great Powers against a hegemony by any one of them. That was its merit. The mistake it made came from the internal structure of most of those Powers. For this required that they repress the two basic impulses of the modern age, nationalism and liberalism—the longing of men to be with their own kin under the same flag and free from a domestic absolutism, a foreign yoke, or both. In the peacemaking of 1919, however, nationalism and liberal democracy enjoyed pride of place. That settlement failed and it did so because the concert of Great Powers broke down, which, in the hour of victory, had gathered to itself the balance of power. Leadership as it dissolved was at a discount —with the League of Nations as a system of security undergoing a consequent paralysis. And when the victors turned their backs on each other, the vanquished could again tear loose.

Twenty years after Versailles, humanity was convulsed once more. Why, then, did the peace of Vienna, despite its suppression of popular impulses, last a century? Why, at any rate, did Europe’s local wars which followed Vienna not grow into continental or general wars? So long as no other Power could match Britain’s world-wide sea power (and that exempted the Crimean War), a general war was ruled out. But why did none attempt to challenge seriously the European order on which her world status revolved? Why, as the Vienna settlement crumbled, were there no continental wars for a century? The answer may be this: that for fifty years after Vienna a greater, unified Germany had not yet been fashioned out of the various Germanic States. For what finally unbalanced Europe’s distribution of power was the impact of a greater, expansionist Germany striving ruthlessly and inexorably towards an overweening hegemony. And when the era of Versailles allowed this greater Germany to hang on to territorial, strategic, and industrial resources out of which are forged the tools of domination it wrote its own obituary. The disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the absence of Russia, the further decay of Turkey, presented Europe with changes of the utmost gravity. But chief among the differences which had intervened on the continent to distinguish the problem of Versailles from the problem of Vienna was the advent of a greater, unified Germany. And when the victors neglected subsequently to maintain their own balance of power against that cruel, tempestuous giant, they left themselves abjectly at his mercy. For beside the supernationalism of Germany, the national liberties of Europe cannot dwell unmolested. One or the other must go.

It would no doubt have been premature for Moscow and Teheran to confront this, the main key to world chaos before and after Versailles, in more specific terms. But on every issue they faced, their sense of direction was sound. While the solutions of 1919, and still more those of 1815, belong to their own day and age, there is much in their experience from which we might profit. The Vienna technique of leadership by Great Powers can be fused now with the Versailles programme of an international organization between equals for security. To reinsure it, a balance of power on a modified 1815 model, preponderating against any new bid for arbitrary domination, will protect the 1919 principle of national freedom and liberal democracy. The settlement of Vienna, while conscious of the realities of power, stultified itself when it repudiated the idea of progress. The era of Versailles, while imbued with ideas of progress, hastened its own demise when it later ignored the realities of power. For only through peace by power can victory be preserved and power itself thus be put to a creative use.


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